Sociology, Anthropology and Criminology 48-281 Chapter 1: Introduction - Why Classical Social Theory 1

Sociology, Anthropology and Criminology
Course Code
MACS 3910

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Capitalism and Classical Social Theory
Chapter One: Introduction: Why Classical Theory?
Roots of sociological theory:
Meaning of sociological theory
Typology of key concepts in S.T.
Gender and race
Relevance of cannons.
Roots of Sociological Theories
Key questions posed by theories:
1. Social order and social change
2. Individual and society
3. Class and power
4. Morality and rationality
Sociological theorists differ from philosophers. Philosopher’s views are more static and
less scientific
Classical Theorists emphasized:
Empirical research
Ideas based on real world
Usefulness of ideas
Importance of reasons and research
Natural laws governing the world
Use of ideas for change of world
Believe that there are laws governing the social world (e.g. Physical properties).
Projects of modernity: apply ideas to real world.
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What is a Theory?
Systematic answers to fundamental questions
Based on a long period of careful observation
Systematic and logically consistent framework of explanation
Based on accumulation of empirical evidence
Series of propositions about the possible nature of phenomenon
Sociological theory relies on falsification instead of proof (e.g. it was raining
therefore it was wet. Therefore
2 because it was wet, it was raining
Generalizations about observations
Interrelated and coherent set of ideas and models
Descriptive (facts) or explanatory (why)
Broader than common sense
What is Sociological theory?
Methodologies of natural sciences
Explanatory framework
Solution to social problems
Testable hypothesis
Induction and deduction
General propositions
Conditions of industrial societies has influenced the development of classical social
Theorizing about society – prevalent in the modern period (18TH and 19th century
Western Europe when philosophical engagement my intellectuals, such as
18th century philosophical thought based on universal perspective on human nature,
optimistic about social change
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19th century and early 20th century classical theorizing by Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim
and Max Weber – pessimistic
Sociological canons
Most traced to Marx, Weber, and Durkheim (Conservative approach)
Durkheim: as communities become larger, they become differentiated; every part
performs a function which is important for the survival of the community (Structural
Weber: Phenomenology; original capitalism was developed by Protestant religion;
Protestant believe in predestination and religious duty to glorify God on earth; provided
religious explanation;
Classical Sociological Canon
Social theory: concepts used to understand or explain modern society
-Patterns in social relationships
-Individual or common human action
-Social institutions
-Propositions and statements about social phenomena (e.g. as communities
grow larger, they become more internally differentiated).
Classical social theory: collection of published works that embodies a canon (privileged
set of texts that defines a discipline).
Canons – developed consciousness and contemporary relevance of modern society, social
relations, sociology, and social science.
Marx-Durkheim-Weber triumvirate (founding fathers of sociology) canonized by
Anglo Saxon community 40 years ago; Durkheim’s work on research was listed early.
George Simmel placed fourth.
Works by Du Bois such as “The Philadelphia Negro” and “The Souls of the Black Folk”
and “The Vindication of the Rights of Woman” by Wollstonecraft are classics but
excluded by sociological community b/c blind to gender and colour.
The primary concern of writings of classical sociological canon is to achieve and
understanding of the distinctive features, tensions, and paradoxes of a new emerging form
of social life-capitalist modernity
Materiality>Marx, Morality>Durheim, Rationality>Weber, Small groups (Simmel),
Gender> Perkins Gilman, Wollstonecraft; Race>Du Bois.
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