SOCB42H3 Study Guide - Final Guide: Critical Theory, Sociological Theory, French Revolution

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20 Apr 2012
Chapter 1
What makes a theory ―classical?‖
1) They have an ideological significance
2) They‘ve been instrumental in helping to build sociology as an independent discipline & an institutional profession.
Most of the theories written in the book are from the time of French revolution (1789-1799) & WW1 (officially ending in 1919)
In this period societies were transforming, by the end of 18th century people were rural, conservative, uneducated, & ignored by the state
(unless they were criminals) & lacked org.structure.
Early twentieth, people became more bureaucratic, educated etc.
The most dramatic change that occurred in the 19th cent. Involved the transformation of the way subjects viewed themselves in the social
world & their places in it.
Feudal concepts gave rise to class distinction (commoner vs. aristocrats); & after having replaced this feud with the idea of democracy &
equality rights, sociology came as a part of & a response to this shift.
By1920‘s modern stage was (now) had been established.(tech, bureaucracy, lifestyle, govt. intervention etc.)
Social & political ideals of capitalism & socialism replaced the older issues of monarchic GOVT. (women rights, pop culture)
Blue collar vs. white collar lifestyle took shape, rejection of traditional sexual & aesthetic mores, drug experimentation etc.
Modern age came into existence between the end of 18th & beg of 20th cent. 1790 1920 marks the change.
Classical sociological theory was an attempt to come to terms with the problems & issues arising from the emerging era.
Social atomization, alienation, loneliness (Hegel, Marx, Durkheim). Social disorganization (Durkheim, Comte)
Secularization & Decline of traditional religious belief (Weber, Comte, Durkheim)
Individuals capacity to take rational control of life (Freud, Pareto)Class division, class conflict
Classical sociology deals with what‘s seen as modern problems, but it self is a product of the modern era. The sociological way of
looking is its most definitive characteristic of the modern age.
Between 1880 & 1920 it was established as its own right booth in US & many other western countries.
5 theorists who didn‘t call them selves sociologists. But made important contributions, & viewpoints that other theorists shared
Hegel Phil proff, died before sociology came ard, though most of his work def. has sociological orientation.
Marx never academically acclaimed himself as a sociologist, but his influences have been greater than that of any others.
Veblen founder of modern social economics, contributed to the understanding of social & economic behavior.
Nietzsche- anti-modern critique whose work is esp. become influential in the US over the past decade.
Frued medical doc. founded the disciple of psychoanalysis, made crucial contributions to our understanding of our selves.
the viewpoint of the exploited working class.
Though ideological commitment is needed often as foundation for sociological theory. (ideology itself is more than a bias view)
Ideology, harshly criticized, but it is good in understanding reality from a time when truth was hidden & in the worst of situation, it is not
the best in respect of time.
And so sociology is most powerful with science than ideology. Social theory attempts to steer individual mind towards social options &
competing values.
Positivists (comte, spencer & pareto) sociology should base its mode of inquiry in the methods of already established natural sciences.
Whereas critical theorists (Hegel & Marx) strive to critique & suspend habits, customs & ideologies that constrain human quest for
*value orienting explanation can be subjected to critical analysis if not experimental confirmation.
Sociological theory in part Is bounded by gradual awareness of modernizing trends that brought chaos, disruption & dislocation.
All these concerns reflect an ideological interest in restricting modes of consciousness & social commitments to deal with salient social
probs. & is typically sociological to believe organized social action can make a difference in addressing social problems.
Durkheim first proff of sociology & created first sociological research institution in France. Weber & Simmer instrumental in
organizing first sociological association in Germany.
Weber put limitations on what society could expect a sociologist to do (special skills that help resolve some issues, but did not enable
them to make authoritative judgments about all human concerns) in an attempt to strengthen the impact by not permitting to make
promises it couldn‘t fill.
Comte, Durkheim, Spencer, Simmel & Pareto argued for sociology as a legitimate & independent discipline.
All except for Simmel favored positivism. (scientific method ensures scientific explanation, hence value-free not inclined to change
when values based ideas change)
Durkheim, comte, spencer believed sociology as an instrumental science, with cause & affect knowledge to understand & adapt to social
systems external & coercive for individuals.
Sociology can restructure social relationship& organization in moral & harmonious ways. Argueing for a science of society along
positivistic lines.
