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Complex concepts with varying connotations: In search for conceptual definitions

Journal: RUDN Journal of Sociology (Vol.21, No. 2)

Publication Date:

Authors : ;

Page : 365-376

Keywords : complex concepts; varying connotations; conceptual definitions; love; happiness and (social) well-being; (social) trust; (social) justice; expert knowledge; social order;

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One of the fundamental challenges for sociology is the interpretation of its key terms, which is determined by the fact that many words of everyday language and scientific discourse are the same despite implying a much higher level of generalization as sociological categories. Certainly, such challenges are more typical for the empirical research - when sociologists turn their theoretical concepts into sets of empirical indicators which have to be clear enough for the respondent to understand and answer the questionnaire and for the sociologist to interpret these answers correctly. Nevertheless, the lack of generally recognized conceptual definitions is no less important, because the general picture of social reality is necessarily made of them (the society is described as either fair, consisting of trustworthy institutions that provide opportunities for being happy, or in the opposite statements). The article presents a possible reconstruction of the strategy that sociologists use in the search for conceptual definitions for such complex concepts with varying connotations as love, happiness, trust and justice. This strategy consists of two steps: focus on the macro-sociological dimension of the phenomena under study as determining its various manifestations and everyday interpretations (the key step in the study of love and happiness); and identification of objective and subjective indicators of the phenomenon under study (the key step in the study of trust and justice). For instance, in the study of love and happiness, there is the obvious micro-sociological perspective that implies personal responsibility for being happy and loved, and the hidden macro-sociological perspective that implies social standards for identifying and achieving love and happiness; trust is defined as a source of social order, cooperation, institutional, organizational and everyday interactions, which reduces the level of uncertainty; in the searches for the conceptual definition of justice, there are two main approaches - the first approach considers justice as one of many grounds for developing some theoretical model; the second approach reconstructs justice either as an ‘ideal’ political-philosophical model of social order or as a ‘means’ of the comparative analysis of its practical implementations.

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Last modified: 2021-06-25 20:48:53