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Intro1. Intro 2. Glob2. Glob3. What is Sociology? Comparison to other sciences. History of. The scientific principle. Core theories.
Transcript of Intro1. Intro 2. Glob2. Glob3. What is Sociology? Comparison to other sciences. History of. The scientific principle. Core theories.
Prezi by Piotr Konieczny
Licensed under CC-BY-SA
What is sociology?
Sociology is the study of
The definition of SOCIOLOGY
You may also find the terms "sociological perspective" or "sociological lenses" used in the same context.
Sociology and other disciplines
why study history
? Why not just discuss the most modern theories?
Past helps us understand the present. Historical concepts are still important, and are often identified with references to (often) 19th century sociologists who invented them.
Past theories can be revitalized and become modern.
Modern theories are “in dialogue” with old.
a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic OBSERVATION, MEASUREMENT, and EXPERIMENT, and the formulation, TESTING, and modification of HYPOTHESES
--Oxford English Dictionary and Wikipedia
History of sociology
Theoretical perspectives are the "grand" theories in sociology. Turner (2006:43) calls them: "not precise theories, but conceptual eyglasses for looking at the social world. Some have rather precise theoretical formulatons, others retain rather loose conceptual frameworks, and still others revolve around ideological agendas."
There are often numerous similar definitions of a given concept!
"Sociology is the study of SOCIETY."
-- Joel M. Charon, ''Ten Questions: A Sociological Perspective'', 2012, p. 298
"Sociology is the study of SOCIAL LIFE, SOCIAL CHANGE and the social causes and consequences of human behavior."
-- American Sociological Association, " Society and Social Life, 2005, www2.asanet.org/student/career/careers.html
"Sociology is the study of HUMAN BEHAVIOR, INTERACTION and SOCIAL ORGANIZATION"
-- Jonathan H. Turner, "Sociology", 2006, p. 27
"Sociology is concerned with the study of SOCIAL RELATIONS".
-- John Rex, Discovering Sociology: Studies in Sociological Theory and Method, 1973, p. 226
and there are
many more definitions...
the process of DEFINING a concept so as to make the concept clearly MEASURABLE and to understand it in terms of EMPIRICAL OBSERVATIONS (defining something so that it can be measured)
For example, here is operationalization of "personal space":
"an area within 1.5 meters of an individual"
How to deal with
too many (or no)
How to find a non-operationalized definition?
Check the reliability of the author and publisher
Check if the date is recent (avoid citing works
that are over 50 year old)
In some cases, a "Google fight" may be useful
Google fight - compare which term (definition) is more popular
this quick "Google fight" shows us that
the word sociology is more strongly associated
with the word "society" than with others tested
"Google fight" is no substitute for expertise on a given subjet, but it can be a quick and dirty guideline for future research with more reliable sources
Wikipedia is an encyclopedia: it is a good starting point, but you do not want to end your research there.
Some Wikipedia articles will have references, check to see if they are reliable and follow up on them.
If a Wikipedia article is unreferenced, it may contain erroneus information. Be careful not to rely on unreferenced articles too much!
Some Wikipedia articles are written by experts.
Some textbooks contain errors. So do some books or academic articles. If you need reliable information, only extensive research will reveal what sources are good.
Many concepts from my presentations are hyperlinked to Wikipedia, as despite its imperfections it is the best encyclopedia of sociology out there. Even so, many of those entries can be improved further!
"Sociology is now a large and diverse field analyzing all facets of CULTURE, SOCIAL STRUCTURE, BEHAVIOR and INTERACTION, and SOCIAL CHANGE."
-- Jonathan H. Turner, "Sociology", 2006, p. 28
All of the above definitions are correct.
Which is the best? There is no good answer, it depends on one's preference.
Turner even defines sociology twice on that many pages!
"human interaction" is another term for social relations
Also note that those five definitions managed
to introduce a number of other concepts, each
in need of its own definition: society, social relation(s), human behavior, social behavior, human interaction, social interaction, social life, social change, social structure...
Sociology, like any science, has its own language (jargon)
But don't worry, no sociologists knows them all.
You'll learn some key ones, but remember - there are always reference works out there.
Try to avoid using too much jargon, and try to operationalize or define and cite all terms you introduce in your work.
The term was coined by sociologist C. Wright Mills in 1959.
Sociological imagination tells us why sociology is useful in everyday life.
Sociologists ask questions about why people (as a group) do what they do.
Urban sociologists such as William H. Whyte look at
why people prefer certain buildings or parks to others.
APPLIED SOCIOLOGY, also known as SOCIOLOGICAL PRACTICE or PUBLIC SOCIOLOGY, discusses practical application of sociology
To do this effectively, you have to try to be objective (neural) and ask "WHY?" and "HOW?" about things most people take for granted.
