I need a Theory of Social Relativity!

I have been looking for a nice and well-rounded theory of social relativity for years and couldn’t find anything yet. If anybody knows anything about it please, let me know. I came up with this name on purpose, inspired by Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (check up on Wikipedia to refresh your memory). Just to make it clear, I am not talking about Relativism in here (check it out too). Neither about Old or New Institutionalism (if you have not heard of it, don’t worry, Institutionalists are becoming an institution by themselves).

Since Max Weber, I think social scientists pretty much understand already how conventions are naturally established by humans and other animals to gain effectiveness in our actions and use of our brains (we tend to sit in the same seat, follow the same way back home and these kind of things). Take a read on Berger & Luckman’s “The Social Construction of Reality (1966)” for a nice introduction to that subject.

I am talking about a theory that can gather Einstein’s suggestions and combine its consequences with every social aspect of our lives, a theory that can make us to rethink the role of any kind of “constant” social behavior and physical condition.

Let’s think about it: the Earth attracts us to it, just like the Sun attracts the Earth to it. You may not have thought about it but we also attract the Sun and the Earth to ourselves with a tiny force derived from our masses and therefore we also distort space and time by our individual existence just like the Sun or any other mass in rapid movement. I won’t enter into the question about where those gravitational forces come from because then we would get too philosophical (some people believe that gravity is the closest thing we know to God).

In any case, my weird correlation is: just like every mass interact with each other in the universe distorting each other’s physical reality in different degrees, we humans also distort each other’s perceptions on ourselves due to the relativity of all our conventions that are merely based on unreliable and imprecise social definitions and physical evidences that should not be perceived as truth ever (and I think we should have been told that when we were young).

The Persistence of Memory, 1931

The Persistence of Memory, 1931

Words gain meaning with time, individually to each one of us, changing according to the use we give to them and the experience we have with them over time. I can assure that the meaning of the word “love” for you is different from the meaning it has to me. Moreover, the meaning of the word “love” for you today is different from the meaning you will give to it in 5 years. And even the way the word sounds is affected by the wind and the air chemical composition (like humidity).

The values of gold or money are also just conventions that mean nothing more than some kind of physical representation of certain local social power; especially under this “social game” we have been playing called capitalism. The Incas had a completely different relationship with gold, for example. Besides, the weight of an ounce of gold also varies according to the position you are in the planet since we now know that the force of gravity is not constant around our not-so-rounded Earth.

How about the time? Besides the distortion caused by all other masses surrounding us, our planet and solar system, we now know that not every day lasts a day and not every year lasts a year, so our “sacred” seconds, minutes and hours are all mere simplistic representations of a time that is not so fixed as we wished. Consequence: don’t worry if you arrive a minute late to a meeting. Nobody knows the exact time anyway. :-)

Gosh! Everything seems to be so complex! And I am not saying that in the Parsonian sense of the expression :-) but in a social-physical angle that apparently nobody dared to merge yet. I don’t know why, but Dali’s “Persistence of Memory” came to my mind while I was writing this. Perhaps because I am living in Spain and I do think that the Mediterranean people have been facing these complexities with a pleasant sense of disdain that amuses me. Olé!

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5 thoughts on “I need a Theory of Social Relativity!

  1. I have a theory of social relativity in process. Complete, simple, actionable, empirically supported, theoretically integrated.

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  2. … here it is. (finally, you will say, if you get it!) We are all unequal (cliche) in the sense that we relate to each other on the basis of social gradients (academic). That’s what success implies. That’s why we have wars & weapons. That’s why we need love & need to be loved. Because, & this is the gist of it all, none of those terms are ‘natural’ in a sense that nature requires or dictates or requires them. Nature is just … whatever survives in temporal procreation. (look up the idea that the universe or existence recreates itself temporally. I’m sure it exists!) Nature doesn’t care. If we really want to ascribe ‘caring’ to nature it might be seen as an entity just staring at us and tapping its feet thinking, … well should we move on to the next experiment? As for us, none of what we ascribe to nature like the economic cycles or even money is natural but human artifacts/institutions we use to relate to each other within social gradients. (I won’t explain that, you go figure. Just think about what that means at an intuitive level.) So there is your kernel of absolute social truth or the way we are. There are a lot of elements like culture, genetics, especially social Darwinism, that are components not touched on here, but you go ahead and develop them. Good luck!

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  3. ‘Social-physical’ angle? Do they need to be relevant to each other? I think you need to think that through. These may be patterns that exist within the human world, but a greater set of significant patterns likely exist as ‘general relativity’ within human relations as ‘social-gradients’. You are trying to reduce such patterns into physics’ nomenclature as your own personal fancy, but this is probably just a trivial pursuit . In other words you just want to turn an important question into an esoteric fancy, based on established frameworks of physics, which may not be as significant to social relations or the human world as much as you want them to be. (remember, physics is one of the ways we perceive our world, not an absolute dimension of our world.) I know you will probably just delete these comments because they do not suite your fancy, but I recommend that you cut & paste them somewhere to reflect on later. (you may even use these as your own ideas later if they suite your fancy!) :) … peace!

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  4. “we also distort space and time by our individual existence just like the Sun or any other mass in rapid movement” … We do and you are on to something here. but I would suggest that that something is inherently associated with how we relate to each other through ‘social gradients’. Or in different words, ‘social gradients’ may be a useful venue to explore this. You have to be a little open-minded about this as I know you want to explore this only in your own fanciful framework of Newtonian physics – which may or may not be useful – but just consider this concept first. It’s just another way of viewing what you are saying about how we all distort our human ‘space-time’ to our own advantage or selfish interests (I’m not necessarily talking about you or I here. We are all insignificant in our individual pursuits). Just leave physics aside for a while & ponder this. It will be more clear! .(..go ahead now, erase erase, delete delete!)

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  5. Just an addendum to clarify things. What you’re interested in as our individual activity of ‘distorting space & time’ may be more useful as seen as a phenomena of individuals operating within pattern-parameters of ‘social gradients’ – which probably haven’t been explored yet! It may even be more worthwhile to study or just guess why this concept is not a prominent part of academic nomenclature. However Karl Marx’ treatment of the concept of have vs. have-not has already touched on this and unfortunately that is likely one the few ways we like to archive & view that knowledge about human relations. In other words let’s leave that ball of wax alone & let’s just call some people-academicians leftists or Marxists or even communists & shut them up. You have to explore the concept fully my friend otherwise it doesn’t get reflected-on. (again, erase erase, delete delete & let’s get back to how Newton explained it all!)

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