Lecture 2: Classical Social Theories Notes + Ch.3 & 4 Book Notes from "Introduction to Sociology"

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16 Oct 2011
Sociology Lecture 2
Classical Social Theories:
Symbolic Interactions
Conflict Theorists
Feminist Theory
Believe that institutions created together as society basically work; created
through consensus. Ex. Education does what we set out to do, educate people, and
prepare future, gives equal opportunity for success.
Society works because all systems work together to produce functionalist
harmonious society.
Social structures helps us fulfill our 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.
Dominant from 1920s 1960s.
Functionalist Theorists
Herbert Spencer
- Survival of the fittest justifies why only the strong should survive.
- Social Darwinism draws upon Darwin’s idea of natural selection; society is
changing for the better.
- Laissez-faire approach (opposes regulation of or interference with natural
*Emile Durkheim
- Founder of modern sociology.
- Human action originates in the collective action.
- Doesn’t focus on individual but society.
- Behavior is driven by the collective conscience (how society ought to work).
- Social Facts are general social features that exist on their own and are
independent of the individual; define, measure and study them in society.
- Anomie is a state of normlessness that results from the lack of clear goals and
creates feelings of confusion that may ultimately result in higher suicide rates.
- Did study on suicide and found Catholics are less likely to commit suicide than
Protestant because they are closer together.
- Mechanic solidarity (small communities in older times where people dependant
on each other) describes early societies based on similarities and independence.
- Organic Solidarity describes later societies organized around interdependence
and the increasing division of labour; people began to specialize.
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Talcott Parsons
- Social Action Theory is a framework, which attempts to separate behaviors from
actions to explain why people do what they do.
- 4 Functional Aspects:
1) Adapt
2) Goal Attainment
3) Integration
4) Latent Functions
Robert K. Merton
- ‘developed functionalism’
- Social structures may have many functions.
- Shared many concepts with Talcott Parsons.
- Manifest Functions of Societal Institutions: Institutions are thought to perform
the functions for which they were designed. Intended functions.
- Clear, upfront functions of what institutions are supposed to do.
-Latent Functions: Institutions actually perform a number of functions not in their
intended design. Non-intended functions.
Critiques of Functionalist Approaches
- Inability to account for social change.
- Overemphasis on the extent to which harmony and stability actually exists in
Conflict Theory
Society is grounded upon inequality and competition (not consensus).
Power is the centralized in the few; scarce and unequally divided among
members of society.
Social values and the dominant ideology are the vehicles by which the powerful
promote their own interests at the expense of the weak.
*Dominant Ideology
Karl Marx (1818-1883)
- Lived during industrial revolution; he was poor himself and lived in poverty.
- Base and Structure:
Dynamic relationship between the material and social elements of society.
Base: material and economic foundation of society. Includes forces and relations
of production; Those who own means of production and those who sell labour for
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