I am 40 and living with my parents….temporarily until my girls move to Texas permanently. On Monday at 6am as I head out the door, my dad asks, “what time will you be home?” Seriously, I am 40 years old with a wife and two children, I have flown all over the world, and my dad has the gumption to ask such a silly question. I responded, “why does it matter?” He quickly and comically quips with a rye smile, “my house, my rules.” As I head out the door, I mumble the time and shut the door.
His house, his rules. This seems to be the way of culture and society. If you are going to live in society, then you must abide by the rules of society. While your life is your own, you are inherently connected to you family, your employer or employees, your state, your nation, your race, and maybe even your favorite sports team. These roles or titles we own all come crashing together on us in a rapid fashion, and they shape us. As Anthony Elliot states, “Social life is often described as both freedom and constraint, or possibility and limitation (p. 19).”
Broadly speaking, social theory is the method or framework in which one analyzes how social structures fit together and work within the culture. In other words, social theorist provide us an understanding of how our interconnected lives work as both individuals and as a complex web of beings. To me, social theorist are simply those who study the proverbial butterfly effect. They see one action as affecting a larger host of other actions. They trace back the fallen dominoes to see if they can discover the first domino that fell causing a chain reaction.
For instance, Elliot spends a good time on Marxist theory. Marxism has had a profound affect on society. Nations such as Russia, China, Vietnam, and many eastern european nations have been shaped my the ideas of Karl Marx. The ideas presented by capitalism are an evil to one who subscribes to Marxist theory. Elliot points out that, “What happens to people under capitalism for Marx is an extravagant inflation of sensory life and human desire, creating a sort of permanent revolution across society in which pleasure depends upon the continual accumulation of more and more things (p.41).” So, from the Marxist perspective, capitalism is evil. The incessant need for more and more seems odd and rather foolish. But for the capitalist, whose ideas have been shaped by their society and government, their lifestyles are nothing unusual, but rather normal. The Marxist too is shaped by his government, society, and culture. Society has the ability to dominate one’s thoughts and actions subtly.
Every action has a reaction. Like an endless chain of dominoes, we fall in line with the other. Does this change? Well, I would say so. First, Hong Kong is a perfect example of a society radically departing from its old standard to it new. Out of necessity, China has had to continue to allow capitalism room to grow. The old China is dead, and a new one has emerged. It has shifted radically on policy, and it has embraced ideas and methods that were shelved as inferior years ago. Out of necessity, China has increased the one child policy to two because China is an aging nation and will not be able to sustain itself without more workers within the next 20 years, so they relaxed their standards. Society does not change unless it sees a need to do so in order to survive. While China’s capitalism is most likely positive, it will bring a host of unintended consequences and problems with it that will not be fully known until they are in full bloom.
Social theory does seem to have a giant flaw. They value the created thing above the creator. What they may view as repressive for them may indeed be sinful, but it may not matter as long as the creation is happy, whole and well adjusted. As more and more social theorist push for society to be more accepting and less repressive, then it may lead down a new dimension that is unpredicted and catastrophic.