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Chapter 1

WEEK 2 - Chapter 1, Mills.docx

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Department
Sociology
Course
SOC 3310
Professor
Norman Dubeski
Semester
Fall

Description
WEEK 2 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 Assumptions - 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) - Perspectives also differ on whether human behaviour motivated by interests or values (clearest in case of functionalism and conflict theory) o Functionalists: basic purposes formed by birth into particular society (don't exist independently), underlying needs that you must meet, socially instilled values emphasized o Conflict theories: emphasize interests (treat as self-evident) that are primary and common to all societies and are the main reason behind behaviour in every case o Symbolic interactionism: values incorporated into the “me”, interests hardly incorporated o Phenomenology: values rather than interests o Rational choice theorists: social values and tastes define peoples preferences, base arguments on objectives seen as universal Methodology - Methods of argument and research  deductive or inductive reasoning - Deductive: begin with explanatory hypotheses about research problem, use logical reasoning to deduce empirical implications, require basic concepts be spelled out before theyre used in formulation of hypotheses o Functionalism: Merton says deviance from lack of congruence b/w values and opportunities o Conflict Theorists: Dahrendorf explains industrial conflict by relating to general principals of conflict and organization o Rational Choice: Collins defended deductive scientific analysis o Marxist: relate social evolution to material change, superstructure of politics& ideas to substructure of economic life - Inductive: begin by observing/immersing themselves in data, believe it is too rigid to start with a clearly defined o Symbolic Interactionism: feel deductive reasoning implies falsely that action& interpretation are determined by prior events and believe sociologists should focus on understanding instead o Phenomenologists: believe deductive theories by proposing general positivist law falsely imply the existence of a single objective reality about which one can advance testable generalizations, argue what any human describes is their view of reality based on assumptions o Critical Theorists: attack traditional theory for suggesting that deductive arguments can be assessed objectively and for aiming at pure knowledge, however their work is inductive in a different way
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