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Chapter 2

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Margaret Gassanov

Chapter 2: Paradigms, Theory, and Research Introduction - Research findings based only on the observation of patterns are insufficient - Theories seek to provide logical explanations of these patterns - Theories function 3 ways in research 1. They present our being taken in by flukes 2. Theories make sense of observed patterns in ways that can suggest other possibilities 3. Theories can shape and direct research efforts, pointing toward likely discoveries through empirical observation - Theories by analogy, direct researcher’s flashlight where they are most likely to observe interesting patterns of social life Some Social Science Paradigms  Paradigm is a model or framework for observation and understanding, which shapes both what we see and how we understand it. The conflict paradigm causes us to see social behaviour one way; the interactionist paradigm causes us to see it differently - There are benefits in recognizing that we are operating within a paradigm: 1. We are better able to understand the seemingly bizarre views and actions of others who are operating from a different paradigm 2. We can sometimes profit from stepping outside our paradigm because it opens our eyes to new ways of seeing and explaining things - Social science paradigms represent a variety of views, each of which offers insights the others lack and ignores aspects of social life that the others reveal Macrotheory and Microtheory - Some social theorists focus their attention on society at large, or at least on large portions of it  Macrotheory is aimed at understanding the “big” picture of institutions, whole societies, and the interactions among societies. Karl Marx’s examination of the class struggle is an example. It includes the struggle among economic classes in a society, international relations, and interrelations among governments, religions, and families  Microtheory is aimed at understanding social life at the intimate level of individuals and their interactions. Examining how the play behaviour of girls differs from that of boys would be an example. Deals with issues of social life at the level of individuals and small groups. Dating behaviour, and jury deliberations are examples Early Positivism - Comte’s view that society could be studied scientifically came to form the foundation for subsequent development of the social sciences - He coined the term positivism to describe this scientific approach Conflict Paradigm - Karl Marx - He suggested that social behaviour could be best seen as the process of conflict: the attempt to dominate others and to avoid being dominated - He primarily focused on the struggle among economic classes - He examined the way capitalism produced the oppression of workers by the owners of industry - George Simmel noted that conflicts among members of a tightly knit group tended to be more intense than those among people who did not share feelings of belonging and intimacy - Michel Chossudovsky concluded that the interests of the banks and corporations tended to take precedence over those of the poor people, who were the intended beneficiaries - This theory is often focused on class, gender, and ethnic struggles, but is not limited to it - Macro Symbolic Interactionism - George Simmel - He was interested in how individuals interacted with one another - Micro, focusing attention on aspects of social reality - He examined dyads (groups of two people) and triads (of three people) - Influenced George Herbert Mead & Charles Horton Cooley - Cooley introduced the idea of the “primary group” – those intimate associates with whom we share a sense of belonging, such as families and friends - Cooley wrote the “looking-glass self” we form by looking into the reactions of people around us - Mead emphasized the importance of our human ability to “take the role of the other”, imagining how others feel and how they might behave in certain circumstances - “generalized other” – Mead - Mead also had interest in the role of communications in human affairs - Most interactions revolved around the process of individuals reaching a common understanding through the use of language and other symbolic systems, hence the term symbolic interactionism – Mead - This paradigm can help us lead insights into the nature of interactions, and also help us understand unusual forms of interaction Ethnomethodology - Harold Garfinkel - Says that people are continually creating social structure through their actions and interactions – they are in fact creating their realities - He suggests that people are continuously trying to make sense of the life they experience - He suggests that everyone is acting like a social scientist: hence the term ethnomethodology or “methodology of the people” - Research within the ethnomethodology paradigm often focuses on communications Structural Functionalism - Sometimes known as social systems theory - Grows out of notion introduced by Comte and others - A social entity such as an organization or a whole society can be viewed as an organism - A social system is made up of parts, each of which contributes to the functioning of the whole - Researchers in this paradigm focus on understanding the roles things play in the larger society, as a way of understanding why they persist and how they could eliminate them Feminist Paradigm - Feminist theory and research have focused on gender differences and how they relate to the rest of social organization - Feminists question Mead’s “generalized other” and whether it truly exists - Subjective knowledge: the idea that knowledge may derive from personal, subjective experiences, including intuition - Constructed Knowledge: described as a “position in which women view all knowledge as contextual, experience themselves as creators of knowledge and value both subjective and objective strategies for knowing” - The positivism paradigm of Comte would have a place neither for subjective knowledge, nor for the idea that truth might vary according to its context - Ethnomethodological paradigm would accommodate these ideas - There are a number of distinctions made within this paradigm that represent variation in feminist philosophies, such as liberal feminism, Marxist feminism, radical feminism, and cultural feminism Rational Objectivity Reconsidered - As fundamental rationality is, some contemporary scholars have raised questions about it
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