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Harmony Forum

Reviews about tetrasociology and its model of a harmonious peace

 

International Sociology Review of Books Vol. 22 No. 2; March 2007

 

The Scope of Sociology DeWitt

 

Leo Semashko, Tetrasociology: Responses to Challenges. St Petersburg: State Polytechnic University, 2002, 158 pp., ISBN 5742202634, US$15.00.

 

Leo Semashko and 14 dialog contributors, Tetrasociology: From Sociological Imagination through Dialog to Universal Values and Harmony, in Russian, English (trans. M. R. DeWitt) and Esperanto. St Petersburg: State Polytechnic University, 2003, 396 pp., ISBN 574220445X, US$25.00

 

Leo Semashko, Childrens Suffrage: Democracy for the 21st Century, Priority Investment in Human Capital as a Way toward Social Harmony, trans. M. R. DeWitt. St Petersburg: State Polytechnic University, 2004, 72 pp., ISBN 5742206550, US$5.00.

 

keywords: Information Age pluralism social reproduction sphere classes sphere democracy

 

Tetrasociology is an ambitious attempt by Professor Semashko to synthesize a long tradition of theories of societal reproduction, introducing or integrating concepts such as: the reproductive employment of people, social harmony/disharmony and four dimensions of social spacetime. A central premise of tetrasociology is that sustainable development and maintenance of society (homeostasis) is provided by a natural law of social harmony (balance) achieved among four spheres of social reproduction. This harmony is constantly challenged by deviations (conflicts) within the four spheres, among various branches (social classes), enterprises, regions and social groups. The strength and number of deviations (conflicts) create a measure of disharmony. When this exceeds a critical measure, the society either perishes or the law of sphere harmony is subordinated for a time, until sphere harmony can be restored. Harmony among spheres and sphere classes (of people reproductively employed in each sphere) exists in two forms: spontaneous and conscious. Spontaneous harmony of sphere classes is the natural, historical basis for preserving societal stability, whereas conscious harmony will begin, Semashko anticipates, with self-identification of sphere classes (as social actors) in an Information Age (post-industrial society). Thus, tetrasociology posits social harmony not o­nly as the basis for society but also as its ultimate goal.

 

Tetrasociology synthesizes the western structural concept of spheres of reproduction and the eastern value concept of harmony. The concept of harmony of reproductive spheres of society is the central focus and core premise of tetrasociology.

 

Semashko develops six discoveries (predictions) from this synthesis: (1) self-identification of sphere classes of the population will transform them into conscious actors, striving for harmonious cooperation among spheres; (2) sphere democracy will be based o­n an equal distribution of power among sphere classes, among generations and between genders, transforming democracy into an instrument of social harmony; (3) sphere demographic statistics will provide a quantitative measure of representation prerequisites to enhance sphere-generated social harmony; (4) sphere information-statistical technology will be developed to calculate potentials for increasing social harmony; (5) sphere sociocultural technology will be able to measure achievement and maintenance of social harmony; and (6) sphere strategic management techniques will be developed to ensure harmonious governance of spheres and sphere classes, at all levels of political, economic and financial regulation.

 

Semashko distinguishes between (a) the subject and product/capital of sphere reproduction, and (b) the reproductive employment of people within each sphere.

 

a. The four spheres of societal reproduction identified by Semashko are the social, informational, organizational and technical. The resource/capital reproduced within each sphere is for society as a whole, for the benefit of all of its spheres. Consequently, the spheres must work together to achieve social harmony. The social sphere reproduces the resource/capital people, the informational reproduces the resource/capital information, the organizational sphere reproduces the resource/capital of organizations (political, legal, financial) and the technical sphere reproduces the resource/capital of things (material). Each sphere includes many branches (at times conflicting) and enterprises (at times competing). And each has a large number of resource inputs and product outputs, through which they exchange the capitals that reproduce society as a self-organizing cybernetic system. The reproductive employment of people in these spheres is essential to the process of reproduction in all spheres, and unites them in o­ne self-reproductive system. The fundamental concept of reproductive employment of people covers life from birth to death, and includes all forms of social action, interaction, activity, labor and behavior. Semashko identifies four dimensions of social spacetime: resource/capital (social statics), processes of reproduction (social dynamics), structures-spheres of reproduction (social structuratics) and social time: the various states of society from growth through decline (social genetics).

