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[01:920:314] - Final Exam Guide - Comprehensive Notes for the exam (35 pages long!)


Department
Sociology
Course Code
01:920:314
Professor
Dr.Eleanor La Pointe
Study Guide
Final

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Rutgers
01:920:314
FINAL EXAM
STUDY GUIDE

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E. LaPointe Introduction to Contemporary Theory
Notes on first week discussion/lecture:
Sociological theory, like any other scientific theory, rests on a massive foundation of unspoken
assumptions. This is called Metatheory.
Metatheory influences the way a theory is developed and may involve the following:
1. In all sciences there is an assumption of order. Thinks happen, not haphazardly or randomly,
but for a reason.
2. A scientist’s values inevitably affect his or her work. Values come into play simply in what a
person decides is or isn’t worth investigating. Of what use might this information be? Who will
benefit?
In sociology there are two predominant orientations:
A. Those who accept the status quo and want to explain processes within it. (These people
make claims, often, to being value-neutral. But is value neutrality ever really possible, or
even desirable?) Often, the assumption of order and the status quo orientation leads them
to support perspectives that benefit those who are in advantaged positions.
B. Those who are critical of the status quo and who believe that sociologists have an ethical
duty to uncover deficiencies and offer more humane visions for the future. Often, their
assumptions lead them to support perspectives that explain social phenomenon from the
point of view of the disadvantaged.
In evaluating theory, we need to be sensitive to underlying values and political commitments.
3. What is the nature of reality? What exists? What is real? This is the problem of ONTOLOGY.
Some questions to consider:
A. Should society be thought of in terms of human consciousness and daily activity OR does
society exist above and beyond individuals like an actual physical structure? Should we
study people’s beliefs about social reality OR do we study objective social facts?
B. Do we study (care about) legal codes, family customs or bureaucratic organization OR do we
focus on what people think about them?
C. Are we scientists or humanists? (This relates to scientific values in 2 above.)
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D. Does social order rest on consensus or coercion and conflict?
E. Is there a human nature? (selfish? caring? having unlimited wants, having a need to belong
or to work in meaning jobs?) If so, how do our assumptions about human nature affect
social relationships? How, also, do they affect our theories?
F. What metaphors will we use? How does the theorist organize her or his ideas
metaphorically? For example, is life best thought of/analyzed as a game, as theatre, as a
living system, as a machine, or as constant discourse, or even as war?
Choosing one metaphor over others will cause us to focus on certain aspects of life, but will
mask others. Each image guides how we think….as in the ancient Indian fable of the blind
men and the elephant.
G. What is the nature of order?
Individual----------------------------------Nature of Order--------------------------------Collective
Society is created daily from the ground up The image of society as an entity that
as people participate daily. This perspective exists prior to people and pressures
gives more agency to people and can account them to act in certain ways. When
for social change more readily. The “order” individuals are born they confront
of society can change daily as people interact, existing historical arrangements that
recreate, and alter existing arrangements. Shape what they do and who they are.
This is called the Social Definition paradigm. This is called the Social Facts paradigm.
H. What is the nature of action?
Nonrational-----------------------------------Nature of action------------------------------Rational
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