Social Theory 2240
- material existence ie. Piagets concrete operational – is a lot easier to see than
seeing “society” You must create society before examining it.
- You are able to give examples of society/economy (ie. money, stores) but you
are unable to point to “society” or “economy”. You have to imagine what it is
like as a whole. Ie. uwo = institution – norms, values, structures NOT buildings
- Objective (factual) because we can imagine that no one would disagree ie. she is
a girl we can see that.
- Stencil that represents 6 basic questionsthhatthny social theorists have to be
capable of answering. Especially in the 18 , 19 .
1. WHAT IS SOCIETY? ORGANICISM VS. ATOMISM
ORGANICISM: The person is part of the system, institution and the social
bonds between them More than the sum of its parts. Economy can be part of the
ATOMISM: is the exact same thing EXCEPT sometimes the person can step
out of the system/influence it (generate novel, unanticipated critiques of the
system) ie. Randomly murdering someone is not stepping out of the cycle
because deviance is excepted in human behavior
If this wasn’t possible, nothing would be unpredictable
2. WHAT IS HUMAN NATURE? ARE WE SOMETHING SOCIOLOGICALLY
RELEVANT BY NATURE? NATURE VS. NURTURE
What is something we do that is not conditioned/influenced by something else?
Ie. it may be an instinct to live however if people want to die (they choose to
die) is it really an instinct? – We can explain human behavior because of what
we have been through. Nurture is always at work – once we’re social there is
no nature. Nature has been socially constructed.
If an instinct exists then it is something found by every member in the species. If
it is malleable we would call it a predisposition
3. WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP AMONGST SOCIETY, CULTURE AND
THE PERSON? REACTORS VS. ACTORS
REACTORS: determined by external forces, we react to stimuli, molded by
external stimuli, totally a function of socialization, product of the system, “role”
identity, uniqueness is irrelevant
ACTORS: sometimes you can do unpredictable things that are socially
relevant. You can do the unexpected (logically tied to atomism which is
stepping out of the system/influencing it) 4. WHAT ANALYTICAL EPISTEMOLOGIES DO SOCIOLOGISTS USE?
NOMINALIST VS. REALIST
NOMINALIST: try to explain social events WITH reference to the intention of
people. Ie. use your intention to go to the bathroom to explain a behaviour
REALIST: explain social events/processes WITHOUT reference to individual
intention BUT with reference to “natural” processes (humans are unaware of) ie.
the prior definitions are descriptive definitions ie. this happens
because of this OR that.
realists and nominalists are both:
PRESCRIPTIVE – OUGHT / EVALUATIONS
DESCRIPTIVE - IS (THIS OR THAT) STRAIGHT FORWARD FACT
Descriptive realist: system – co-relating variables – man as a reactor
Descriptive nominalist: system + can be influenced by persons
(unpredictable) man as an actor
Prescriptive realist: thinking about system but making value judgments
5. DOES SOCIAL THEORY DEAL WITH FACTS OR VALUES OR BOTH?
There are no facts independent of our ability to agree and make something a
fact. Facts are able to change – objectivity – what makes truth truth. Facts cause
us to make assumptions – objectivity, facts, truth intersubjective
agreement about them (creation of our own)
Values always influence our conception of the facts.
1. Values influence our conception of an event or process worthy of analysis
2. Values influence how we decide to study (what techniques we decide to use)
facts = agreement/elite (science may be the best way to explain facts because
there is agreement on something)
3.Values influence our definition of facts
4. Values influence the way we explain facts – when trying to explain relevance
you are always thinking nominalism vs. realism.
5. Values influence our use of it
6. HOW DO SOCIOLOGISTS EXPLAIN/CONCEPTUALIZE SOCIAL ORDER
AND SOCIAL CHANGE? EVOLUTUIONIST VS.
Both words have a commitment of change however EVOLUTION is open ended and development specifies the goal of change
The concept of development is teleological (goal directed)
7. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONSEVATIVE AND RADICAL
A. Conservative – favours what is, primarily concerned with consolidating
social order and controlling the rate/nature of social change.
-sees men as evil, selfish, irrational
-men by nature = anti social. Man as a package by nature is anti social
-sees man as a reactor
-realists/pre and descriptively
-claim sociology = science of social order
-RARE- could be a developmentalist
B. Radical – interested in progressive change with progress meaning a better
society with a better meaning a society that stimulates human developmental
potential toward what humans ought to be.
-sees human being as potentially intelligent, moral and by nature- indifferent as
the worse case scienero. At base we are indifferent
-we are taught to be evil by mistakes
-the world/system ought to be changed in order to create a better system more
supportive of the realization of human potential.
