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Internalization of Norms: A Sociological Theory of Moral Commitment Hardcover – February 1, 1972


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 237 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall (February 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0134723244
  • ISBN-13: 978-0134723242
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,157,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Herbert Gintis on December 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Finley Scott, an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of California, Davis, is doubtless best known as the inventor of the mountain bike. As this little book attests, he is also a well-socialized and intelligent sociologist, with a deep love for Skinnerian behavioral psychology.

Like all "good" sociological theory, this book is mostly philosophical and methodological. Theories with which Scott disagrees (e.g., Parsons' theory of action) are criticized not on empirical or explanatory grounds, but rather on philosophical grounds (e.g., a certain theory is "idealistic" or "introspective"). Needless to say, only a well-socialized sociologist could consider this anything but a complete waste of time. There is only one valid critique of a logically coherent theory: it doesn't fit the facts as well as some competing theory.

Scott's originality in this book is to interpret the internalization of norms as compatible with Skinnerian operant conditioning. This is a genuine feat, because behavioral psychology was already virtually dead when this volume was written. Scott distances himself from the more bizarre of Skinnerian claims, retaining only the principle of reinforcement.

Scott claims that (a) norms are internalized through a Skinnerian process of "learning," in which normative behavior is reinforced by social "conditioners" and hence is "learned," which Scott takes as equivalent to "internalized"; (b) internalized norms must be reinforced periodically/continually by sanction or the threat of sanction, or else they will become "extinguished," as are other forms of operant conditioning.
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