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Chapter 2

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Sociology 2240E
Charles Levine

CHAPTER 2 EARLYAMERICAN SOCIOLOGICALTHEORY POLITICS • earlyAmerican sociologists are best described as liberals (most European sociologists were conservatives) • liberalism: two major elements 1. operated with a belief in freedom and welfare of the individual 2. many sociologists associated with this orientation adopted an evolutionary view of social progress; split over how to best bring about this process • some wanted the government to aid social reform, others went with the laissez faire doctrine (society would solve itself) • liberalism is close to conservatism in the belief that the social system works or can be reformed to work • little questioning of capitalism • future of class harmony and class cooperation was seen by early sociologists • rationalized exploitation, imperialism and equality • liberal=conservative in the early years SOCIAL CHANGEAND INTELLECTUAL CURRENTS • processes like industrialization/urbanization were intimately involved with the development of theory in america • earlyAmerican sociologists saw the positive and negative possibilities of industrialization • not in favour of radically overhauling society • American sociologists retained the Protestant interest in saving the world and substituted science for religion • sought to define, study and solve america’s social problems • clergyman worked in religion to help improve it, sociologist worked within society to improve • did not challenge basic legitimacy of society • university system established before sociology emerged • American sociology turned away from a historical perspective and towards positivistic perspectives • Spencer and Comte were the most important Europeans to the americans in the early years SPENCER • influential because he wrote nontechnical terms in English and offered a scientific orientation to an audience interested in the scientific approach • comprehensive theory that dealt with a vast amount of ideas that could mean different things to different people • his theory was soothing and reassuring to a society undergoing industrialization— moving in the direction of greater progress • by 1930s his social Darwinist laissez faire ideas seemed ridiculous givien the times of massive war and depression SUMNER—taught the first sociology course in the US 1. social Darwinism he taught was a crude legitimation of capitalism and status quo 2. failed to build a solid enough base at Yale to have disciples WARD VEBLEN THE CHICAGO SCHOOL • center of discipline in the United States for many years • Chicago dept dominated sociology into the 1930s EARLY CHICAGO SOCIOLOGY • early Chicago dept had a strong connection with religion WI. THOMAS • emphasis on the need to do scientific research on sociological issues • moved sociology away from “abstract theoretical framework” • macrosociological study Polish Peasent clarified importance of what people think and how it affects what they do at a microscopic level ROBERT PARK • dominant figure in Chicago dept • had studied Europe and brought continental figures to Chicago sociologist’s attention • focus on action and interaction were instrumental in the development of the Chicago school’s theoretical orientation • his experience in reporting gave him knowledge and need to go into thefield and collect data on urban problems through personal observation • interested in urban cities and race relations CHARLES HORTON COOLEY • spent his career at the Univeristy of Michigan • perspective was in line with theory of symbolic interactionism that was to become Chicago’s most important product • sociology should study on social psychological phenomena as consciousness, action and interaction • interest in consciousness but wouldn’t separate it from the social context • looking glass self people posess consciousness and that it’s shaped in continuing social interaction • primary groups are intimate, face to face groups that play a key role in linking the individual to the larger society (ex. family and peers) • primary groups of the young are especially crucial to grow into social beings • rejected the behaviouristic view that people blindly and unconsciously respond to external stimuli • people have consciousness, a self, and we must study this • sociologists should use sympathetic introspection methods by putting themselves in the place of the individuals they were studying • criticized for being unscientific GEORGE HERBERT MEAD • philosopher; most important thinker associated with Chicago school and symbolic interactionism • ideas on psychological behaviourism • focus on the individual and his or her behaviour • behaviourism excluded consciousness from serious consideration • mead created more scientific conceptions of consciousness so it could be included • offered social-psychology theory opposing most European theorists • mead’s interest in consciousness helped develop symbolic interaction WANING OF CHICAGO • peaked in the 1920s • grew too preoccupied with being scientific • lost the analysis of subjectivity—of the idiosyncratic and the peculiar • more and more individuals outside of Chicago were getting resentful of Chicago’s dominance in sociology, became more competitive and there was a revolt against Chicago • Harvard and Ivy Leage in general rose up WOMEN IN EARLY SOCIOLOGY • women formed a broad and connected network of social reformers • developing pioneering sociological theories • connected through relationship to JaneAddams 1. emphasis on women’s experience and women’s lives and owrks being equal in importance to men’s 2. awareness that they spoke from a situated and embodied standpoint and didn’t have the tone of objectivity that male sociological theory would call “authoritative theory” 3. the idea that sociology and sociological theory’s purpose is social reform—to improve people’s lives through knowledge 4. claim that the chief problem for amelioration in their time was inequality • focused on