Method of Inquiry always clockwise
Theory (deductive) Hypothesis (operationalize) Observation Empirical
hypothesis – conjecture of a relationship among 2 or more variables
law – liable- refuted hypothesis that has never been falsified
A. An organized system of empirical generalization – it has two purposes
1. Offer an explanation of what has been observed
2. Predict on the basis of that explanation, future occurrences in order to see if the
explanation given is valid/reliable
- you will never know 100% for sure because the cycle will always continue – science
has to keep going- it doesn’t end -induction – I wonder what this is
-deduction – I deduce into a hypothesis
measurement- I measure my observation.
then operationalize the terms – putting the terms of a hypothesis into measurable terms
terms of hypothesis need to be n measurable (specific) terms so everyone knows what
we are talking about
Example 1: I hypothesize that china is more democratic than Canada
1. Measure terms (operationalize) =define china, Canada and democratic
2. Look at them in the same time period – confederation 1867 therefore, both in 1867
Democratic = # of political parties = 4.3, # of elections = 27
China = 1 elections = 13
China decides to operationalize democratic by measuring voters turnout
Canada = 67% China= 99%
therefore, china would be considered more democratic
All depends on how you operationalize and measure the terms
Values and bias’ effect operationalize and measure
“we are actively involved in creating what it is we will discover”
Example 2: short male profs are more aggressive than tall male profs
profs – present in class/teachers
male – birth certificate
short - < 5’9’’
aggressive – how do we decide
Example 3: Durkheim – began at observation P > C > J
- he endured an idea: suicide is tied to social integration. These 3 groups showed
different levels of integration within social groups He induces a theory “degree of
social integration is universally related to suicide”
- regardless of being married – as long as you have someone beside you, however it was
shown that unmarried do commit more suicide due to lack of social ties.
- degree of social integration is inversely related to frequency of self-destructive
NEW TOPIC – 18 century = 1700’s: 1730+ France
Feudalism – a feudal society – hierarchy of people (totally land based) – hierarchy was
justified by God- the world was how it should be – It was God’s will
France was catholic, - king/queen/kids, clergy, nobility, bourgeoisie, peasants
Bourgeoisie begin to run ideas counter to the above – commerce, trade, they want money (manufacturing in cities) I need workers
Peasants – tied to the land. Not allowed off – excuses “God doesn’t want you off the
land, and this is God’s plan”
Bourgeoisie need workers- they are God’s creation. They are not persons – they are
peasant women before they are “women” they have to redefine a peasant as a worker
call them a “person” they have a right to choose and equal liberty God’s true
intention was to create people.
This all came form the philosophes (ENLIGHTENMENT) reinvented the cultural
landscape. Got the ball rolling on a lot rights/equalizing people they reinvent our
The Bourgeoisie LOVE them
They will be able to hire the peasants “people”
However the nobility above isn’t stupid and therefore this doesn’t happen easily
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 1776-1789
The restoration period – Napolean 1800-1815
A period of conservative philosophy. HUGE PROBLEM how do you regain
the task was to reinvent philosophy therefore; Romantic Conservative Reaction to
Creation of a counter philosophy
4 DEMENSIONS OF PHILOSOPHY
1. Argument that the human is fundamentally romantic (emotional) or rational – rational
to a certain extent. – we can’t be as self controlled as the enlightenment can have us
2. We can’t engineer the world because the social world is a historically linked
organicism phenomenon. – beyond human control – too complex
3. Specific attack on our rationality – we are not perfectible in terms of rationality
- our rationality is not sufficient to use science in an objective way to run the world
4. Sociology begins by being born out of the conservative reaction to the enlightenment
– conservative discipline
THE ENLIGHTENMENT - 4 THEMES
1. Rationality and reason are universal distinguishing properties of our species -- It falls
to differentiate us from each other. We are all rational and reasonable
Rationality = choosing means to obtain ends
Reasonable = I can provide a means to an end but I ought to or ought not to.
-Variability in choosing means to an end
-I ought not to rob the bank – there are lots of reasons, some are better than others. The humans capacity to reason is infinite. They can reason out more and more adequate
points of view. The powerful doesn’t want out ability to reason develop too extreme.
2. Variations in the ability of human beings to be rational and reasonable are not due
to biology, race, gender, sex difference. They are due to cultural and historical and
social structural variations in the state.
Therefore, if I’m more reasonable than the next its not because I’m biologically
superior – rather because I’ve been subjective to an environment that stimulates/helped
me with opportunities.
3. Institutions are created for people and not vice-versa
4. Progress is the central developmental law of society. – progress – if the thing in
question increases the rationality and reason of humans than it is progress. (ex. Wisdom
is progress) – you have a responsibility to decide what progress is.
5. An incessant questioning of tradition. Everything in tradition has to be critically
praised before you begin to accept it. It is not compatible with our rational and
reasonable levels it ought to be destroyed
6. An obvious tendency of individualism as a value
7. A celebration of science as a tool (chosen to be used as a tool) that humans can and
should use to create/design a world based on mutual respect for humans.
1. We are rational
2. We are reasonable
3. We can use both rationality and science to construct a proper social system/society
-We are perfectable – we can become perfect in terms of our ability to predict what will
happen in our social world
-How we design this system isn’t quite the same as why we design it the way we do
-We design it based on the way we ought to, based on reason
-moral justification for the change
-they believe we can be morally/rationally perfect claiming we’re God
The Enlightenment believes there is a universal point of view – that no human would
disagree with take the dilemma out of the question.
