Title

The undoing of humanism : Peter L. Berger's sociology of unmasking

Document Type

Journal article

Source Publication

Society

Publication Date

8-1-2013

Volume

50

Issue

4

First Page

379

Last Page

390

Keywords

Bolshevism, Debunking, French Revolution, Humanism, Sociology, Unmasking

Abstract

Over a long and prodigiously fertile academic career, Peter Berger's vision of sociology has consistently emphasized its debunking and unmasking properties. Such properties, Berger contends, are evidence of sociology's humanistic promise. Following a brief description of his early transition from The Precarious Vision (a sociological book addressed principally to Christians) to Invitation to Sociology (a text keyed to a mostly secular audience), Berger's idea of humanism is described. So, too, are the roles that debunking and unmasking play in its articulation. Debunking and unmasking, conflated by Berger, are then analytically distinguished, historically located, and criticized. Debunking, an American specialty, ridicules its targets but explains nothing. Unmasking, of European provenance, has pronounced anti-humanist - violent, denunciatory, coercive - tendencies, evidenced in both the French and Bolshevik Revolutions. Accordingly, any defense of unmasking that claims to uphold humanism requires major qualification. The article, as well as assessing Berger's humanism, employs it as an opportunity to think more broadly, and more critically, about the types of debunking/unmasking in modern life.

DOI

10.1007/s12115-013-9673-x

Print ISSN

01472011

E-ISSN

19364725

Publisher Statement

Copyright © Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2013

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Full-text Version

Publisher’s Version

Recommended Citation

Baehr, P. (2013). The undoing of humanism: Peter L. Berger's sociology of unmasking. Society, 50(4), 379-390. doi: 10.1007/s12115-013-9673-x