Insider-Outsider Doctrine, R. Merton

We've been discussing and contemplating some pretty interesting doctrines in Socy lately, including Merton's Insider-Outsider Doctrine. The theory is nothing new, considering it was first written many years ago, but fascinating nonetheless. At first glance, it is easy to form an opinion on the subject, and considering the article is extremely takes a few hours to get through it fully, much less comprehend and soak Merton's analysis of society. Basically, the point is that since no individual can know all things, there is a necessary function in society of providing and exchanging knowledge about various "truths." For example, I'm not a biologist, so I have to rely on my biology teacher/text books/trusted resources to give me accurate information about things related to biology. It then goes on to conclude that because of the necessity for us to "rely" on others for information that we cannot test or attain through our own experiences, society splits into two groups; the Insiders and the Outsiders. It is possible, according to Merton, that you could be an "Insider" for multiple scenarios, and at the same time an "Outsider" for others. For instance, I would be considered an "Insider" concerning my demonination (or lack thereof), my ascribed status (upper-middle class, white), my education, etc.

At first, I quickly rejected many of Merton's claims, because while it is true that social class, race, and gender affect how you're socialized..Merton goes as far as to claim that because of "Insider-Outsider..ness," The only way to attain full awareness of any situation is to be socialized in that way. For example, according to Merton, only an African American could teach black history, otherwise it is not only biased but also inaccurate. A male biologist couldn't teach female anatomy because..he's not a female. Not only does this way of thinking limit the "truth" of the knowledge that we've already attained, but it limits our social interactions with people that are different than us.

I couldn't help but look at this from a Christian perspective, and I could see that although these ideals "seem crazy" to me, I often believe that others don't understand what I am going through because they haven't experienced where I am in life. That may have some truth to it, but it smothers others from being empathetic towards me, and it limits my desire as a Christian to "meet others where they are" without judgement or without feeling that I "won't be able to help." God puts so many different people in our paths, both so that they will be witnesses to us and so that we may be witnesses to them. These people are, more often than not, from COMPLETELY different places in life. We are called to fellowship with EVERY single person, and to believe for a second that I can only truly share "truth" regarding situations that are based solely on personal experience and ascribed statuses is both discouraging and incredibly inaccurate. This idea, in my opinion, promotes seclusion, separation, inequality, and unattainable cross-cultural experiences, or "truths," and relationships..which is pretty much a list of what I think God would NOT want our lives to encompass.

Just an idea.