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Classical Social Theories.docx

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University of Waterloo
SOC 101
Barry Mc Clinchey

Classical Social Theories Chapter 2 Philosophical Roots of Classical Sociological Theory Thomas Hobbes  People responsible for creating social world around them o Society could be changed through conscious reflection  Natural state: conception of human condition before emergence of formal social structures  People motivated by self interest and pursuit of power  Collective agreement is needed for peace and protection o Give up some freedom to absolute authority John Locke  Argued that God was responsible for emergence of society and government  People born as a blank state o No knowledge independent of experience  People want to preserve rights to maintain property rather than individuals from warring against each other Charles de Montesquieu  Original state that was either warlike or peaceful  Then, people create society by agreeing to social contract that subjugated them to a government  HIS VIEWS: o People had never existed outside or without society  Humans were defined and created by society  “PERSIAN LETTERS” o 3 types of government:  republic  monarchy  despotism o contributed appreciation for cultural diversity Jean Jacques Rousseau  human beings did exist within state of nature where people were presocial  natural state was primitive condition before laws and morality  humans are perfectible  people entered into social contract as free and equal individuals, not by force o can both aspire to their individual pursuits and be protected from others by laws o government is corrupted The Enlightenment  intellectual movement 1650 – 1799 (French revolution)  Philosophes: philosophers who advocated critical thinking and practical knowledge o Built on natural science o fought attempt to limit free thinking and expression  believed that over time human condition can be improved  Machiavelli: o Anyone could become prince at given any circumstance o Ability of the masses to take control of their lives and challenge their oppressors leading to American and French revolution  Sociology born from conservative reaction against revolutionary ideas Conservative Reaction to Enlightenment Thinking: The birth of Sociology  Conservatives challenged enlightenment thinking  Guiding principle: belief in individual autonomy and absolute necessity of independent thought and reflection o Society is not a product of individuals but rather an entity in itself, independent and separate from the individuals who make it up  10 propositions of conservative reaction thinking: o society exists on its won with law and independent of individuals o society, not individual, is most important unit of social analysis  produces the individual o individuals not basic unit of social interest; society consists of components like roles, relationships, structures and institutions Classical Social Theories Chapter 2  individuals fill these positions o smallest unit of social analysis is family o parts of society are interrelated and interdependent o change is threat to both individuals and society as a whole o Social institutions are beneficial to both individuals and society as a whole o Modern social changes are disorganizing elements creating fear and anxiety -> needs to be diminished o Most viewpoints reflect desire to move to more rational society  Emphasis on importance of irrational factors of social life, offering stabilizing influence o Advocate for a return; promoting system of differential status and reward Legacy of the Conservative Reaction for Classical Sociological Theory  Macrosociology is deductive o Sees behavior as predictable o Associated with European classical social theory  Microsociology is inductive o Sees behavior as creative o Characteristically North American and contemporary Functionalism  Social structures help people fulfill wants and desires (e.g. post secondary education system)  Structural functionalism = two part system of structures and associated functions o Functionalism  Recognizes clear link to classical sociological theorists  2 most famous functionalists (Robert Merton and Talcott Parsons) prefer narrower, more precise terminology o system’s natural state of affairs is one of equilibrium  organic analogy: belief that society is like an organism with interdependent and interrelated parts  society must meet needs of majority Herbert spencer  survival of the fittest: justifying why only strong should survive  overpopulation would become more of a problem; people forced to compete over scarce resources  natural selection: biologically based principle that environmental pressures allow certain beneficial traits to be passed on to future generations o growing competition = individuals and groups who were better able to compete would survive, those who can’t would perish  evolution: genetic mutations are selected for and against through environmental pressures  Social Darwinism: societies evolve according to the same principles as do biological organisms o People evolve because there’s a reasons for changes o Some were simply more evolved or better adapted than others  Laissez faire: opposes regulation of or interference with natural processes 1. Dominate the weak because you can is neither ethical or moral 2. How can some children of rich maintain their advantage even though they don’t possess any of their parents’ positive attributes? 3. Argument equates evolution with progress and assumes that over time human society will inevitably improve Emile Durkheim  Founder of modern sociology  Choices we make are not our own  Culture and society exist outside of, independent and outlive the individual  Collective conscience: totality of beliefs and sentiments common to average citizens of the same society that has its own life  Social Facts: general social features that exist on their own o Are indepen
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