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Lecture 1

SOAN 2120 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Symbolic Interactionism, Class Conflict, Conflict Theories

Sociology and Anthropology
Course Code
SOAN 2120
D Walters

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The Interrelationship Between Theory and Methods (Part One)
Foundations of Social Thought
Karl Marx (conflict theory), Max Weber (symbolic interactionism), and Emile Durkheim
Conflict theory there is conflict between competing groups (haves vs. have nots, the
bourgeoisie vs. the proletariat) which creates a class struggle over resources
o Conflict theorists advocate for equality of result in order to eradicate class
Functionalism if something exists in society, it serves a purpose and plays a role; there
is a consensus among society as to what is functional and what is dysfunctional, and if
something is dysfunctional, society attempts to get rid of it
o Functionalists argue that in order to have a productive society, we need to provide
everybody with equality of opportunity
E.g., 90% of professors in the natural sciences are male conflict theorists argue that
gender distribution should be equal; functionalists argue that 90% of the prison
population is male, so shouldn’t that be equal too?
o Functionalists believe their opportunities should be equal
o Conflict theorists believe it is impossible to provide equal opportunities
o The extremes of both of these positions are naïve
Symbolic interactionism unlike the other theories, this theory is micro-level (focused on
the individual level)
o Stemming from the interpretative school
o Symbolic interactionists try to find the meanings behind people’s behaviour
o It is people’s perceptions of reality that determine how they act
o Doesn’t have anything to do with the functionalism vs. conflict theory debate
These theoretical perspectives are all very important in shaping how we think about
Functionalists and conflict theorists are more likely to use quantitative methods in their
research, while symbolic interactionists are more likely to do qualitative research
Social researchers use research methods to determine how the environment influences
people (generate and evaluate theories)
There are two types of theories testable theories and non-testable theories
Non-Testable Theories
Marx’s theory on social and economic change revolved around capitalism, what he
thought to be the most powerful and darkest force on the planet
Marx believed that the proletariat would create a class for themselves and overthrow the
bourgeoisie in a Marxian revolution to create a new social system (socialism, then
eventually communism)
o Communism = equality of result which is what he hoped for
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