Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Family History

"There is a naive conception of social history that is extremely popular. People with different viewpoints give it different slants, but the basic story is much the same. The leading character is called Technology, or sometimes Science; very sophisticated storytellers have twin leads called Science and Technology. They are the active agents in the drama. In some versions, they are the heroes; in others, the villains. In all, they are endowed with overwhelming power.

"There are some other characters, too. One of them is called Modern Society, who is more or less the dutiful wife, following where Technology leads her. In some accounts she drags her feet; in others she eggs him on. But it does not make very much difference one way or the other because they are married, for better or worse. There is one other character, a kind of stepchild called the Individual. His job is to fit into the family as best he can. This requires him to be diligent and skillful. Since the family is changing, getting more scientific, technological, and complex all the time, this can be a hard job.

"There are a lot of dramatic possibilities here, and our writers have exploited them all."

— Randall Collins, The Credential Society: An Historical Sociology of Education and Stratification, 1