Section V: from human action to social order: the rationalization of society

As argued in Chapter 6, the sociological theories of Parsons and Habermas do not link human action and social order in a causal manner. In other words, the theory of society they propose does not show how the individual actors apply practical or communicative reason to reach an agreement upon a system of shared values necessary for social order. In addition. Parsons and Habermas do not explain how the actor employs ‘practical' or ‘communicative’ reason for revising the established values in order to move from one social order to another. What these sociologists actually do is claim that there is a homologous relation between the standpoint of the individual and the social standpoint or an analogy between the stages of the person’s cognitive/moral progress and the logic of social evolution (Habermas 1979).

From a scientific perspective, however, this kind of micro-macro link does not indicate the causal effect of human action on social order and its change. From a non-justificationist standpoint, the reason for this failure in modern sociology is that ideal types of rational action define the concept of rationality based on justificational epistemology. Insofar as sociologists use theories of knowledge with infinite regress to define ‘rational’ action, human reason itself cannot be an explanatory force for the formation of social order. Such an improper model of human action does not address the role of the actor's access to reason in allowing individuals to reach a rational agreement on a system of value. Hence, social order requiring such a value system cannot be linked to human action in a causal manner.

From a non-justificational perspective, it would not be possible to use a justi-ficationist concept of reason to argue that individuals give themselves a peaceful social order through a moral consensus on shared values simply because human reason does not perform as the justificational concept of it proposes. The same reproach applies to the theories of social change in Parsons’s and Habermas's sociology for the analogical relation between the stages of the cognitive/moral development of child, as Jean Piaget (1948) and Lawrence Kohlberg (1971) suggest, and the logic of social evolution does not refer to a causal linkage between those stages. In fact, neither Habermas nor Parsons explains how communicative or practical reason enables human actors to revise their moral values and social institutions when they realize that the premises or inference of their values or institutions are shown to be false in the course of social change.

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