Espaço social, distância social e posição social (Sorokin 1998 [1959])

Espaço social, distância social e posição social (Sorokin 1998 [1959])

SOROKIN, Pitirim A. 1998. Social space, social distance, and social position. In: On the practice of Sociology. Barry V. Johnston (ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, pp. 206-12. [1959]


As far as I know, after Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, Leibniz, E. Weigel, and other great thinkers of the seventeenth century [Spektorsky, The problem of social physics in the seventeenth century, 2 vols. (Warsaw, 1910; Kiev, 1917], only F. Ratzel [F. Ratzel, Politische Geographie (Berlin: B. Oldenbourg, 1923), chaps. 12-15], G. Simmel [G. Simmel. Soziologie (Leipzig: Dencker and Humblot, 1908), chap. 9], and recently E. Durkheim [E. Durkheim, Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse (Paris: Alcan, 1912), introduction and conclusion], Robert E. Park [Robert E. Park, “The concept of social distance” Journal of Applied Sociology 8(6)], Emory S. Bogardus [Emory S. Bogardus, several papers on social distance in the Journal of Applied Sociology (1925-26)], Leopold von Wiese [Leopold von Wiese, Allegmeine Soziologie (1924)], and the writer [P. Sorokin, Sistema Sotsiologii (St. Petersburg: Kolos Publications, 1920), vol.2, chap. 1 et passin] have tried to give greater attention to the problem of social space and to some others connected with it. (Sorokin 1998:206)


In the first place, social space is something quite different from geometrical space. Persons near each other in geometrical space […] are often separated by the greatest distance in social space. And, vice versa, persons who are vbery far ffrom each other in geometrical space […] may be very near each other in social space. (Sorokin 1998:206-7)

The greater part of social phenomena […] are not reflected properly on the geometrical territory. (Sorokin 1998:207 nota 2)

GEOMETRICAL SPACE (physical universe):

The location in this universe is obtained through definition of the position of a thing in relation to other things chosen as “the points of reference.” As soon as such points are established (be it the sun, the moon, Greenwhich, the axes of abscisas and ordinates), we can locate the spatial position of all physical phenomena with relation to them, and then, through that, with relation to each other. [vale notar que seria possível um outro arranjo, no qual as coisas fossem localizadas desde o início com relação a outras coisas, e não a pontos de referência] (Sorokin 1998:208)

SOCIAL SPACE (human universe)

[T]o find the position of a man or a social phenomenon in social space means to define his or its relations to other men or other social phenomena chosen as te “points of reference.” What are taken as the “points of reference” depends upon us. (Sorokin 1998:208)


In brief, more or less sufficient geometrical location demands an indication of the located thing to the whole system of spatial coordinates of the geometrical universe. The same is true in regard to the “social location” of an individual. (Sorokin 1998:208)


This method consists in (1) the indication of a man’s relations to specific groups, (2) the relation of these groups to each other within a population, and (3) the relation of this popuolation to other populations included in the human universe. (Sorokin 1998:209)


“Tell me to what social groups you belong and what function you perform within each of those groups, and I will tell you what is your social position in the human universe, and who you are as a socius.” (Sorokin 1998:209)


The biography of a man in its essence is largely a description of the groups to which the man has had a relation, and the man’s place within each of them. (Sorokin 1998:209)


To sum up: (1) social space is the universe of the human population; (2) man’s social position is the totality of his relations toward all groups of a population and, within each of them, toward its members; (3) location of a man’s position in this social universe is obtained by ascertaining these relations; (4) the totality of such groups and the totality of the positions within each of them compose a system of social coordinates which permits us to define the social position of any man. (Sorokin 1998:209)

PSYCHOLOGICAL ATTRACTION x SOCIAL DISTANCE (crítica anacrônica (cf. facebook) a Park e Bogardus):

A master and a slave, a king and a beggar, may like each other very much. But to conclude from this that their social positions are similar, or that there is no great social distance between them, would be utterly fallacious. […] [M]y conception of social space and social distance is objective (because the groups exist objectively) and sociological, while Dr. Park’s and Dr. Bogardus’s conception is purely psychological and subjective (as far as it measures the social distance by the subjective feelings of liking and disliking). (Sorokin 1998:210 nota 3)


Similarity of social position of individuals results usually in a “likemindedness” because it means the similarity of habits, interests, customs, mores, traditions inculcated in the individuals by similar social groups to which they belong. Being “likeminded” they are likely to be more solidary than the people who belong to the different social groups. (Sorokin 1998:210 nota 3)


Euclid’s geometrical space is space of the three dimensions. The social space is space of many dimensions because there are more than three different social groupings wihch do not coincide with each other (the groupings of the population into state groups, into those of religion, nationality, occupation, economic status, political party, race, sex and age groups, and so on). The lines of differentiation of a population among each of these groups are specific or sui generis and do not coincide with each other. Since relations of all these kinds are substantial components of the system of social coordinates, it is evident that the social space is a universe of many dimensions; and the more differentiated is the population, the more numerous are the dimensions. In order to locate an individual in the universe of the population of the United States, which is more differentiated than that of the natives of Australia, a more complex system of social coordinates must be used to indicate the more numerous groups with which one is connected [sic]. (Sorokin 1998:210-1)


For the sake of a simplification of the task, it is possible, however, to reduce the plurality of the dimensions into two principal classes, provided that each is to be subdivided into several subclasses. These two principal classes may be styled the vertical and the horizontal dimensions of the social universe. […] The discrimination between the vertical and the horizontal dimensions expresses something which really exists in the social universe: the phenomena of hierarchy, ranks, domination and subordination, authority and obedience, promotion and degradation. All these phenomena and corresponding interrelations are thought of in the form of stratification and superposition. For a description of such relations the vertical dimension is very helpful and convenient. On the other hand, interrelations free from such elements may be conveniently described in terms of the horizontal dimension. In brief, from the technical standpoint, as well as from that of the nature of the social universe, there is no reason to avoid the above rather common discrimination of the two principal dimensions of the social universe.(Sorokin 1998:211-2)


In order to avoid any misunderstanding, I must emphatically stress, that such terminology dies not signify any evaluation on my part, and means only some formal location of the people within the different social strata. Maybe the inhabitants of the upper strata are really better than those of the lower ones; maybe they are worse. It is up to the reader to make such judgments. For me these terms are no more than convenient tools for analysis and description of the corresponding phenomena and their factual interrelations. The task of any scientific study is to define the interrelations of the studied phenomena as they exist. The task of the evaluation is entirely out of the field of such a study. This should be constantly kept in mind in order to avoid misunderstanding. (Sorokin 1998:212)

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