Sociology- Chapter 1

9 Pages
Unlock Document

Ivanka Knezevic

Introduction: Why Theory? Antonio Gramsci believed that everyone is a social theorist. We all have an intellect and use our minds to make sense of the world in which we live. What we do our day- to- day actions is part of the making and remaking of the actual world we live in. Gramscis point is not only that anyone can learn to cook up ideas or make judgments about different tastes but that we already use our intellects to explain how society works. Many social theorists want specifically to understand the taken-for- granted nature of social life: why it is so often unthinkingly orderly, routine, and generally predict-able naturalistic, in sociological terms. We are born into an existing society of things and people and into a world of ideas of what we should and shouldnt think or do. We are told who we are by other people; our identity is not something we make by ourselves, wily- Nelly. Gramsci would say that all these ideas about the world and our place within it reflect theories of society that have been built into our intellect. They may be popular fictions or myths. They may be part of the problems in the world, not the solutions. Sociologists argue that although people are physical beings, they are also intellectual beings who can question the rules about such social problems as how food is distributed, to whom, and at what social and environmental cost. The key to understanding, C. Wright Mills says, is the ability to connect personal problems with larger forces in society. Mills said it wasnt enough to focus only on a persons experiences. These experiences must be understood in their social context. Sociology should understand an individuals private troubles as rooted in widespread public issues. Sociology should understand an individuals private troubles as rooted in widespread public issues. Binary Thinking Are peoples actions the result of a choice they have made? Or are people really just the puppets of social forces that work the strings behind their backs, determining what they do or think? The use of either/ or propositions is termed binary thinking. Structure and agency. On the one hand, we are born into pre- existing social arrangements or structures, including physical objects such as buildings as well as social codes of behaviour and morality. On the other hand, we choose one course of action over others. Any decision has major implications for the way you will be able to spend the rest of your life. Much of our social life, then, is powerfully shaped by existing social institutions, rules, practices, and structures of power and authority. Social theory focuses much of its attention on the working of these pre- existing structures and institutions that set the limits and boundaries of our lives. Every new idea comes into a world that is dominated by old ideas new versus old is one of the most ancient and enduring binaries. Sociology was developed by scholars who were aware that their world was changing rapidly and fundamentally. The Birth of Sociology in the Age of Revolution There is a sense that the gap between generations is widening, that the old generation cant understand the new one and cant appreciate the ways microchip technology has been inserted into social life. Sociology thrives in these periods of large- scale social change. It is harder to take things for granted when the ground that had seemed so familiar is shifting under your feet. European social theorists surveyed their new world and began to apply the word modern to it; they simultaneously created the binary concept, traditional, meaning Europe before the modern age. Key difference separating the traditional from the modern was the way people understood and thought about the world. Traditional society had been a world of magic, mystery, and irrational authority. In contrast, modern society had entered a new world of Enlightenment. The French social theorist who invented the term sociology, Auguste Comte (1798 1857), intended to create a science of society that would allow us to understand social life the way that biology had enabled us to understand physical life. Sociology would be based on facts, evidence, and scientific laws, not just on imagination, abstract philosophy, or fiction. There was a lot of catching up to do. By combining careful, detailed, and systematic observations of real life with logical, systematic thought (theories), scientists had discovered that natural laws made the world orderly and predictable. The way forward for sociology, then, was to discover the natural laws that deter-mined social life, And society seemed to need controlling. Political and social unrest was shaking the foundations of traditional institutions, undermining the authority of church and state; the new forces of industrial capitalism were transforming social life rapidly, profoundly, and in many cases disturbingly. The understanding of society social theory had to be rooted in science if social life was again to be orderly, peaceful, and secure. In the first stage, it was assumed that the world was run by supernatural powers, by gods. In the middle Ages, for example, people believed that angels actively pushed the sun as it made its daily circle around the flat, stationary Earth.Religious theory (theology) gave way to philosophy, the second stage. Finally, in the third, positive stage, people began to apply their scientific knowledge of the laws of nature to change the physical world to suit them. Sociology would give humans power over social change. As his social theory evolved backward from science to theology, Comtes own career served to refute his law of three stages. Positivism. English sociologist Herbert Spencer (1969, 120) believed that society, like nature, was a struggle for existence. The strongest and best individuals inevitably rose to the top of the social pyramid and deserved their privileged status, while the poor and the weak naturally sank to the bottom. Karl Marx. In his view, however, these laws would inevitably lead to a working- class revolution, causing the capitalist system to come crashing down: the last would become first. Classical Sociology Many of the questions sociologists are interested in dont have a rational basis. Max Weber said that people act on the basis of what they intend and what they believe; to understand them, you have to take these subjective factors into account. As long as we believe that the laws of the country are basically right and for the good of everyone, we will obey in Webers view, we accept authority as legitimate an
More Less

Related notes for SOCA01H3

Log In


Join OneClass

Access over 10 million pages of study
documents for 1.3 million courses.

Sign up

Join to view


By registering, I agree to the Terms and Privacy Policies
Already have an account?
Just a few more details

So we can recommend you notes for your school.

Reset Password

Please enter below the email address you registered with and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Add your courses

Get notes from the top students in your class.