Sociology Lecture 2
Theoretical approaches to sociology
Monday October 22 5-7
Detailed information will be posted on Portal - READ CAREFULLY!
No class on October 18 - instructor will hold additional office hours.
Thomson & Naiman:
Two levels of social structure
Sociologists analyse two levels of social structure that frame and influence human agency:
∙ Microstructures (patterns of intimate social relations formed during face-to-face interaction)
∙ 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 uses. Social
problems can only be addresses if this connection is understood.
∙ 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
∙ 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 processes.
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
∙ 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 (a social system of male dominance) in both
macro and micro settings?
∙ Post-modernism: What diverse understandings of society (individual and collective) human actors
have? Functionalism (19 c. Anthropology) and structuralism (1940s American sociology)
∙ Mostly macrosociology
∙ Naiman: an “order theory”
1. Human behaviour is governed by stable patterns of social relations (social structures). Most patterns
have a functio