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Chapter 2

Chapter 2 - Classical Social Theories.doc

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SOC 101
Patrick Watson

Chapter 2 - Classical Social Theories Philosophical Roots of Classical Sociological Theory Thomas Hobbes (1588 - 1679) - suggested that people were responsible for creating the social world around them, and society could be changed through conscious reflection; conflicted with earlier view that humans were guided by God's will, and possessed little agency (free will) - first theorist to state that people were responsible for the society around them - well known for his analysis of how humans lived before society was formed, called it the natural state Natural State: Hobbes' conception of the human condition before the emergence of formal social structures. - believed that at their most basic, humans were the same as animals; motivated by self- interest and the pursuit of power - living in their natural state, life would be short, violent and brutish, and thus, people entered a collective agreement to give up some freedom to an absolute authority for peace - government preserves peace but allows people to pursue their own goals for wealth and personal interests within the confines of the law - also suggests that because the Leviathan (the government) is the result of a collective will, the collective has the right to overthrow the government if it does not fulfill its obligations John Locke (1632 - 1704) - continued Hobbes' work, but believed God was responsible for the emergence of society and government, as opposed to human agency - wrote Essay Concerning Human Understanding, people are born tabula rasa; a blank slate - no prior knowledge, knowledge is gained through experience - God granted certain rights to people; the right of self-preservation and the right to have private property - disagreed with Hobbes about the natural state of humans; believed that government was there to protect an individual's right to property than to stop individuals from killing each other - Locke agreed that if the state fails in its duties, the collective has the right to overthrow them - advocated for the formal separation of church and state; if mistakes were made against God's will, those mistakes would be judged by God and not religious zealots - ideas built the ground for democracy and the U.S. constitution Charles De Montesquieu (1689 - 1755) - challenged the view that there was a time where people existed without society - instead of humans defining and creating society, he proposed humans were defined and created by society - most famous works include The Persian Letters (1721) and The Spirit of the Laws (1748) - The Persian Letters was a fictional telling of letters exchanged between two Persian noblemen; Montesquieu was able to write the letters as someone outside his own culture - practiced the sociological imagination, and allowed the French to view themselves differently - The Spirit of the Laws was the result of 20 years of work; Montesquieu believed by analyzing a society's laws, one could find out what the society deemed important - employed ideal types to categorize three types of government: the republic, the monarchy and despotism Ideal Types: Classic or the purest form of a given social phenomenon (ex. The US is an ideal type of capitalism) - the spirit behind the republic was virtue, monarchy was honor, despotism was fear Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 - 1778) - agreed with Hobbes, had insights into the state of nature and social contract - belief that the natural state was not as awful as Hobbes believed, but one in which people lived in equality; a perfect society would mirror our natural state - the reason for social problems (crime, suicide rates) was because we lived outside of our natural state - increase in population led to increase in material demands, and thus society was formed - inequalities in society due to others being more gifted at certain trades (farming, smithing); society began to experience economical and social inequality - thus, people entered into a social contract as free and equal individuals, as opposed to being forced - warned that although people were free to pursue their desires and be protected by the state, the government was a corrupting element, it would constantly try to undermine the autonomy of the individual The Enlightenment - gave birth to Philosophes Philosophes: French philosophers who advocated critical thinking and practical knowledge - Enlightenment thinking promoted human agency over God's will - the ability of the masses to take control of their lives combined with the diminishing belief in divine and birthrights led to French andAmerican revolutions - such thinking was very revolutionary and radical, challenged tradition, church and the rich and powerful Functionalism - the belief that the social world is interrelated and interdependent; good educations lead to good jobs that lead to higher social status and wealth - in line with Enlightenment thinking - view society as an organic analogy OrganicAnalogy: The belief that society is like an organism with interdependent and interrelated parts. - a healthy social system has individuals that feel valued and content - society must meet the needs of the majority Herbert Spencer (Functionalist) - came up with the idea of survival of the fittest - used Darwin's concept of evolution and natural selection to come up with the term, social Darwinism Social Darwinism: Spencer's assertion that societies evolve according to the same principles as biological organisms. - had a laissez-faire approach; things should be left alone, no regulation or interference with natural processes - critics say it is unjust; the rich and powerful will dominate the poor and weak, that evolution does not equal progress, assumes that human race will only improve over time Emile Durkheim - continued Comte's commitment to positivism; human actions and behaviour originate in the collective instead of the individual (conservative reaction thinking) - his beliefs led to the suggestion that our actions were not our own; no free will, follows what society dictates instead - society and culture are independent of the individual - collective conscience drives behaviours without one being aware of it - studying the collective was impossible, but can study social facts Social Facts: General social features that exist on their own and are independent of individual manifestations (laws, beliefs, customs, morals). They are unintentional outcomes of human behaviours; humans murder each other, so laws are formed. - any society that increases a person's healthy connection to others decreases the chances of a suicide Anomie: Durkheim's term for a state of normlessness that results from a lack of clear goals and may result in higher suicide rates. Mechanical Solidarity: Earlier societies based on similarities and independence. Organ
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