Sociological imagination is looking into other’s lives and society around us on the daily and observing what they endure instead of making assumptions or judgements of it based on your past experiences or beliefs in order to understand human behavior and why they do or behave the way they do. Personal lives of individuals are affected by the larger forces in society, an example of this would be being a young girl becoming anorexic.
She wishes to look thin and skinny like the women she sees on tv and social media and to fit in with her friends, but for some reason she cannot achieve being granted looking the way she wants. Now, this young girl ends up eating less, resulting in anorexia and in a chronic depression which then she ends up experiencing health issues due to the lack of nutrition.
Looking at this situation from a personal view, you can say that she didn’t exercise hard enough or that she didn’t diet properly or that she looks perfectly fine how she was before making the drastic decision to stop eating, or even say that she was overreacting. However, applying sociological imagination to this predicament, we end up realizing that because of society’s obsession for the skinny and thin bodies is what, without noticing, affected this girl.
Because of the main media that basically represents society, it portrays beautiful, desirable, and “sexy” girls as skinny and thin. If there were only a few girls who ended up anorexic in our society, then we as a society could have had the leeway to say that anorexia is a personal problem. But when there are thousands of girls suffering from anorexia, it then turns out to be an social issue where the stereotypical attitude towards women, social media, entertainment needs to be inspected.
Within the class conflict, people in society who are wealthy hold power and try to hold on to it by any means possible, this is done by suppressing the poor and powerless. The exploiters or the “bourgeoisie” which represents the people in society who hold the majority of the wealth and are pretty much the brains of an operation, then there are the exploited or the “proletariat “ which represents the people in society who are considered being the working class or poor.
In a capitalist society, the “working class” would overthrow the system that is existing right now, allowing class conflict to be inevitable because there’s no one being the means of production. I believe the proletarian revolution in capitalist countries did not occur, because they were content with what they were already doing, I feel as though no one wanted to step up their game or strive for more due to fear or lack of resources.
The term verstehen by Max Weber is basically having to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to gain understanding as to why people do what they do. The importance and usefulness of the verstehen concept is so that people can understand where another person is coming from.
An example would be a woman being in a domestic relationship and being scared to tell authorities or someone else outside of the relationship what she’s enduring, many people looking at that domestic situation from the outside would ask why she doesn’t just run, or seek help but are not aware of the fear that she might consume, or the threats her partner can be telling her or if she’s staying for children that they share. Using the verstehen concept, it allows people to be more sympathetic to the situation that they don’t experience personally but what another person is experiencing that they probably would never experience.
The Altruistic Imagination A History Of Social Work And Social Policy
Historically, the country has progressed in various forms putting forward the needs of its citizens that are viewed worthy. Although social policies are positioned to benefit the country, they are stratified by socioeconomic class, resulting in an unbalance and unequal distribution of support to working class folks. Most laws benefit white men predominantly leaving at a disadvantage womyn, children, and men of color to gain capital. Individuals hardship were taken into account in social work and social policies according to The Altruistic Imagination and Sociological Imagination, A History of Social Work and Social Policy in the United States by John H. Ehrenreich (Chapters 1-3).
When in reality it was used as a tactic to keep people in place. It is still viewed as a system of rehabilitation and to support the welfare of children, womyn, and men. To this day social work and social policies are viewed as negative implications to working class folks. Since its, something that was implemented to help those in need supposedly. When in reality there are complications in social work and social policies to helping working-class citizens.
There are protocols to follow that determine whether a person is eligible before it was based on a moral system which was even more hindering. It is demonstrated that capitalism will succeed in the nation when implementing social policies that would eliminate working class folks from progressing. During the progressive movement, the country sought to deal with the chaos of the new industrial order(Ehrenreich, pg.24).
However, it does not improve any situations it instead caused more tension in the country. Although one would think that capitalism can be dismantled there are people that would disagree and would still want it to stay in place because they assume that society will be stable with it and modification can be made (Ehrenreich, pg.28). It is necessary to find reforms that will benefit all individuals not just those in monopolies. That is why we need to understand the history of the implementation of social work and social policy since it shifted how things are done in the country.
It also contributes to how capitalism is still able to control aspects of working-class citizens and non-citizens. Such actions are placed to excluded certain individuals from gaining support due to criteria that are viewed acceptable. For instance, a womyn would gain support if her husband was not present (Ehrenreich,pg.101). During the era, the book was written feminism was not addressed nor the thought of the definition of family.
A nuclear family is just viewed as a male, female, and children excluding lgbtqa families. Even to this day, there are limitations on resources lgbtqa families can access as well as undocumented families. There is still a need for improvements in social work and social policies that support citizens that are struggling in the community. This country was built undocumented folks that deserve to be represented in social work and social policy in particular to excelling in society.
