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middy .docx

25 Pages

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SOC 3310
Norman Dubeski

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Chapter 1 The Understanding of Society The Structure of Sociological TheorySociological theoristsexpress their assumptionshypotheses systematically and discuss in a comprehensive way how far their theories explain social life o They provide new insights into behaviours and the workings of societiesSociological theories relate innumerable events with many apparent differences to general principles that bring out their similaritiesThe classical definition of a theory is essentially a deductive one o It starts with definitions of some general concepts lays out rules about how to classify the things we observe in terms of these different categories and the puts forward a number of general propositions about the concepts o Once observers have classified their subject matter a generalized theory allows them to deduce logically a number of quite specific statements about its nature and behaviorA concept can be described as a word or symbol that represents a phenomenon a label we use to name and classify our perceptions and experiences or an abstract idea generalized from particular instancesConcepts are an essential first step in understanding and analyzing social phenomenaDimensions along which sociological theories differ methodology subject matter assumptions types of questions Subject MatterIn their subject matter theoretical perspectives divide rather clearly between those perspectives that are concerned with the largescale characteristics of social structures and roles or macrosociology and those concerned with personatoperson encounters and the details of human interaction and communication or microsociologyFunctionalism and conflict theoryconcerned with the overall characteristics of social structure and the general nature of social institutions o Emphasize relations between general categories of social position o Discussions of social evolution are found o Pay most attention to organizations and institutions within society and to the socially prescribed roles that individuals play in them pay little attention to individual psychologyactionSymbolic interactionism and phenomenologyexamine human interaction in the minutest detailConcepts used by microsociological approaches do not categorize aspects of social structure but instead consist of the vocabulary required to discuss the particular actions of peopleRational choice theoriesconcentrate on individuals decisions and choices o Predominantly concerned with microsociological issues AssumptionsSociological theorists most important underlying assumptions concern human natureTheorists differ in whether they view human behavior as essentially determined and so predictable or whether they emphasize human creativityContrast between functionalism and theories of rational choice and symbolic interactionism and phenomenologyHomanshuman behavior has causes and thus in principle is fully explicable o It may be practically impossible to find the underlying origins of different tastes and to predict any given decision but they are nonetheless determined by a combination of particular prior circumstances and by universal principles or laws o Functionalists also see behavior as ultimately determined and fully explicableBehavior as ultimately predictable a function of certain underlying forces and needs and of the particular set of internalized norms and values characteristic of a societyConflict theoryless deterministic but its underlying orientation is the same o Behavior is determined and predictable o The point of view of purposive individuals and groups acting to secure their endsFunctionalists are more interested in identifying and describing the general values and norms of a society or group and in analyzing the roles these play in events they treat behavior as considerably more passiveSymbolic interactionists and phenomenologists believe that this view of the individual as active and creative also makes it impossible to predict behavior and develop sociological laws of a scientific type o They dont deny the existence of important regularities in behavior they emphasize instead the creative way in which people interpret meaning during the course of interaction o They distinguish between the me that incorporates learned attitudes and meanings and the innovative and unpredictable I phenomenologists point to the pervasive nature of inferences and assumptions o Our whole social world and experience of society and social interaction are things that we build up as we go along not things that are objectively realPerspectives also differ on whether they assume that human beings are motivated essentially by interests or by valuesFunctionalists assume that peoples motives and behavior are largely a function of the social values they internalize o Peoples basic purposes are formed by their birth into a particular society they do not exist independently o Also recognizes underlying needs or functional imperatives that are common to all human beings and that all societies must and do meet o Socially instilled values are emphasizedConflict theories emphasize interest which they often treat as selfevident but which include being free from subjugation being in a position of power and possessing more rather than less wealth and status o See interests as primary common to all societies and the main force behind human behavior in every case o Values discussed to describe their role in deceiving people about their true interestsSymbolic interactionism sees values as incorporated into the me interests hardly appear in work done within this perspectivePhenomenology also emphasizes values rather than interest in its argument that people trust other to behave in certain situationspecific ways and it sees such underlying trust as the basis of human behavior
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