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Social Theory TEST 1 Review.docx

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Marcela Cristi

Social Theory and Social Research General Theory o All theories challenge each other and question social reality o Answers question of social reality o They are a critical view of modern society and can interpret/explain social reality and equality o Can predict future social events o Classical thinkers o Very complex explanations  Their ideas go beyond time and space in the contemporary world o NO THEORY IS THE TRUTH o All theories try to explain social reality o Social theory o Describes a social phenomena o Not just opinion – it is an explanation of what they believe Theory: 1. Tentative explanation of observed phenomena 2. Explanation of how/why facts or variables are related to one another 3. Attempt to describe/explain and occasionally predict social events o We know things because people told us o Ex. Chinese people speak Chinese  The world is round o Most developed way of organizing knowledge we have o Social theory did not develop until modern era: 18 /19 C.h o These are things that everyone knows – but this was not always the case How do we know the world? o We know things because people told us o Most of what we know is a matter of agreement and belief o Tradition: the authority of the past (customs, habits) o An inherited body of information and understanding o Things that “everybody knows” o Authority: knowledge of experts o Derives from the status of the transmitter of knowledge o We accept what the majority of people believe o What everyone knows is specifically known from tradition and authority o This can assist/hinder our knowledge  Ex: The world doesn’t rotate  2 scientists proved this is wrong – not all experts are correct  Celebrities are not experts – yet they still advertise as if they are o We are misinterpreting expertise How we perceive the world o “Perceive world”: abstract idea/mental symbol: concepts provide us with labels o Conceptual tools that are used to determine what we make of the world/how we perceive it  highly dependent on how we perceive the world Ex. Buying a car: economist  look at economy of car ($), psych: look at peoples motivation to buy car, soc: look at the social class point of view/social status o Depends on the type of concept we use Common Sense vs. Scientific Knowledge Problems resulting from common-sense knowledge: o Inaccurate Observations – frequent mistakes o Most of our daily observations/interpretations are casual and semiconscious (we make mistakes) o Scientific observation is a conscious, deliberate & systematic activity o Based on empirical evidence and rigorous procedures (Ex. Writing down what prof wore one day) o Overgeneralization o Few similar events are taken evidence of general pattern o General Representative – scientists often use general representative samples to find patterns of regularities o Ex. People with higher education tend to be more liberal and open to new ideas  People with lower education are conservative – generalized o Selective Observations o We just select those cases that fit what we want to prove o Selecting cases that fit with what we want to prove  Scientists make special effort to collect all information including “deviant” cases  Example: abortion clinic o Representing Group o Selecting large and representing groups of people o Illogical Reasoning o Neither rational or based on evidence  Ex: gambling – someone is losing, I’ll win soon o Scientists use systems of logical consciously and explicity o The pillars of science are logic rigorous protocol and clear procedures (methodology) and systematic observations (empirical evidence)  Ex. Theater writers don’t literally undergo their stories  they make assumptions and aim to be aesthetic * Different approaches to the world produce different types of knowledge – sci/math/philosophical - Common sense is generally formed on basis of religion/experience of community – bias of seeking knowledge/community in general Scientific Approach o Any approach that claims to be science must have empirical data o Must be able to be checked o Needs delivered approach by clear methologic procedures to prove approach Sociology and “Other Science” o Natural science: attempt to comprehend/explain and predict events in our natural environment o Study of non-human phenomena  Ex. Bio, chem, physics, geology o Social science: focus on society and organization o Study of human behaviour and society  Soc, psych, poli-sci, econ, anthro Sociology – What is it? o Studies human societies in order to understand human social behaviour o Modern society focus – after French Revolution/Industrial Revolution o Tries to move beyond mere descriptions in order to generalize o Describe/explain patterns o Generalize * always purpose o Tended to be historical/comparative – comparing now to then o Very broad focus – religion, economy, culture, crime, social inequality o Relies on empirical evidence o Looks at social change patterns – feminism/Marxism o “sociology is the development of systematic knowledge about social life, the way its organized, how it changes, its creation in social action, and its disruption and renewal in social conflict” Sociology in Canada o McGill (1925) founded the sociology department o Only independent department until 1960s  UofT: 1963 o Sociology is relatively new to Canada Sociology of Science? o Research and