Sociology Index


Idealism is a perspective that asserts the independent causal influence of intellectual ideas on social organization and culture. Idealism generally suggests the priority of ideals, principles, values, and goals over concrete realities. Idealists are understood to represent the world as it might or should be. Idealism is contrasted with materialism, which focuses on concrete aspects of social organization as causative of particular intellectual ideas and values. Max Weber can be said to have given an idealistic explanation of the growth of capitalism by linking it to the emergence of a Protestant Ethic.

Minding the world: Adorno's critique of idealism - Espen Hammer, University of Essex, UK 
Philosophy & Social Criticism, Vol. 26, No. 1, 71-92 (2000)
Against Jurgen Habermas' view that Theodor Adorno's thinking is characterized by a commitment to a philosophy of consciousness, and that therefore the only alternative to identitarian reason is to appeal to an intuitive competence operating beyond the range of conceptual thought, it is argued: (1) that Adorno conceptualizes the modern epistemic subject (the subject of a philosophy of consciousness) as based on a reification, and (2) that he denies the possibility of a concept-transcendent (foundationalist) constraint on judgments. In seeking to demonstrate against versions of subjective idealism and foundationalism how thought can be responsive to a non-identical (mind-independent) reality, Adorno defends an intersubjectivist and historicist view of knowledge according to which the operative and yet anamnetic aspiration of knowledge is to know reflectively the object as it is in itself.

Materialism and Idealism in Organizational Research - Paul S. Adler, Bryan Borys, Organization Studies, Vol. 14, No. 5, (1993).
Organization theory needs a framework that can elucidate the technological, economic, political and symbolic forces that are at work in and on organizations. Much organizational research can be seen as materialist, by virtue of its granting primary causal efficacy to technical—economic forces, or idealist by virtue of privileging political, symbolic forces. The conflict between materialism and ideal ism has often been inflated and/or obscured by conceptual strategies of specializa tion, eclecticism and reductionism. A metatheoretical approach to materialism and idealism is presented that clarifies the fundamental nature of the approaches and distinguishes areas of possible reconciliation from areas of irreducible conflict.

The Conception of Wealth among the Merchants in Late Imperial China - Weber's Idealism Revisited, Tak Sing Cheung, Tak Sing Cheung is at the Sociology Department, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Jie Hou, Jie Hou is at the School of History, Nankai University, Journal of Human Values, Vol. 12, No. 1, 41-53 (2006).
This article reassesses Weber's position on the influence of Confucianism on China's failure to develop the modern form of capitalism by focusing on the conception of wealth among the merchants in the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Idealism and the Sociology of Knowledge 
David Bloor, Science Studies Unit, Department of Sociology, University of Edinburgh,
Social Studies of Science, Vol. 26, No. 4, 839-856 (1996)
The sociology of scientific knowledge is an empirical discipline, but occasionally it can be fruitful to reflect on its methodological basis. Critics have sometimes claimed that it is committed to a form of `idealism' - that is, to discounting or playing down the input of the material world. This arises because sociologists often sum up their conclusions by saying that `knowledge is a social institution', or that `concepts are institutions'. If we think of social institutions according to the self-referential or performative model outlined by Barry Barnes, this may at first seem to reinforce and justify the charge of idealism.

Space for Idealism? Politics and Education in the United Kingdom - Philip A. Woods 
Educational Policy, Vol. 16, No. 1, 118-138 (2002)
This article discusses the political changes that have occurred in the United Kingdom during the past quarter century. Education as an electoral issue is placed in the context of the political philosophies of the Conservative and Labour governments and the move from a predominantly neo-liberalism focus to a third way approach. It is suggested that despite these, it is possible to discern in this latest phase of the long dialogue between politicians and people the revitalization of ideals that have persisted in an evolving tradition of political liberalism that began with 19th century British Idealism.