Presentation on theme: "Sociology’s Family Tree: Theories and Theorists"— Presentation transcript:
1Sociology’s Family Tree: Theories and Theorists Chapter 2Sociology’s Family Tree:Theories and Theorists
2Sociological Theories Theories in sociology are propositions that explain the social world and help to make predictions about future events.Theories are also sometimes referred to as approaches, schools of thought, paradigms, or perspectives.Your book mentions the poem about the blind men and the elephant. The purpose of this is to suggest that there are different ways of approaching or looking at a specific topic. While people (even sociologists) may disagree about which way is the best, there are times when considering many different perspectives or theories would help us understand the topic the best.
4Founders of Sociology Auguste Comte: Stated that sociology needed to be treated like any other scientific discipline.Laid the groundwork for future sociologists and helped build the discipline.Auguste Comte was the first thinker to provide a program for the scientific study of society, or a “social physics,” as he first labeled it. Comte, a French scientist, developed a theory of the progress of human thinking from its early theological and metaphysical stages toward a final “positive,” or scientific, stage.
6Founders of Sociology, continued Harriet Martineau:A social activist who traveled the United States and wrote about social changes which were radical for this time period.Martineau translated Comte’s work into English, making his ideas accessible to England and America.Martineau became a journalist and political economist, proclaiming views that were radical for her time: for example, she supported labor unions, the abolition of slavery, and women’s suffrage.
8Founders of Sociology, continued Herbert Spencer was the firstgreat English-speaking sociologist.Spencer believed in evolution andcoined the phrase “survival of the fittest.”He believed that societies evolve through time by adapting to their changing environment. His philosophy is often referred to as “social Darwinism.”His work was primarily responsible for the establishment of sociology in Britain and America. Although Spencer did not receive academic training, he grew up in a highly individualistic family, and was encouraged to think and learn on his own. His interests as a young man leaned heavily toward physical science, and instead of attending college, he chose to become a railway engineer. When railway work dried up, Spencer turned to journalism and eventually such books as The Study of Sociology (1873) and The Principles of Sociology (1897).
10Founders of Sociology, continued Emile Durkheim worked to establish sociology as an important academic discipline.Interested in the social factorsthat bond and hold people togetherStudied the correlation between social isolation and suicideIn his work, he demonstrated the effectiveness of using scientific (empirical) methods to study “social reality,” essentially completing the project that his countryman Comte had anticipated half a century earlier.In his first major study, The Division of Labor in Society (1893), Durkheim expressed his belief that social bonds were present in all types of societies, but that different types of societies created different types of bonds. He suggested that the mechanical solidarity experienced by people in an agrarian society bound them together on the basis of shared tradition and beliefs and similarities of experience. In industrial societies, on the other hand, where factory work was becoming increasingly specialized, organic solidarity prevailed: people’s bonds with each other were based on the tasks they performed, interdependence, and individual rights. In both cases, we are bound to each other—it is the qualities of the bonds that are different.Durkheim believed that even the most individualistic of actions had sociological explanations, and set out to establish a scientific methodology for studying these actions. He chose for his ground-breaking case study the most individualistic of actions, suicide, and used statistical data to show that suicides were related to social factors such as religious affiliation, marital status, and employment. Explaining a particular suicide by focusing exclusively on the victim’s psychological makeup neglected the impact of social bonds.
12Founders of Sociology, continued Karl Marx was a German philosopher and political activist.Marx contributed significantly to sociology’s conflict theory.Sociologists have found that Marx’s theories continue to provide powerful tools for understanding social phenomena. His idea that conflict between social groups is central to the workings of society and the engine of social change is one of the most vital perspectives in sociology today.
14Founders of Sociology, continued Marx believed that capitalism was creating social inequality between the bourgeoisie, who owned the means of production (money, factories, natural resources, land), and the proletariat, who were the workers.According to Marx, this inequality leads to class conflict.Marx noted that a small percentage of the population owned the means of production, and were able to exploit the masses and thereby ensure even greater gains for themselves. This is the basic tenet of capitalism today, and many modern sociologists use Marx’ theories to evaluate the contemporary workplace.
15Founders of Sociology, continued Max Weber was also interested in how society was becoming industrialized.He was concerned with the process of rationalization, applying economic logic to all human activity.He believed that contemporary life was filled with disenchantment, the result of the dehumanizing features of modern societies.Much of Weber’s work expressed a pessimistic view of social forces, such as the work ethic, that shaped modern life. Like other social theorists of his time, Weber was interested in the shift from a more traditional society to a modern industrial society.Weber proposed that modern industrialized societies were characterized by efficient, goal-oriented, rule-governed bureaucracies. He believed that individual behavior was increasingly driven by such bureaucratic goals, which had become more important motivational factors than tradition, values, or emotion.Weber believed that this lifestyle left people trapped by their industrious way of life in what he called an iron cage of bureaucratic rules which led to disenchantment.
17Founders of Sociology, continued Sigmund Freud is usually associated with psychoanalysis, but his theories have helped sociologists gain a better understanding of social behavior.Freud developed the idea of the subconscious and the unconscious mind,which he believed controls most of our drives, impulses, thoughts, and behaviors.It is widely acknowledged that Freud was among the most important social thinkers of the twentieth century. Many of his ideas, from the “Freudian slip” to the “ego trip,” have become part of the common vernacular.Freud was interested not only in individual minds, but also in the way that mental processes have influenced the whole of history and culture.