 

b. The primary reproductive employment of the population is divided into four productive sphere classes: (1) socioclass: (in the sociosphere) includes workers in education, healthcare, welfare, sports and entertainment, and also non-working population: pre-schoolers, students, the unemployed, the retired; (2) infoclass:(infosphere) includes workers in science, culture, communication and information services; (3) orgclass: (orgsphere) includes workers in management, politics, law, finance, defense, police and security; and (4) technoclass: (technosphere) includes workers in industry and agriculture. Classes of reproductive employment are more fundamental than class distinctions based o­n property. Property ownership is temporary, partial and inherently unequal, whereas reproductive employment is constant, universal and, although qualitatively different, inherent in all human activity.

 

In Tetrasociology: Responses to Challenges, Semashko lists 75 practical applications of tetrasociological theory (pp. 13840) to meet challenges of the 21st century: terrorism, religious and ethnic strife, nuclear proliferation, poverty, ecological degradation, demographic dislocation and crises of democracy. Among the applications are sociocultural projects in problem areas, such as: family, gender, education, religious tolerance, international bilingualism, innovative statistics and information technology, anti-terror strategies and ecological preservation. In brief, Semashko believes that civilizations are founded o­n a naturally occurring social order of four, easily identifiable population groups, unequal in size but equally essential to societal functioning. He contends that, if each of the four sectors is sufficiently represented in the development and use of resources, a society will enhance its ability to flourish, but if o­ne or more of the sectors is not sufficiently represented, a civilization will decline.

 

To the end of doing comparative studies in collaboration with international research institutes, Semashko has invited dialog with other sociologists, both in Russia and internationally. His book Tetrasociology: From Sociological Imagination through Dialog to Universal Values and Harmony (2003), is written with 14 contributors, from four continents, in three languages: Russian, English and Esperanto. It includes 10 dialogs considering various aspects of tetrasociological theory by sociologists from the US, Japan, Australia, Germany, the UK and Russia. A further publishing project in Esperanto is planned as a way to continue unbiased dialog between civilizations, and to create a global culture of peace.

 

Another project proposed by Semashko in this book is the establishment of a Faculty of Social Harmony to provide humanitarian education for dialog and peace. Semashko contends that the militarization in education (which exceeds the degree of its humanitarianism) emphasizes preparing the young for war and violence rather than for constructive dialog. He would select faculty members from four educational disciplines, corresponding to the four spheres of society. An educational program teaching ways in which the spheres interact to achieve harmony, to be introduced at all grade levels, would have far-reaching consequences, he believes, for individuals in everyday social relations, and for society at every level of social organization.

 

Ten dialogs with tetrasociology, by social scientists from six countries, introduce ideas that respond to and expand the insights of tetrasociology from various individual and shared perspectives. In the first two dialogs, Phillips (US) and Bachika (Japan) see Semashko moving toward a New Age of Enlightenment. In the next two dialogs, Yuriev (Russia) and DeWitt (US) continue this critique from the perspective of political psychology and power sharing. Yuriev, who posits a 12-dimensional psychological typology of understanding, sees a need for greater development of Semashkos concept of harmony, and of mechanisms of formation of the new classes in the new era (p. 199). DeWitt integrates central ideas of Phillips, Semashko and her own to suggest (p. 201) a combined approach to resolving global disputes equitably and peacefully. Research is proposed (p. 204) to compare alternative ways of sharing power.

 

In dialogs five and six, Roseman (Australia) and Isaev (Russia) look further into the implications of tetrasociology for communication and negotiation skills required for conflict resolution. Roseman (p. 206) presents McLuhans four part metaphor of the transformation process, applies it to tetrasociology (p. 209), and asks (p. 210) Is transformation of the world possible? and under what restrictions? Isaev suggests (p. 215) greater development in tetrasociology of the notions of information and energy. Butkevich, Kondratiev and Cvetkova (Russia) review the history of Esperanto since its creation as an international language in 1887 (p. 217) as a means of uniting people . . . in a neutral language for multicultural dialog that would preserve the diversity of languages and cultures of the world.

