Most theory at the sociological level of analysis is based on the Standard Social Science Model (SSSM), which assumes that the mind is a "tabula rasa". The SSSM is an over-reaction within the academy to the inappropriate extension of the theory of evolution to justify social Darwinism. The equivalent theory at the psychological level of analysis is behaviorism. The concept of the person underlying most sociological theory is, apart from the occasional reference to "economic man" or "political man", usually implicit. When it is made explicit, it is found to be almost invariably a behavioristic concept of the person. This concept of the person is very limited and thus any theory based on it is inadequate and any practice based on this theory is, in turn, inept. Let us look in turn at three progressively more accurate concepts of the person. The behavioristic concept will be presented as thesis; the humanistic concept will be presented as antithesis; and the interactionist concept of the person will be presented as synthesis of the behavioristic thesis and the humanistic antithesis.


      The behavioristic concept of the person could be considered as a system of five propositions:

  • The person has only extrinsic needs
  • The person is conditioned from the outside in
  • The person is not responsible for behaviour
  • The person has only extrinsic worth
  • The person has contractual relationships

      The first proposition considers the nervous system simply as a mediator between the internal environment (the other systems within the body) and the external environment. It mediates between needs (hunger, thirst) in the internal environment and satisfiers of those needs (food, water) in the external environment. It mediates between threats in the external environment and emotions to deal with those threats - rage to fight and fear to flee. Thus the nervous system contributes to our survival by providing us the means of approaching things which are good for us (e.g. things we eat) and by avoiding things that are bad for us (e. g. things that eat us). Since the nervous system has no needs of its own, the implication is that we would be content as long as those biological needs were satisfied. We are hedonists concerned only with the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain.

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