Karl Marx asked "
Why do people work?
This simple question led to the theory of communism, the rise of socialist economy and communist states, and indirectly to events such as the Cold War and the Korean War.
Why does fashion change?
The question of why people wear certain clothes and cosmetics is one of the key questions in the ~180 billion dollar fashion industry. A sociologist will look at a fashion product advertisement and see the influence of the industry, national culture, globalization, gender inequality and many other concepts.
"Fashion does provide extra added value to clothing, but the additional elements exist only in people's imagination and belief. Fashion is not visual clothing but the invisible elements included in [it]."
Change and novelty are key the characteristics of fashion culture and economy.
-- Yuniya Kawamura, Fashion-ology: An Introduction to Fashion Studies, 2005, p.5-6
Why is Starcraft so popular in Korea?
Starcraft was marketed in Korea at a time unemployment rose following the financial crash in the late 1990s, and when a large number of the unemployed youth spent their time in the Internet cafes.
-- Dal Yong Jin, Korea's Online Gaming Empire, 2010, p.26
Why are boys louder than girls?
Girls are often socialized (taught) to be quiet and passive, whereas boys are taught to be laund and active. Research into gender inequality shows that girls receive less attention from teachers.
-- Sadker, D., Sadker, M. (1994) Failing at Fairness: How Our Schools Cheat Girls. Toronto, ON: Simon & Schuster Inc.
Why some countries have more driving accidents?
One of the factors involved in driving accidents is driving under influence. Sociologists can analyze the culture of drinking and the culture of driving to arrive at some answers. Understanding cultural attitude towards drinking and driving are key to understanding why some societies have less driving accidents than others. One of the key factors is whether people who caused accidents while drunk will be penalizd by the state, and by their peers, or not.
-- Joseph R. Gusfield, The Culture of Public Problems: Drinking-Driving and the Symbolic Order, 1995
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.
Economy is just one of a number of forces affecting the society, our behavior and our lives.
While the economists focus on understanding how different forces affect the economy, the sociologists focus on understanding how different forces, including the economy, affect the society.
Sociology vs. economics
Sociology vs political science
Sociology vs. psychology
Sociology vs anthropology
Sociology vs history
Sociology vs social work
Political science used to focus more on international politics, whereas sociology focuses more on domestic (internal) affairs.
In recent years, the issues investigated by sociologists and political scientists have became more similar.
Contemporary political sociology involves, but is not limited to, the study of the relations between state and society.
Typical research question in political sociology might be: "
Why do so few citizens choose to vote?
What difference does it make if women get elected?
How is the body a site of power?
How are emotions relevant to global poverty?
How does bureucracy form?
" or "
What difference does knowledge make to democracy?
Contemporary economic sociology involves the study of relations between economy and the society. Economic sociologists may ask "
What will the effects of a factory being closed be on a given town?
What is the effect of culture or religion on economy?
What is the effect of commodification of culture?
Are certain cultures more prone to the capitalist system than others?
", or "
How do people in an auction construct value?
One of the classic works of economic sociology is Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
Raed about it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Protestant_Ethic_and_the_Spirit_of_Capitalism
Many questions are interdisciplinary: they belong to more than one subfield of sociology, or to many fields of social science at once.
Whereas psychology focuses on individuals, sociology focuses on groups.
Psychology focuses on human behavior, while sociologists go beyond just the actions of an individual and try to understand the social situations that produce certain types of behavior.
Social psychology is the study of social factors that influence people's behavior.
Common questions from social psychology would be "
How does one's family or culture influence one's actions?
", or "
How do interactions between certain individuals reflect on the group relations?
[Applied soiology] can include anything from increasing the health and wellbeing of a disadvantaged community group; working with law enforcement organisations to implement a rehabilitation program for criminal offenders; assisting in planning for natural disasters; and enhancing existing government programs and policies.
-- Zuleyka Zevallos, A brief introduction on applied sociology , 2009
"Practical" sociologists can be divided into: decision-makers, educators, social critics, researchers for clients and consultants.
-- Zetterberg, H. L. (1964) ‘The Practical Use Of Sociological Knoweldge’, Acta Sociologica 7(2): 57-72. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4193573
Decision makers - advise politicians.
Educators - teach students.
Commentaros and social critics - influence public opinion by writing books, popular articles, blogs and such.
Researchers and consultants work with private or public organizations (hospitals, banks, governmental agencies) researching specific issues.
Sample job titles of public sociologist (Zevallos 2009):
• research coordinator,
• research associate/officer/fellow,
• qualitative analyst,
• project manager,
• strategic analyst,
• public policy assistant,
• policy analyst,
• urban development adviser,
• human rights officer,
• case manager,
• impact planning or evaluations officer,
• education consultant,
• gender specialist.
