Existential sociology of Joseph Kotarba

Existential sociology of Joseph Kotarba

Melnikov A.S.

Сand. Sci. (Sociol.), Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Sociology, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Kyiv, Ukraine melnkov@ukr.net

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Melnikov A.S. Existential sociology of Joseph Kotarba. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2017. No 5. P. 127-135


The paper presents the project of existential sociology of contemporary American sociologist and representative of the California School Joseph Kotarba. The project includes general theory of existential sociology and existential perspectives on personality, sociology of medicine and sociology of music. The fundamental concept of personality is aimed at theoretical reconstruction of existence as an individual experience of everyday social reality. The personality is described as existential self with characteristics of embodiment (“brute being”) and becoming. Sensory-emotional substrate of social experience is asserted as more fundamental compared to rational and evaluative level of existential self. There is also differentiation of two stages in development of self which are basic security and self-actualization with openness to new experience (intensification of the sense of self) respectively. General Kotarba’s methodological position is defined as “inductivism” or sequence of a sociological study from qualitative empirical research of individual everyday experience and personal specific meanings of situations to more abstract, transsituational levels of social reality. Everyday social experience is referred to as traits of variability, problematic, complexity, uncertainty, drama, and, therefore, relations of the individual and society are understood as a confrontation. Existential sociology of Kotarba aims to explore wide range of issues, such as search for meanings in states of uncertainty, dissatisfaction with an individual sense of self and demands of society, interpretation of social change as reflections of new forms of self-actualization and self-consciousness, situational multiplicity of existential self, experience of meaninglessness and absurd, authenticity and inner strength. Kotarba’s contributions to the development of paradigmatic foundations of existential sociology are mentioned.

Joseph Kotarba; existential sociology; inductivism; social existence; experience; situation; uncertainty; meaning; authenticity


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