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Sociological Theory: An Overview Introduction to Sociology.

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1 Sociological Theory: An Overview Introduction to Sociology

2 Intellectual Roots of Sociology August Comte ( ) Harriet Martineau ( ) Herbert Spencer ( ) Emile Durkheim ( ) Max Weber ( ) Karl Marx ( )

3 Three major theoretical schools of thought Functionalism: Durkheim, Parsons, Merton Conflict theory: Marx, DuBois, Addams Interactionist theory: Goffman, Cooley, Mead

4 The origins of functionalism: Geimenschaft vs. Gesellschaft Typical of rural life People share similar life experiences Interactions intimate and personal More informal social control Social change limited Prejudice and discrimination Typical of modern urban life People feel little in common Interactions based on social role More formal social control Social change part of life

5 The origins of functionalism: Durkheim and division of labor Mechanical solidarity: in societies in which there is minimal division of labor (all individuals perform mostly same tasks), collective consciousness develops based on shared experience Organic solidarity: in societies with greater division of labor, people relate to each other based on social role and members of society are interdependent

6 Functionalism Draws on Durkheim’s idea of “organic solidarity” Talcott Parsons ( ) named it functionalism Emphasis on equilibrium, how parts of a society structured to maintain stability Robert Merton ( ) further developed functionalist theory Manifest vs. latent functions

7 The origins of conflict theory: Karl Marx Society fundamentally divided between classes that clash in pursuit of their own interests Exploitation: power of capitalists over workers maintained by system of economic, political and social relationships

8 Conflict Theory Draws on Marx’s ideas about class conflict Emphasizes power and inequalities, how society structured to maintain privilege Concept of stratification central W.E.B. DuBois and others stressed importance of race as well as class Emphasis on social change

9 Two distinct perspectives on culture Role of norms in a society – from a functionalist perspective – to maintain stability and strong consensus From a conflict perspective, a common culture maintains the privilege of certain groups – dominant ideology

10 Symbolic Interactionism (Interactionist Perspective) Microsociology in contrast to macrosociology George Herbert Mead ( ) founded interactionism in the US Emphasis on human interactions and social meanings of human behavior Social construction of meaning part of interactionist perspective

11 Feminist Theory Emerged in response to absence of women and analysis of gender in any of major theoretical perspectives Multiplicity of feminisms align with conflict theory or interactionism or others Emphasis on intersectionality of gender, race, class, sexual preference, disability, and other dimensions of inequality

12 Rational choice theory Emphasis on individuals making choices to maximize self-interest Economists use pure rational choice model, while sociologists more often talk about rational choice within a context Analysis primarily at level of individual rather than social group or institution

13 Postmodernism Emphasis on diversity and unpredictability of post-modern world “Anti-theory” which posits no overarching social order Emphasis on role of mass media and global communication breaking down traditional social groups and institutions


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