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Lecture 10

Lecture 10 March 21.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Matthias Koenig

Final Paper- Goal of Paper- practice your own creative thinking in which you treat theories we have discussed to solve problems. (Typical research situation: encounter problem, go through existing possibilities to solve problem, this is how we should treat the theories in relation to the problems) Select a sociological problem, requiring explanation, typically at the macro-sociological level (aggregate of individual behaviour, institutions, network structures, any type of phenomena not at individual level but at collective level). Once you have selected an interesting sociological problem, derive 3 alternative hypotheses from theories you think would be interesting to test in this context. These 3 theories can be taken from different traditions: methodological individualism, relationalism or institutionalism. Or use a theory not covered in the class which you find interesting. Format Way to set up- Introduction (state problem of explanation) then theoretical chapter in which you discuss 3 theories you are focusing, introduce basic ideas, derive expectations regarding sociological problem focusing on, then rd (3 section) develop ideas for research design talking about the kind of empirical evidence you would need to make a decision between these theories concerning their respect merits, followed by conclusion where you state which theory has highest probability of being refuted or affirmed. Do not discuss theories abstractly against each other, but rather use them to spell out explanations of the sociological problem. For empirical evidence- what kind of evidence do you need to test alternative theories? For research design, have one particular set of data that speaks to each of the 3 theories in the same way. (Classical set up of empirical oriented research article: alternative hypotheses, evidence, survey results by confirming one hypothesis while refuting another) What kind of empirical evidence would speak best to alternative hypotheses? You may find it is hard to come up with evidence speaking equally to all 3 theories. Ideally have one body of empirical evidence to decide between theories.  You can use additional readings  Try and go beyond what has been done NEO-INSTITUTIONALIST APPROACHES March 21, 2011 French Pragmatism and New Institutionalism Readings:  Boltanski, Luc, and Laurent Thévenot. 1999. "The Sociology of Critical Capacity." European Journal of Social Theory 2:359-377.  Wagner, Peter. 1999. "After Justification. Repertoires of Evaluation and the Sociology of Modernity." European Journal of Social Theory 2:341-357. - Focus: theorizing developed in French and American tradition of sociology in reaction to some of the problems of classical normative theories (Parsons) and rational choice (Coleman) - Outline: » Move towards reflexivity » Basic theoretical contours: neo-institutionalist » Boltanski and Thevenot 2 Sociological Traditions- one affiliated with Durkheim (strong concept of social order, macro sociological theories talking about structure of societies) vs. other tradition affiliated with Max Weber focusing on individual action and how they connect to each other and result in emergence of social relations and social order. These distinctions are related to the fact of sociology as a discipline was an th empirical transformation of political philosophies (18 century) – basic theme of modern society and captured by tension of experiences of freedom or domination (through break to modernity French/American Revolution) later transformed in sociological theories. Many sociological theories interested in uncovering mechanisms of domination/social control, signs of basic tensions underlying modern society. Same for actor-action theory, action as reflection of experience in modernity. In work of Parsons, tension between freedom and control is clearly expressed. (First week after introductory lecture, we saw how Parson addresses tension; his theory had voluntarisitic theory of action connecting to normative theory of order in which mechanisms of control articulated) One of the consequences of close connections with early sociological to political philosophy was that it had a difficult in taking a step back and seeing historical contingency of action and order or freedom and control. Some of basic concepts like normative control, or voluntaristic taken as analytical concepts from observer point of view from which actor point of view could be constructed. This work was crucial to: » Parsons conception of social theory, trying to make the point that the observer has to understand the actor’s perspective in terms of means and goals schematics. o He derived set of factors- ultimate conditions in which means ends chains result, ultimate values and goals that ended means ends chains upwards o Institutions- were conceived as derived from ultimate values and regulating selection of goals/means by establishing normative rules essentially o Parsons- made a strong point this is reconstruction of actor’s perspective from social scientific observer’s perspective – reformulating 4 types of social action according to Max Weber. (ex. Emotional) o Observer perspective- concepts of rationality played a crucial role; rational action important to Parsons in which means ends chain formulated by actors. Rational choice theories are most explicit in seeing action as a selection process/choice process based on rationality. Observer makes presumptions on rationality and projects into actor’s perspective. o Same olds at level of theory of order- end conceptions of rationality play role in terms of rational coordination of action… and the harmonization of subsystems of society – Functionalism is one of the versions that may be found here. Coleman and game theory, explanation of norm as rational solution to prisoner’s dilemma makes reference to these assumptions of rationality at the macro level. o These distinctions of action and order- micro/macro and way these are conceptualized are related to the tradition of modern political philosophy and tension between freedom and control expressed in works of modern theoretical philosophy o Many contemporary theories- have moved with respect to bracketing actors perspective, reflexivity of observer’s perspective and take categories as historical contingencies (take basic categories of basic social sciences not as analytical concepts but as concepts that require historical analysis) Then the observer perspective shifts from here to there (to reflexivity) and categories must be analyzed as elements of actors perspective. One consequence is that the different types of action (Rational action) has to be understood as historical contingent repertoire of action, the social sciences in which these observer perspective on action perspective formulated are part of ongoing construction requiring extraction, it requires to see micro/macro distinction not analytical but a perspective part of our societies to which we refer in our everyday action, by categorizing some problems as private and others as public requiring re- collective action. o Reflexive perspective- if we take it seriously, all the categories seen as part of social sciences become part of the “new observers’” perspective. Another way of expressing this, reflexive move gives rise to second order, observe how observers observe society, *Critical analysis o Many presuppositions- making this reflexive move possible. Many linked to linguistic term in social scientists in which linguistic tradition become more pronounced, social scientists can be seen as part of ongoing linguistic construction and hence require deconstruction. Traditions: Foucault’s genealogical method in which he tries to historicize many concepts of social scientists and treat as power structures of modern societies. (Work on prison and discipline) (French context)  Britain Cambridge school of political philosophy- including work of Skinner, Porcaulx- see as linguistic expressions of social transformation in which new forms of domination emerged with new forms of knowledge – why social sciences emerged in first place?  Modern German- conceptual history, Bognifgschafe, self-description of modern society, citizenship, nation, progress, whole conceptual framework affecting social scientists- the way they are linked to social practices etc.  Late 60s and 70s outside of social scientists- history political philosophy and sociology border- these examples emerged taking up linguistic ideas. Seeing all our perceptions of the world are mediated through linguistic concepts and used by authors using reflexive term to see conceptual apparatus conception of social scientists linked to social structure of modern societies. - History of sociology- for further readings. Goes hand in hand with reflexive term, understand how concepts of action and order linked… - these reflexive terms are closely linked to other elements – put existing apparatus into practice by seeing it as historical outcome linked to specific practices and power structures. » Basic theoretical contours of the kinds of theories emerging after Reflexive term in the social scientists  Two areas deserving merit- approaches to order and approaches to action o Given background of linguistic term in many of these theories, it is obvious that culturalist theories of order become quite prominent, the structures of modern societies mirrored in conceptual framework in social sciences are to be understood through cultural categories and linguistic expressions which have historically emerged. Foucault is one example in which genealogy of concepts, punishment, sexuality become part in parcel of how macro phenomenon to be understood. This is linked to one point that has to be understood when speaking of institutions. Neo-institutionalism means large scale systems of meaning important to understanding social order. o Institution- needs to be distinguished from other concepts of institutions. The notion that they are outcomes of games to overcome prisoners dilemma, theory of institutions with respect to Coleman’s bottom up as product of individual action and solution to problems in prisoner’s dilemma and free-rider problem. In this tradition, institutions are
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