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Foundations of Social Theory (Inglese) Copertina flessibile – 2 nov 1994

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Amazon.com: 4.0 su 5 stelle 6 recensioni
5.0 su 5 stelle Five Stars 7 giugno 2015
Di Paulo Ricardo de Paiva e Souza - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
Formato: Copertina flessibile Acquisto verificato
A classic!
24 di 27 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
2.0 su 5 stelle With Friends like Coleman, Rationality Needs no Enemies 27 settembre 2009
Di Herbert Gintis - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
Formato: Copertina flessibile
James Coleman, University Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago, died in 1995. He was one of the leading American sociologists of the past half century. He established his reputation with a serious of empirical and middle-level theoretical analysis of "burning issue" social problems. At a time when Americans were concerned about an anti-social turn in teenage culture, Coleman studied the social relations of ten Midwestern high schools, his finding summarized in The Adolescent Society (1961). He was the lead author of the famous "Coleman Report" (1966) on educational inequality in the United States, and in 1976, he analyzed the "white flight" from the inner city that followed enforced school desegregation. Coleman's work showcases the strengths of modern sociology---the use of statistics and common-sense middle-level social theory to analyze complex social problems.

Coleman was not known for his theoretical contributions before the appearance of The Foundations of Social Theory in 1990. He apparently worked on this book for two decades, on and off, and it weighs in at more than three pounds and one thousand pages. It was taken quite seriously, and was reviewed in several sociology journals by leading sociologists of the age. Nearly all reviews praised Coleman's ambitious and encyclopedic effort, but most review were bitterly critical of the result. I am not sure Coleman expected otherwise, or cared. Sociology has been in a sad state for decades because of its rejection of the rational actor model, which is the centerpiece of Coleman's book. The critiques are almost wholly centered on Coleman's championing this model, and Coleman surely expected this. I conjecture that he expected his book to inspire a generation of young sociologists to throw off the yoke of traditional sociological anti-rationality prejudice. This did not happen before his death, and I am quite certain that it will not, ever.

Coleman's advocacy of the rational actor model, the centerpiece of economic theory, was courageous and far-sighted, but he imported from economics only one aspect of the model, and the part he imported is wrong. Economists, until the past decade or so, in practice identified rationality with selfishness and the capacity to calculate gains and losses without regard to the well-being of others, moral virtues, or the needs of the larger society. It is precisely this sociopathic conception of rationality that Coleman makes the centerpiece of this book. A reviewer in Theory and Society correctly characterized Coleman's position as "a more viable social theory...would begin from rational choice rather than norms." The idea that social norms and rational choice are alternative hypotheses is about as reasonable as "running on wheels" vs. "running on gasoline" in understanding an automobile. The same reviewer later notes, completely correctly, and completely at odds with Coleman's treatment, that "we cannot evaluate the rationality of an action...apart from the circle of value that has shaped the persons and their relationsips to one another in a given society."

The critique of Coleman by the sociology profession was well-deserved. This book is almost completely wrong-headed. Curiously, Nobel prize-winning economist Gary Becker made his name by applying economic theory to traditional sociological problems, and Becker also assumed rationality included pure selfishness. But unlike Coleman, Becker chose his subject matter very carefully, and his analysis is always both brilliant and cogent. Coleman, by contrast, applies the model willy-nilly to every possible social situation, and the result is at best awkward, and often simply bizarre, such as when Coleman wonders how workers can be talked into doing and believing things that are not in their material self-interest, or why mothers appear to love their children.

