Berger writes “total respectability of thought, however, will invariably mean the death of sociology” (1963, p. 47). What does he mean?
There are a number of situations in which Berger’s statement might apply. This paper briefly
describes just four such situations.
People of Power
People of power within the social unit or society of study can deter—if not kill—sociological study of that social unit or society.
Hitler’s Germany is an example of potential death of sociology, with Germany being “a centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinion and that exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life” (Dictionary.com, 2011). Berger says that “unrespectable sociological consciousness is always potentially dangerous to certain minds . . . since it will always tend to relativize the claim to absolute rightness upon which such minds like to rest.
Thus, where this danger is not perceived, one is not likely to find ‘sociological consciousness’ of the type Berger advocates” (Kessell, n.d.). In plain English, what Berger is saying is that if you give the society or social unit the opportunity to study their behavior objectively, they might protest, start an upheaval and possibly revolt against the power. By having total control over all the people of Germany, with the upper echelon having such power, they could eliminate sociological study of or within Germany.
People Within a Society
People within a society can kill sociological study of their own society through denial. They may not want to accept the reality of their society. Many people in this course may be too young to remember Jonestown as the informal name for the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, a religious community founded in the United States, but which moved to northwestern Guyana formed by the Peoples Temple, a cult led by Jim Jones. It became internationally nortorious when, on.