It is necessary that everybody is represented like Hooks stated in her book Feminism is for Everybody we all deserve the opportunity to be taken into account when policies are placed. In order to reach equity and social representation, our country needs to implement reforms that benefit all the people. The welfare system also needs to be reconstructed, and it should be supported by capitalism. It would be ideal. However, those in power would disagree.
A Justification Of Civil Disobedience
John Calvin is one of the most famous reformation theologians of the 1500’s. One of his most decorated works is the Institutes of the Christian Religion: A book rich of Christian theology and the manual for reformed protestants. A topic not widely associated with Calvin is politics, yet he offers a unique perspective on government and the nuts and bolts that hold it together in his chapter, On Civil Government.
In this paper I will be discussing Calvin’s disdain for civil disobedience, especially in light of tyrannical rulers. I will be primarily pulling from two main sources: Calvin’s Institutes and Jonathan Mcintosh’s unpublished work “Your Reasoning is Stupid.” Furthermore, I will be critiquing Calvin on his political philosophy, specifically drawing conclusions from his own work that appears to contradict itself. John Calvin’s political thought is incoherent because he disregards a king’s rise to power, his views on civil disobedience contradict his definition of government, and he misinterprets scripture.
In Book 4 chapter 20, On Civil Government, Calvin starts out by describing how “man is under a twofold government.”The two governments are physical (civil) and spiritual. This is the perspective Calvin will use in approaching politics; a natural and biblical perspective. He will draw conclusions from how things are ordered in nature, as well as the Bible. Calvin is convinced government is a natural institution.
Just as, Aristotle establishes the naturalness of the husband and wife community in his Politics, “that is a union which is formed, not of deliberate purpose…[but] the natural desire to leave behind an image.”Calvin creates a natural argument for government similar to Aristotle’s when he says, “and of natural ruler and subject, that both may be preserved.”[footnoteRef:3] He is saying that it is natural to have someone who leads and one who follows.
For Calvin government “prevents the public peace from being disturbed; it provides that each man may keep his property safe and sound;..that honesty and modesty may be preserved among men.” Calvin is clear about the many benefits of government; protecting religion, advocating for tranquility, protecting private property as well as, “maintaining a public form of religion among Christian and humanity among men.” He believed the purpose of government was to create order among men and to create peace. Calvin throws all of this away.
In light of the government’s main purpose to maintain peace and to create order among its subjects— Calvin completely disregards how a king comes into kingship— this reveals his first contradiction. Calvin in his chapter, On Civil Government, describes the origins of the magistrate and rulers, “it has not come about by human perversity that the authority over all things on earth is in the hands of kings and other rulers, but by divine providence and holy ordinance.”
Calvin is saying, all kings and rulers are in power because they have been ordained by God. This is true. Moreover, Calvin concludes that no man may take away that power simply because he has been ordained by God and the one thing setting him apart is his power. This is the problem. The question arises then, how do kings come into power? For Calvin, he writes: “Let us not doubt that we ought to serve him to whom it is evident that the kingdom has been given.
And when the Lord advances any man to kingly rank, he attests to us his determination that he would have him reign.” It would seem to Calvin , he doesn’t care how a man comes into power, the fact that he is in power is evidence enough that he should be. Therefore, if that is Calvin’s position— if one man were to undertake the king and crown himself the new king— it wouldn’t matter to Calvin. A king is a king according to his power. It is here Calvin is throwing away his own political foundation: man is governed by two governments; rulers are ordained by God, and they shall create peace among the people.
Now he has blurred the line and morphed his two governments into one— his theology overtaking his politics. He did this when he implied the only implication of who should be in power is who has the power. If what it means to be a king is to have power, Calvin needs to rethink what it truly means to be a king. He needs to care about the methods used to acquire kingship. If we use Calvin’s theory; any man could overrun a ruler and take away his crown and make it his own, and nothing would appear out of sorts. In the end, Calvin is devoting too much value on the fact that rulers have been ordained by God and not enough on the means the rulers used to become in power. Power should not be the indicator of a rightful king.
All of this considered, why would Calvin object to civil disobedience? Calvin objects to civil disobedience because he believes, “if they commit some fault, they are not only wrongdoers whom they wickedly trouble, but are also insulting toward God himself..”[footnoteRef:8] In other words, if you disobey the king you are disobeying God. It is because of Calvin’s belief that how a ruler got into power is irrelevant— and we should blindly follow— that his argument falls through.