 

Hornung (Germany) and Scott (Britain) view sociocybernetics and tetrasociology as interdisciplinary and multidimensional sociological theories. Presenting four tables of concepts (p. 2259) with 28 sociological concepts listed, they show corresponding concepts in sociocybernetics and tetrasociology. In the last two dialogs, Kavtorin and Lebedinsky (Russia) present practical and philosophical critiques of Semashkos work. Kavtorin offers a practical reason for taking seriously all attempts at grand theory (p. 234) as a stimulant for elaboration of a new general theory of sociology. Lebedinsky, continuing a 10-year dialog with Semashko, offers seven well-articulated criticisms (p. 2367) of the philosophical foundations of tetrasociology, then closes with (p. 238) five major strengths of tetrasociology and of a tetraoutlook. A potential dialog is presented in an essay by Govorov, who suggests (p. 244) the development of bona fide scientists capable of taking control of all social development processes.

 

In Semashkos third book in English, Childrens Suffrage: Democracy for the 21st Century, Priority Investment in Human Capital as a Way toward Social Harmony (2004), he develops what he believes to be a practical consequence of tetrasociology. This third treatise, together with the first reviewed earlier, is directed toward educating for a culture of peace in an Information Age, as global consensus toward achieving social harmony to prevent wars and to counter terrorism. Semashkos third book is devoted to what he sees as an urgent need for childrenssuffrage executed by their parents. He responds to a resolution of the UN Special Session o­n Children (May 2002). Childrens suffrage is presented by Semashko as an effective political institution for a global movement, to modernize democratic representation, promote a culture of valuing children as future citizens, and eradicate the origins of terrorism in childhood. Replacing the states priorities o­n military and economic spending with priorities o­n children and their reproduction of the social sphere will effectively promote a culture of peace.

 

Semashko supplements the concept of childrens suffrage with practical suggestions for its institution. First, he proposes an international comparative research study to determine the likelihood of parents acceptance of childrens suffrage. Second, he proposes a project to determine an appropriate law for Russia. Semashko has created a website www.peacefromharmony.org to promote the idea of working together to achieve global peace by putting children first.

 

Tetrasociology and its derivative proposals are presented in anticipation of, and in preparation for, a global culture of peace, rooted in what Semashko believes to be a natural, evolving order of social harmony. His ideas about child suffrage express his urgent concern for reproduction of the social sphere, which is uncertain if the development of children as future citizens is given low priority. He believes in practical applications of sociology, an optimistic view in the face of increasingly difficult challenges in the 21st century. His style bears the imprint of pre-Communist Russia, suggesting an intense, searching-for-answers mentality. His approach may seem naive, in challenging deeply embedded, long-accepted, confrontational, conflict-oriented ideas about the natural order of things, but he is thorough in developing his logic, and hopeful that others will judge his practical insights o­n their merit. Semashkos positive contribution is to focus our attention o­n sectors/spheres of society that work together to reproduce each other, as well as themselves, and thereby provide an underlying structure of social harmony (latent, at the global level). In its optimistic search for practical outcomes, tetrasociology is a sociology for post-industrial societies, and qualitatively different from the sociologies of industrial societies.

 

As with any social engineering proposal, Semashkos formula for achieving global harmony and world peace will invite multidisciplinary anticipation of potential consequences. How might the power brokers of 21st-century societies, in their strategies for barter, trade and information exchange, adapt to, manipulate or try to control this new form of democratic representation, formalized as sphere power sharing? Could there be regimentation and loss of freedom? Or a renaissance of creativity? Who will decide, in an Information Age?

 

Dr Martha DeWitt is project director of an upcoming study of teen habits, goals and motivation under the auspices of a US medical college. DeWitts book, Beyond Equilibrium Theory (Lanham, MD: University Press of America; 2000), presents theories of social action formation and transformation applied to a study of family power sharing in transition.

