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SOAN 2111 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Bubonic Plague, Symbolic Interactionism, Verstehen

Sociology and Anthropology
Course Code
SOAN 2111
Linda Hunter
Study Guide

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Lecture Notes
Positivism seeks generalizable, universally applicable laws.
Logic of explanation, ability to predict environments
Prediction and control
Objectivity is a goal
Needs determinism (cause-effect relations) and empiricism
(experience/knowledge about the world is grounded by what we
learn from our sense perceptions)
Meaning of such info has to be interpreted
Interpretive Theory focuses on the meanings people attach to their social
Human communication, symbols are learned
Relies on qualitative data
Human practice/activity, human action becomes meaningful in
terms of social rules, sociological variables are defined by means of
human language
Verstehen action of interpreting/understanding a culture by
studying it
Society is ongoing interaction; reality is socially constructed
Conducts research by developing a qualitative account of the
subjective sense people make of their world; researcher is a
Critical Theory focuses on need for social change
Concept of authority and power relations and power dynamics
between individuals in society
Not to study the world but to change it, is this just? Tries to break
class distinctions
Too political, gives up claim of objectivity
Society is patterns of inequality; reality is that some dominate
Research is a strategy to bring about desired change; researcher is
an activist

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Conflict Tradition
Developed theories of capitalism, social strification, political conflict
Derivative from Marx and Weber who are usually opposites
Two Waves:
o 30s/40s was for the right to vote
o 60s/70s was the sexual revolution
o Came along with rights for other people (black people)
Structural Functionalism
Sees society as complex system whose parts work together to
promote solidarity and stability
Symbolic Interactionism
Micro-level, use of signs and symbols, everyday interactions of
individuals. MEANINGS behind actions.
Scientific Approach
Society is an orderly system, reality is “out there”
Conduct research by gathering empirical data ideally,
quantitative; researcher tries to be an objective observer.
Structural-functional paradigm
Rationalism sees knowledge existing independently of physical reality
Empiricism sees knowledge as based on observable, physical reality
17th C, Bacon and Locke reject magical ideas, argue for mechanical
principles of how physical reality works
Middle Ages:
o Church authority supreme

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o Reason subordinate to faith, tension now heightened due to
more time for intellectual interests
o Faith alone vs. religious philosophers
o 1348, Bubonic Plague (blame on sin, divine wrath)
o Springboard of economic growth
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