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Department
Sociology
Course
SY203
Professor
Marcela Cristi
Semester
Summer

Description
Social Theory Midterm Review - up to Oct. 7 lecture - subjectivist/objectivist - pre-enlightenment—historical overview - enlightenment Social Theory - explanation of social phenomenon - always continuity/continuation—answers may be changing, but questions persist - theories are interpretations and explanations of social reality—talking about knowing/experiencing the world - based on empirical evidence - most of what we know is a matter of agreement and belief - tradition: the authority of the past (customs/beliefs) - an inherited body of information/understanding; things that ‘everyone knows’ - ‘common sense’is culturally, socially, and historically specific - authority: knowledge of experts - derives from the status of the transmitter of knowledge - we could test these, but we don’t..we accept them because we trust experts Common Sense vs. Scientific Knowledge - problems resulting from common sense knowledge.. - inaccurate observations: most of our daily observations are casual and semiconscious (we make mistakes) - scientific observation: conscious, deliberate, systematic activity—based on empirical evidence and rigorous procedures - overgeneralization: a few similar events are taken as evidence of a general pattern—based on empirical evidence - selective observation: we select those cases that cit what we want to prove—having a bias - illogical reasoning: neither rational nor based on evidence..ex. “it’s been raining all week, therefore it’s going to rain for my picnic on the weekend”..no evidence - natural sciences attempt to comprehend, explain, and predict events in our natural environment—non- human phenomenon - social sciences focus on how societies are organizes—human behaviour/phenomenon Concept: ‘something conceived’—abstract idea/mental symbol; concepts provide us with labels Sociology: studies human societies in order to understand human social behaviour - relies on empirical evidence - tried to incorporate knowledge from many disciplines - McGill founded first sociology department in Canada in 1925 - University of Toronto in 1963 Four Basic Assumptions: intellectual starting point for research - ontological: (what is real, what constitutes a fact?)—does it exist out there or just in my head? - epistemological: (how do I know something is ‘true’)—science is knowing - human nature: deterministic: see humans as puppets—social forces beyond one’s control vs. voluntaristic: emphasis free-will, see humans as creators/masters of own world (control their outcomes); relationship vs. human environment - methodological: (proper sociological method to use: quantitative vs. qualitative) - previous three assumptions determine what type to use Objectivity: refers to the ability to make observations/interpretations free from personal opinions or prejudices - social research aims to find social regularities (generalizations) based on.. - theory - systematic observations (data collection) - data analysis Key question... “is sociology a science or not” - two current views.. - positivism: sociology is/should be a science based on empirical evidence - interpretive/constructionist/verstehen: tradition; sociology is a science, but of a different kind Positivism Ontological Assumptions - reality (facts) exist independently of observer - realty is fixed, objective, external to behaviour (realism) - reality is patterned, patterns obey some sort of laws (nomothetic) - therefore, human behaviour is patterned and can be discovered (“laws”) - social work has an object reality Epistemological Assumptions - truth/knowledge comes from empirical evidence and use of scientific method - something is true if it can be empirically verified—we understand social world through methods of science Interpretivism/Constructionist/Symbolic Interactionists Ontological Assumptions - reality is socially ‘constructed’all the time - there are multiple realities - it is subjective (nominalism) - no laws because we are constantly constructing our reality - assumes world is socially created—depends on how we explain/describe our worlds/realities - reality needs to be interpreted Epistemological Assumptions - knowledge/truth comes from empirical evidence using ‘naturalistic’inquiry, via verstehen - study social interaction in small groups - constructionists are anti-positivists/against scientific method - something is true, only if inter-subjectivity agreed upon as true - social world is relativistic: can only be understand from point of view of individual The Relationship Between Theory and Methods - methods sociologists use depend on view and ontological/epistemological theoretical assumptions: 1) Positivism - sociology should follow the methods used by natural sciences - research based on scientific methods - looks for causal and nomeothetic (long patterns of social behaviour) explanations (if x, then y) - conduct macro (larger scale society) research - emphasize validity (extent to which study can be repeated and produce same/similar results) and reliability - in search of ‘laws’or probabilities to predict social behaviour (nomothetic approach) - aim is to test hypothesis by making use of the research cycle - researchers start with hypothesis, derived from a theory, then they collect data Ideographic: can’t transform into mathematical model Nomothetic: want to generalize to a group of people; general law-like statements 2) Constructionists/Interpretivists - don’t use scientific method—reality is interpreted - systematically collect empirical data by