A diagnosis of sociology

Abstract: On the occasion of an index published by the French National Education, which shows a growing educational segregation, I show that sociology and philosophy are lost in the description of symptoms without a real diagnostic approach. In question, the weakness of the psychological models of the human hidden behind the citizen. Neuroscience, which vampirizes psychology rather than advances it, does not improve things.

Symptoms taken for causes

The index of social position revealed (reluctantly) by the French National Education shows that segregation explodes in school architecture. “Would the French have traded the passion for equality for a segregated passion?” asks Martin Legros in Philomag. The reasons for the trade are not discussed. Intuitively we guess that educational segregation has the same roots as ethnic populism, class ostracism, the fight for secularism, etc. They should be traced back to uncontrolled immigration, which mixes peoples at a forced march and destroys their identity marks. The integration of peoples is as inevitable as it is very slow, trans-generational in nature. Meanwhile, any identity hastily shaken up is exacerbated!

The insignificant power of sociology

Thus the vilified index is a symptom of little interest if it does not lead to etiology. Social symptoms, there are a multitude of them. The media panic to paint their incessant blooms. What time to analyze them, find their etiology, propose treatments? Very little. The society of the spectacle is less interested in hypotheses, in the details of micromechanisms, in uncertain projections. It cooks with emotion, flattery, subjects that lack them, whose more rigorous management worries us.

Indeed, sociological affairs impact our lives and we do not want soulless equations to strip them of their feelings. Yet equality and inequality are mathematical objects, at the base. The rules that direct our mental representations are algorithms. Using the right methods of analysis does not prevent us from maintaining the weight of each of the factors, especially the very strong one of feelings and morals. An emotional brain does nothing else. An analysis that tries to model it in this way is adequate. And finds the solutions likely to suit it. At least to the greatest number of its copies… 

Diagnostic decrepitude

Detailing the symptoms is only of interest during the diagnostic process, when several etiologies are in competition. When this approach has been successful, continuing to detail the symptoms is fruitless. We would expect better here from a space for philosophical reflection such as Philomag. We find more detailed analysis in specialized news magazines. But spaces dedicated to sociology usually only deal with symptoms. Why this intellectual decrepitude? Obviously in sociology diagnosticians agree less easily than in biology. The ills of our good society lack precise naming, clear pathophysiology and validated therapeutic conduct. Terms like ‘populism’, ‘elitism’, ‘supremacist’, are appearances rather than diseases. Or it is like declaring us all sick! But by the way, a fundamental question: what links symptom and diagnosis?

An organization. Several hierarchically linked interactive sets. Micromechanisms produce stabilities that become part of a higher whole. In medicine, these hierarchical levels are called molecules, biochemistry, organelles, cells, organs. A good doctor knows that his patient is not reduced to a body and continues the organization as follows: sense, perception, interpretation, personality, self-awareness. Each level can be the source of dysfunctions, likely to affect the others. The upward direction, from biochemistry to the psyche, is well known to doctors. Top-down direction, or how personality influences physiology, is still largely mysterious —if not denied— and is based on the physician’s personal experience. Identifying the right level of malfunction is not the subject of any codified procedure. Medicine is compartmentalized into specialties and you need to have the chance to go to the right one. The good old family doctor is the only one who remains transdisciplinary and her aura decreases. Where will we find therapists who know how to make staggered diagnosis?

A terribly blurred “Societarium”

This detour through medicine is useful. It shows the difficulty of linking symptom and diagnosis even with known physiological bases. But sociology is based on much more blurred micromechanisms. If the cell is the atom of medicine, with similarities that make it possible to make them identical elements, the approximation is much more adventurous in sociology. Its atom is the citizen, each with a specific personality and susceptible to particular influence on its neighbors. Fortunately, the citizen is not entirely unique. She shares with others many memes, hierarchical mental objects that form what I call the Societarium, the social part of our complexity.

In the complex dimension, each human being includes a physical Materium , a living Biologicum , a spiritual Stratium1psyche as a stratification of mental representations and in the latter a collective Societarium. This description probably sounds fanciful if this is the first time you read me, but you will understand its interest in a moment.

Re-anchoring yourself in the complex dimension

As each section of complexity produces an increasing diversity of possible organizations, it becomes very difficult to codify its levels when escalated. We have just seen it in medicine; doctors are better at detecting biological incidents than psychic ones. Sociologists, on the other hand, start from elements that are a priori all different —citizens— but nevertheless connected by memes, which prevents society from being chaos. There is an organization, but how to find the codes? The task seems impossible, which is why we hear a lot about the symptoms, and very little interesting talk about the diagnosis. There are some, but they are personal opinions. How to validate them? What experiments to confirm them?

The interest of the complexity model presented above is based on the continuity or even overlap of its sections. We don’t have a good model in one place? Let’s start from another, from a place stable enough to have a proven model. According to this principle, we can already say that sociology suffers dramatically from the theoretical desert in psychology. Anemic plant because the soil of the humanities is very poor. How to model the interactions of citizens when we have no model of their personalities?

Diagnosis of a small weight

This article, as you have understood, is itself a diagnosis. That of the strangled growth of sociology, which prevents us from understanding social diseases and the measures likely to cure them. Of social treatment, I have no miraculous to propose. I began in the introduction to descend the chain of complexities that led to educational segregation. But I am a diagnostician and not a sociologist. A treatment, I propose one to sociology itself, and by extension to psychology, the only one able to provide it with the means of its ambitions. Let’s go further down the complexity scale. Let us look at what motivates citizens. Below let’s look at the instincts that motivate humans to become citizens. Further down, let’s look at the genes that generate these instincts.

And above all, let us worry that entire sections of this complexity have no weak theoretical framework. Gaping cracks in the fabric of knowledge. Today we have no theory of personality! Neuroscience, in this field, throws smoke and mirrors. They explain to us in terms of neural exchanges what psychologists have often known for centuries! They have pushed back personality research, which was much more dynamic in the last century.

The sociologist in apnea

Sociology suffers from this decline. At the top of the complex dimension, it floats on the uncertainties of psychology. It aggregates and disintegrates according to its currents. If you are a sociologist today, you have to dive into the depths of complexity. Enrich from the knowledge of psychologists. Of from these less vague of neuroscientists. To rebuild a stronger common thread between these specialties. Above all, do not let one replace the other, as neuroscience tends to do. No model is universal. Those of the different sections of the complex dimension reinforce each other without resembling each other.

The unification of models, for the sociologist, lies in the multiplication of their staging and not in their reduction. This is how she can emerge from her dive as a better expert on the complex human being in society. 


The French school, “meritocratic nightmare”, Philomag 2023

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