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Lecture 2

SOCA01H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Naimans, Symbolic Interactionism, Macrosociology

Course Code
Ivanka Knezevic

of 3
Sociology Lecture 2
Theoretical approaches to sociology
Midterm test
Monday October 22nd 5-7
Detailed information will be posted on Portal - READ CAREFULLY!
No class on October 18th - 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.
Sociological imagination
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
Functionalism (19th 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 function in maintaining society.
2. Social structures are basing on functional interdependence (like organs in a body) or shared values
(difference between functionalism and structuralism).
3. Re-establishing equilibrium is the best way to solve social problems.
4. Problem: explanation of change (difference between functionalism and structuralism; structuralism
has a strong preference for stability over change).
Emilie Durkheim
Conscience collective (collective consciousness) exists in all societies.
Traditional societies are based on mechanical solidarity: members re similar and share similar values.
Moderns societies are based on organic solidarity because of developed division of labour, members
are dissimilar. Solidarity is based on their awareness that all are necessary to the functioning of
Anomie: people are exposed to diverse values and uncertain which to follow. Transitory.
Religion: “god is society experiencing itself as a group.
Ritual collective effervescence.
Marxism and Neo-Marxism
Sometimes also called “critical theory”
Naiman: a “change theory”
Mostly macrosociology
Marx: focus on class inequality, based on relations of production.
Conflict & change are normal
Theory should be critical of existing society and serve progressive social change.
Max Weber: Focus on power and struggle for power.
Class, status, and power are interconnected.
Weber: valid sociological research must include both careful study of social-structural processes
(facts) AND understanding of the situation from the standpoint of the actor (Verstehen).
Symbolic interactionism
Took hold largely in North America
Focus is on agency: face-to-face interaction in micro-level settings, subjective and intersubjective
interpretations of reality.
Mead: “taking on the role of the other”
People help to create their social circumstances and do not merely react to them.
Video “Mark steel lectures Karl Marx”
Part 2: Marx moved to Paris after government closure of Die Neue Rheinische Zeitung.
New labour”, “the third way” (the centre-left), Anthony Giddens.
Part 3: Das Kapital, 1871 Paris Commune
Exploitation: unpaid surplus value = profit. Rate of exploitation increases over time.
Cyclical crises of capitalism unemployment.
Workers of the world, unite!