Anthropologists study topics including the origin and evolution of Homo sapiens, the organization of human social and cultural relations, human physical traits, human behavior, the variations among different groups of humans, how the evolutionary past of Homo sapiens has influenced its social organization and culture, and so forth.
Compared to sociology, anthropology tends to focus more on simple and historical societies (where it overlaps with archeology).
One of the methods to study sociology is ethnography. Ethnography involves observing people in detail, and shares much in common with cultural anthropology.
Ethnographers may ask questions such as "How does the environment or culture affects the individuals I am observing? or "What are the habits, rituals and traditions of the people I am observing and what do they tell me about them?"
A sample work of ethnography is T. L. Taylor, Raising the Stakes: E-Sports and the Professionalization of Computer Gaming, 2012 , who analyzes the culture of computer, professional games (like the Starfcraft league).
Read the review at http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=420704
For a more modern work, check for example Charles W. Smith, Auctions: The Social Construction of Value, 1990
Read the review at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/11/28/auctions-and-the-social-construction-of-value/
One of the fields of sociological political science is the study of social movement and revolutions. If you ask a question such as "Can North Korea suffer a democratic revolution?", the works of sociologists of revolutions is one of the key bodies of theory that can help to answer that question.
You can read the basics of the theory of revolution at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutions#Political_and_socioeconomic_revolutions
Historians focus more on describing what happened for the sake of what happened. A historian may prepare a detailed description of the French Revolution or Korean War, but a sociologist would focus on how those events contribute to our understanding of the social phenomena of a war or a revolution.
Historians stay with the particulars, whereas sociologist try to discover and analyze the general conditions that such particulars illustrate.
Historical sociology is a branch of sociology focusing on how societies develop through history. It looks at how social structure that many regard as natural are in fact shaped by complex social processes. The structure in turn shapes institutions and organizations, and they affect the society - resulting in phenomena ranging from gender bias and income inequality to war.
Theories of sociocultural evolution try to describe, analyze and predict how societies change through time.
For example, sociologist Leslie White proposesed society's energy consumption as a measure of its advancement. He differentiates between five stages of human development. In the first, people use the energy of their own muscles. In the second, they use the energy of domesticated animals. In the third, they use the energy of plants (so White refers to agricultural revolution here). In the fourth, they learn to use the energy of natural resources: coal, oil, gas. In the fifth, they harness nuclear energy.
In another example, sociologist John Markoff studies the history of democracy, and analyzes the phenomenon of the waves of democracy, showing that democracy tends to affect groups of countries at the same time.
Social work is the profession of helping people. Compared to applied sociologists, social workers abandon research and focus on the job at hands, for example, distributing supplies to the homeless.
Why does Korea top plastic surgery popularity charts?
Holliday and Elfving-Hwang (2012) discuss a number of factors, from globalization and the impact of Western beauty ideals to the influences of traditional Korean culture.
-- Holliday, Ruth; Elfving-Hwang, Joanna, Gender, Globalization and Aesthetic Surgery in South Korea, Body & Society, Volume 18, issue 2 (June 2012), p. 58-81.
Read at http://www.academia.edu/726850/Gender_Globalization_and_Cosmetic_Surgey_in_South_Korea
Source: The Economist http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2012/04/daily-chart-13
According to White, the image below would be good representation of how developed a given part of the world is.
Would you agree? Why or why not?
Sociological reasoning may be traced back at least as far as the Ancient Era. Proto- sociological observations are to be found in the founding texts of Western philosophy (Aristotles, Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, Polybius and so on), as well as in the non-European thought of figures such as Confucius.
Over the following centuries, hundreds of scholars contributed to the studies of society (Ibn-Khaldun, Thomas More, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and others....). One of the key innovations was the growing distinction between the divine / natural and the social orders.
created by humans
not created by humans
Auguste Comte (1798-1857) was the French scholar who coined the word sociology (in 1839). He is often called the "father of sociology", as he was the most vocal proponent that the study of a society is a proper science.
Comte stated the "Law of three stages": that each of our concepts, including our society itself, passes successively through three different theoretical conditions: the Theological, or fictitious; the Metaphysical, or abstract; and the Scientific, or positive.
The Theological stage refers to explanation by personified deities. During the earlier stages, man believed that all the phenomena of nature are the creation of the divine or supernatural.
The Metaphysical stage is the extension of theological stage. Metaphysical stage refers to explanation by impersonal abstract explanation, often people tried to believe that God is an abstract being.
