May 12, 2010 SOCB 42 Lecture 2
HISTORIC SOURCES OF SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY
*sociology does not strive to combine all theories, or prove some theories right and wrong, as to cast
away so only true theories are left. NO. you assess two competing theories instead.
*TEST & EXAMS – 50% lectures, 50% from the readings. (35 multiple choice questions and 5 short
ALL SOCIOLOGICAL THEORIES ARE DIVIDED INTO 3 TYPES – positivism, critical and interpretive theory.
Positivism and interpretive are an agreement between sociologists, critical is not.
POSITIVISM important because it looks at the history of sociological theories, when they first started all
theories conformed people’s actions, huge success, so it was a big part of social science theories. And later
started to fail, they predicted conformity 5, 20, 15 years, but a lot of thins don’t apply in today’s time, so
they failed and issues arose conflicts, and split into the other streams of sociological theories (discussed
below in details)
Based on natural science model. Wants sociology to become more precise, neutral and accurate.
CALLED the deductive model.
Principles determinism & empiricism.
Everything conforms to a bigger solid scientific belief (confirms the correctness of the theory), if your
information doesn’t comply, then you have the law wrong, or your method is wrong. (observation isn’t
complete, you haven’t taken all things into account)
In sociology it works the same way, ex: their place is as communicators, maintain communications.
From that you can deduce a particular hypothesis that says, among the first generation immigrants in
Toronto, we can expect women to have larger network than men (so it confirms the bigger theory,
women are communicators) but that theory proved wrong, but it then positivism regards it as a
disconfirmation to the bigger theory. From a positivist pint, it has disconformed the theory of women
as communicators. It is still possible, how ever it does not apply to first generation immigrant women
A GENERAL LAW – you deduce a hypothesis from it. and then hypothesis is either confirmed, and then
you abandon or modify, and state it doesn’t apply to _____ situation
EVERY TIME you take a hypothesis from a general law, you are doing a positivist research, even if your
little theory disproves that theory, like the immigrant women sample.
Empiricism – a principle which describes that research process you can only test the
theory, support it or disprove it by direct observation in the real world. EMPERIA – Latin for
observable world, observable reality.
Determinism – tells you that it is the main purpose of scientific research to discover causes of
Positivism – more concerned with causes than explication, the main problem of positivism is that it
truly believes that you can explain every phenomenon, by very small limited number of causes.
Positivism always tries to pair everything down to a small number of causes part of the principle
called determinism. (what determines the phenomena we are researching
Another part of determinism is that once we know what causes a phenomena, (family division of
labor, size of social network of women) there shouldn’t be any exception, positivism again would not
expect us to not confirm this or have it disproved.
Positivism is not interested in individual people but regularities, apply to most people.
*knowledge based on observation of reality – in order for positivists to confirm some knowledge, it
has to be observable. (doesn’t matter what you think, they ask you what you actually do doesn’t
apply in psych.) After we have research and confirm our theory, next task according to positivist, is to predict future
behavior of people or future changes in society. “goal of knowledge is instrumental” predict what
they will do in particular situations, predict and change their behavior.
Goal of knowledge – intervene in society to make it better, once you find reason for the immigrant
women thing, do you want to include more language classes? Employment opportunities? Child care,
society then becomes based on this.
You wana know in order to predict, and to predict in order to control (manipulate society, and change
In positivist theory, subject and object of knowledge are distinct – which means you , I or any body
else, we stand separate from the society we are doing our research on. not influenced by any factors
of the society. Political views, etc. withdrawn ourselves from the social connections, expressed in our
prejudices and values etc. so we look at them objectively.
Knowledge can be objective. (because you separate your self, your not allowing your prejudices to
influence your research but you gain objective knowledge, and that is objective because it should be
exactly the same as when another researcher would do the same piece of research. (RELIABILITY)
*****DIFFICULTIES WITH APPLYING POSITIVISM
WORKS BEST WHEN YOUR OBJECT OF RESEARCH IS NOT A THINKING ENTITY, THAT YOU CAN ENTER A
You can gain objective knowledge, resolve disagreement by going back to data and looking at it.
In social sciences this doesn’t