19Schools of ThoughtYour book refers to paradigms, or schools of thought. Paradigms are ways of thinking or theoretical umbrellas, meant to provide a broad explanation for the way things work.Sometimes the words paradigms, theories, and schools of thought are used interchangeably. These terms are all very abstract to new sociological thinkers, so you may want to take a little extra time to emphasize the importance of understanding these terms.
20Modern Schools of Thought Structural Functionalism:Society is viewed as an ordered system of interrelated parts, or structures, which are the social institutions that make up society (family, education, politics, the economy).Each of these different structures meets the needs of society by performing specific functions for the whole system (society).The key word here is “function.” According to this theory, everything in our society has a function.The main principles of the functionalist paradigm are these:1. Society is a stable, ordered system of interrelated parts, or structures.2. Each structure has a function that contributes to the continued stability or equilibrium of the whole.
21Modern Schools of Thought, continued Conflict Theory:Sees social conflict as the basis of society and social change.Conflict theory proposes that conflict and tension are basic facts of social life and suggests that people have disagreements over goals and values, and are involved in struggles over both resources and power. The theory thus focuses on the processes of dominance, competition, upheaval, and social change. The main emphases:1. a materialist view of society (focused on labor practices and economic reality)2. a critical stance toward existing social arrangements3. a dynamic model of historical change (in which the transformation of society is inevitable)
22Modern Schools of Thought, continued Symbolic Interactionism:Sees interaction and meaning as central to society and assumes that meanings are not inherent but are created through interaction.It is America’s unique contribution to sociology and has proved to be the most influential perspective of the twentieth century.For symbolic interactionists, society is produced and reproduced through our interactions with each other, by means of language, and our interpretations of that language. Symbolic interactionism sees face-to-face interaction as the building block of everything else in society, because it is through interaction that we create a meaningful social reality. Here are the three basic tenets of symbolic interactionism, as laid out by Blumer in 1969 (p. 2):1. We act toward things on the basis of their meanings. For example, a tree can provide a shady place to rest, or it can be an obstacle to building a road or home; each of these meanings suggests a different set of actions, and this is as true for physical objects like trees as it is for people (like mothers or cops), institutions (church or school), beliefs (honesty or equality), or any social activity.2. Meanings are not inherent; rather, they are negotiated through interaction with others. That is, whether the tree is an obstacle or an oasis is not an intrinsic quality of the tree itself, but rather something that people must hash out themselves. The same tree can mean one thing to one person and something else to another.3. Meanings can change or be modified through interaction. For example, the contractor who sees the tree as an obstacle might be persuaded to spare it by the neighbor. Now the tree is something to build around rather than bulldoze.Although symbolic interactionism is focused on how both self and society develop through interaction with others, it is useful in explaining and analyzing a wide variety of specific social issues, from inequalities of race and gender to the group dynamics of families or co-workers.
23New Theoretical Approaches Feminist Theory:Looks at gender inequalities in society and the way that gender structures the social world, and considers remedies to these inequalities.There is a link between feminist theory and conflict theory in that both deal with stratification and inequality in society, and both seek not only to understand that inequality but to provide remedies for it.
24New Theoretical Approaches, continued Queer Theory:Proposes that categories of sexual identity are social constructs and that no sexual category is fundamentally either deviant or normal.Queer theory, which arose in the late 1980s and early 90s, proposes that categories of sexuality—homo, hetero, bi, trans—are social constructs (Seidman 2003). In other words, no sexual category is fundamentally deviant or normal; we create these meanings socially (which means that we can change those meanings as well).
25New Theoretical Approaches, continued Postmodernist Theory:Suggests that social reality is diverse, pluralistic, and constantly changing.In order to understand postmodernism, we first need to juxtapose it with modernism, the movement against which it was a reaction. Modernism is both a historical period and an ideological stance that began with the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, or “age of reason.” Modernist thought values scientific knowledge, a linear (or timeline-like) view of history, and a belief in the universality of human nature. In postmodernism, on the other hand, there are no absolutes—no claims to truth, reason, right, order, or stability. Everything is therefore relative—fragmented, temporary, and contingent.
26Theories and Theorists | Concept Quiz Abstract propositions that both explain the social world and make predictions about future events are known as:a. theoriesb. social inequalitiesc. ideasd. social assumptionse. means of productionANS: A
27Theories and Theorists | Concept Quiz What are paradigms?a. broad theoretical perspectivesb. specific research methodsc. dominant sociologicalapplicationsd. all of the abovee. none of the aboveANS: A
28Theories and Theorists | Concept Quiz Marx believed that there was a class struggle between:a. groups of people who worked alongside one anotherb. groups of people who practiced different religionsc. people who owned the means of production and people who worked for a wage.d. people who were born rich versus people who earned their wealthe. people who were born poor versus people who fell into poverty due to poor work ethicANS: c
29Theories and Theorists | Concept Quiz Which of these sociological paradigms has proved to be the most influential of the twentieth century?a. structural functionalismb. conflict theoryc. symbolic interactionismd. world-systems theorye. critical race theoryANS: C