Address: 2145 N 60th St., Milwaukee, WI 53208, USA. [email: mrossdewitt@sbcglobal.net]

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It is put o­n April 21, 2007

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Dr Bernard Phillips, USA,
Review of Leo Semashkos book: Tetrasociology: Responses to Challenges (2002, 158 p.).
The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology on line: http://alcor.concordia.ca/~csaa1/BookReviews.htm

 

LEO M. SEMASHKO, Tetrasociology: Responses to Challenges. St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg State Technical University. 2002, 158 p. (Introduction by John Rex; Foreword by Dr. Bernd Hornung and Bernard Scott)

 


TetraSociology: Responses to Challenges opens up for contemporary sociologists a window that looks out o­nto Enlightenment ideals that not o­nly persist but are being carried much further by at least o­ne contemporary Russian sociologist. It is indeed hard to imagine how those ideals could in fact be extended as far as its author takes them, given his experiences of attempting to keep his sociological ideas and ideals alive in a dictatorship for decades, and given the economic problems faced by academics in contemporary Russia. Yet there are parallels to this outside of Russia, for we might also wonder how Western sociologists like C. Wright Mills and Alvin Gouldner managed to stay with those same Enlightenment ideals despite the horrors of the twentieth century and the resulting pessimism and cynicism inside and outside of the academic world.

 


Imagine, along with Professor Semashko, a world that is moving toward a new Age of Enlightenment where globalization, multiculturalism and the internet are working to yield ever more harmony among all the peoples of the world. This is not a postmodern world with a pessimistic view of the potential of the scientific method. Rather, it is a "postpluralistic" world which follows postmodernism in its openness to complexity and change. But it is optimistic about the possibilities of the scientific method for understanding complexity and change by integrating elements of many theories, versus maintaining the isolation of diverse theories which fail to communicate with each other. Just as people in that world are learning to interact so as to pay full attention to others ideas and ultimate worth--and even to create a "dialogue among civilizations"--so are social scientists learning to integrate the work of those who have preceded them so as to follow scientific ideals for a social science that cumulates rapidly.

 


Professor Semashko does not assume that such a world emerges all by itself, for he follows Auguste Comte in seeing sociologists as working to bring it about by addressing modern problems in a highly effective manner. He coins the term "TetraSociology" to refer to the kind of sociology which can accomplish this, a discipline that has a breadth similar to what Mills called for in The Sociological Imagination (1959) along with the reflexivity that Gouldner called for in
The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology (1970). That breadth is based o­n Semashkos own background as a philosopher no less than a sociologist, including a metaphysical and epistemological stance along with his theoretical and applied orientations. And just as modern sociologists have emphasized the nature and extraordinary impact of language o­n shaping the individual and society, so does Semashko attempt to use that impact by coining many new concepts, such as "tetrasociology."

 


To illustrate Semashkos approach, his metaphysics is oriented to three dimensions of social space and o­ne dimension of social time, corresponding to the three dimensions of physical space and o­ne dimension of physical time. Just as Einstein related space and time, so does Semashko see the linkage between social space and social time as crucial. In this way, he alerts us to the importance of probing into our own metaphysical assumptions. What is our own worldview or Weltanschauung, a concept that may appear to be outdated to modern sociological eyes? What impact does that worldview have o­n every stage of the research process? Why dont we social scientists devote the attention to this topic that it deserves instead of continuing to rule out metaphysics and philosophy from the realm of sociology?

 


As for the relationship between social space and social time, Semashko is telling us of the centrality of the latter if we hope to understand the former, and he is indirectly criticizing the relatively static nature of the social sciences. This is arguably a frontier of our discipline. At the macro level this is illustrated by the efforts by comparative-historical sociologists to face up to the complexity of history, carrying further the more simplistic orientations of figures such as Toynbee, Spencer, and Sorokin. At the micro level it is illustrated by the work of symbolic interactionsts, ethnomethodologists and rational-choice theorists who attempt to probe deeply into the scene, capturing changes in emotions and speech from o­ne moment to the next with audio-visual technology. Metaphorically, I am reminded here of Edwin Abbotts Flatland (1952), a science-fiction story written in the 1880s, where a three-dimensional sphere is able to see into all of Flatlands two-dimensional houses and inhabitants by hovering over them. Analogously, we require a four-dimensional perspective that includes social time to see into the our own nature, probing into the history of the individual and society in order to understand present-day behavior. Here we have Semashko carrying further the long-term historical orientation illustrated by Marx, extending it to the momentary scene.

