Unit 1: What is Sociological/Social Theory?
Study Guide Notes:
• Sociological theory usually refers to the work of professional sociologists; social
theory is a broader term that describes the process by which humans attempt to
make sense of their worlds.
• social theory- talk about the social world
⁃ that it is a practice that most of us engage in on a daily basis
Where does social theory come from?
▪ social theory is that efforts at explaining the social world are particularly
necessary in times of disruption and rapid change
▪ the developing modern world differed dramatically from the traditional society that
had existed for hundreds of years before it.
▪ The ﬁrst professional social theorists attempted to document the differences
between the new society they found themselves living within and the traditional
society that was so rapidly disappearing.
-the term “enlightenment” refers to historical period of widespread economic, social, and
• this period of rapid social change combined with an increase in the number of
people who could read and write.
-concerned about the bases from social unity as society changed from the traditional to
-focused on social inequality and conﬂict in the new capitalist/industrial organization of
-concerned about the limiting effects of Western rationalism
-convinced about its superiority to other forms of social organization
All three sociological theorists shared a vision of society progressing from a less to a
more complicated form.
Social theorizing as a process for making sense of the world and for articulating
-a process that is essential to enable discussion and debate
Social Theory originated in the 18th century- it reﬂected the perspectives and
experiences of the rather narrow group of people who had literacy skills to speculate
about the social forces at work in their world THEME: what social forces are at work in Western society