objective – use scientific method o Social science—debate if sociology is a science or science of different kind Social Theory/Research o Based on empirical evidence – not just beliefs/opinion evidence o Get away from supernatural observation o Has to do with “what is” not “what should be” o Except feminist/critical conflict theory o Objective: o Objectivity: ability to make observations free from personal opinions/prejudices o Theory is our most developed way of organizing the knowledge we have but that knowledge is never complete o *Assumptions are intellectual starting point of any work o Concepts grounds/questions/methods we would use  All depend on theoretical assumption of knowledge  One is not more right than the other Social Theory Concerns/Crucial Parts 1. Enables us to understand social events, trends, and institutions 2. Helps us see connections among different events/trends/institutions a. Helps answer questions i. Ex. Changes in gender roles and relations 3. Helps relate personal life to society a. Crucial basis for reflection on social life, informing moral deliberations or public decisions i. Important for interpersonal relations (ex. Love) to large scale (ex. Economy) b. Social theory allows people to make systematic/informed judgments *Foundations of Social Science o Social research aims to find patterns of social regularities (generalizations) based on: a. Theory b. Systematic observations (data collection) c. Data analysis o Theoretical Analysis o Shapes the kinds of observations we are likely to make o Methods we use (whether we look at micro/macro concerns) o The way we report our findings Social Theory Criteria: o Need empirical data o Therefore it makes empirical observations o Social theories are not theories unless they focus on social life as a specific and distinct object of study Society and Roots of Sociological Theory Rise of Individualism: Development of Soc Theory o Individualism: individual thought/action based on needs – society looks different o Social theory favouring freedom of action for individuals over collective or state control o Most important early appearance – religion o People should read bible for themselves, pray for themselves, and develop personal relationships with God  Ideas had influence on the rise of science – rooted in modern individualism o Led people to think for themselves about social relationships  Social relationships were approached as subjects of personal choice Early Social Contract Theory o Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau – important social contract theorists o Describe how society could come into being on basis of contract among individuals/reasoning of social arrangements o Focused on political questions  Contributed to the rise of social theory o Locke/Rousseau: distinguished society from government and gave it priority Rise of Modern States o States helped organize societies o Idea of Nation: society should be bounded – internally organized population at level of country o Civil Society: society is the free product of relations among private people o Soc theory: emphasizing how much of human life is organized at a level between interior privacy of family life and the exterior direction of the state  Ferguson: “society has its own history, distinct from that of politics” Markets, Capitalism, Modern Industry o Civil society: pursue material interests/well-being o Industrial Revolution: Agriculture – rapid farm productivity o Decline in rural living, and increase in city living  Soc/econ phenomena of economic efficiency and rise in society th th o Productivity: division of labour in 18 and 19 C. o City vs. Country Theory o Community: small scale, tight-knit, direct interpersonal relations in villages/small towns o City: impersonal, looser relationships, loss of direct ties to indirect ones through market, media, and formal organizations o Adam Smith: division of labour = social process and one to grow productivity o Argued: government was not only a way to achieve social organization but it was also very important in the market o People are less skilled in general but specify in one division of labour within social organization  Jobs are dependent on each other – in large social organization o Market operated through supply and demand  Individual people were led to create social value “invisible hand”  Market was self organizing European Exploration o Montesquieu: the way culture knits together a whole package of knowledge, beliefs, values o Colonialism: practice of political party having political control over another country o Many social scientists were critical of this o European expansion: material effects important influence on rise of soc theory o Locke: entire world organized in fashion of native Americans “the world was American” o Toqueville: Democracy of America – social/culture conditions made stable democratic government 20 C. o Marxist: Internationalist o Power of nationalism o WWI: 1. Concern for fate of modern society 2. Interconnections among European countries 3. Emergence of USA as global military power o Parsons Theory o Developing understanding of western noncommunist societies  Affected individual (choice based on modern life)  Recognized how incomplete it was (free world – not communism) o Mannheim: o Ideas reflected social positions of those who imposed them o Intellectuals might occupy social positions which enables them to be more objective o Mead: o Individuals might come