Postulates sociological about human nature according to Salvador Giner


By Ruben Crespo | Student of Sociology at the UNED.

If you look at what is the object of study of sociology in the numerous definitions that have been written about this science in the many textbooks on sociology, you will find a few times that are the social groups and their forms of organization; others, more abstractly, the structure and dynamics of societies; or we may find that it is the society that to dry. However, and as us warns Salvador Giner in his Sociology[1] (Ediciones Península, 2010), we must not forget that sociology studies mainly the human being, and does so primarily through its social dimension. Sociology is not the only one, of course, that has as object of study the human being, others are from other different approaches: neurology, psychology, anthropology, etc Giner makes it clear that: “there can be No greater mistake than that of the observer who believes that the man and the human condition are lost in the intricacies of the theory or the research of sociologist, as is not the error that you can make this last if you forget that you have the obligation to explain is the life of women and men in actual social situations” (p. 47).

The vision of the human being tends to have sociology could be reduced to the term Homo sociologicus, that is, a vision that places human beings within a social structure, and that consciousness and life forms of the latter are determined by the position that it occupies in the structure, as well as the cultural context, economic and political. The term Homo sociologicus was first used by Ralf Dahrendorf[2]. Later, Raymond Boudon used it to demonstrate the shortcomings gnoseológicas that had the Homo œconomicus, the model of human behavior proposed by the neoclassical economists. So, facing a choice, the “social agent” or Homo sociologicus in some cases not do what you “prefer” ―as the Homo œconomicus con its allocation of preferences― but that will dictate the “morals” or “values” that has internalized.[3] anyway, Salvador Giner tells us that this is not all that sociology implies the human being.

It would be wrong to suppose that the human being has an essence, unchanging and independent of its historical context, and environmental, however, the sociology admits that there are certain traits that can be considered permanent in the human species. Sociology interprets that these traits are permanent which make it possible for the historical nature and a changing society (p. 48). Giner explained here that although it may be a paradox:

[…] the changing nature of society cannot be explained without some reference to those traits permanent that make the human race a species unparalleled in the animal kingdom. In turn, the society, in every stage of historic change, in every group, institution, and culture, shapes the human passions, their cognitive abilities and their abilities as Homo faber […] In the man, standing makes it changeable.

Below I present in a synthetic way the thirteen postulates sociological about human nature according to Salvador Giner. Before we go further, I must warn here that in order to avoid bad interpretations of the purposes of Giner, will be a good idea to go to your book to read the corollaries and other explanations that will be carried out in the different postulates, in addition to see the context of the chapter in which are recorded: The dimensions primordial of the society, more specifically, in the heading: human Nature. On the other hand, Giner says at the end of the section that these assumptions “are, in reality, an invitation to reflection and critique, as well as his rebuttal possible from the arguments that everyone can contribute” (p. 53).


Postulados sociológicos sobre la naturaleza humana según Salvador Giner

Postulates sociological about human nature

  1. Human beings are animals. On the basis of the social life of the human species there are many traits shared with animals, namely, the biological trends of instinctive response.
  2. Human beings are animals who need to communicate using symbols (myths, beliefs, concepts) and speculate on the causes of the phenomena through the induction, seduction, and belief.
  3. Human beings are endowed with a strong tendency to maximize their physical satisfaction, as resources permit.
  4. Human beings try to maximize their joy and well-being subjective according to permit social and physical resources available, and this often to the detriment of their own physical well-being, goal, as well as to the detriment of the physical well-being or morals of their fellow-men.
  5. Human beings estimate especially those activities in which they obtained social recognition of their achievement in the form of reputation, deference, honors or rewards through symbolic goods or materials.
  6. There are No limits innate desire of human beings for the ownership of property, honors, privileges, and services. The limits that hinder such uncontrolled desires are given by the available resources and by the social structure and moral of the world in which he lives.
  7. The consciousness of human beings are the product of:
    • Their capacities and resources, biological individual (age, sex, beauty, strength, intelligence, etc).
    • Biography: process of learning or socialization.
    • The communication with the other members of the species, as well as the definitions of reality that are produced and transmitted in the communication.
    • Their position in the social structure.
    • The environmental resources.
  8. The conduct of human beings towards the maximization of their subjective well-being varies from one to the other, depending on the individual resources of each one.
  9. Human beings have a tendency toward altruistic behavior, and is manifested through acts of solidarity towards others, above all with members of their own communities.[4]
  10. For human beings, the myths, the collective consciousness and community ties are essential to the maintenance of social cohesion.
  11. The ties and the consciousness community depend on the emotional need to have human beings and, in all complex society, coexist in conflict with its structures of inequality, power, privilege, and internal differentiation.
  12. Human beings are striving to control resources and maximize their subjective well-being. To do this, in most cases, they use the following criteria:
    • The interests and preferences of the individual.
    • The altruistic behavior is dependent on the achievement of their own interests.
    • The strategies and tactics employed to achieve the goals depends on the social structure, the culture of the pre-eminent moral and behavioral tolerance to the rest of individuals, groups, or social institutions.
    • When individuals can pursue their interests individually, they are not supportive or collectively.
    • Community ties (ethnic, family, class, friendship, party, nation, etc) are a decisive criterion for the positioning of individuals in the social structure.
    • Social interaction depends on a network of rules of exchanges whose judgment on what is fair depends on the social structure. Such a criterion is created and modified through the negotiation going on between the protagonists.
  13. The human species, unlike other species, has the peculiarity of the innovation, a characteristic that makes it possible for the human being is striving to be free.

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[1] GINER, SALVADOR. (2010). Sociology. Ediciones Peninsula.

[2] The term Homo sociologicus comes from Ralf Dahrendorf in a text of the same name, within the book Pfade aus Utopia, Piper, Munich 1967.

[3] BOUDON, R. (1979) La logique du social. Hachette.

[4] In the case of that conflict, selfishness and altruism, they usually prefer the maximization of personal well-being before that of the altruistic behavior, but when the altruistic act increases the privilege or power of an individual (or group), is usually preferred before the well-being of their own. Put another way: “altruism is, typically, a function of selfishness” (p. 51).

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