SOCY 500 Lecture Notes - Feminist Theory, Interpersonal Communication, Social Constructionism

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Conflict theory in North America:
-had some advocates in NA
-C. Wright Mills: laid foundations for modern conflict theory
-conducted research on American politics and class structure
-power is highly concentrated in American society and is less Democratic than we think
Symbolic Interactionism:
Weber, Mead, and Goffman:
-Weber argued that early capitalist development was caused not just by favourable economic circumstances but
that certain religious beliefs also facilitated robust capitalist growth
-Protestant ethic
-believed it had an unintended effect: people who adhered to it saved and invested more money than
-Verstehen = understanding
-idea that subjective meanings and motives must be analyzed to gain clear sense of significance of
people’s actions
-important conflict theorist
Herbert Mead: driving force behind the study of how the individual’s sense of self is formed in the course of
interaction w/ other people
-his and his colleagues work gave rise to symbolic interactionism
-functionalists and conflict theorists assume that people’s group memberships influence their behaviour
-however, people are not like that and often make choices
Symbolic interactionism (named by Herbert Blumer):
-focus on interpersonal communication in microlevel social settings distinguishes it from both
functionalist and conflict theories
-emphasizes that social life is possible only b/c people attach meanings to things
-stresses that people help to create their social circumstances and do not merely react to them
Ex. Erving Goffman
-symbolic interactionist
-analyzed many ways people present themselves to others in everyday life so as to appear in the
best possible light
-developed an international reputation for his “dramaturgical” approach to symbolic
-by focusing on the subjective meanings people create in small social settings, symbolic
interactionism sometimes validates unpopular and unofficial viewpoints
Social Constructionism:
-when people interact they typically assume things are naturally or innately what they seem to be
-often sustained by social processes that very historically and culturally
-by stressing importance and validity of subjective meanings, symbolic interactionists increase tolerance for
minority and deviant viewpoints
-by stressing how subjective meanings vary historically and culturally, social constructionism show that many
seemingly natural features of social life actually require painstaking acts of social creation
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