Peter J. Jessen

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Peter L. Berger on society and Peace

"Reality is of course ..... until further notice."

"define 'formulas' for a peaceful co-existence
of different religious tradiTions and Institutions within a society."

"Nothing should be taken so seriously
that it be allowed to supercede one's capacity for laughter."

"Pedantic Utopians" (the actors)
engaged in "Pedantic Utopianism" (exercises in social science theory)
to SUGGEST EXPERIMENTS IN "THE political management of pluralism"

Peter L. Berger, one of world's most respected sociologists, is also, a Lutheran and a man of faith (a "godder"). He has written dozens of books, and has received many honors for them. He is author of what the field of sociologists call "one of the top books in sociology of the 20th century: The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. In his books he covers the Sociology of Knowledge, Sociology of Religion, Social Change and Social Roles, and advocates taking the best from the historic formulas of peace in order to achieve the political management of pluralism, globally and locally, doing so by combining individuals and political components, to successfully deal with religious and secular ideologies and utopias. In his 1974 book, Pyramids of Sacrifice: Political Ethics and Social Change, he coined two terms to describe what saw as necessary: "pedantic utopians" (the actors) engaged in "pedantic utopianism" (exercises in social science theory)


"Pedantic utopians” working out “pedantic utopias” (integrate the best of both and jettison the worse of both, a tough divide to cross to be sure." His "method" integrates the reciprocity in thinking between "Sociology and Freedom."

Berger states that "America constitutes a gigantic laboratory for the experiment of modernization, which because of technology advances in transportation, communications, and all fields, no society in the world can escape te "experiments." To deal with "social change" from the standpoint of "political ethics, he has written on the two major contesting ideas, market based societies and centralized planning ones. Both sides have their own views on how to achieve order, each with their own definnitions of the French Revolution's rallying cry, "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" (Robespierre, December 5, 1790). The triplet originally had a 4th term, "Beath." The world has continually fought domestic and foreign wars over these terms and who they are meant for the most, the people or the elites. In 1984, Berger added his own triplet: Prosperity, Equality, and Liberty. His "50 propositions" about these three and his "25 theses" about development, political ethics and social change (1974) engage his humanistic approach to the discipline of sociology as a way to work together to achieve peace and freedom.

Berger presented his 50 propositions about Prosperity, Equality, and Liberty, in 1986 (The Capitalist Revolution), which followed his 25 Theses about developmen, political ethics, and social changet, in 1974 (nationally, international, in Pyramids of Sacrfiice), soon to be posted below.

Different parts of this section were developed separately in the 1970s and 1980s, and then more systematically in the 1990s and 2000s. From that I began this section, first posted in 2014, with inicremental addtions since then. During the 80s and 90s I also researched models (approaches) to achieve Macro and Micro Conflict Resolution / Meditation / Negotiation. Of the 18, Berger was directly involved in four of the 9 macro models and of the micro models.

Among the major insights Berger brings to the table are
(1) That Marx's "religion is the opiate of the people" has been changed by China and Russia to "religion is needed" to enable the search and achievement of meaning and thus, a "work ethic."
(2) That the admission by China and Russia that socialism doesn't work, that successful states need a market ecomomy.
(3) That you don't need democracy for capitalism, BUT you can't have democracy wthout capitlism.
(4) That Thucydides statement 2,500 years ago, "human nature being what it is," still applies: humans are not perfect, are not perfectable, do not and cannot create perfect programs, and thus can't create any putataive utopias in the future nor raise any assumed utopias from the past (there were none).

Since the 1970s, Russia and China have not only evolved into market economies (yet authoritarian; as Berger has pointed out, you cannot have democracy without capitalism but you can have capitalism with any kind of government), and as China showed, markets make authoritarians even more powerful, including socialist and centralized. As the "2 worlds" have converged (in the 1960s, Goldwater predicted "they" would become more capitalist and "we" would become more socialist). Being very simplistic: Europe's EU hybfid run from Brussels is not working well either. Non-Sharia Islam is closer to converging with the West while Sharia Islam is converging with the East as both diverge from each other.

What to do? What next? How do we avoid Lincoln's "a house divided falls," and follow Lincoln's admonition to build a house "with malice toward none"?

