SOAN 2111 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Georg Simmel

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SOAN 2111 – Introduction
Midterm: short answer, essay and multiple choice but she does give options on what
questions to answer.
Regular class on October 2nd
No class on September 23rd and 30th
I Introduction
* theoretical concepts have a role in:
- for shaping the direction of research
A theoretical framework does help shape as to what we are going to focus on and what
aspect of the subject we are going to research. Every perspective has an influence.
- directing observation
- guiding description
- SOCIO: points to society
- LOGY: study at a high level of abstraction
The study of society at a theoretical perspective. We tend to study as to how individual’s
interact with one another, the interactions, the relationships, patterns of behavior etc.
Social Philosophy
It is well developed in Ancient Greece and the Middle Ages. Here it is the study of what
ought to be, what it is, and what it should be and what it should not be.
Look at the past in society as a series of events in sociology. The historian question as to
why certain events occurred.
Recurring Patterns: are observable in human interdependence. The patterns that
continue to happen today in our society.
theories written between the times of the great French Revolution 1798-1799 and
WW1 (1919). Prior to this and up to 1930. The world in which people lived back
then had a lot of suffering and disease and others thought it was due to faith,
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religious and having new political structural laws being creative making persons
changing their minds that things do not happen simply due to faith. People began
to gain more power and that we have the power to change the world for the better.
Theories are explanations – models
They are for reality and not just abstract ideas and just sitting on your lawn chair smoking
a pipe.
They are like metaphors, patterns, to know why we are the way we are – what lead to
where we are today
Social theories suggest causes
For example: identification of a cause is at the heart of the theory, climate change, famine
(contemporary change)
we need to understand the reasons of why this is happening
Theories are road maps (hurst) – travel through a world map of sociology, may limiting
where we go as some are better than others, depends what you use and what choices you
make, the questions, frameworks etc.
Seeing a organization as a machine * - look at rules (functionalism)
To find links between one another, cooperation, what holds the machine together not the
issues within the machine itself.
Different sociological perspectives see problems in unique ways
Using different methods may lead to different methods
Sociological imagination – social science should help people understand their private
Personal predicaments with political institutions
Mills – argues that the adequate social science should have practical importance for
the important citizen
By looking at public issues we can look at private lives as well
Look at how the hierarchy in the society is set up
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What is so practical at looking at these older theorists?
- all living societies go through a wide range of changes – regardless of the type of
- each concerned with the character and direction of modern society (labour,
- involved with societies of their own time
- it provides us with a lens of diversity to understand society.
Marx: newspaper and workers organizations
Weber: political activities, draft of the constitution
Durkheim: socially involved, academics, scientists
Simmel: love, conflict, life (public, within the city)
Harriet Matineau: women issues, methodological contributions
The Women Founders of the Social Sciences
Women did not:
- did not have the institutions that men had to support each others work
- excluded from universities
- not schools to promote their work
- few biographies
Some say it should be part of the natural sciences while others say humanities, or
sometimes either mathematics (does not look at the social actions) or investigated
journalist – objective, stay away from bias.
Positivism: is nomothetic – it seeks generalizable, universally applicable laws
- prediction and control
- logic of explanation – ability to predict environment
- grasp the laws that determine society
- technical theorizing – control and prediction (mastering of some environment)
- * a prediction in order to control
Interpretive Theory: study of society that focuses on the meanings people attach to their
social worlds (hermeneutical theorists)
- human communication
- symbols are learned – arbitrary in regards to their time and place.
- relies on qualitative data
- interpretation is the essential here (weakness in positivism) in relation to cultures
and history.
- How to interpret a meaning of something based on the behavior
- Influence of a potential bias.
Critical Theory: focus on the need for social change
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