into being a result of social processes  Communication of others and interaction  Only gain full individual if we can see ourselves as others see us o Cooley: self/society twinborn o Individuals exist before/separate from society o WWII: o Critical Theory: rationalization could turn against reason and limits to capitalist development and bureaucratic states  Rise of fascism  Fascism: emphasis on science/technology with effort to restore nature/spirit of modern life  Examined rationalization of modern life that produced Parsons functional social system and reduction of human choices to consumer options  Functional integration: society needs to come together despite diversity/differences  Freely formed relationships can be self-regulating  Approach conflict as breakdown of social relations Sociology as a Science o Developed in 19 C: sociology was response to rapid social change brought by industrialization of Europe o Sociology: scientific study of human behaviours, interactions, relationships o Observation of events, classification, patterns, explanation of patterns o Pattern: set of events that is related in coherent way/relationships that are stable o Research methods: arriving at accurate understanding of social reality  Collection of empirical evidence o Language: scientists/terminologies of scientific community o Complex concepts – modernization, culture  Measurement problem  Human behaviours aren’t quantifiable o Aspect of language of social science = proximity to everyday experiences o Value Free: o Through socialization, scientists develop frames of reference that they perceive events  Guidelines for selecting information and are products of past experiences o Cant be completely value-free from being objective o Structure: model represents basic assumptions understanding findings in research o Empirical evidence is selective and applies to social life aspects  Use of evidence in testing remains foundations of scientific inquiries Relationship between Theory and Facts o Theory o Tentative explanation of observed phenomena o No theory will provide final truth about the world – cannot settle debates about value o Before collecting data scientists have some assumptions about the nature of reality and what is true o Nature of reality o More complex then we assume every day – has to have assumptions on how to grasp reality o The key question here is: “Is Sociology a science or not”? o A long and unresolved debate o No “right” or “wrong” answer o Depends on which sociologist you ask. Some see sociology as a science; others as a different kind of science o Two current views: o Positivism: sociology is/should be a science based on empirical evidence o Interpretive/Constructionist/Verstehen tradition: sociology is a science but of a different kind o Critical/Conflict/Feminist sociologists can be found in both traditions (i.e, Positivism and Interpretive sociology) *ONTOLOGICAL ASSUMPTIONS OF POSITIVISM AND INTERPRETIVE/ CONSTRUCTIONISTS * Ontological assumptions answer the question “what is a ‘fact’”, what is the nature of reality? * Critical/Conflict/Feminism believe sociology can be found in both traditions Positivism: believe sociology should be science based - Believe sociology is science based meaning they should use the same methodology – math etc. o Assumptions: o Reality (facts) exists independent of the observer o Reality is fixed, objective, external to individual (Realism) – external to individual  Variables – religion, social class etc.  Use variables to do study to analyze  Fixed reality: Ex. Divorce  people tend to believe the same correlations (social class vs. attitudes to divorce) o Reality is patterned, not random o Patterns obey some sort of laws (Nomothetic)  Human behaviour, therefore, is patterned and can be discovered (“Laws”) o Social world has an objective reality  Objective reality can be found through survey – fixed questions  Social scientists need to find laws o Positivists predict what happens in the social world *Interpretive/Constructionists/Symbolic Interaction: believe sociology is a science but of a different kind - Don’t think sociology should be a core science; therefore they should not use the same methods – interviews and emerging yourself with people to understand how they feel - Ex. Human life is different (qualitative) than studying molecules/cells o Assumptions: o Reality is socially “constructed” all the time o Reject the idea of external  Reality is constructed all the time and is a multiple reality  Multiple reality: what people construct o There are multiple realities o Reality is in constant “flux” o It is subjective (Nominalism)  Nominalist position: social world is created depends no how we describe the social world  put names and labels to understand the structure of reality o There are no “laws” or regular patterns o Reality is neither external nor objective or fixed o Reality needs to be interpreted o Subjective –imposed by humans  Ex. Divorce is a fixed reality based on what % people believe in divorce  Cant use a math equation to figure this out ** HAVE TO EMERGE YOURSELF (PERSON TO PERSON) TO SEE HOW PEOPLE FEEL – interview o A survey doesn’t tell you how people feel – need to experience it  Ex. Dandilion might be a weed to you, but others may think its pretty EPISTEMOLOGICAL ASSUMPTIONS OF POSITIVISM AND INTERPRETIVE/ CONSTRUCTIONISTS * Epistemological assumptions answer the question “on what grounds do I accept a statement as being true?” *BOTH VIEWS ARE NEEDED TO UNDERSTAND SOCIAL REALITY *BOTH USE EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE *Positivism: general theory and test through scientific theory o Assumptions: o Accept only statements that are true and can be empirically verified from science point of view o Truth/knowledge comes from empirical evidence & the use of the scientific method o Something is true if it can be empirically verified o We understand the social world through the methods of science  Ex. Does God exist?  