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Lecture 7

Lecture 7 February 28.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Matthias Koenig

SOC377H1S February 28, 2011 Radical Microsociology- Randall Collins Readings Re-cap- do we need mechanisms and sociological explanations at all? (Methodological Individualism) Do mechanisms require methodological individualism? – Hedstrom assume that individuals are causal agents in whole process Do mechanisms have to refer to the micro level at all? – Bathtub model- Coleman The second question focuses on this week’s readings and the weeks to come… tradition of relational sociology taking a different stance, assumes we have to go to micro  Now we will look at a theory that refutes methodological individualism but focuses on mechanisms and individual level micro theory 1. Background: Overview of tradition of relational sociology trying to overcome dichotomy - Relational perspective in sociology is not new, has been present since classics - 2 classical authors: Weber (focus on individual) and Durkheim (focus on society and social integration) - Rivalling approach formulated by Georg Simmel (contemporary of Weber and Durkheim 1858-1933) – to understand his concept of sociology, it is useful to turn to nomothetic and idiographic concepts of science following model of explanation following natural science understanding laws of social reality - Idiographic theory of science focuses on the task of describing specific events and processes in reality. The historical historiography of science is typical example. What kind of science? - Simmel argued sociology takes an intermediate position between natural science and humanities, not focusing on laws like natural science but doing more than simply describing particular aspects of social reality. - Idiographic – humanities - Nomothetic- natural science - Sociology is distinctive from both because sociology tries to capture the forms of social life! (according to Simmel) This is one of the major ideas that Simmel developed: sociology is a formal science. – - Formal Sociology; based on concept of form and content… whereas humanities focus on content of social processes, modern state emergence: Formal sociology focuses on the specific form of social relations that can be found in many historical instances… Ex: simple idea of distinction between dyadic and triadic (relations between 2 actors and between 3 actors: capturing specific forms of social relations having own properties regardless of content of relations) - Pure sociology- social forms abstracted, giving pure social aspect of what is going on - Focusing on forms implies the object of sociology are the social relations or patterns of social interdependence - If relations are what sociology is about, this implies how the individual is digressed - Formal sociology refers to recurrent patterns of social relations found in different parts of social life trying to capture pure forms of social life - These relations can be formally distinguished along different lines - They are characterized by the numbers of actors as in the distinction between dyad and triad - Temporal dimensions are also important for Simmel plus aspects of hierarchy(relations that assume domination or the fact of being dominated) - And the degree to which relations are antagonistic - Conflict – looking at integrative forces conflict can have for groups that are antagonistic plus forms of conflict resolution - Not about family, state, or markets but more about pure forms distinguished by content of social relations- sociology focuses on the form of social relations, not so much content + idea reformulated in tradition of sociology and that individual is not starting point but a product of social relations* - with increasing differentiation of society, each individual becomes member of different groups, social relations (antagonistic) and then as a consequence of differentiation of society, the combination of social relations in which each individual takes part becomes increasingly distinctive from other individuals (Simmel uses image of intersection of social circles: if we conceive of individual as member of different groups: families, friendship networks, citizenship roles etc.) Individual as social figure, emerges distinctively in social society… also argue individualization + differentiation of social relations A theory that takes methodological individualism as a starting point has to be seen as historically contingent on this specific kind of society. Whereas taking relations as starting point is more encompassing because does not make premise that is warranted for all. Thus relations are taken as the basic object of analysis! Simmel- one of the classics but another is: George H. Mead- who started to formulate his social philosophy in the context of behaviourism which dominated thinking about the action of individual at his time (action result of stimulus response, Mead tried to argue against behaviourism, saying behaviour has to be explained out of experience of intersubjectivity- not individual response to social environment but rather has to take into account the intersubjectivity of the actor) Intersubjectivity means self-consciousness and individual self is result of experience of communication and exchange of significant symbols with others. Mead takes relations as starting point for social theory and tries to derive both the sense of the self and the emergence of meaning (cultural) from intersubjective communication (Exchange of significant symbols: basic unit of analysis in social theory) Concept of Roles- used by Mead: he argues that intersubjectivity is the fact of taking the role of the other, seeing the situation from the perspective of the other. – what allows us to communicate with others  Via 2 stages of socialization process- play and game - Play: role play of children: specific role of another is taken. Ex: children take role of mother or father and thereby practice taking role of another allowing them to establish intersubjective meaning: cognitive understanding of relationship between parent and child - Game: process moved to a more abstract level taking role of a more generalized other, following intersubjectively agreed rules. Also taking role of the other, but not perspective of specific other, but rather perspective of collective players in the game who follow certain rules in the game. This move from specific to generalized other is process of socialization explaining emergence of generalized meaning in collectives - Not only important for collective meaning or norms but also important for explanation of self- Mead says through taking role of other; person can distinguish between I and the Me o I: individuals own desires and wishes o Me: through take role of others, conceives of perspectives (ego and superego) o From this dialogue between I and Me emerges individuals identity. Both Simmel and Mead try to move away from individual distinction of society trying to focus on formal relations and pure, and intersubjective relations trying to derive individuality from specific patterns of communication. Both versions are implicitly critical to the approach of social theory of methodological individualism. They say you have to explain individual first through relations in which person is embedded. Mead- prominent with Chicago school, founding father of symbolic interactionism which focuses on the symbolic media through which interaction is achieved which explain emergence of collective meaning and norms, and individual identities on the other hand. One proponent linked- Goffman- contributions to theatre and social life. Focus on his version of micro/macro problem. - Goffman coined concept of the interaction order: idea that interactions have a specific type of order which emerges within them. Interactions are a specific type of social
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