SOCI 1010 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Tabula Rasa, Collective Agreement, Social Change

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Lecture 4 September 25, 2017
Philosophical Roots of Classical Sociological Theory
- The developments in thought over a 150-year period provided the foundation for
sociological theory.
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679):
o Said people are responsible for creating the social world around them and that
society could thus be changed through conscious reflection
Coflited ith ealie elief that huas eisted  itue of God’s ill
and possessed very little individual agency (capacity of an entity)
One of the first to view people as responsible and accountable for the
society they create
o Natural State: conception of the human condition before the emergence of
formal social structures
Ex. Government
Believed that people in the natural state existed just as all animals did but
were naturally curious, which inspired them to learn about their social
and physical environment
Believed people are motivated by their self-interests and the pursuit of
power always in competition with each other, therefore living in fear
Wants always seem to exceed what was available, which led to potential
fo a a of all, agaist all
o In his book Leviathan, argues that since people are naturally rational, in order to
gain peace and protection, they would be willing to enter into a collective
agreement that would see them giving up some of their freedom to an absolute
power Ex. Democracy, monarchy
Leviathan meaning monster or ruler refers 2 this authority apparatus
o Collective agreement was an important transition in demonstrating the human
capacity to forgo independence in return for collective benefit
Suggested that since leviathan is the result of collective will, the collective
has the right to revolt against it should it fail to fulfill its obligations
Belief that the collective has the responsibility and power to overthrow a
corrupt government was part of the justification behind the French and
American revolutions recent protests in Egypt, Libya, and Syria
o He asserts that individuals are the basic building blocks of society
“ie huas ae Atie, assetie ad dai egis the appopiate
ole fo goeet is to pesee the idiidual’s ailit to ahiee self-
interests Ex. Accumulation of wealth while protecting everyone from
othes’ atual, self-serving inclinations\
John Locke (1639-1704):
o Argued God was responsible for the emergence of society and government
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o Essay Concerning Human Understanding states that people are born tabula rasa
lati fo lak slate
No knowledge independent of experience
o God granted certain rights to people
Ex. Right to self-preservation and private property
Helped secure his belief in the purity of individual autonomy
(independence)
o Using foundation of individual rights, Locke defined the democratic principles
that became the foundation of the American Declaration of Independence
o Disageed ith Hoes’ assetio that people i thei atual state ee so
fearful of each other that they needed a government to protect them
o Locke viewed the emergence of the state as being more about preserving an
idiidual’s ight to aitai popet tha aout peseig idiiduals fo
warring against each other.
Government itself has no rights but only obligations to the members of
society
o Locke agreed with Hobbes that if the state falters in its ability to provide what
the collective needs, it should be overthrown
o Loke’s otiutio to soial theo as his adoa of idiidual feedo ad
autonomy
Democracy and the US Constitution were established using foundation
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Document Summary

The developments in thought over a 150-year period provided the foundation for sociological theory. Accumulation of wealth while protecting everyone from othe(cid:396)s" (cid:374)atu(cid:396)al, self-serving inclinations\ Structure/agency: agency: freedom and independence to live your own lives the way you want, structure: relations and institutions that exist, social change is also important to examine. In the past, it means indivisible: looking at human actions and interactions in society, says you are different from others, not always harmonious, ex. Murder or war understandable as an action: start from the individual and then look at other things. Social institutions have an existence independent of individuals: social institutions are durable, society is independent of you you have a function. Society produces the individual who occupies a specific place in it. Social institutions do not constrain but benefit the individual. Modern social changes are tearing society apart. Individual not the appropriate unit of analysis: reconstitute former order - social hierarchies.

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