Cannot prove it scientifically therefore it doesn't exist  It is a belief of faith – not science *Interpretive/Constructionists/Symbolic Interaction: o Assumptions: o Knowledge/truth comes from empirical evidence using “naturalistic” enquiry, via verstehen  Something is true, only if inter-subjectively agreed upon as true  Ex. Marriage was bad enough to divorce  I accept that is true if someone says that o Via: empathy for others  Verstehen: to put yourself in someone else’s view o True if it is agreed upon by a person o Not objective criteria/social world  How people define their world  Interpretive sociologists study social interaction in small groups o See how people define THEIR reality o Constructionists are anti-Positivists  Use scientific method in different way  Logical observation: interviews with people o Against search for “laws” o The social world is relativistic  It can only be understood from the point of view of the individual  Subjective – not objective based on empirical evidence  Take POV to understand the social world – see what is unique to people—not universal General Relationship between theory and facts o Positivism and Constructionism represent two different ways of understanding reality o No approach is “better” or “more scientific” than the other o It all depends on what aspect of reality the researcher wants to investigate o They use different methods to understand reality The Relationship between Theory and Methods * What methods should sociologists use? *BOTH GROUPS USE EMPIRICAL DATA BUT USE IT IN DIFFERENT WAYS o Again, two different views, depending on ontological and epistemological theoretical assumptions: Positivism: scientific understanding of reality – SCI BASED o Sociology should follow the methods used by the natural sciences o Research based on scientific method, using systematic protocol and techniques (i.e., scientific research cycle) o Looks for causal and nomothetic explanations (if x then y) o Will use any method that will allow them to look for patterns – stable relationships o Systematic scientific research o Test hypothesis  explain a class situation, not single case situations o Looking at general case of human behaviour and the cause/effects o Positivists conduct macro-research/sociology: o Large-scale surveys, questionnaires, statistical analyses, correlations, mathematical model, formulas, etc. which yield quantitative results  % and numbers o Positivism emphasizes validity & reliability o Anything that measures what is intended to measure  Ex. Religion: conduct survey o Reliability: degree to which study could be done again with similar results  This would mean that it was a reliable test o In search of “laws” or probabilities to predict social behaviour (Nomothetic approach) o For them, sociology is and must be a science (use the same methods used by natural scientists) o Microsociology: large social institutions o Argue: scientific method is most empirical we should try to create a social method as close to natural science  Large scale survey o Aim is to test hypothesis by making use of the research cycle o Researchers start with a hypothesis, derived from a theory, then they collect data o If it can be accepted/rejected then a theory can be derived 1. Theory – Begin with research question – clear and  Hypothesis – collect data – follow defined research cycle 2. Deduction – fixing theory/question 3. Hypothesis – tested/verified: linking 2+ variables to answer the question Laws Theories 4. Operationalization – how are you going to measure it? – translating abstract concepts to a set of operational procedures 5. Observations – collecting/analysing data 6. Summarization – summary form about empirical observations 7. Laws – what you wanted to discover Observations Hypothesis 8. Induction – form particular theory to observation – induce from empirical generalizations to higher level of attraction Research Cycle: Example in text: Emilie Durkheim (1951) o Suicide rates varied over one country to another o Physical state of mind, cosmic factors and social causes  Extent individual is integrated into meaningful/cohesive groups  Absence of norms/social change – individual not knowing how to behave  Suicide decreased in Catholics/married – more integrated Constructionists/Interpretive: interpretive understanding of reality – SCI OF DIFF. KIND BASED o Do not use the scientific method as understood by Positivists o Subjective scientific method o Reality has to be interpreted – is not fixed  In order to do this: have to look how people act in their natural environments  Unbiased/similar ways of interpreting is needed o Systematically collect empirical data by going directly to the people, participating in their activities (naturalistic inquiry) o Researchers observe how people interact in their natural settings o First hand knowledge of subjects studied o Their method of research is anti-positivist o Interpretive understanding of reality