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SOCIOL 2S06 (332)
David Young (323)

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David Young

The theoretical ideas of du bois A theoretical orientation  1) theory and society o Du bois never presented an overarching theory of society th o He actually distrusted the grand theory produced in the 19 century o In this sence du bois work was quite different that the works of Marx, Durkheim and weber o On the other hand du bois was much more interested in developing theory that focused on specific issues and problems in society o Because of this his work was similar to the work of simmel (not grand theory)  2)theory and research o On one hand he as not interested in deduction o In other words he was not interested in taking theoretical ideas and testing them against empirical observations o On the other hand du bois was interested in induction (different way of doing socio/scientific research)  3) theory and practice o Here we see a similarity to marx o Just like marx du bois did not distinguish between theory and practice o He wasn’t interested in theory itself o He was only interested in developing sociological theory as a way of advancing political practice o Du bois thought that theoretical ideas make it possible to understand social reality and once we understand social reality we can move toward social change  4) theory and interests o Du bois connected theory to his interests in  racial inequality  race relations  social change  how there is a specific way in which his theo ideas were connected to these interests did change  more specific how theory could contribute to social change changed over time  how?  early in his career we thought that theory derived from research could destroy the ignorance on which racism was built  he thought this would help alter beleifs and attitudes  disseminating these and enlightening people would lead to changing ideas about racism (once pple are more knowledgable)  changing ideas of pple in society leads to social change  later in his career he came to realize that economic interest shaped class and race relations  he also realized that these capitalist interests were going to be too powerful to change beleifs and attitudes about race and racism – racism is firmly imbedded within the capital structure of society  he then took a social feminist perspective to society  he came to the view that theory had to provide the basis for more drastic poli action  theory had to provide the basis for revolution b empirical studies  how he proceeded from induction to do a number of empirical studies that paved the way for theoretic ideas  du bois did a lot of empirical research (wel talk about some) o 1) the philidephia negro: a social study (his first and best study/book)  Book was published in 1899  While doing empirical reaserch of phil negra, du bois used many research methods  However it is most closely associated with ethnography  Type of field research, involves providing descriptions of people and culture – qualitative research – did a lot of interviews  He interviewed blacks in 2500 households in phil  He also had research assistants helping him  The aim of the study was to try to develop theoretical ideas that countered existing theoretical ideas about the circumstances facing black in the US  What were the existing theo ideas he was trying to contest? o 2) the existing theoretical ideas he was trying to challenge through his work  These came out of white social theorists, and white historians  These ideas suggested that there was something wrong with blacks  The unfortunate economic position of blacks was explained in terms of the supposed inferiority of blacks  So blacks were unfortunate economic conditions all because of their supposed inferiority  And this supposed inferiority justified segregation  It was argued that freed slaves lacked  Skills  Experience  Intelligence  To make wise choices and take advantage of the new economic opportunities that freedom brought  So essentially so the white historians suggest that not only it is the inferiority, but the problems needs to be understood at the individual level (their fault as indi to be in the situation they are in) o 3) du bois study  Empirical data  Du bois found that blacks in phil had steadily improved their lives after they were given emancipation in the late 1700s  Blacks in the north were emancipated 100 years before the south *keep in mind  Du bois knew that the blacks in the north had started churchs, schools and small businesses  These blacks had also entered the trades and even the professions  So this empirical data countered the data that blacks were inferior- the blacks were in fact making something of their lives and becoming professionals  The research countered the ideas of the black academics  Du bois did find other data: o He found evidence of various problems experienced by blacks  Eg. Rundown housing  High crime  Illiteracy  Unemployment  Excessive alcohol use  Broken homes  Low pay  Bad health  Early death  Poverty  Gambling o Whites sterotyped blacks typically/mostly being associated with these problems o However du bois found that these problems were not typical and as wide spread as the whites stereotyped them to be o These problems were relatively in small number of blacks who experienced these problems o These problems affected minority of blacks, but they were there and so Du Bois wanted to find out why  Casual factors  Du bois argued that the problems experienced by some blacks stem from the organization of society rather than racial inferiority  Db is shifting the problem from indi level to structural level  He identifies three casual factors  (1) legacy of slavery – in the south they had chosen to organize society around slavery  But the legacy of slavery is that this limited the opportunities of many black immigrants from the south
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