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Defamiliarization and whether humans can act rationally

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  1. The process of defamiliarization
  2. Rationality and group solidarity among humans

The Durkheimian perspective is particularly interesting in its ground-breaking suggestions and novel ideas. Usually, when we consider the behavior of humans, especially humans living in "Western" society, we usually associate the behavior with actions that are "rational" and based on some sort of calculation. Whenever we think of economic calculations, social situations, and almost any other situations people come across in the course of their daily lives, we tend to believe that unless a person is mentally unstable, that person is "behaving rationally". Usually, the idea of behaving rationally is associated with being intelligent, doing things in a careful and calculated manner, and the idea of "self-interest" is a crucial element in all of this rational behavior.

[...] The Durkheimian perspective is extremely unusual and unfamiliar because it forcefully undermines that idea that humans behave rationally both as individuals and as a group. This defamiliarization, however, forces us to think anew about the ?rationality? of human beings, and forces us to draw conclusions and find answers that are much more nuanced than, simply, ?humans always behave rationally.? Bibliography Collins, Randall. ?Sociological Insight: an Introduction to Non-obvious Sociology.? New York: Oxford University Press Miner, Horace. ?Body Ritual Among the Nacirema.? The American Anthropologist 503-507, 1956. [...]


[...] We usually make no distinctions between people who behave rationally as a group, and those who behave rationally as individuals. The Durkheimian perspective challenges this assumption and makes a clear distinction between the rationality of groups versus the rationality of individuals: if we follow the logic of a strictly rational viewpoint, we come to the opposite conclusion. If people acted on a purely rational basis, they would never be able to get together to form a society at (Collins 9). [...]


[...] Thus, defamiliarization entails a new perspective and an open-mind. As Berger suggests, defamiliarization is essential to the social sciences because sociologists spend their lives researching and attempting to understand perspectives that are different from their own. If sociologists behaved in a fashion that was closed-minded, they would be unable to adequately study other civilizations and would find themselves lost and confused when attempting to understand some sort of mysterious behavior or an ancient ritual. Therefore, allowing for a fresh perspective and an open mind results in the discovery of things that were previously misunderstood, since the perspective from which those things were viewed tend to shift. [...]


[...] In a group setting, these impulses continue to exist. In other words, the fact that a person is interacting in some sort of social group does not change his or her incentives to behave in a strictly selfish behavior, while reaping the benefits of any non-selfish behaviors that other group members participate in. As an example to illustrate this mentality, Collins describe the ?free rider? problem, a scenario in which a public bus is ?free to as long as riders contribute, whenever they can, to the costs associated with maintaining the bus system. [...]

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