o Start with data collection, then build a theory o Interested in investigating processes rather than discovering “laws” of human behaviour o Ideographic approach: unique/distinct o Provide ideographic accounts of events o Understand social world by attaining social data by “getting inside” their situation o Multiple realities o Thick description: how people define their social reality – grasp by insight o Constructionists provide ideographic accounts of events (subjective accounts, from the point of view of those investigated) o Constructionists conduct micro-research/sociology o Ethnographic field studies o Direct observations o Participant observation o Face-to-face interviews o Photographic, documents, text analysis, etc. o Yields qualitative results o Verstehen, to “grasp by insight” – thick description o Getting “inside situations” o Should understand in particular case what happened after the interview is conducted  Should realize how the person feels after as well to find discovery o Reality is constantly changing – use microresearch o Field studies, direct observation, interviews  YIELD QUALITATIVE DATA  Never numbers – expressed in non-numeric ways o In their view, sociology is and cannot be a science (in the sense biology is) The Relationship Between Theory and Praxis – Practice or Politics * How does a sociologist report on the data gathered? o Three different approaches: o Positivism o Constructionism o Conflict/Critical/Feminist Positivism: o The aim of research is to predict and control – “WHAT IS” o One should report what is – not what it should be  People have values o Sociology should be objective, value neutral and value free o May not be actual findings more what you think o Scientists should not look at values – so when they do, it goes away from a natural sience o Science can never concern itself with morals/values  Science should be morally indifferent o Scientists present findings and remain silent about their view – report and move away o Objective o Freedom of value o Value is neutral  All are possible and desirable o Note that o The idea of an objective and value free social science  Comes from Max Weber (not a Positivist) **  Positivists agree with Webers idea, even though he was not a positivist o Weber distinguishes between value relevance & value freedom  Value relevance: in discovery phase – you should choose to investigate should have some relevance to you  Ex. If prof is interested in prostitution – her values come between what she chooses to investigate (if she likes it she’s going to study it)  Value freedom: when you deliver information you should be value free o Value relevance in the “discovery” phase (what the researcher chooses to investigate) o Value freedom in the gathering, presentation, and reporting of data o In gathering and reporting of data leave out personal values and biases o Deliver data with empirical evidence  facts not values o Facts should be collected on an unbiased and factual way (“what is” not “what ought to be”) o Science should be morally indifferent (not concern itself with morals) o Science cant determine certain things o Ex. What religion is better but if criteria is chose, then it can be measured o Conclusions are limited – freedom of speech – Using “specific terms” Constructionists/Interpretive o The goal of social research is to understand & interpret social life o Want to know how people interpret their social reality o Emerge yourself in their lives – cant remain completely objective o Present findings – BUT feelings are involved o Researchers attempt to be as careful as possible when collecting data, not biased o Social research can never be totally objective, in the sense of “detached” from the subjects under investigation o Reject Positivist assumptions o Because they observe small groups it is difficult to make generalizations  Hard to make large assumptions and generalizations  Don't have certainty o Value freedom o They take either side of the debate o But most are in favour of value freedom & value-neutrality Conflict/Critical/ Marxist/Feminist Theorists o The goal of social research is to critique & transform unjust social relations, to improve the conditions of humanity o Agree in objectivity when collecting data o It is impossible not to take a stance o Use your views and let yourself talk for your values o Argue: impossible to remain apolitical and values don’t play a part o Values intrude even in the selection of material o Social theory & social action should be linked o Values affect what we study o By being apolitical or remaining silent, the researcher is not neutral o Power remains the same and if you don't speak up you indirectly are taking a political stance o Neutral: NO – indirectly you are affecting injustice assumption o Rather, he/she is supporting an unjust social order o Sociology cannot and should not be value free or value neutral o Aruge: science research may appear neutral but scientists are not neutral o It is both impossible and undesirable o Everything is biased o Ex. Grant for business (environmental = more $) o If we do social research – aim to change social change/social injustice Purpose of Social Research Uses of Social Research To advance understanding To investigate harmful Can be used by anyone of human behaviour social arrangements Assumptions of Human Nature * How do we see the individual in relation to his/her social environment? Positivists: o Deterministic view of human