going directly to the people participating in the activities (naturalistic inquiry) - researchers observe how people interact in their natural settings - start with data collection, then build a theory - interested in investigating processes rather than discovering ‘laws’of human behaviour - research knowledge of participants being studied - conduct micro (small scale interactions) research - verstehen: to ‘grasp by insight’..put yourself in another’s shoes—getting inside situations Relationship Between Theory and Praxis (Politics/Practice) - how does sociologist report on gathered data? 1) Positivism - aim of research is to predict and control - sociology should be objective, value neutral, and value free Objectivity: no bias in any way..by using scientific method, representative sample, making research public Value Neutrality: in gathering and reporting of data leave out personal values/biases—morally indifferent 2) Constructionists/Interpretivists - goal of social research is to understand/interpret social life - researchers tend to be as careful as possible when collecting data—not biased - because they observe small groups it’s difficult to make generalizations - concerning value freedom and value neutrality 3) Conflict/Critical/Marxist/Feminist Theory - goal of social research is to critique and transform unjust social relations to improve the conditions of humanity - objectivity in data collection - it is impossible not to take a stance (being silent supports status quo—you are not as neutral as you think you are) - findings used to bring about social change - social theory and social action should be linked Assumptions about Human Nature - how do we see individual in relation to his/her social environment 1) Positivists: deterministic view of human nature - individuals are determined/constrained by social circumstances—social situation/environment in which they are located 2) Interpretive/Constructionists: voluntaristic view - individuals autonomous (independent) and free-willed - individuals are agents of their actions—have some control over what they do, in the sense of being free to will what they will - sociologists recognize that individuals can only do what they want within limits—they are not totally free-will, they are restricted because of limits (social, cultural, psychological) 3) Conflict/Marxist: deterministic and voluntaristic deterministic - social differentiation of class conflict result from economic forces - economic base most important factor explaining social inequality - individuals are constrained by their economic circumstances—by relation to means of production voluntaristic - economic determinism reflects thought of Karl Marx - individuals can rebel, raise consciousness and eventually change circumstances—you can shape destiny through conditions on which you were born 4) Feminists: deterministic and voluntaristic view - individuals are constrained/privileged by gender, socialization, etc.—deterministic - yet, they can raise consciousness, flight, and eventually change the social order—voluntaristic What Form Should They Take—methodological Nomothetic: nomo means laws—in search of laws Ideographic: unique, special to group/individuals 1) Positivists - formal scientific theory as in the natural sciences - attempt at mathematical models - describe, explain, and predict - morally indifferent 2) Interpretivisits/Constructionists - discursive, descriptive - theory should describe/interpret social life 3) Conflict/Ciritical/Marxists/Feminists - normative (how should it be) - explain how people should live - theory is always critique of social injustice; thought should not be morally indifferent The Contrast Between the Objectivists and the SubjectivistApproach ObjectivistApproachAssumptions SubjectivistApproach Positivism/Quantitative Interpretive/Qualitative Realism Ontological Nominalism Positivism Epistemological Anti-positivism Deterministic H. Nature Voluntaristic Nomothetic Methodological Ideographic Nominalism: reality constantly being changed Levels/Types of SocialAnalysis 1—Macro Sociology: focuses on large scale institutions, social groups, historical events, etc.. 2—Micro Sociology: focus on inter-personal relations, face to face interaction as it occurs in small groups Structuralism: Functionalism/Conse Conflict Tradition Feminist nsus Tradition Conceptualization- multileveled system, - society not stable - society characterized of Society with many system by subsystems - not in equilibrium— patriarchy (economic, struggle for - subordinated position political, religious, scarce resources, of women in education gender conflict, society not result of system, etc..) class conflict, etc.. ‘natural’ - biological organism differences, but result - viewed as having of ‘needs’ which must be satisfied if it socioeconomic/ideologi is to cal continue to exist factors -social institutions ‘function’ to meet needs—if society not working, it will disappear Basis For Social - society held together - power is social - conflict will remain Order by set of relations that has and order will shared norms, material base not be achieved until values, beliefs - those who own wishes and - voluntary agreement means of interests of males and - social consensus, production have females are order, power to exploit realized equilibrium seen as workers ‘natural’ - order involves realization, goals of most powerful, at expense of others - ordered maintained by dominant group via ideology, coercion and force—conformity enforced Relationship -‘separate’ - people are society - men and women Between
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