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Chapter 2

SOCI 1F90 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Persian Letters, Talcott Parsons, Thomas Robert Malthus

Course Code
Michelle Webber

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Chapter 2: Classical Social Theories
“Seeing” the World Theoretically
Theory-Show alternative perspective by sociologists
Is a theory still useful in understanding current issues if not then why
Roots of Classical Sociological Theory
Sociology merge as result of many works and ideas from around the world
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
Suggested that people are responsible for creating the social world
One of the first theorist to view people as responsible and accountable for the society they created
(conflicted with the belief that humans existed by grace of god)
Known for his analysis of how humans existed before the emergence of formal social structures
( natural sate)
Humans in the natural state existed like animals— but because they are naturally curious it inspired
them to seek answer about their world
Leviathan (l651)—to gain peace they entered a collective agreement
John Locke (1632-1704)
Different perspective from Hobbes
Locke argue that god was responsible for the emergence of society and government
Tabula Rasa— people born with a blank slate
God granted certain right to people
Saw the emergence of the state about preserving private property (rather than protection)
Charles De Montesquieu (1689-1755)
Challenge early theorists—Sate of nature that was either warlike(Hobbes) or peaceful (Locke)
Montesquieu— People created by society not the other way around
The Persian Letters (1721), 1st example of the sociological perspective
Books written in letter form— Persian Nobleman exchanging letters about how they perceived France
The Spirit of the Laws (1748), Montesquieu believe that by analyzing the laws of society enables us to
see what society deems important
He employed Ideal types
Categorized three types of governments — Republic/Monarchy/Despotism

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau
The social contract( 1762) , Natural State —primitive
Unlike Hobbes and Locke-he believe people existed in harmony
The perfect society would mirror the natural state
As people moved from the natural state into collective arrangements— first instances of inequality
Believe people entered the natural contract as free individuals
The Enlightenment (1650-1799)
Challenge the ideas and believe of christianity
Philosophes— Enlightenment Thinkers
Before Enlightenment- People guided by God, the church, and the aristocracy
Ideas of the Enlightenment period influence the American and French revolution
Conservative Reaction to Enlightenment Thinking: The Birth of Sociology
Enlightenment thinkers— challenge by conservatives who promoted a return to earlier times
Contrast to Enlightenment thinkers— conservatives believe that society is independent and separate from
the individual who make it up
Believe that hierarchal arranges- were natural and necessary
Legacy of the Conservative Reaction for Sociological Theory
Sociological theory divide in two Macro and Micro
Conservative Reaction— related to Macro-sociology
Tend to be deductive—sees behaviour as predictable and is associated with European classical social
Individual— Micro-sociology
Tends to be inductive— sees behaviour as creative and is associated with NA and contemporary social
Sees social world as a dynamic system of interdependent and interrelated parts
Social structures exist to help people fulfilled their wants and desires, as defines by social values
Functionalism views human society as being similar to an organism (organic analogy)
Each part has a structure and performs a function
Society— like the human body …
-made up of structures that work together for the good of society

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-Society must meet the needs of the majority if not must make readjustments
-Tries to maintain stability and equilibrium
Herbert Spencer(1820-1903)
Coined the term survival of the fittest
After reading Thomas Malthus “Essay on the Principle of Population (1798)—Spencer agree that
overpopulation would became a problem
Social Darwinism- Spencer employ a functionalist approach to explain societies evolving
Some believe that we should not interfere with nature —Laissez Faire
Spencer was against social welfare problems ( inconsistent with the sociological imagination)
Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)
Positivist and Conservative
Argues that even seemingly small personal choices have larger social origins
The collective defines what is appropriate and not
To Durkheim culture and society exist outside the individual, are independent of the individual, and
outlived the individual—Collective Conscience
Believe that studying the collective conscience was impossible— the only way was to study Social
Facts ( reflection of the collective conscience)
Social Facts are the creation of human actions, they are unintended outcomes of the collective
Suicide (1897), Example of positivism methodology, and how individuals are influenced by the
Degree of social integration (extent of which individuals feel connected to each other in soil
networks)and the degree of social regulation( the extent of which individuals behaviour, desires, and
emotions are regulated by society) are important causes of a society suicide rate
Argue that society with higher/lower integration/regulation— higher suicide rates
Four types of suicides according to Durkheim
- Egoistic suicide — people feel not connected to the group
-Altruistic suicide-People are too connected
-Anomie suicide-when society fails to provide direction and regulation
-Fatalistic suicide-when people feel that life is too harsh and strict
The Division of Labor on Society(1893)—analysis on how societies grow and change over time
Early society-individual, hard , strict—had mechanical solidarity
Today-society more freedom — have organic solidarity
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