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Lecture 8

Lecture 8-Sept.25 Part 1.docx

10 Pages
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Department
Sociology and Anthropology
Course Code
SOAN 2111
Professor
Linda Hunter

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Theoretical Approaches and Framework Introduction • Sociology is the study of patterns in behaviour (at a societal level, not an individual level like psychology) • Sociology has changed since the 17 century, people realized that the world is changing and that fate is inevitable • Sociology is the study of what is • Theoretical concepts have a role in o Shaping the direction of research o Directing observation o Guiding description • Sociology – LOGY – study a high level - SOCIO – points to society o We are studying society at a higher level • Comte (1839) – coined the term ‘sociology’ • Social philosophy – much older discipline, Plato and Aristotle (their theories re-emerged th during Enlightenment {18 century}), social philosophy is the study of what ought to be • History – the history of theories (development, failure, etc.), looks at the past as a sequence of recurring patterns, variables, themes, etc. • Recurring patterns are observable in human interdependence • Historically, sociological classical theory written between the time of the great French Revolution 1789-1799 and WW1 (1919) • Art history – can convey sociological patterns in history The Value of Theory: the Contemporary Relevance of Old Theory • Theories are explanations, they are models – theorists are often viewed as ‘armchair theorists’ (they think about the world but make no effort to change it); theories are like metaphors, they attempt to depict/modify society • Social theories suggest causes for behaviours, events, and social events; it is practical for understanding causes for issues such as war, famine, etc., it is essential for changes to be made • Theories are like road maps (Hurst) – road maps allow for us to travel, like theories allow us to travel across social terrain, they allow us to understand it; some theories are better than others • ‘The Sociological Imagination’ – social science should aim at helping people understand their “private troubles” in terms of “public issues” (C. Wright Mills, early to mid 1900s) o How people’s personal troubles are affected by larger, public issues (i.e. workplace stress, caused by the economy, caused by political factors) o Mills argues that adequate social science should have practical importance for the average citizen • What could be so practical about looking at these older theorists? o They were all living in societies undergoing wide ranging social changes o Each concerned with the character and direction of modern society, they tried to explain the core elements of society  E.g. division of labour, bureaucracy o All were involved in the societies of their time o All were interested in public issues o Marx – newspaper o Weber – political activities o Durkheim – socially involved, academics o Simmel – love, conflict, life o Harriet Martineau – women’s issues, many contributions to methodolohgy • The Women Founders of the Social Sciences (McDonald) o Women did not have the institutions men have had to support each other’s work o They were excluded from universities o No schools to promote their work o Few biographies o Despite these obstacles, these women were very influential in shaping early social sciences The Nature and Types of Sociological Thought: Positivism, Interpretive, Critical • Positivism is nomothetic – it seeks generalizable, universally applicable laws o prediction and control – imparicism and determinism o logic of explanation – ability to predict environments – the essence of positivism - can be applied to functional approach o Auguste Comte a positive theorist, as well as peredo  Comte wanted people to grasp the laws that determine human behaviour – we can better understand people if we can control behaviour • Interpretive Theory – study of society that focuses on the meanings people attach to their social worlds (hermeneutical theorists) o human communication o symbols are learned o relies on qualitative data  can be applied to symbolic interaction approach Want to recognize the significance of cultural and historical context in understanding human behaviour - Symbolic modes of communication understood within a culture Qualitative rather than quantitative data Critical Theory – focus on the need for social change the concept of authority and power relations and power dynamics between individuals in society – to promote a critical thinking and understanding of society - Can be applied to conflict approach - Characteristically modern – became a major part of human understanding after the enlightenment period - Marx is a conflict theorist - Domination is institutionalized in modern communication Practical Application of Positivism and Critical Approach positivist uses scientific method to study factory labourers critical theorist looks at conditions of labour – is it just? Expansion on Theoretical Frameworks: Key Concepts and Terminology Positivism • Requires a commitment to o Determinism o Empiricism • Determinism – cause-effect relationships • Empiricism (empeiria – Greek for experience) – empirical knowledge about the external world is grounded in what we learn from our sense perceptions o Empiricism refers to the attempt at explanation of social phenomena, the regularities and, as much as possible, the search for causual relations that determine them (McDonald, p.19)  Probability – we cannot talk about certainties, only probability  Objectivity is a goal, never fully achieved (hard to be unbiased)  Subjective views guide the choice of research questions • Still, the meaning of such info has to be interpreted • Positivistic analysis contains several levels of description, including: o Abstract theory – i.e. hypothesis that violent video games makes children more violent o Particular concepts – isolating your variables, i.e. levels of aggression and time spent playing violent video games o Operational definitions – measuring your variables, i.e. how violent are the children specifically?; interpreting your data o Description of sense impressions • Some argue all positivists, in a sense, are hermeneutists too (interpretive theory) o The positivists have to learn to interpret Critical Evaluation of Positivism • Critical theorists – prefer to focus on human activity, look for de-harmonization • Habarmas – positivism loses sight of the actors, just looking at the data, critics want to focus on human activity • It is inherently conservative, incapable of challenging the existing system o Positivism leads the actors to passivity • Critics ask: o How can we assume that society has a “natural” order? When social patterns vary Limitations of Positivism • Human behaviour is too complex for prediction o RESEARCHERS CAN ONLY CATEGORIZE THEM AND THEN PREDICT • Humans respond to their surroundings o If doing imperial research then the Hawthorne effect will happen (people behave differently whe
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