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Chapter 1

SOC 3310 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Symbolic Interactionism, Deductive Reasoning, Inductive Reasoning

Course Code
SOC 3310
Norman Dubeski

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Chapter 1 The Understanding of Society pg. 1 14
The Structure of Sociological Theory
- Express theories systematically and discuss in a comprehensive way how far they can explain social life, insight into
behaviour and society, relates different events to general principles to see the similarities
- Classical definition of a theory is a deductive one starts with general concepts, lays rules about how to classify
observations, then gives general propositions about the concepts
o Once subject matter classified, generalized theory allows to deduce specific statements about its nature
- The key concepts of a theory also allow us to see parts of social reality that would otherwise escaped us
- Theories differ in 3 different significant aspects: subject matter, assumptions underlying their approach, and types
of questions they believe social theory can and should answer
Subject Matter
- Theoretical perspectives divide into:
o Large scale characteristics of social structure and roles (macrosociology)
Functionalism and conflict theory: 2 approaches concerned with overall characteristics of social
structure & general nature of social institutions
Emphasize relation b/w general categories of social position, discuss social evolution
o Person-to-person encounters and the details of human interaction/ communication (microsociology)
Symbolic interactionism and phenomenology examine human interaction in minute detail
Don’t categorize aspects of social structure, consist of vocabulary to discuss particular
actions of people, micro
Rational choice concentrate on individuals decisions- link to structural qualities, mainly micro
- Most important assumptions concern human nature
- Sociologists differ on whether they emphasize human behaviour as determined or emphasize human creativity
o Biggest contrasts b/w functionalism and rational choice, and symbolic interactionism an phenomenology
o First view: role individuals play in choices, approach based on human behaviour having causes and
therefore explainable
o Same view in functionalism: behaviour predictable (function of forces/norms), don't ignore peoples
decisions but see behaviour as ultimately determined
o Conflict theory: less deterministic but similar, emphasize purposive individual, groups act to secure ends
o Rational choice: also emphasize purposive individuals and groups acting to secure their ends
o Functionalists: identifying general values of society& analyzing roles they play in events, treat behaviour as
more passive
o Symbolic interactionism and phenomenology: emphasize human action, view humans as active therefore
impossible to predict behaviour& develop sociological laws of a scientific type, don't deny regularities in
behaviour but emphasize creative may people interpret meaning through interaction
“me”: incorporates learned attitudes and meanings , “I” innovative and unpredictable
Phenomenology: concerned with nature of interpretations but rather than contrasting me/I they
point to pervasive nature of assumptions, our social world/experience of society are built up as we
go along (not objectively real)
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