I recommend that as many people, institutions and nations as possible engage in dealing with their ideological differences (both sectarian and secular) in a pursuit of peace by seeking out conflict resolution models to use with Berger's proposal that we act as "pedantic utopians" in creating peace and progress through working together on "pedantic utopias," hence my 1980 paper, "Pedantic Utopias vs Predictive Utopias and Ideologies: Developing Analytical Tools for Use in the Debate Between Diversity and Absolutism in Studying Policy Choices for Constructing the Future," First Global Conference on the Future, "Through the '80's: Thinking Globally, Acting Locally," Toronto, Ontario, Canada, July 25, 1980.

What better way than to engage in what Berger wrote, as noticd above, about what is great about America: "America constitutes a gigantic laboratory for the experiment of modernization." Both social engineers and utopian imagineers are at work. How, then, should the world deal with what Berger calls "eruptions of utopanism," whether looking for a model in the good old days that never existed orlook to the future to a model that can never exist, even as we go about living in today?

This question has become central to my thinking about political and personal relationships, macro and micro, domestic and international, as, for the first time in my life, due to the political arguments of the 2016 capaigns and continuing afterwards. that have caused friends and relatives to no longer talk to each other or, if they do, not argue kindly, and due to the EU utopia experiencing "exiting" while Africa and South America are experienceing re-shuffling, and Asia is still debatng "west" or "east."

To develop and execute experiments in the laborary of modernization, Berger wrote that "we need pedantic utopians and we need exercises in pedantic utopianism in every important area of policy." Berger's hope (he called it his "fantasy" and I call it an "approach"): that there may emerge places or "schools "in which such an approch is carefully cultivated in research and teaching." Such "schools," he wrote, "would be equidistant from the antiseptic amorality of 'counter-insurgency research' and the oral hysteria of the New Left" (Pyramids, p. 227). Such schools would be alternatives to consider that would be morally acceptable and which would work.

When Berger wrote Pyramids, Marxists were still under the sway of "religion is the opium of the people." What Russia and China have discovered is that the way to get work ethic out of their citizens is to provide a way for them to generate meaning in their lives, ie, allow religion. Thus, shocking the American and European left, China and Russia are letting religion "back in" (it never left; it just doesnt have to hide anymore).

Hence, Berger, states, he begins with his own "rather complicated correlation of" these four:

--- "a Chrisian understanding of man" (1 Samuel 8, Berger, Jesus, Luther, Hannah Arendt, and the Bible agree with Thucydides that humans will repeat their mistakes because they are human, "human nature being what it is" (a perfect phrase for those who don't want to use the term "sin," another support for Berger's hoped for schools that would research and teach how to be "pedantic utopians" condiucting exercises in "pedatic utopianism."

--- an unavoidably conservative view of history". In a 1970 paper at a Smithsonian Institutioin International Symposium on Culture Change -- I was there, Berger reminded us of Thycydides, who wrote, 2,500 years ago: "It will be enough for me ... if these words of mine are judged useful by those who want to understand clearly the events which happened in the past and which (human nature being what it is) will, at some time or other and in much the same ways be repeated in the future" (my emphasis).

--- "the radically debuning perspective of sociological theory." Hence his suggestion that that all sides of an argument act as pedantic utopians, starting with ethical propositions regarding what all don't want, and then see what is left (hence the list below of "proposed NO's and YES's for enabling more meaning and less pain, from Berger's "Pyramids" from my 11-1-01 piece, which is based on Berger's concepts of a "calculus of meaning" and a "calculus of pain," which I will post this summer). I agree that this is a workable path to peace, domestically and internationally. The most chilling line in his 1974 Pyramids is this: drenched in empirical facts too many don't want to face: "According to the best estiates one million people died in the Spanish Civil War. And the Spain that is now emerging has nothnig to do with what either side fought and died for" (emphasis his).

Selected Books (comments are a work in progress)

Selected Articles

Application methods for pedantic utopians TO CONDUCT EXERCISES IN DEVELOPING PEDANTIC UTOPIAS

As Berger would say, "applicatiion" is not meant to refer to any tendency or advocacy of social engineering.

"Key Principles of Peter L. Berger: Vis a Vis Sociology of and the Sociology of Knowledge as they Relate to Social Roles, Social Stratification, Social Inequality, and Justice", Peter J. Jessen, 3 Readers, 1993, to be posted summer 1997.