For an instance, unlike Becker, Coleman is forced by the nature of his discipline to deal with the natural of socialization, through which individuals are led to internalize important social values, so that they conform to these values purely volitionally, even when there is no chance of being subject to external sanctions. For exampe, many people are generally honest even when no one is looking, so they could easily cheat with impunity. Coleman never does explain why a rational individual would submit to internalization and would not just shrug it off having attained adulthood. Moreover his idea of internalization is that internalized values are psychic constraints on action. That is, people behave prosocially because they would feel guilty if they did not. In fact, the evidence indicates that internalized norms are integrated into the individual's preference function, so people often feel good when they act morally. Indeed, as stressed by virtue philosophers from the time of Aristotle to the present, virtuous people are not crippled by their overactive superegos, but rather are happier and more complete that the sociopaths that populate Coleman's world.

Coleman is clearly inspired by economic theory, but it is not clear he has a serious grasp of the rational actor model. He never references the basic works in this area, those of Savage and di Finetti, and he never bothers to mention that economic rationality is defined as preference consistency and Bayesian updating. Nowhere in the basic theory is it said that people are selfish, are indifferent to social concerns, or that they attempt to maximize anything. There is nothing irrational about voting, loving your alma mater's lacrosse team, or giving to charity. The degree to which sociologists understand the rational actor model that they love to criticize is abysmal, and Coleman merely reinforces the standard sociological prejudices. Coleman's description of the rational actor model is absolutely ripe for caricaturing. "Actors have a single principle of action," he says, "that of acting so as to maximize their realization of interests.'' (p. 37) This sure sounds sociopathic, but in fact the rational actor theory does not say that people act to maximize anything, any more than light rays act to minimize transit time, and an individual's interests can include not only self-regarding goods and services, but altruistic goals and the well-being of others.

Coleman's critics rarely fail to mention that he has no place for culture or symbolic communication in his approach, and they blame this on his reliance on rational action. The critique is certainly correct, but the reason is incorrect. In fact, the rational actor model only makes sense when closely allied with game theory, and Coleman does not use game theory, except for a few examples. Social interactions for Coleman are either dyadic interactions that mimic market exchange, and large-scale behavior based on corporations that control their employees. When we recognize that most social interactions involve strategic interaction based on social norms, and social norms are legitimated and interpreted properly only in the context of a group's cultural traditions and nexus of symbolic meanings, the interaction between rationality, morality, and culture can be properly modeled (see papers and references on my web site, [...] Coleman knows none of this.
4.0 su 5 stelle how societies work 2 settembre 2012
Di Arnold - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
Formato: Copertina flessibile
Coleman's Foundations of Social Theory is a tour de force of using game theoretic methods to explain social interactions. Much of the book concerns finding explanations for how and why people behave in groups. Some of the best parts focus on everyday group behaviors, such as bank runs and fashion fads. This is a pretty tough book to wade through, not because of the author's writing style but rather because he packs a lot in. I would definitely advise tackling this only after you feel comfortable with game theory, preferably having taken a class or two. If you can get through it though there are some rich insights in the book.
24 di 24 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
4.0 su 5 stelle A gargantuan synthetic effort 19 novembre 2003
Di Un cliente - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
Formato: Copertina flessibile
Coleman's book is one of the most ambitious sustained attempts to theorize the social world from a single perspective -- and one which, unlike systems theories (e.g., Parsons, Luhmann) has clear predictive consequences. Of course, the book is just as interesting for where rational choice theory breaks down (e.g., with regard to obligations to family and extreme religious groups, and when it comes to preference formation) as for where it obviously applies (e.g. to corporate law). Even if you're a rational choice skeptic, there's plenty of value by way of concepts (e.g., disjoint vs. conjoint authority), though at almost 1,000 pages, this is by no means a quick read -- best surveyed under the guidance of someone who knows where the interesting bits are. (If I may, chs. 1-5.)
9 di 10 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
5.0 su 5 stelle Essential 20 agosto 2005
Di Michael Bishop - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
Formato: Copertina flessibile
Coleman believed that sociological theory must justify itself. It must be testable and have implications for society. Coleman was also the biggest proponent of rational choice theory in sociology. This perspective has limitations (generally acknowledged by Coleman and exaggerated by most sociologists). This book is for serious students of any social science.