Monday September 24 , 2012
Classical Social Theories
What is theory.
- simply an explanation of something we see happening in the world. It is a social
- theory usually begins with a what (description) which is later followed by a why
and how (the explanation.)
- common sense: every day theorizing.
- opinions, received wisdom.
- it’s not good as it is inconsistent and incoherent.
Formal theory: systematic and coherent explaination based on rigorous scientific
research (social observations)
Wat is theory?
Every phenomenon needs explaination, we are constantly questioning and
critiquing. Nothing is self evident. We systematically search for the actual causes of
phenomenon. A huge body of sociological theory dating from the 19 century
ex. Why do women only make 78% of what men earn?
until we do actual research, we keep finding the same answers
Learning Formal Theory
Comprised of different social thought. Different schools of thought: ex; Marxism,
Each has a set of common premises, beliefs and ractices
Each addresses key sociological questions
Learn the key premises of each school Is society characterized by social order, or social conflict?
Social order – the battle against chaos.
Society regulates peoples’ self interest. It is a regulator that prevents us from acting
in self-serving ways.
Socialized selves hide self serving beasts
We must restrain this beast (via, values and morals) in order to function without
being a self serving beast. We each have a role in society, we must maintain these
roles in order to attain harmony. Lord of the flies is an example of what happens
when functionalism goes awry. We must have social regulation, and consequences
for when we go against the moral code.
How is this achieved?
From a functionalist perspective we abide by police and laws – but more
importantly, we all share common values and norms. Therefore, we are our own
police. Critics point out that we live in a stratified society. Some people make much
money, others make very little. So, how can we share values with people when we
are not living equally? Functionalists argue that people will abide by these lower
roles, as long as there is some sort of social reward. As a result social stratification is
“survival of the fittest”
he believes that competition increases along side population. Only the fit succeed.
We must let nature take its course. We should do nothing and just “let it happen”.
French sociologist. Founder of functionalism. How social order is maintained in
different societies. The different ways in which people live determines different
types of solidarity/cohesiveness.
ie. Traditional Societies
small, simple and non-industrial. Mechanical solidarity. Theyre held together
because everyone is similar. Most people do the same jobs, they work for survival.
There is a strong sense of shared norms and behaviours is regulated without outside
complex and industrial. Organic solidarity. Complex division of labour, we cannot
survive without others. This society is based on complimentary differences stronger
than mechanical solidarity. People who don’t follow rules need to be disciplined. If not everyone follows the rules, EVERYONE suffers. We totally depend on one
another and the roles they play.
Social Conflict: Challenging Inequities
Question social order model. Ignores complexity of social relations, why we seldom
use functionalism. Norms for behavior exist, but they are not often shared. Ie,
nuclear families are no longer expected. Functionalists completely ignore the idea of
power. Were not all zombies. Norms are only good for specific people.
Society is organized by inequalities that produce conflict between social groups. The
powerful have privileges and resources. They believe we are all social actors with
the power to change the world. Ie, we form unions, challenge racism, form
movements against violence, etc.
Karl Marx (1818 – 1883)
Most influential social thinker of the 19 century. After he died his ideas about
politics and economy were taken seriously. In conditions of the working class
argued that they were being oppressed by the rich. Marx argued that we were able
to fight back, but were often manipulated against doing so.
German. Capitalism was a mode of production (a way of producing the things we
need to survive.) Capitalism was unequal as there is a class hierarchy. At the top
were the capitalists/bourgeoisie – the people who owned the factories and
machine owners. The proletariats worked for capitalists for a wage.
Compete for jobs
alienated by their own labour, they spend all day making products for only a
fraction of its value.
workers are exploited – they don’t earn what they produce. Which makes labourers
feel discontent and unsatisfied.
Profit goes to the owner, not those who actually make the product. (surplus value)
Symbolic Interactionism (SI)
How people attach themselves to things
Highlights the important ways in which meanings are constructed. (ex. Mouth to
mouth kissing and the meanings we associate with it.)
Verstehen: a deep understanding and interpretation of subjective social meanings. (the ability to put our self in someone else’s shoes.)
Geroge Herbert Mead – meanings are only ever formed through face to face contacts
our self emerges through these. There’s different parts to our self
I: unsocialized self. Spontaneous creative and impulsive.
Me: Judgemental, reflective and controls us by miorring the values of society.
Significant Others: Those around us who we want approval from. We modify our
behavior to be worthy of approval.
Monday, October 1 , 2012
**text includes everything from the first few chapeters.
** best way to study is to make a chart for all the theories. (ie. We should know
mead, bloomer, cooley, including the ones in the textbook.)
Modern Social Theory:
Should not be thought of as completely separate entities from the classical theories.
They all have the same theme though, and that theme is power. They are all more
complicated and several theorists use different paradimes.
Modern Social Theories
-diverged from Marx in his analysis of how the ruling call ruled. Marx believed that
the proletariats would join together to over throw the bourgeoisie. Antonio Gramsci
builds on this and believes in Domination and Hegemoony. Gramsci accepted this
struggle between ruling and working classes. Marx believed the ruling class
dominated throught both force and coertion. They ruled through the strong arm of
the state, ie, military, police. According to Gramsci we also need to understand how
the ruling class used hemegony – ideological control and manipulation AND
domination. When we do not do as told there is a punishment. Society’s dominant
ideas reflect the ruling class’ ideas. He argues that it also requires consent. No
matter how powerful a government, they cannot control us without consent. The
only way for a government to have longevity and control is when there is an
alligence of the masses. We have tons of hegemonic notions in Canada/around the
world. Ie, Hegenic heterosexuality – we just assume everyone is heterosexual, unless
they “come out”. We read fairy tales and assume hetero is the only way to be. It has become a taken-for-granted assumption. For example, Will & Grace – a show that
featured two gay men in regular television, however it still established hegemonic
heterosexuality, as Will lived with a women and acted like a hetero, whereas Jack,
the homosexual, was constantly made fun of. Meanwhile, Ellen is disrupting this
There are multiple strands of feminism, they search as to why women are oppressed
in the nature of the gender itself as well as what needs to happen in order to make
us equal. Disadvantage is a direct result of gender. They argue men and women
should be equal, yet we still see inequality in many realms. Men ultimately have
more social power than women. Strands we are dealing with today are:
Liberal feminists: emphasize the activities and segmnts of societies from which
women have historically been excluded. (education, the workplace, politics)
Radical Fenimism: the feminists most people know about. Bra-burning. Tend to
view society as dominated and solely structured by male power. They tend to seek
to transform institutions and practices as the dominations of one sex over another.
Critical of church, and the traditional family, they often oppose marriage and look at
things like pornography and sex trade – they view these as oppressive since women
are forced into it.
Marxist/Socialist feminism. Derived from confli