Although it developed from European intellectuals, it established itself well in the US & was first founded in US universities.
In 1950‘s so=ciologists were more concerned with second level concerns (how existing social relationcould strengthen & reformed
instead of transformed.
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Critical theorists - Hegel, Marx & Freud. Functionalists Spencer & Durkheim. Action theorists weber & pareto. Conflict Marx
& Simmer. Symbolic interactionists Mead
Large scale issues power & domination in society Marx was re-discovered to understand their own society structures & how power
was distributed.
Anglo American counter parts (French & Germans) more interested in using the field to help political & national goals.
Classical theory was useful in persuading governmental & educational bureaucracies that sociology was a legitimate & useful academic
Enlightenment critical reaction against traditional authority. Knowledge of nature & self-knowledge could not derive from obedience to
authority & tradition or practical, everyday experience.
Renee Descartes & Isaac Newton progenitors of enlightenment, thought not social theorists.
Descartes believed careful observation & clarity of expression better concerned knowledge than blind obedience to ―the church‖.
Newton devout , respected religion on one hand but supported the reason & observation to understand necessary laws of nature.
Physical & social world be understood by means of reason. Natural laws could be revealed by rational inquiry & social investigation.
And so enlightenment emphasized progress through rational self understanding & perfectibility of human kind, reason & social analysis
provided an intellectual foundation for much of classical sociological theory.
Immanuel kant appeal of reason over authority & tradition; individual can take control with intellectual understanding; freedom & truth
are reinforcing principles of life. No contradiction between truth, freedom, individual development & social good.
Some sociologists were more in support of anti enlightenment ideas & blames rousseau for the French revolution, for the excess of
Classical social evolution viewed social change as more or less universally applicable stages & explained social order with reference to
these stages. (Roots back to ST.Augustine.‖Christian evolutionism &
A universal set of stages societies go through, at different rates of change. Positing the following about change:
1) Inevitable (change will happen, regardless), 2) directional & teleological (flowing in one direction, & that direction is positive, leads
towards progress & the betterment.,( 3) analogous to organic stages of growth 4) progressive in nature.
Explains the development of individuals as well societies, civilizations & humanity as a whole.
Teleology an innate drive towards an end state.
Different situations & circumstances in different places. The proposal of inevitable change towards progress failed with the worsening
condition of workers from peasants to working class etc. no rights or power to protect them, the change of labor etc.
Working class, stood up against the aristocrats & their wealthy style (French revolution)
Collectivist theorists view individuals as naturally part of, dependent on & to some extent subservient to a social whole.
Socialism is a politically radical form of collectivism
Conservatives think of the past as good, & the previous feudal life as stable & organic whole in which every member had a necessary role
that was harmonious with every other role in society.
Important because of its influences on MARX & DURKHEIM & COMTE.
Germany, through out most on 19th cent. Was not a nation state but an idea; feudal German nation was held together by a common
language, religion & customs; which started to fall apart when napoleon forced the emperor to leave his crown.
With no unity, they lacked political institutions & so could not give political expression to their feelings of cultural unity.
And remained their belief that without a proper political structure, modernization could not take place.
Academic establishment in Germany was closely monitored by political authorities & dominated by philosophical idealism, 1848+
Philosophical idealism emphasizes on the significance of mind, ideas, spirit as the prime movers & shaper of society. & came as an
intellectual response to political situation in which all decisions were made by the shrewd ruling class.
Helped hegel, marx & weber with the idea of ―unity‖ & ―community‖ – how individuals satisfy their own needs & at the same time act as
part of a social whole. WEBER thought Germany was back-warded.
City states remained in conspiracy against one another for rule. & Niccolo Machiavelli wrote ―the prince”, in which he discusses the
actions of a ruler to take in order to maintain his rule; speaking of how political controle at best using violence, threat & deceit.
English conceptions of the natural balance between the market economy & general utility of enlightened self believed there was
no contradiction in action taken for social or collective good & action taken for reason of self-interest.
Utilitarianism as defined by Jeremy Bentham, has the analysis of the utility of various actions in terms of the overall increase in general
happiness or in terms of improvement of general welfare.linked to ideals of equal opportunity, equal rights before the law & minimal
govt. regulations
Veblen as a strong critic of the wealthy saw the rich as members of a class whose days were numbered. Mead on the other hand saw US
society as evolving peacefully towards egalitarianism, with inner contradictions.
