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SOCY 122 (65)

From Descartes to Durkheim: Towards a Science of Society

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SOCY 122
Rob Beamish

Auguste Comte -outlined how the moral, intellectual, and social landscape of Europe should be changed -Believed that human societies and the knowledge that structured them progressed through three stages-theological -metaphysical -positivist -development of knowledge proceeded along the hierarchy of complexity-from astronomy and physics, the least complex, to chemistry and physiology, ultimately reaching social physics (social science) -Positivism- systematic, observationally based knowledge -Sociology-the highest, most encompassing and complex form of knowledge -focuses human association on more than mathematical terms -change through scientifically informed, ordered progress -Advocate for the unity of the sciences- the uses of the scientific method in the study of both natural and social phenomena Positivism -reason needs foundations to structure its development -Three moments in a Hegelian dialectic-Auguste Comte: thesis -Ernst Mach: antithesis -Vienna Circle: synthesis -fundamentally ambiguous:-implies that it’s in everyone’s interest to pursue their ends by scientific means, but on the other hand, science can unify the polity by authoritatively resolving, containing or circumventing social conflict Empiricism -Aristotle, David Hume, and John Locke -knowledge should be based experience -foster modern science and the Industrial Revolution Rationalists-knowledge gained though intellect and intuition -Rene Descartes Observer Effect- people who are aware they are under scientific observation may change their behaviours to conform to the researcher’s expectations, and social pressures cannot be measured directly Max Weber- argued that the Protestant belief system provided a strong foundation for the growth of capitalism Emile Durkheim-helped found the scientific approach to study society -sociology depended on the observation and measurement of the effects of social forces on people through measurable phenomena -the hermeneutic approach to sociology provides an alternative approach toward understanding the effects of society on human behaviour, by using methods such as interview, textual analysis, and self-observation -roughly corresponds to the modern quantitative and qualitative approaches to sociology Deductive or Theory-Driven Approach- argues that studies should focus on testing existing social theories Inductive or Data-Driven Approach- argues that researchers should approach social phenomena with few preconceived notions and then allow their theories and research questions to evolve over the course of their research Scientific Knowledge, Sociology of -sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK) emerged from sociological, historical, and philosophical reflections upon the direction, content, and truth statues of scientific knowledge -rationality should systematically be investigated and explained in terms of its social origin Strong Program- the systematic investigation should be causal, impartial, symmetrical, and reflexive -Originated from the critique against Robert Mertons’ sociological work and the post-Kuhnian problematic- relationship between the sociology of science and the sociology of knowledge Ethnographic Approach-empirical access to the everyday life worldly experiences and negotiations at the ‘lab bench’ gives a dimension of insight into the very reality of social life inside technoscience -study of what Bruno Latour and Steeve Woolgar would call Laboratory Life -inspired by the Nietzschean and Wittgensteinian philosophes of language and meaning -enthomethdological researchers Actor-Network Theory or Sociology of Translation -the ‘hardness’ of scientific facts simply relies on changing networks of heterogeneous actors or actants and their ongoing interactions -related to Laboratory Studies -Bruno Latour, Michel Callon, John Law, and Madeline Akrich Scientific Revolution -new way of studying the natural, physical world became accepted by a small community of scholars -Cohen stresses the stages involved from initial creative to dissemination and then acceptance -uses Kuhn’s theory of an oscillation between ‘normal science’ and ‘paradignatic revolutions’ -paradigatic revolution involved Descartes, Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, and von Helmont -Newton’s laws of gravitational attraction, motion, and force led to British Newtonianism -botany and zoology became more systematic with the use of binomial nomenclature, although Linnaeus’ theories of nature and society was flawed -Boolean and Fregan mathematical and symbolic logic and non-Eucildean geometry revolutionized science -Comte argued that scientific thinking moves only gradually throughout everything -Wissenchaft- encompasses all sciences -leaps beyond Aristotelianism and rationalism -distinction between true science and proto-science or pseudo-science -importance of nuances of general theoretical assumptions covering ontology and epistemology -Francis Bacon’s New ‘Organon’- simple inductive reasoning was rejected Division of Labour Durkheim-structural functionalists -occupational structure- new form of social solidarity- organic solidarity- that integrates the members of industrial societies in contrast to the mechanical solidarity of traditional societies -globalization is the consequence of technological change Marx-conflict theory -double division of labour- the technical division of labour in the enterprise that broke down the production process into a sequence of tasks, and the social division of labour among enterprises, industries, and social classes that was meditated thorough commodity exchanges in market relations -saw contradictions and class exploitation and domination in the social division of labour-> increased by globalization, neocolonialism and colonization Henri Lefebvre-extended Marx -production of relations in the social division of labour consumption and the reproduction of the relations of production but incorporating cultural processes as well as relations of demotion and subordination -capitalism undergone mutation- working class failed to become a revolutionary agent, the technocrats brought stability and cohesion to a society that lacked deployment of bureaucratic forms of organization and the ideology of technological modernism -production rights should be extensions of citizenship rights -New ‘state mode of production’- state plays a critical role in promoting economic growth and reproducing the relations of production Collective Consciousness -Emile Durkheim: -establishes sociology as its own discipline -to understand and demonstrate the dependence of human beings upon their societies -the crucial role that the social plays in human behaviour, the common beliefs and sentiments common in an average society -Mechanical Society- a traditional, simpler society composed of economically self-sustained members who, living in close proximity, are more alike than different -Organic Society- difference in division of labour and occupational specialization led to individuality Solidarity, Mechanical and Organic -Emile Durkheim -state of unity that exists when people are integrated by strong social ties and shared beliefs and are regulated by well-developed guidelines for actions -happens at different rates and different times -Mechanical and Organic Societies: -way where individuals are connected to each other and identify with groups and societies in which they live -types of social organizations -distinctions between them identifies: • Extent (degree of complexity) of the division of labour- level of differentiation of an activity into distinct functions or roles • Extent of the collective consciousness- number of values, beliefs, norms, emotions, and ways of acting that are shared within a group or society, and the intensity with which members share and experience these practices -division of labour becomes more complex, then the collective conscience changes From Descartes to Durkheim: Towards a Science of Society Emile Durkheim -founder of sociology as an empirical discipline -believed that society had to change to become more stable and gain greater social justice -state needed to be restructured to ensure greater justice, but it would not occur at the expense of individual freedom -socialism -methodology Talcott Parson-emphasizes the holistic, functionalist, organic, and positivist dimension of Durkheim’s work at the expense of the more historically and empirically based accounts of the dynamic tensions in social life -critiques with Durkheim the utilitarian theory and individualist accounts of social perspective -Descartes, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Saint-Simon, and Comte influenced Durkheim -criticized the materialist reductionism of the orthodox Marxists- the social whole cannot be reduced to the instrumental rationality of economic man, nor is the superstructure simple a direct, automatic reflection of the economic infrastructure -emphasis on the role of ideas and of the collective consciousness more than the orthodox of Marxist -rejected the ahistorical and metaphysically based arguments of the idealist holists, such as Hegel’s absolute reason, or of those proposing a universal moral imperative, such as Kant’s categorical imperative -One must start with the complex moral rules that actually exist within a society and determine how those arose from particular so
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