Chapter 1: Sociological Theory
Sociology: A Canadian Perspective
4 ways to look at sociology:
Focus on the role played by society or social institution in terms of its importance in maintaining
social order and stability.
Seek to identify the basic functions that must exist in all societies and understand how they are
If something persists in society for a long time (like religion, crime, etc.) it must perform some
necessary function important for society
Necessary to understand the forces that generate social solidarity (agreement and consensus
Conflict theorists –
States that society does not work in everyone’s best interest
Purpose of sociology is not to understand the world but to change it
Change comes from conflict
Societies are set up so that we are competing for the resources that are available and some people
attain more of those resources – various groups with varying amounts of power
Particular emphasis on the importance of status, economic inequality, and political power.
Karl Marx and Max Weber
Symbolic interactionists –
Focus on small groups – or a fraction of society
Emphasizes the importance of understanding the meanings of social action
Uses ethnographic methods to discover these meanings for individuals to explain human conduct
Founded by Charles Cooley and George Herbert Mead
Focus on the female gender and how they have been mistreated by society
Focuses on causes and consequences of inequality between men and women, especially patriarchy
and sexism Introduction: Why Theory?
Italian revolutionary thinker concerned with our sociological thoughts – we are social theorists, and our sociological ideas
reflect theories that are part of our intellect.
Believed everyone was a social theorist (we all use our intellects and try to make sense of the world we live in)
Believes that ideas about the world and our position reflect social theories that have been built into our intellect
People are intellectual beings with the ability to question the rules about society and the naturalistic nature of social life
(the taken-for-granted nature, the aspects in which are unthinkingly orderly, routine, and predictable).
People have the capability to oppose the most basic rule of biology: survival.
Binary thinking – use of either/or propositions (suggested by social theorists regarding society).
Most important binary distinctions – structure v. agency
o We are born into pre-existing social structures (including physical i.e. buildings and social i.e. codes)
o People are thinking and acting individuals – they exercise agency
The Birth of Sociology in the Age of Revolution
Enlightenment abruptly ended the traditional society of magic, mystery, and irrational authority. In came the use of reason
and search for the true knowledge.
August Comte (1798-1857)
French social theorist who invented the term ‘sociology’
Intended to create a ‘science’ (or specific rules and principles) that would allow us to understand social life
Sociology based on facts, evidence, scientific laws
Saw that there was a law in which social thinking