Perspectives on Sociology As a Catalyst of Development

Muhammad Kabir

Muhammad Kabir

February 2021 | Nigeria


According to Professor Navaneeta Rath of the Department of Sociology, Utkal University, in his article "Sociology of Development," he said that development is a buzz word of the world. There are no other perfect words to highlight the insights behind what necessitates sociology for development. In a wider way, development sociology can be seen as the causes and consequences of economic change in society.


Since the beginnings of the discipline of sociology, the study of development has been one of the key fundamental aspects of sociology. The competing visions of Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904-5) and Marx’s Das Kapital (1867) have indeed, in a more understandable frame, made debates concerning the rise and evolution of capitalism central to the core theoretical debates of sociology. Analyzing the causes and consequences of development has been the spur that completely produced the development of Parsonsian functionalism, as well as Neo-Marxist and world-systems based challenges to systems models.


Therefore, in order to consider the inter-relation between economic development and personal life—which has stimulated many of our models of demography, notably those of changes in fertility and mortality—analyses that are objective and facts-infused have to come in handy. Models of migration have been consistently rooted in development dynamics. Analyses of historical transformations of gender roles and gender ideology consistently invoke the dialectical interplay between the forces of economic development, female labor force participation, power within the family and gendered culture. Political sociology has consistently engaged with the role of the state in producing economic development—and the role of economic change in redistributing power among social actors. Economic sociology consistently turns to economic development as the natural setting for tests of its theories.


It is without doubt that development sociology offers investigation into the practices and processes of social change.  In this way, the sociology of development addresses pressing intellectual challenges: internal and international migration, transformation of political regimes, changes in household and family formations, technological change, sustainable (and unsustainable) population and economic growth, and the production and reproduction of social and economic inequality.


Obviously, development is at the center of the sociological enterprise. Over the decades, there has been healthy debate over the relative importance of the material and cultural foundations of development—and with it, society. The Marx vs. Weber debate on the origins of capitalism stimulated subsequent generations of sociologists to develop their own statement on the material vs. cultural determinants of industrialization and the rise of modern societies.


In contrast, scholars who share in the idea of Marx’s preference for materialist models (Chirot 1985, Collins 1986, Hall 1985) argue for the centrality of power in the formation of capitalism and the ability of elites to transform economic institutions for their own advantage. Mann (1993) argues that capitalism emerged from the interstices of structures created by actors with social power.  Lachmann (2000), in a comparative study of early capitalist development in Western Europe, finds capitalist development was at first an inadvertent result of conflicts among feudal elites. Wallerstein (1974-89, Arrighi 1994, Chase-Dunn and Hall 1997) emphasize international relations of domination either through market mechanisms or the coercive force associated with empire.


Weberians have responded to the challenge of developing transnational models by introducing the concepts of globalization and global culture, forces capable of constraining nations and states (Meyer et al. 1997). Throughout the debate on globalization, which now pervades sociology as a discipline, an emphasis on development remains a central concern.


Weberians have responded to the challenge of developing transnational models by introducing the concepts of globalization and global culture, forces capable of constraining nations and states (Meyer et al. 1997).  Throughout the debate on globalization, which now pervades sociology as a discipline, an emphasis on development remains a central concern.


The sociology of development has been essential component of the sociological study of stratification and inequality. Development sociologists address both national differences in income per se (O’Hearn 2001) and a wide variety of other indicators of human well being (see Jorgenson et al.’s 2007 examination of environmental inequality on a global scale).  Development sociologists also address spatial inequality internal to nation-states (Hechter 1999; Logan and Molotch 1985; Massey and Denton 1993).   Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, this body of work highlights spatial variation in patterns of inequality and power differences (Lobao, Hooks and Tickamyer [eds.] 2007; McCall 2001; Pellow 2002).


Development has been central to microsociological debates as well. The relevance of development to demographic dynamics is well known and is epitomized in the journal the Population and Development Review.  Feminist theorists, have turned their attention to the question of gender and development, addressing questions of low wage female labor, the rise of gendered labor regimes and migration within female sex-typed occupation. Gender and development scholars also consider the inter-relations between economic change, the family, patriarchical cultural institutions, and women’s mobilization (Beneria and Feldman 1992, Tiano 1994, Moghadam 2005). The empirical material of development has been so rich that it has been a staple for sociologists working at virtually every level of analysis.

 

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