Connected to the idea of individualism was the idea of voluntarism: a belief that social action involves the ability to choose between
alternative forms of behavior; dependent on choice & reason.
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Sun-Tzu based on Taoist foundation, wrote the art of war, which was more a social perspective. Influencing Chinese, Vietnamese &
Japanese military thinking. He analyzes the social in terms of mean ends. Assuming a naturalistic approach while discussing the social
interaction as cause & affect, without reference to super natural. Emphasizing that perception not be confused with reality, speakin
strongly of the value of deception.
Ibn Khaldun focused on the casual factors that directly lead to rise & fall of civilizations. Lacked connection with the actual emergence
of soc.
Criteria used for selecting classical sociological theorists:
1) Developed their ideas & published them between 1789-1919
2) Developed a general sociological theory
3) Their writings helped institutionalize the discipline.
theories that give account of social forces, tackle & suggest solution to social problems that describes the causes & processes of social &
historical change; helps explain the formation of social individual; that describes the methodological rules to generate adequate
Institutionalization occurs when a college of experts or professionals is socially authorizes to be the guardian of a particular branch.
Social theory is grounded in human interest & in commonplace experience.
All theoretical orientation can be classified into one of three categories: POSITIVISTIC, INTERPRETIVE OR CRITICAL.
Positivistic on the one hand & interpretive & critical on the other came from 2 distinct learning processes.
1) Organisms have to learn to adapt & process information, in the process of which they learn behavior that maximizes their possibility
of instrumental control over it. (learn through adapting to environment, driven by technical interests in optimizing instrumental
Environment can be natural (weather) or social (tradition & custom).
For the civilized human being, social factors are more constraining & object like than natural ones.
Humans deal with changing or varying environment by means of symbolic blueprints that are creatively & imaginatively put
- This yields positivistic explanation in a modern context.
- Modern scientific expression is the highest expression of need to master objectively defined or given environments.
- POSITIVISM is nomothetic seeks to apply universally applicable laws.
- Unlike social science, natural sciences are driven almost exclusively by an interest in technical theorizing (predict & control)
2) Organisms have to learn to communicate with others of their species.<learn through communication>
Communication with non-human animals is hard-wired, & human communication is arbitrary, reflective & inter subjective.
Language can‘t be used unless it‘s learnt in a common culture, through a culture, tradition etc.
- (interpretive theory) Human communication interaction requires the use of interpretive, reflective practices.
- Human signification systems are both arbitrary & learned.
- Turn to this after understanding the limitation of the positivistic mode & recognize the significance of cultural & historical context
in understanding human behavior.
- Human societies differ by the fact that they institutionalize different modes of communicative interaction; & such symbolic modes
have to be understood in a cultural or civilization complex, not without.
- Meaning to understand how something becomes unique & important & meaningful; hence explanation doesn‘t rely on general
scientific laws, but idegraphic. EX: event in one time might have another meaning in another time.
CRITICAL THEORY become important only after the existence of the enlightenment. An analysis of how domination is
institutionalized within modes of communicative interaction; theory of reflective critique of language & oriented towards human
POSITIVISM inquiry based on methodology of natural sciences by technical interest that seeks to predict & control change in humans.
Requires commitment to determinism & empiricism.
Determinism seeing everything as parte of a bigger mechanism planets in a solar system; understand in terms of quantifiable laws
(cause & effect)
DEDUCTIVE- NOMOLOGICAL EXPLANATION (nomothetical science) Scientists consider this the ideal type of explanation for
which every scientist should strive upon.- scientific laws act as premises in deductive reasoning (works best for natural sciences)
Empiricism knowledge about external world is based on what we learn from our sense impressions, provided we are exposed to the
same stimuli; hence we can agree that we are both part of the same universe. With our sense abilities we gain knowledge about external
reality ( the way the world really is.
Nevertheless it stil has to be interpreted & positivists analysis contain several levels of description:
1) Abstract theory specifies relationship among concepts.
2) Particular concepts, defined by language that scientists use.
3) Operational definition relating concepts to empirically observable conditions.
4) A description of sense impression (see, hear, touch etc.)
Such experiments require them to interpret data with relation to concepts that they accept
To achieve fixed goals positivistic approach is completely rational.
Failed to rationally explain the social world & the social reality. Only helps with the instrumental control & fixed goals etc.
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