What I Think Tank

The Synergy of Libertarianism and Sociology

with 5 comments

Modern Type & Sociology Books

On a libertarian group on Facebook, someone asked if the teachings of sociology were in opposition to the ideals of libertarianism and free will, where sociology teaches us we base our actions on the input from those around us, and that all our choices are influenced by social interactions and social contexts, and went to ask how libertarians felt about this sociological knowledge.

I felt compelled to answer, and I thought I could supply the same answer here.

Whether or not social interaction and society around us influences us and ultimately limits or shifts our values and effectively guides our choices is pretty much a given. People are social animals.

However, that does not contradict the libertarian ethos of individual rights and personal freedom, and a belief in free will. I hold the non-aggression-principle high, because it’s moral and just. I hold private property rights high, because it’s moral and just. I hold the respect for my fellow Men high, because it’s moral and just. I expect people to respect me, my choices, my personal freedoms and property, because it’s moral and just.

My values and choices beyond this can easily be affected by others, because that’s part of what I am. But that does not belittle my own free will. If anything it underlines its strength. If we defined by our humanity would not have complete authority of our selves as individuals, then we would not have the option of breaking free of evil influences if that was all that surrounded us. We must have the opportunity to choose our influences and social contexts, or else we most certainly would perish. Because of this, the fact that we are influenced by those around us and those who brought us up proves to me the strength of our own free will.

What of the poor souls who were surrounded by nothing but lies, but still could see the deceptions that had been fed to them? They are numerous throughout history, and we have much to thank them for. They gave us the Age of Enlightenment, they gave us liberty and capitalism, and once and for all proved that we can choose a free life. Somewhere along the way we may have lost it, but the words of liberty spread across the world like never before and will never be forgotten. If people had no individual preferences or ability to choose for themselves, then such ideas could not spread.

So to sum it up: We are influenced by others, because we’re social animals – and that’s the study of sociology, but we have reason and free will which enable us to choose among those influences, because we’re human – and that’s the study of philosophy.

I know all too well that the field of sociology is made up by collectivist thinkers; marxists, socialists, social democrat-leaning liberals and statists. There is a religious belief in the good of authoritarian rule – as long as it is the rule for good. The way I see it, all the social injustice and problems of society that sociologists do well in identifying and try to fight against are attributed to state authority and a lack of respect for freedom and private property. They wish to use the same authority to do good, and blatantly ignore the fact that you cannot do good with evil. A belief in the system of government authority over economic and social questions will doom us into never finding the right answer, and that is the bane of sociologists today.

There does exist a call for a field of sociology that develops a different understanding of the State, that can be based in the libertarian and objectivist philosophies. The problems of society are the symptoms of the disease of government, and the best sociologists are the ones who make the proper diagnosis.

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Written by Morten Rolland

April 14, 2011 at 11:55 am

5 Responses

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  1. […] The Synergy of Libertarianism and Sociology. […]

  2. Reblogged this on socialhumanrace and commented:
    Libertarian life is individual social choice! Individual life choice is libertarian social life choice!

    johnpaulgettelman

    March 20, 2013 at 10:41 pm

  3. […] The Synergy of Libertarianism and Sociology. […]

  4. I really am happpy to see you say Socialism is not Social science I am not a sociologist.I am just a common social member of our human race. But I am inclined to buy the sales pitch of the Individualist social brand of ideas.The Individualist social brand of ideas,seems to be the most inclusive of the whole history of our whole human race’s social philosophy.Individualist social ideas follow the succession of social philosophy from our classical to current times.Social consistency is as vital to social practices as medical cosistency is to medical practice. Individualist social schools of ideas suffer from social identity theft.The attacks on Laissez faire by a cartel of tax funded insiders is our current quagmire.Lassez faire Liberal social economy is the negation of all kinds of state established monopoly.Individualist social practices as well as Laissez faire liberal social life are the social crosssection of social philosophy and social deeds. Thank you again for your straight talk.

    John Paul Gettelman

    May 11, 2012 at 9:44 pm

  5. I stumbled across this, and even though it’s old I had to reply. I am a sociologist and I am one of the biggest supporters of individuality and freedom you’ll ever come across. This piece raises a good point, but some of the ideas here are a bit off. In its true form – as a science – sociology does not promote nor does it decry any particular philosophical position. One of the greats of sociology, Max Weber, is the source of what is known as methodological individualism within the social sciences in general. He wrote that in sociological analyses “collectivities must be treated as solely the resultants and modes of organization of the particular acts of individual persons, since these alone can be treated as agents in a course of subjectively understandable action.”
    It is true that far-left, marxist threads run rampant among sociologists in general, but I would argue that many of these people are bastardizing sociology and that their work is not science but activism. Also, there has been a visible debate within the field regarding this disturbing trend and how it damages my area of study – reference this site for starters – http://www.savesociology.org/

    I say all of this to communicate a rather simple point that a lot of people don’t understand. Sociology does not equate to Socialism, and if some ‘sociologist’ gives you the impression that it does they are patently wrong and misleading you.

    Also, it is true that sociologists believe that an individual is influenced by their social context, to believe otherwise would be absurd. But the key to remember here is that this concept doesn’t relieve the individual of agency nor responsibility for their actions. The problem in this regards stems from this false dichotomy of ‘social v. natural.’ People have the tendency to see ‘social context’ as something separate and apart from ‘nature.’ Also absurd. A rock, a tree, the sun, rain, dogs, squirrels, etc. – all part of the natural context into which we are born. Likewise, brothers, mothers, rival clans, and fellow traders – just as much a part of nature as the dogs and squirrels. Social relations are not fundamentally different from our relations to the ground we walk on. Both are a given by virtue of the nature of reality. We utilize both for our purposes, we are affected by changes in either, and our actions in turn affect changes in each. To separate society from nature for analytic purposes is merely to draw down on a particular feature of existence, not to say that it is separate from existence.

    To recap, not all sociologists are flaming commies… unfortunately, many of the most vocal people who claim to do sociology are really doing activism and using the guise of a legitimate science in order to garner credibility. As a sociologist, I understand why people get confused on this point, and I make moves within my discipline to remedy the situation as best I can.

    Joseph Padgett

    April 25, 2012 at 2:35 pm


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