THE ENLIGHTENMENT CREATES A NEW RELIGION
-an example of how to attack tradition
-furious of the way the Catholic Church introduced people to God. It got in the way of
our development of rationality and reason The Enlightenment disagreed with Trinity (father, son, holy ghost) and transubstantion
- An attack of the non logical institutions about God.
MONTESQUIEU – first “systematic” social thinker - (form-science) vs. content
-Link the principles of the enlightenment to an honest attempt to understand society
-against theological thinking
-wrote two books
1. 1721- The Persian letters Passed off as fact (He lied) but he invented it
himself – he wrote letters about people who wrote back to Persia as
merchants in Europe. They were reflections of the merchants travels
through Europe. They were written logically.
-Merchants and servants could do both read/write and do math
-Servants viewed different things in letters to criticize Europeans
2. 1748- Spirit of Laws attempt to provide a political/social model of human
- There are three forms that humans can use to organize themselves into social groups
-“Spirit of Laws” is comprised of the “Nature” (form of power distribution and used)
and “Principle” of government – the sentiment (emotion) that must animate citizens in
order for the nature of government to function properly.
Example: things don’t run because you have power, they run because we have respect.
Principle because of nature
Social Type Nature Principle Non Social Factors
Republic All persons share Mutual Respect SMALL climate,
(Democracy) power med-low population
Monarchy 1 person Honour/respect MEDIUM climate
Despotism 1 person in control Fear LARGE climate
No traditional rules
causal law (they cause something)
-When you have non social factors, you have nature/principle
-Montesquieu calls the 2 columns combined are the (nature/principle) columns- creating
the “Laws – As – Command”
-Causal law determines what you get in a society
Problems: The greeks were a democracy however they had slaves therefore there was
not an equal power or mutual respect – they had slaves and they ought not to have NATURALISITC FALLACY- the error of deriving statements of value from
statements of fact ie. The Greeks. He said “it shouldn’t be that way”
Montesquieu came up with a third law = universalistic laws of commands =
universally valid moral points of view that humans could be aware of if they just
thought it carefully.
universalistic law of commands cause laws as commands cause causal laws
Claim like the enlightenment- thinking reasonably.
Example: If the Greeks just thought about not having slaves (by realizing they were
people too) the system would be right therefore, the Greeks were wrong.
**check out enlightenment vs. nominalistic**
Note: Enlightenment theme: social world is partially up to us.
-Human rights are not ascribed, we are not born with them
-Rights are an echo of how power is attributed to society
-Rights are socially constructed
-How we decide to use power will determine how sensitive we are to people having
-We have the ability to decide/choose between two things (moral reasoning) therefore it
is not taught.
1. Both nominalist and realist
2. His association of rights = power
3. First person to introduce to us – “the sociology of knowledge” What people
know/ think is determined by the reality of their lives.
4. Degrees of freedom- humans have the capacity to make correct choices and to
We always act – regardless if we mean to or not, we act how we want or how it ought
1. Human beings are perfectable in terms of rationality and reason
2. Humans make mistakes (they fall to be as rational and reasonable as they could
be) 3. Rousseau believed that both nature and society worked in law – like fashion
Nature – laws were given to be discovered
In society laws governed social life but people are capable of putting in motion other
regularities that could become law-like
MAN IN A STATE OF NATURE
-A mental experiment – it would help us discover a society whose social laws were in
harmony with human nature
-If we were able to understand what we were like in “a state of nature” we could design
a society to fit us.
1. In a state of nature: we would have no language, no knowledge
2. We would only desire satisfaction of our basic needs (ie. sexual drive, hunger,
3. Low population theory – therefore there would be a perfect balance between
satisfaction of our needs and resources available for satisfying those means –by nature
we’re indifferent –
-Tried to justify the need for law because by nature we are evil, lazy, and selfish
-If we believe this (the above) then we are conservative
-This kind of control gets in the way of our perfectability
Social Constructionalism is key.
In nature we are indifferent (according to Rosseau) without nature (being in a state of
nature) we are evil, lazy, selfish – constructed by society.
THE ORIGINS OF SOCIETY – ROSSEAU
1. People started to live in groups. Population density increased when cooperation
became necessary in order to survive threats to resources.
Families are the social control/foundation required to generate language and
knowledge – temporal/spatial coherence – language capacity leads to knowledge
Women looking after offspring, men doing physical abilities- farming comes
along- we become farmers – only inequality before existed. Resources on farm
get passed onto son and family therefore not everyone can stay – Now legal
protection comes into play – laws evolve now protecting private property- this is
the only way for those who have can protect themselves from those who don’t
have. Many people struggled therefore creating social classes. You now have
protection of legal property
We would have no reason to make property laws if we didn’t have the problems above,
therefore we wouldn’t be aggressive.
-Is telling us where social class came from and telling us you can’t really take questions about human nature seriously. Argument is suspect.
- people try to negot