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Western University
Sociology 2271A/B
Scott Schaffer

Wed. Dec 14/11 Week 1: The Development of Sociology, Sociological Reasoning & The Modern C LASSICAL S OCIOLOGICAL T HEORY - NTRODUCTION PG . 1-15 Pg. 1. - Sociological theory did not develop until the modern era- mainly the 18 & 19 c. - The change that mattered most was the rise of science FROM SOCIAL THOUGHT TO S OCIAL SCIENCE - Science transformed the ways in which people understood the conditions of their own lives and relationships as well as the ways they understood astronomy or gravity - Scientific revolution brought an emphasis on new learning Pg. 2 - Partly as an inevitable consequence of this, science challenged the notion of authority and traditions and venerable institutions including churches and governments - When early scientists stressed the importance of logic and rational thought on the one hand and empirical evidence on the other, they specifically meant to challenge the notion that we should simply believe what we are taught - Science is m ore than just discovering empirical facts, it also consists of discerning logical order in enormously complex theories and always with a collection of incomplete facts - Knowledge advances by the process the philosopher Karl Popper called conjecture and refutation that is, that science puts forth propositions about how the world works; these are conjectures, products of imagination as well as knowledge. They become the basis for hypotheses, and research and analysis confirm or reject them - Empirical research also depends on theory to specify the objects of its analysis: how do we know what constitutes a community for example? Pg. 3 - Appealing to common sense doesnt solve the problem, because common sense is usually formed on a bias based on a religious or communal belief - Even more basically, concepts are like lenses that enable us to see phenomena, and link things together under this phenomena that we otherwise would not ostensibly find similarities between Robert Mertons self-fulfilling prophesy allowed us to view a similar process that was happening everywhere but did not appear related at first glance. The outcome predicted for certain students, criminals, and stock market predictions were never independent of the actual prediction - Theories also contain propositions- statements about how the world works Any factual proposition can be tested by turning it into a hypothesis- a prediction- and specifying facts that would count as refuting it - Theories provide frameworks for relation different research results to each other and developing explanations - One of the most important things theory does is offer a systemic account of the overall workings of social life within which one can place specific topics - Theory is concerned with the development of concepts with which to grasp social life, with identifying patterns in social relations and social actions, with producing explanations for both specific features in social life in society and changes in overall forms of society Pg. 5 - To be considered sociological theory, general reflections on social life have to meet 2 basic criteria: 1. They had to offer empirical claims that could be the basis of either tests (and thereby confirmation, correction, or improvement) or comparisons among theories (and thereby judgment as to which more accurately grasped social reality) 2. Theories were not sociological theories unless they focused on social life as a specific and distinct object of study. Sociological theories needed to be about society, in its own right, and not simply as an adjunct of religion, law or politics T HE IDEA OF S OCIETY AND THE R OOTS OF S OCIOLOGICAL T HEORY - Society- social action and relationships and organizations- came to the fore not simply as an intellectual development but in response to enormous social changes in social life itself Pg. 6 - Among the many changes, 4 stand out as especially significant for the development of social theory: 1) The Rise of Individualism 2) The Rise of Modern States 3) The Development of Large-Scale Markets, Capitalism, and Modern Industry4) European Exploration of the Rest of the World, and the Trade, War, and Colonization that Followed 1. T HE R ISE OF INDIVIDUALISM - Individualism not an absence of society, but more so a different way of organizing and thinking about it Conceived as the product of individual thought and action, or judged on the criterion of how well social structure meets individuals needs, society being ordered according to divine law or kings starts to seem illegitimate - Individualisms most important early appearance was in religion Especially in the Protestant Reformation, where people were told to read the bible themselves, pray under their own terms, and develop their own personal relationship with God, instead of having one vicariously through a priest These ideas also impacted the progress of science, which was routed in modern individualism and also helped to undermine traditional authorities - Individualism also had a similar impact on social life and thinking about society, introducing a shift from ascribed to chosen relationships This was seen in personal relations in regards to family and
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