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Chapter 2

SOC101 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Anna J. Cooper, Symbolic Interactionism, False Consciousness

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Barry Mc Clinchey

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CHAPTER 2 Classical Social Theories
Theory tries to explain how certain facts/variables are related to predict future events
Sociological imagination seeing the world from another’s perspective; not necessarily that one is “right”
Thomas Hobbes
- ppl create the social world; society can therefore be changed by conscious reflection (agency)
- first to view ppl as responsible/accountable for society; went against Church concepts
- natural state human condition before formal social structures
- humans are naturally curious; learn about social/physical environment
- motivated by self-interest/pursuit of power; everyone in direct competition; constant state of fear
- naturally rational beings; entered collective agreement to gain peace/protection at cost of individual
freedom/autonomy to an absolute authority
- role of govt preserve peace but allow individuals to fulfill personal interests
- collective has right to revolt if govt fails to fulfill its obligations (justified French and American
John Locke
- God responsible for emergence of society/govt; God granted rights (self-preservation, private property)
- Tabula rasa (blank slate) no knowledge independent of experience
- Idea of individual rights led to American Declaration of Independence
- State emerged to preserve individual rights to maintain property (NOT protecting individuals from
warring; peaceful in natural state)
- Govt has NO rights, only obligations; if state falters, should be overthrown
- Advocated for separation of church and state; if mistakes were made, God would judge
- Ideas led to democracy and U.S. Constitution
Charles de Montesquieu
- ppl never existed outside or w/o society; humans were defined and created BY society
- Persian Letters (1721) 1st example of sociological perspective; wrote from other culture’s perspective
about his own culture; forced ppl to look at themselves and see strange in familiar
- The Spirit of the Laws (1748) laws of society shows what society deems important; laws define spirit
of the ppl;
- Ideal types classic/pure forms of a given social phenomena; used to categorize 3 types of govt; each
type demonstrated diff. underlying social principles
- Republic (democracy/aristocracy) virtue; Monarchy honour; Despotism fear
- Variation in types of govt showed the views of the ppl
- True nature/spirit of society is what it wants to BECOME (not necessarily what it currently is)
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
- natural man is man w/o what he acquired in society
- natural state primitive condition before laws/morality; ppl existed in symbiotic/idyllic relationship
based on equality (not adversaries)
- perfect society would mirror natural state -> therefore, we need to understand basic nature of human
- when we deviated away from natural rules, social problems arose
- only animal that is perfectible; ppl could achieve potential only through society
- ppl experienced social/economic inequality b/c certain individuals excelled at farming, orating, artistry,
etc; at this point, a govt seemed necessary to protect ppl from each other and secure private property
- ppl entered social contract as free/equal individuals loses little, gains assurance of protection
- in this way, ppl can pursue individual interests and be protected by socially defined rules/laws
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- warned govt will continually try to undermine autonomy of individuals and society must keep them
- ideas led to French Revolution
The Enlightenment
- 1650 to French Revolution (1789-1799)
- Philosophes French philosophers who advocated critical thinking/practical knowledge; built on the
natural sciences; encouraged free thinking and expression; human condition could be improved for all
- Rise of agency and belief that anyone can become someone given the right set of circumstances (Prince)
- Led to American and French Revolutions entire societies reorganized according to secular ideals of
social equality and liberty
- Sociology was born from conservative reaction AGAINST Enlightenment thinking
Conservative Reaction
- see 10 propositions pg. 37
- Enlightenment importance of self-reflection; challenged tradition, Church, rich/powerful
- Conservative Reaction society independent of human experience; change threatened everyone,
hierarchical arrangements were natural/necessary for stable society
Macro deductive; behaviour predictable; European classical; conservative reaction
Micro inductive; behaviour creative; North American/contemporary; Enlightenment
Functionalism (late 1920s to early 1960s)
- view social world as dynamic system of interrelated/interdependent parts
- social structures exist to help fulfill personal wants/desires as defined by social values
- organic analogy society is like an organism w/ interdependent/interrelated parts that each has a
structure and performs a function for the whole
- system’s natural state of affairs is at eq’m (stable); if this eq’m is not maintained, society suffers
- for system to be healthy, all individuals must feel valued/content; when society does not meet needs of
majority, society suffers
- Herbert Spencer
Survival of the fittest only strong should survive (coined the term)
Natural selection environmental pressures allow certain beneficial traits to be passed on to
future generations (Darwin)
Evolution process by which genetic mutations are selected for, and against, through
environmental pressures (Darwin)
Social Darwinism societies evolve just as organisms do; there is a REASON for the changes
Popular idea b/c it explained why some were doing well and others were not (natural process)
Laissez-faire opposes regulation of and interference w/ natural processes; let things be
This concept ignores inherited social disadvantages and discrimination
Justify colonial expansion
Children of rich maintain advantage despite lacking parents’ attributes
Equates evolution w/ progress; human society will continually improve (are we better off
now then we were 10 000 years ago?)
- Emile Durkheim
Human actions originate in collective (not individual)
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