DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A Means, Not An End

Written by: on November 10, 2018

Theory of Everything

Is there a Social TOE (Theory of everything)? Could there possibly be an ultimate social theory that encompasses a theoretical single, comprehensive, lucid theoretical framework of social phenomena which conjoins together all social and cultural facets of society?

Thus, the solution may be one of the famous lines in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, “the answer to the Great Question… of life, the universe and everything is 42,’ said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.”[1] Seems like an unusual response, right?

In all genuineness, in examining the vast and in-depth social theories from schools of thoughts including but not limited to Chicago School of Sociology, Marxism, Feminist Theory, Social Action Theory, Postmodernity, the complexity of theories tends to leave on in a status of awe and bewilderment. As in the moments after Deep Thought so definitively answered, the high dimensional beings stood in disbelief and bewilderment. As a researcher exploring the proper social theory to apply to a socially complex issue for a dissertation, finding a social theory which is inclusive has also provided a place of bewilderment.  Hence, a resolution of discovering a concise and adequate social theory to employ as an academic researcher seems unattainable.

An exploration into Contemporary Social Theory

Even though social theories are beneficial contributors to different studies and perspective of social phenomena, it presents a conundrum for choosing the appropriate social theory to address all today’s societal issue. Issues such as racism, immigration issues, gender equality, modern-day slavery, human rights, socio-economic deprivation are some of the significant components facing our society. Elliott presents an abundance of information in his book Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction, of a selected pool of sociologists for the 18th century to the present; the majority of which are from the United Kingdom. However, it is only a brief overview of contemporary world sociology based on the views from their societal narratives.

According to Elliot’s book, five major themes set a precedent from the classical social theories. However, the contemporary sociologists remain interconnected with those of the former school of thought. The theme includes 1) the relation between the individual and society, or between human action and social structure; 2) the degree of consensus or conflict in modern societies; 3) change or social transformation (globalization); 4) gender issues; and 5) social and emotional, between our public and private worlds. [2] These themes seem perfect in address all of the above problems of our society. However, while evaluating the social theories it is apparent there are notable hypotheses, yet they all include extreme fallacies.

Targeted Social Theory Collection

If a social theory must be chosen for the sake of this blog, the gravitational pull would lend its direction to an amalgamate of theories which will hopefully help to address the societal issues for dissertation research purposes. This amalgamate of theories we respectfully entitle, the “42 Effect Theory”. It will encompass the theories of Max Weber’s “Protestant Ethic/Social Action Theory, Pierre Bourdieu’s “cultural deprivation theory, Anthony Gidden’s “Duality of Structure Theory,” theory from “Prophet of Postmodernity,” Zygmunt Bauman, and well as an additional sample of American sociologists for a balanced approach to view diverse culture, socio-economic elements, societal norms, etc. Since the research is geared to addresses social advocacy and the church, most of the social theories listed above lend valuable knowledge while eliminating some variables of fallacy.

Divide and Conquer

A collection of theories have been selected for the experimental “42 Effect Theory.” The next step is to determine the essential components each one of the theories for the desired outcome. This next step is the most crucial component of the research process since the function of sociology, as of every science, is to reveal that which is hidden.[3] The objective is to uncover the hidden impediments not previously concentrated on by past researchers that could lead to sustainable change and transformation in our current society and the evangelical community.

The conclusion is not definite that the amalgamate of social theories will prove to be effective, but this is a good start. Besides, any solution is better than just 42.

Remember, social theories are means to a resolution and not the end itself. Choose them wisely!



[1] Douglas Adams, “42 Quotes,” Good Reads, accessed November 8, 2018,

[2] Anthony Elliott, Contemporary Social Theory (publication place: Routledge, 2014), Loc. 657-725.

[3] Pierre Bourdieu, “On Television: In Front of the Camera and Behind the Scenes,” The New York Times on the Web, accessed November 8, 2018,

About the Author


Shermika Harvey

7 responses to “A Means, Not An End”

  1. mm Mary Mims says:

    Shermika, that you for your post explaining that these social theories are a means not an end. I think my issue is that they are often used as an end to place people of different communities and societies into boxes or neat categories. Maybe I do not understand sociology at all, which would be true, but I can agree that it is a useful tool at an attempt to understand others, but not a means of putting others down.

  2. mm Sean Dean says:

    Shermika, I think you’re right that 42 is about as good of an answer to which social theory is going to apply to the world as we see it now. It seems like every theory seems good until it’s critical flaw is displayed and then it feels terrible. Somehow we need to amalgamate all of the good bits into one super theory, but that seems unlikely. Thanks for your post.

    • mm Shermika Harvey says:

      Thank you Sean… I was searching for a word to describe to describe what I wanted to express. Eureka you presented the word “amalgamate”. Just updated my post! And though I understand that a super theory may never exist, the mission is to attempt to create a prototype for the sake of research. Wish me wisdom and divine insight.

  3. mm Nancy VanderRoest says:

    Hi Shermika. Thanks for sharing your enlightening post. I agree that the complexity of theories tend to leave us in a status of both ‘awe and bewilderment.’ I believe, as you do, that there is no perfect theory, but combined theories may provide some answers to the way of the world. Theories offer guidelines that can be studied – along with providing ‘labels’ (with criteria attached). However, as you noted, they are not the end resolution. But they do, at times, offer valuable guidelines and a structure for research.

    P.S. Loved your video!

  4. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Hi there. This is late in the piece, but it’s been one of those ‘life’ weeks. No one likes being pidgeon holed, but one of the reasons you choose ‘A theory” is for consistency. If you mash them all together you get a sort of hybrid that does everything but nothing well. It’s like ethics, once you settle on a theory, you have to stick with it. If you pick and choose you end up with self-interest because all you’re doing is choosing the theory that gives the outcome you want. I wonder if having a particular social theory is a way of questioning human behaviour in such a way that our theory can be developed. Interestingly, theology contains social theory, that like Elliot’s book, is filled with varied perspectives.

    • mm Shermika Harvey says:

      Digby, Thank you for the comment. However, the blog was posted in this fashion because there is not one particular theory that applies to the totality of the research for my desired dissertation problem. All of the theories have portions which identify with and test the premise of the dissertation. Though I could possibly choose one theory, however, then I am left with limited perspectives on the entire issue. I have no intention of projecting the desired end because at the point I am only a researcher seeking knowledge and hopefully direction in discovering a possible solution.

  5. Digby Wilkinson says:

    And, fair enough too.

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