nature: o Individuals are determined/constrained by their social circumstances and people respond to social circumstances  Social class, gender, ethnicity o You are restrained by your social circumstances o The social situation/environment in which they are located o Few believe we are near robots  Law of Probabilities – higher likelihood that this law will hold for great number of people  Do not predict specific behaviour for individual o Under x circumstances - % people will act this way Interpretive/Constructionist: o Voluntaristic view of human nature: o Individuals autonomous and free-willed o System of meaning through social interaction o Patterns we see are social conventions  Generate when socially inhabited o No laws of human behaviour o Have some control over what they do, in the sense of being free to will what they will o Most sociologists—even those of a voluntaristic persuasion— recognize that individuals can only do otherwise than they do, within limits (perhaps of a social, cultural or psychological kind)  Ex. If you live in a bad area – they recognize you can do otherwise  you wont become a drug dealer, but within certain limits – you will have a higher % to do this  Yes there is free will but within limits o That is, a residual determinism is implied Conflict/Marxists: o Deterministic and Voluntaristic view of human nature: o Individuals are constricted by social conditions – class, ethnicity  Ex. Afgan women in class – you can go to class in Afgan – but women are not allowed to go to school  They are constrained by their social conditions o Ex. Men don’t allow them to have an education  Constrained by their social inequality o Individuals can rebel, resist, and raise consciousness and try to change the circumstances (VOLUNTARISM) o Social differentiation and class conflict result from economic forces o The economic base is the most important factor explaining social inequality, power struggles o Individuals are constrained by their economic circumstances, by their relations to the means of production (determinism)  You cant choose to be born in a war/restricted country o Economic determinism reflects the thought of Karl Marx Feminists: o Individuals are constrained/privileged by their gender, socialization, etc. (determinism) o Take Marxist position but apply to gender o We are constrained by gender – men/women and are constrained/privileged by socialization (Determinism) o Yet they can raise consciousness, fight, and eventually change the social order (voluntarism) o Many sociologists take the middle point which allows for influence of social/voluntary factors o No such thing as completely “free” individual o There are always constraints  Ex. Stop lights, shooting laws etc. General Points of assumptions of human nature o Many sociologists take a middle point which allows for the influence of both situational/social and voluntary factors What form should theory take? * Help people understand the social world Positivists: o Develop descriptive theory of natural science o Math models o Formal scientific theory as in the natural sciences o Attempt at mathematical models o Describe, explain and predict o Ex. If this happens – this will occur o Empirical generalizations o Morally indifferent o Value free Interpretive/Constructionists: o Try to achieve understanding of subjects o Want to understand with meaning o Discursive, descriptive o Theory should describe and interpret social life o Bibliography Conflict/Critical/Marxists/Feminists: o Normative (how it should be) o Have to do with values o Want to make theory that organizes unjustice o Want to improve social conditions o Answers the question: how we should live o Not morally indifferent Objectivist Approach Assumptions Subjectivist Approach Positivism/Quantitative Interpretive/Qualitative Realism Ontological Nominalism Positivism Epistemological Anti- Positivism Deterministic Human Nature Voluntaristic Nomothetic Methodological Ideographic o How ideas help explain social explanation *The Contrast Between the Objectivist & the Subjectivist Approach Realism vs. Nominalism: Ontological o Nominalism approach: assumption that social world is external to individual and is made up of names, concepts and labels which are used to structure reality o Realism: social world is external to individual and the real world is made up of hard, tangible and relatively unable to change structures o Individual is seen as being born into and living within a social world which has a reality of its own  Individual does not create it – it exists “out there” Positivism vs. Anti-Positivism: Epistemological o Positivist: based on traditional approaches which dominate the natural sciences o Growth of knowledge is essentially a cumulative process that new insights are added to the existing stock of knowledge and false hypotheses are eliminated o Anti-Positivism: firmly set against the utility of a search for laws or underlying regularities in the world of social affairs o Social world is relativistic and can only be understood from the point of view of the individuals who are directly involved in activities being studied o Understand through frame of reference – subjective Deterministic vs. Voluntaristic: Human Nature o Deterministic: regards man and his activities as being completely determined by the situation of environment in which he is located o Voluntaristic: man is completely autonomous a
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