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How does sociological thought contribute to human freedom?

I’ve been skimming through Thinking Sociologically by Zygmunt Bauman and Tim May. One of the things I like about this is the clear sense in which they’re arguing that sociological thought contributes to human freedom. This is something I’ve tended to think about quite narrowly in terms of practical reasoning (i.e. contributing to our capacity to decide what to do in particular situations) but they offer a more expansive understanding. For example from pg 10:

Yet however understandable the resentment that is generated, defamiliarization can have clear benefits. Most importantly, it may open up new and previously unsuspected possibilities of living one’s life with others with more self-awareness, more comprehension fo our surroundings in terms of greater self and social knowledge and perhaps also with more freedom and control.

This frames sociological knowledge as an ‘antifixating power’ which “renders flexible what may have been the oppressive fixity of social relations and in doing so opens up a world of possibilities” with the potential to help people “become just a little less subject to manipulation and more resilient to oppression and control” (pg 11). This suggests to me I’ve been prone to conceiving of practical reasoning in terms of action within given parameters, neglecting the reflexive capacity to reassess inherited assumptions about the situation and what this mean for our potential action within it. As they describe on pg 180:

Between our expectations of the future and experiences obtained from the past and present, lies a space that thinking sociologically illuminates and from which we can learn more about ourselves, others and the relationships between our aspirations, actions and the social conditions that we create and inhabit. Sociology is therefore central to the endeavour of coming to understand ourselves in better ways.

Categories: Conceptual foundations for platform studies

Mark

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