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Chapter 1

Chapter 1 - Sociological Theory.docx

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University of Waterloo
SOC 101
Barry Mc Clinchey

Chapter 1: Sociological Theory Sociology: A Canadian Perspective 4 ways to look at sociology:  Functionalists –  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 achieved  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 among people)  Emile Durkheim  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  Feminists –  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? Antonio Gramsci 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
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