Calvin does say there is a time and place to disobey a king— if he commands the people to disobey God. Calvin distinguishes between certain instances in which people are justified to disobey the ruler and when they are not. If Calvin believes that we are not justified to rebel against tyrants or oppressors than under what circumstances may we disobey? Calvin says, “we are subject to the men who rule over us, but only in the Lord. If they command anything against him let us not pay the least regard to it.”So it seems, that we may only disobey the king, if they require us to disobey God.
Alongside his disdain for civil disobedience Calvin addresses the different kinds of rulers Christians should obey— namely tyrants. Calvin encourages the people about obedience to tyrants: “…the human mind has always been not less to assail tyrants with hatred and execration, than to look up to just kings with love and veneration. But if we have respect to the word of God, it will lead us farther, and make us subject not only to the authority of those princes who honestly and faithfully perform their duty toward us, but all princes,..”.
There are two problems with this argument: first, it contradicts Calvins original purpose of government and second he improperly uses the Bible to support his claim. In the former, Calvin goes against his own definition of the duties of governments, “to prevent public peace from being disturbed.” The definition, however, of a tyrant is “a cruel and oppressive ruler.” A tyrant is someone who exercises and creates disorder among his people and “causes discomfort by being excessive, intense, elaborate.” Yet Calvin when he quotes 1 Samuel distinctly says, “..To such a degree will kings indulge in tyranny, which it will not be for you to restrain. The only thing remaining for you will be to receive their commands, and be obedient to their words.”
The very definition of a tyrant and the oppressive power he exercises directly contradicts Calvin’s own purpose of a ruler in the first place. The latter issue— improper interpretation of the Bible— is from Calvin’s commentaries on Jeremiah and Romans. Calvin uses the example of Nebuchadnezzar in Jeremiah to attempt to prove why Christians need to be obedient to unjust and tyrannical rulers.
Calvin quotes Jeremiah, “…and I give it to him who is pleasing in my eyes. Now, therefore, I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar….my servant…All the nations and great kings shall serve him… until the time of his own land comes.”What Calvin does here is universalize this moment in history to apply to all situations; instead of contextualizing this instance for this time and place only. He does this as well in his commentary of Romans 13.
George Buchanan put it another way, “Should anyone argue that bad princes[similar to Nero or Domitian] are likewise appointed by God, beware of the fallacy of this argument.…..no man of sound mind would dare to affirm that God is the author human wickedness.”
Buchanan continues to argue and urge his opponent(Maitland) to not misconstrue what Paul is talking about in Romans. Paul was writing for a specific time and for specific people. He goes on to argue that kings and rulers are not exempt from the authorities of the laws similar to citizens, “But, just as bishops are subject to kings with respect to the duties of the citizen, so ought kings submit to the spiritual correction of bishops.”
In sum, God may ordain kings, but he doesn’t ordain them to be evil, and those evil kings should still be under authorities. If we used Calvin’s same logic on other passages in the Bible, if we took it out of context, we would be reading the Bible not how it was intended. Take for example, in Genesis when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham was faithful and brought his son onto the mountain but God stopped him. If we applied Calvin’s logic to this, all fathers would be killing their sons. George Buchanan also argues, “…it would be at once pointed out that the slaying of Ahab was done by God’s command; and that a reward was promised and paid to the killer, also by divine command…should you appeal to the argument all tyrants must be obeyed because God, through his prophet, in one instance ordered his people to obey a tyrant, you will immediately be told in reply that all tyrants should be put to death because Ahab, at God’s command, was destroyed by one of the officers of his own army.”
George Buchanan, who at the time is arguing the logistics of how to interpret scripture, condemns his opponent for the very same issue Calvin has— not contextualizing events in the Bible. Thus, Calvin’s political philosophy falls flat because he failed to interpret the passages of scripture correctly. Instead of reading scripture in its own context, he read it to apply to all kings, of all times.
In conclusion, the reason Calvin’s political philosophy is incoherent is because of his contradiction about what a ruler is and why citizens must obey; as well as his failure to interpret scripture correctly. Calvin, while providing a detailed account of government fails to make his thought coherent. In the end, Calvin does not leave his readers with a sound account of government, magistrates and laws. But rather, he leaves a mess of contradictions through which the reader must sort. It is not to say all of Calvin’s works are discredited but rather his theology got in the way of his politics.
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- Buchanan, George, Roger A. Mason, and Martin S. Smith. George Buchanans A Dialogue on the
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- Jonathan Mcintosh. “Your Reasoning is Stupid.” Unpublished Work. New Saint Andrews College. file:///Users/mariahbrock/Documents/Pol-Econ2018/Yourreasoningisstupi d.pdf.