 


If we turn to Semashkos epistemology, we find--implicitly--a profound critique of our modern approach to the scientific method. His postpluralism calls for the ability of the social scientist to make good use of all of the relevant theoretical ideas from the past in investigating any given problem. Yet sociologists are divided into numerous specialized areas and literally hundreds of subspecialties, and they generally fail to communicate across specialized and subspecialized lines. This is illustrated by the division of the American Sociological Association into no fewer 
than 42 distinct Sections with their own organizations and immunity to outside ideas. By contrast, Semashkos ideas bridge many specialties, as called for in Bernard Phillips Beyond Sociologys Tower of Babel: Reconstructing the Scientific Method (2001) and the edited volume Toward a Sociological Imagination: Bridging Specialized Fields (2002).

 


There are many questions which Semashko raises. Viewing TetraSociology from a theoretical and applied perspective, why does social stratification persist throughout society, by contrast with the cultural value of equality? What are the forces which are presently yielding sexism, ageism, classism, and ethnocentrism? Why is Durkheims "normal division of labor"--with the workers awareness of his or her contribution to society as a whole--in fact an "abnormal divison
of labor"? Given what we have experienced in the 20th and early 21st centuries, is a "new Age of Enlightenment" a realistic possibility? How would Semashko analyze any particular social or theoretical problem in some detail and come up with insights which go beyond what we have learned from the contemporary sociological literature?

 


Professor Semashko comes out of modern Russia with ideas that are in some ways more revolutionary than those of Karl Marx. Just as Toynbee saw human history in terms of challenge and response, he attempts to respond to accelerating modern problems by pointing toward the possibility of a new Age of Enlightenment. He suggests nothing less than changes in the metaphysical stance of modern society, based o­n the potential weight of language. And he goes back to what may well prove to be the future of social science: the ideals of the scientific method and the enormous breadth of the classical sociologists. Yet, like Moses, he may have brought us to the Promised Land yet be unable to enter it himself. For he fails to demonstrate how his broad metaphysical, epistemological, theoretical and applied approach to social science yields deeper insights into any major social or theoretical problem. Perhaps if we contemporary sociologists can learn from Semashko to rekindle the fire of ideals that gave rise to the Enlightenment and the origins of sociology, a fire that we desperately require in these times of troubles, then we may learn to enter that Promised Land.


[Book Reviewers notation: given the dearth of knowledge about Russian sociology, I accepted this review as a means of stimulating international awareness. Readers may want to correspond with Professor Semashko at <
eo44442006@yandex.ru >]

Dr Bernard Phillips

 

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Reviews

1.Bernard Scott and Bernd R. Hornung, Reviews of Leo Semashkos book: Tetrasociology: Responses to Challenges (2002, 158 p.), Journal of Sociocybernetics, V4, N2, Fall/Winter 2003-2004, p.40-46, www.unizar.es/sociocybernetics/


2.
Bernard Phillips, Review of Leo Semashkos book: Tetrasociology: Responses to Challenges (2002, 158 p.). The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology on line: http://alcor.concordia.ca/~csaa1/BookReviews.htm

3. Reviews of Leo Semashkos book: Tetrasociology: from Sociological Imagination through Dialogue to Universal Values and Harmony. With 14 co-authors. In three languages: Russian, English and Esperanto. St.-PetersburgStatePolytechnicUniversity, 2003; o­n Esperanto Websites: http://ttt.esperanto.org/Ondo/Ondo/108-lode.htm#108-40  "La o­ndo de Esperanto", http://gxangalo.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=727 http://www.ikso.net/novosti/blog/31.07.2003/1; etc.



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