Dissertation Abstracts

On Social Manipulability

Author: Humberto Fernandes, humberto.nandes@gmail.com
Department: Institute of Social and Political Studies
University: Rio de Janeiro State University, Brazil
Supervisor: José Maurício Domingues
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: Uruguay

Keywords: Social manipulability , Indexing , Sociology of Knowledge , Multi-methodology
Areas of Research: Social Indicators , Communication, Knowledge and Culture , Alienation Theory and Research


In a world of fake news, post truth and supremacy of subjectivity, it is remarkable the absence of logical and reasoning capabilities, as cultural capital, within civil society. This cultural capital shields them, from external stimuli, such as the influences of the symbolic violence of the field of power. This lack of critical sense allows social manipulation by powers as they generate complacency and acceptance of the current context, or of creating symbolic environments, of the social imaginary, favourable to the perpetuation or institution of their power. This comparative analysis research aims to offer a diagnostic, prognostic and propositional model related to the increase of citizen capacities in the democratic framework, based on policies of access to symbolic capital (such as educational, cultural and social) as well as laws guaranteeing democratic freedom (such as civil and political rights). Common sense does not encompass certain mental capacities (cognitive, logical and reasoning) that are characteristic of critical sense, whose skills require an affective, humble effort to learn in the face of new information in order to adapt thinking to reality, thus reducing the distance between society and the real world. Cognitive skills are fundamental to the functioning of democratic debates, in the intention of being perceived needs beyond one's own, through a strong sense of collectivity. The main objective of this investigation is to construct social manipulability as a sociological object, giving it methods capable of representing the state of manipulability of different societies, which, in the case of this thesis, refer to the national level. Such construction of graphical representation takes place in a way that allows international comparability, through rankings and analytical models. Secondary objectives include: pointing out the sociological character of the object; approaching the epistemic question of the mass by understanding collective epistemology; exercising and applying qualitative and quantitative methodologies in order to establish reading parameters concerning manipulability; reinforcing the link between social progress and human development with public policies and forms of symbolic economics management; developing a theoretical-methodological contribution capable of serving as a starting point for future studies on the masses’ critical capacity; and the relationship between emancipation and common sense. Why do many people (still) make the wrong decisions in terms of coexistence and politics? In the world of abundant information, why do some (still) believe in what is not favorable? What elements relate to this (historical) critical incapacity of the mass of society? How can we graphically and mathematically represent this critical-rational-cognitive (socially reproduced) deficit related to civil citizenship? Social manipulability is the relational state where the lack of critical tools of civil society, and of the mass as a whole, is filled by the capacities and knowledge of manipulation of power collectivities. In other terms, the absence of critical thinking in public opinion generates a passive culture, of subjects dominated and exploited through the symbolic relations hindered by social communication that is sewn between channels of transmitting information, symbols and signs that form the social representation of reality.