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Chapter 2: Classical Social Theories

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SOC 101
Barry Mc Clinchey

1 Chapter 2 Sociology and its Classical Theoretical Foundations “Seeing” the World Theoretically • Theory is a statement that tries to explain how facts or events are related – explains how the world works • Develop skills that are necessary to see the world from alternative perspectives • Each theory has both strengths and weaknesses • Each theorist offers unique insights into our social world – *in the middle ages, people believed that everything was decided by God, including society. 1. Classical Sociological Theory (1600-1750) • Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) – People are responsible for creating their social worlds – Natural State: how humans existed prior to the emergence of social structures ----humans before society – People are motivated by self interest and the pursuit of power • John Locke (1632-1794) – God was responsible for the emergence of society and government – Tabula rasa: people are born as blank slates (influenced by society) – Right to self-preservation and to private property – Individual autonomy and freedom – **these thinkings changed entire humanity • Charles Montesquieu (1689-1755) – People never existed outside, or without, society – Humans (not God) created and are defined by society – Laws define the spirit of the people, the Republic, the Monarchy, and Despotism – Appreciation for cultural diversity and comparative methodology • *societies shape people • Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) • The Social Contract: people existed in symbiotic and idyllic relationships in the natural state • Humans beings are perfectible and can achieve their potential only through society • We are entered into the social contract free and equal to each other 2. Functionalism 2 Social world is a dynamic system of interrelated and interdependent parts – the society we created consists of many bits and pieces: they all depend on each other and work together – something happens in one, it causes a change in the others too – 30% of kids drop out before the end of high school - problem in the educational system • Social structures exist to help people fulfill their wants and desires • Human society is similar to an organism, when it fails to work together, the “system” will fail • Society must meet the needs of the majority – we all play a role in how our problems are solved and how we are going to move into the future • Dominant theoretical paradigm between the late 1920s and the early 1960s Functionalist Theorists Herbert Spencer • Survival of the fittest justifies why only the strong should survive • Societies evolve because they need to change in order to survive – getting better as we go • Environmental pressures allow beneficial traits to be passed on to future generations • Social Darwinism draws upon Darwin’s idea of natural selection; asserts societies evolve according to the same principles as biological organisms • Laissez-faire approach (opposes regulation of or interference with natural processes) Emile Durkheim ****** – french, lived and worked primarily in 1800s in france – did a lot of things for the first time....... mass publics education – lectured etc: should we beat kids? also: sex ed. • Founder of Modern Sociology • Human action originates in the collective rather than in the individual • Behaviour is driven by the collective conscience – we behave in ways that are acceptable • Social facts are general social features that exist on their own and are independent of individual manifestations – ie. scientific facts 3 • Anomie is a state of normalessness that results from the lack of clear goals and creates feelings of confusion that may ultimately result in higher suicide rates – roman catholics are less likely to murder • Mechanic solidarity: describes early societies based on similarities and independence • Organic solidarity: describes later societies organized around interdependence and the increasing division of labour
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