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Lecture 8

SYG 2010 Lecture 8: social theories

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Shawn Gauldon

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What is a theory? A framework for organizing facts or ndings Summarizes why and how two or more things (facts) are related to one another Advances thinking beyond simple descriptions of the world Helps us develop generalized knowledge about our world knowledge that is applicable to more than one place, more than one group of people, more than just one individual Generalized knowledge from theories helps us come up with viable solutions to social problems Good theories new based on data that are carefully gathered and evaluated Why is theory useful in the study of social problems? Make sense of the multitude of facts we encounter in our social life Provide guidelines for how to address problems Theories help us understand why a series of facts are related e.g., height and earnings are related such that taller people earn more than short people women are shorter than men men earn more than women but not all men earn more than women; some women earn more than men wealtheir people are generally taller than poor those born into upperclass generally end up with higher incomes than those from lowerclass How does height or gender or class origin explain earnings? Theory 1: gender theory theoretical proposition: men have a higher social value than women and therefore earn more. Since men tend to be taller than women, taller people earn more. This theory is that gender not height aects earnings. Theory 2: class resource theory economic resource (higher earnings) help people get what they need to eat resulting in better health, competence Theory 3: cultural esteem theory we know that prejudice translates into better or worse access to resources (wages, etc). Thus, we assert that tall people are held in higher esteem than short people. Can we actually sort this out? Yes! Use theoretical lens to derive research questions and test them with methods Theoretical perspectives: macro and micro lenses in society Sociological theories tend to analyze social issues and problems by examining dierent levels of society, from large scale to small scale including: macro level of analysis micro level of analysis Macro level of analysis: large scale, long term, social phenomena society as a whole society is more than the sum of the people in it studies operation of society by examining structural and institutional patterns, how social organization changes over time top down how larger social arrangements aect individuals Micro level of analysis: smallscale interactions between individuals society as practiced by individuals examines phenomena such as conversations, group dynamics, how reactions by people in small groups changes what others do or say and the like bottom up how behavior is patterned an shaped by social interaction Three main sociological theoretical perspectives Functionalism (macro)
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