Sociological Theory: Theoretical Approaches
September 19, 2012
What is a Sociological Perspective?
A general way of 'seeing the world'
Always partial (sees functions rather than consequences)
o I.e. what are the functions of religion?
Highlights and hides
o A perspective = a method + a theory + some values
Applied to an object of study (i.e. suicide, families, etc.)
How you get 'facts'
Qualitative vs. Quantitative
o Quantitative generates statistics
o Qualitative generates an understanding without numbers (i.e. through observation,
o How you explain/interpret "facts"
Macro vs. Micro
Ex. Macro: how the state relates to the economy
Ex. Micro: how the individual experiences unemployment
o Why you explain them this way
A statement of how & why specific facts are related
Theoretical approach/Sociological paradigm
A set of fundamental assumptions that guides thinking and research
The Sociological 'Big Three'
Structure + function
20th century USA, from Durkheim
In terms of approach, it focuses on macro theory (organic model)
i.e. how do societies work? How do institutions function?
o Society = an orange Has many different sections (institutions) and how they function to maintain
Quantitative methods (positivism)
Focus on order and harmony
o I.e. how does the family maintain order?
Politically conservative (right wing)
o This is because it tends to want to reproduce the society the way it is with all of it's
different social systems
Structure: stable pattern of social behavior
Function: consequences of the pattern for society as a whole
o e.g. religious practices --> social integration
Norms and values shape shared moral codes
Key to achieving social order
Society's Needs and Problems
Biological reproduction/sex (upkeep of population)
Material needs (food, shelter, clothing)
Establish and disseminate value system
Coordination of this activity
Economic system (material needs)
Religious/educational institutions (value system)
Political order/state (coordination of everything)
o Manifest function
Recognized and intended
i.e. university was created for higher education
o Latent function
Unrecognized and unintended
i.e. university was not created for social interactions
Function = dysfunc