tsum | Review: Abram D. Swan – The Human Society

Learn to watch people

Abram D. Swan (1942), Professor Emeritus of Sociology with a large list of successful book publications, published 1996 Human societyAn introduction to the social sciences. A fully revised edition of this book will be published in 2022. Human society It aims to be an introduction to the social sciences. It does not require any prior scientific knowledge, but it “requires some social experience and knowledge of the community.”

“You can do it, but you don’t know it,” De Swaan says when talking about social relationships: you can be socially adept and abide by all kinds of rules that that entails, but you don’t really know those rules. You are hardly aware of applying the rules. They seem to belong to your latent knowledge. Learning to think socially means becoming aware of those rules and learning to think about their function and impact. De Swaan systematically scaffolds key concepts and insights in the social sciences. He illustrates with simple, recognizable examples what may not be immediately understood in the general sense. For example, Thomas’ rule, which states that if people expect something to happen, then those expectations will influence what happens. If people predict a toilet paper shortage based on a rumor, they start hoarding. And then it is this very hoarding that leads to deficiency.

De Swan says that good soccer players look at the game in social terms. It means that they not only look at the player with the ball, which leads to typical aggregate football, but rather the turnovers of the entire constellation of players on the field. Remember, too, that every situation on the field, like every social shot in general, is the result of the social process that preceded it. So try to spot patterns in such processes.

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De Swaan once started writing something Human society It would become when he taught as a guest lecturer at the University of Suriname and needed such a text to introduce students to the social sciences. As far as Dutch education is concerned, this book is exactly what higher professional education programs that also offer something about the social sciences should provide. VWO students with social sciences and college plans should read it for guidance, but this is also an attractive book for interested laypeople who don’t have specific educational ambitions.

Hans van der Heide

Abram de Swan – Human society. Prometheus, Amsterdam. 236 pages, 20 euros.

This review originally appeared in Leeward Courant and the North newspaper On September 2, 2022.

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