SOCA01 – Intro to Sociology 1 September 20, 2012
Theoretical approaches to Sociology
Thomson and Naiman: Two levels of social structure
Sociologists analyze two levels of social structure that frame and influence
Microstructures (patterns of intimate social relations formed during face to face
Macrostructures (overarching patterns of social relations in whole societies)
Other sociologists also consider mesostructures and global structures
C. Wright Mills (1959):
Sociological imagination shows the connection between personal troubles and
public issues. Social problems can only be addressed if this connection if
Naiman: personal troubles should be connected to issues of distal power.
Elements of the Sociological Approach
Theory: a tentative explanation of some aspect of social life stating how
and why specific facts are connected
Research: the process of carefully observing social reality to test the
validity of a theory
Values: ideas about desirability/worth of attributes, people, objects, and
Value-free sociology is impossible, but a sociologist’s biases must be
declared and minimized by rigorous research method (Naiman)
Main Theoretical Approaches in Sociology
Structural functionalism (Thomson: functionalism): How is social order
supported by macrostructures?
Neo-Marxism (Thomson: conflict theory): How is social inequality
maintained and challenged?
Symbolic interactionism (Thomson: microsociology): How do people
create meaning (understand events) when they communicate in microlevel
settings? Feminism: What are the social sources of patriarchy in both macro and
Post-modernism: What diverse understandings of society do (individual
and collective) human actors have?
Functionalism (19 c. anthropology) and structuralism (1940s American
Naiman: an “order theory”
1. Human behavior is governed by stable patterns of social relations (“social
structures”). Most patterns have a function in maintaining society.
2. Social strctures are based on functional