The United States
Summed Up By Browsing In A
Sociological Almanac

by Hans L. Zetterberg 1)

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Reprinted by permission from Murray Gendell and Hans L. Zetterberg (editors),
A Sociological Almanac for the United States,
The Bedminster Press, New York, 1961

©1961, The Bedminster Press, Box 33, New York 21, N.Y.

* * * * * * *

 

Most of us occasionally devote an odd half hour or so to reading facts about our world, our country, or our home town in an annual almanac. The editor of the almanac includes all the information that the public may ask for or find interesting. The scientist has another purpose in mind when it comes to facts and figures; he selects information on all the issues that his science defines as important. From the mass of statistical facts and figures available about the United States, this essay presents a small selection based on a sociologistís conception of what commands special attention. 2)  The remarks that follow may serve as strings around the tables in a sociological almanac for the contemporary United States; they intend to tie them together into a manageable bundle, the whole of which can be easily grasped.

Table of contents:

>> Introduction
>>NEXT>> Human Resources
>> Polity and Order
>> Economy and Prosperity
>> Science and Knowledge
>> Religion and Sacredness
>> Art and Beauty
>> Ethics and Virtue
>> Community: Local and National

 

1) The author of this essay, Hans L. Zetterberg, is a consulting sociologist in New York City and an Associate Professor of Sociology at Columbia University.
The book from which this essay is reprinted is called A Sociological Almanac for the United States and is edited by Murray Gendell and Hans L. Zetterberg. It can be obtained from The Bedminster Press, Box 33, New York 21, N.Y.

2) One should not pretend that there is complete agreement among social scientists as to the most relevant information that enters into a routine description of a society. However, as a rule, sociologists and historians, in dealing with total societies, begin by discussing the human and material resources of the society. Then they may proceed along many paths, but in the end that have usually described six interrelated but different realms of society. The latter are:

1. Polity
2. Economy
3. Science
4. Religion
5. Art
6. Ethics

Each of these realms has a dominant concern, that might be called its "institutional value". In polity it is order, in economy prosperity, in science knowledge, in art beauty, in religion sacredness, and in ethics it is virtue. In each one of the institutional realms, descriptive sociology collects information about

(1) the amount of institutional values,
(2) the suppliers, purveyors, and receivers of the institutional values,
(3) the stratification of the population according to their control over institutional values
and, when relevant,
(4) information about social movements attempting to change the distribution of the institutional values.

We shall proceed by covering these four items in some detail for the first three institutional realms, recording information according to the following schema:

Institu-
tional
Realm

Institu-
tional
Value

Supplier

Purveyor

Receiver

Mode of Strati-
fication
Power

of institutional values

Polity

Order

Ruler

Admini-
strator

Subject

Power

Economy

Pros-
perity

Producer

Dealer

Consumer

Riches

Science

Knowledge

Scholar

Teacher

Student

Compe-
tence

In turning to the remaining realms of religion, art, and ethics, we cannot give the corresponding information in the same quantitative detail and will, therefore, at this time make far briefer notes that do not lend themselves to this organization. Finally, having dissected the society into these parts, we have to give attention to how they are integrated into an ongoing whole.