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Why does Peter Berger say that “the secret of winning is insincerity?”

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The thesis of P. Berger.
  3. Challenging the deceptive statement 'I must' or 'I have no choice'.
  4. Evaluating P. Berger's thesis.
  5. P. Berger's methodological approach and the implications of his thesis.
  6. Conclusion.
  7. Sources.

An oversimplified opposition in sociology is the contraction between two schools of thought. First, there are those who believe that society is a ?gigantic Alcatraz' that dictates every action of individual actors. Secondly, it can be said that others believe in individual action. Nevertheless, some sociologists, such as E. Goffman, see the sociology as a ?puppet theatre' in which social interactions are structured by roles. But P. Berger could be located in the school of thought that compares society with a game. P. Berger tries, in Invitation to Sociology, to overcome this conflict between two sociologies and to deliver sociologist from social determinism. After having explained how society can control us from the outside (as a prison) but also from the inside, he deals with society as a ?puppet theatre'. But finally, he argues that sociology is a Machiavellian discipline that must tend toward humanism. In fact, he sees society as a ?drama' in which every social agent can step out of his role to be free and change the rules of the game dictated by society. According to him, ?the secret of winning is insincerity'. What king of game is he dealing with? What does insincerity means for him? In other words: why does P. Berger argue that ?the secret of winning is insincerity?? Moreover, it can be asked if it is a valid thesis. First, we shall explain the thesis of P. Berger before trying to evaluate it.

[...] Berger's thesis: is it true that secret of winning is insincerity'? We shall also discuss some points about his methodological approach. First of all, can it really be said that to win against social control one has to cheat? It has to be acknowledged that if the basic postulate of sociology is that society is a prison or that society is a puppet theatre, insincerity seen not as negative action but more as a delivery towards freedom and social action can be the only way to win against social control. [...]


[...] To conclude, by saying that secret of winning is insincerity', P. Berger means that social agents can step out of their roles and become free from any social control. From a ?prison' and a ?puppet theatre', P. Berger manages to cope with social determinism and transform society in a ?drama' in which individual agent can step out of their role. In order to do so, individuals need to enter in an ?ecstasy state' that enable them to be conscious of their conditions and to practice ?social sabotage', that is manipulate the rules of the games and change them into new ones. [...]

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