inequality of race, gender, class, and intersection of these factors • translated their views into social and political activism that helped shape and change the NorthAtlantic societies • developing discipline of sociology marginalized these women, they’re remembered as social activists rather than theorists DUBOISAND RACE THEORY • interest in race idea, which he considered the central thought of all history • color line drawn across the US and much of the world • veil creates a clear separation betweenAfricans and Whites—thin material through which each race can see the other but still separates them • double consciousness sens of “twoness” or feeling on the part ofAfrican- Americans of seeing and measuring themselves through the other’s eyes SOCIOLOGICALTHEORY TO MID-CENTURY • The rise of Harvard, the Ivy League, and structural functionalism TALCOTT PARSONS • influenced grad student Merton who became a major theorist • Structure of Social Action significance to social theory for 4 reasons: 1. introduced European theorizing to a largeAmerican audience 2. devoted almost no attention to Marx or Simmel 3. made a case for social theorizing as legit and significant activity 4. argued for specific social theories that were to influence sociology • considered himself an action theorist: focused on actors and their thoughts and actions • close of his work was more structural functionalist focusing on large scale social and cultural systems • concentrate on structures and their relationship to each other • relationship to other action systems • intrasystemic relations: defined by cohesion, consensus and order • social structures performed a variety of positive functions for each other • negative consequences: 1. his interpretations of European theorists were erroneous and showed his opinion more than theirs 2. largely ignored marx 3. theory had many serious weaknesses GEORGE HOMANS • bachelor’s degree from Harvard • argued Parson’s theory wasn’t a theory but rather a vasy system of intellectual categories into which most aspects of the social world fit • theory should be built from the ground up on the basis of careful observations of the social world CHICAGO SCHOOL IN DECLINE • waned with death of Mead • departure of Park • revolt of eastern sociologists • founding of theAmerican Sociological Review • continued to be important force into early 1950s • Herbert Blumer—coined phrase symbolic interactionism • kept symbolic interactionism alive • Chicago declined when he left for Berkeley DEVELOPMENTS IN MARXIAN THEORY • developed independent of mainstream social theory • Institute of Social Research held many Marxian theorists • functioned until 1934 where the Nazis were hostile as many associated with it were jewish • moved to America (Columbia university) • center of Marxian theorycenter of the capitalist world • returned to Germany Critical theory-started in 1920s • school combined Marx and Weber’s thoughts Weberian Marxism • employed social scientific techniques developed byAmerican sociologists to Marxist research issues • integrate individually oriented Freudian theory with the societal and cultural level insights of Marx and Weber • discovered byAmericans in 1960s KARL MANHEIM AND THE SOCIOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE • influenced by Marx, Weber, Simmel and neomarxism • work on systems of knowledge (conservatism) • creation of the contemporary field known as the sociology of knowledge • involves systematic study of knowledge and intellectual ideas • relate ideas of a group to that group’s position in the social structure • Marx relates ideas to social classes; Manheim extends to a bunch of different things in society (ex. generations) • distinction between ideology and utopia • ideology idea system that seeks to conceal and conserve the present by interpreting it from the point of view of the past • utopia system of ideas that seeks to transcend the present by focusing on the future SOCIOLOGICALTHEORY FROM MID-CENTURY STRUCTURAL FUNCTIONALISM: PEAKAND DECLINE • 1940’s and 50’s were years of greatest dominance and beginning of decline • parsons’students occupied dominant positions in many major soc depts. • structural functionalism came under attack by C Wright Mills and other criticisms • 1960s structural functionalism was in jeopardy • position ofAmerican society in the world order • AsAmerica rose to world dominance, structural functionalism achieved imperialism in sociology o supported what the states was doing “every pattern has consequences which help the larger party” o emphasis on equilibrium (best change is no change) • 1970s-lost its permanent position in social theory during decline of US world dominance RADICAL SOCIOLOGY INAMERICA: C. WRIGHT MILLS • keep a Marxian tradition alive in sociological theory • critiqued White Collar workers • America was being dominated by a small group of businessmen, politicians and military leaders • radicalism • critical attitude after The Sociological Imagination THE DEVELOPMENT OF CONFLICT THEORY • conflict theory as an alternative to structural functional theory • lacked what it needed most—a sound basis in Marxist theory • Dahrendorf sought to embed his conflict theory in the Marxian tradition • looked more like a image of structural functionalism than Marxian theory • Dahrendorf’s Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society was the most influential piece in conflict theory, sounded so much like structural functionalism • ^conflict theory is in the same paradigm as structural functionalism • though aspects of the social system could fit together rather neatly, considerable conflict and tension among them • failed because it didn’t go far into Marxism EXCHANGE THEORY • Homans • Skinner’s behaviourism influenced Homans • it was applicable and provided a theoretical alternative to Parson’s style of structural functionalism • the heart of sociology lies in the study of individual behaviour and interaction • main interest in the reinforcement patt
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