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Sociological Theory

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Suzanne Casimiro

SOC100 September 14 th Sociological Theory Definition: a theory is a statement of how and why specific facts are related - two basic questions asked by sociologists: o 1. what issues should we study o 2. how should we connect the facts together - to answer the questions: paradigms/approaches/roadmaps Theoretical approach A basic image of society that guides thinking and research - structural-functional - social conflict o feminism The Basics - a macro-level orientation - society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability - key elements: o social structure: any relatively stable pattern of social behaviour o social function: refers to the consequence for the operation of society as a whole Important Sociologists – Structural Functionalists - Auguste Comte, Emile Durkhiem (suicide), Herbert Spencer (think of society as a human body), Talcott Parsons, Robert K Merton Robert Merton (1910-2003) - introduced 3 concepts related to social function o 1. manifest function: the recognized and intended consequence of any social pattern o 2. latent function: largely unrecognized and unintended consequence o 3. social dysfunction: undesirable consequence of a social pattern for the operation of society Critical Review - focusing on social stability and unity ignores inequalities o why are single parent families unequal or dysfunctional? - such inequalities case tension and conflict o how can we ignore them o how is one thing more normal than the other - the approach ends up being politically conservative The Social Conflict Approach The Basics - a macro-level orientation - society as an area of inequality that generates conflict and social change - highlights inequalities within our society o asks questions and ties it into conflicts in society  not about solidarity  money, power, social prestige, sexual orientation - look at ongoing conflict between dominant and mainstream groups and the disadvantages in the categories of groups in our society o men vs. women, white vs. black o what are the disadvantages? – playing field  want to reduce the inequalities – change and improve Key Elements - society is structured in ways to benefit a few at the expense of the majority
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