The positivist stage, also known as the scientific stage, refers to scientific explanation based on observation, experiment, and comparison. Positive explanations rely upon a distinct method, the scientific method, for its justification. During this stage, human tried to establish cause and effect relationship. Positivism is a purely intellectual way of looking at the world; as well it puts emphasises on observation and classification of data and facts
For example, sociologists study the relation between fertility and development. Let's consider how the three stages can illustrate this theory.
THEOLOGICAL approach to fertility: Religion demands that people have more children so a society that has few children is a bad society
POSITIVISTIC approach to fertility: Measure the actual correlation between fertility and level of development observed in the world
METAPHYSICAL approach to fertility: As countries become richer they can afford more children, so more highly developed countries will have more children
In fact fertility is negatively correlated with development: the chart below illustrates the scientific (positivst) approach
Comte stress on imposing scientific rigor on the study of society led to the popularization of the scientific method.
Sociology emerged from enlightenment thought.
Herbert Spencer (1820 – 1903) was an English scholar, one of the most widely read social thinkers of the 19th century.
Like Comte, Spencer believed that human socitety can be studied as a science. He asked:
what holds the society together?
Comte also applied his law of three stages to the society, arguing that society matures from theological, through metaphysical to positivist.
Spencer developed a theory of two types of society:
the militant and the industrial
They fit the following evolutionary progression:
Spencer argued that society is held together by interdependence of its parts and the concentration of power.
Spencer coined the phrase "survival of the fittest", and argued that the better organized society wins over less organized, through war and later, trade.
Complex societies develop interdependent functions.
Spencer asked: what is the function of a social phenomena - what does it do for the society?
Spencer thought that societies would evolve just like organic life evolves, to be better and better over time.
But what makes a society better?
Spencer was a biologist who modeled human society in biological terms.
This approach is known as functionalism.
Karl Marx (1818-1883) was a German scholar, whose ideas played a major role in the establishment of the social sciences.
Just after the publication of Comte's main work, Marx and Engels published "The Communist Manifesto" (1848)
Some main principles of the Manifesto were:
The need for progressive taxation
Taxation of inheritance
Government provision of public roads
Government help for soil improvement
Free public education for all
These demands are all now widely accepted throughout the world
In 1848, they were revolutionary!
The Industrial Revolution was changing the world
In 19th century, many countries saw rapid URBANIZATION (with majority of the population moving to cities) and increase in LITERACY (with majority of the population learning how to read and write).
Small, simple societies are well-integrated because members of society are in regular face-to-face interaction. This leads to general agreement on values, beliefs, and norms. In large, complex societies such agreement breaks down.
Complex societies must develop a COLLECTIVE CONSCIENCE to foster social integration.
Religion is an important mechanism for achieving a collective conscience.
Weber formulated a three-component model of social stratification
IDENTITIES (status-groups) are social and cultural group memberships
CLASSES are economic and include Marx’s proletariat and bourgeoisie
PARTIES are political and include formal political parties as well as influence groups
These components mirror Comte’s identification of culture, interdependence, and centralization as the important forces of integration
Weber argued, however, that when all three stratification systems lined up, societies would be stable, no matter how low the level of social integration
Marx saw society as progressing through historical eras, each based on a different type of economic production, characterized by different division of labor and ownership of property (means of production) by different groups (social classes).
Marx asked: who owns capital? Who gives orders? Who profits the most?
In other words, Marx was interested in power relations:
who has the power in the society?
Marx concluded that society is structured depending on who owns the means of production. That group (class) will tell the others what to do.
Thus in a slave society, slave owners direct slaves. In feudalism, the nobles direct the peasants. And under capitalism, the bourgeoisie directs the workers.
Unequal distribution of power leads to conflicts.
Thus Marx ideas gave rise to the conflict sociology, which asks:
where is the conflict in this relationship? Who wins, who loses?
Marx theoretized that eventually capitalism will give rise to a new, utopian society, where inequality is eliminated. He termed it communism.
Another of Marx's arguments can be summarized as: humans are inherently good, but competition for scarce resources forced upon them by inequality in the economy makes them bad.
Like Comte, Durkheim (1858 -1917) was French and involved in establishing sociology as a proper science.
Durkheim defined sociology as a science about social facts. Social facts are the values, cultural norms, and social structures which transcend the individual and are capable of exercising a social constraint.
Durkheim noted that there are nonmaterial facts like values, norms and conceptually held beliefs.
An example of a nonmaterial social fact is suicide. Durkheim most famous, classic study was the first scientific analysis of the reasons for suicides, and he concluded that certain religions make individuals more prone to suicide than others.
Another key contribution of Durkheim was the stress on objectivity: that the scientist must remain neutral, and should avoid taking sides.
Not all sociologist agree about staying neutral, some, inspired often by Marx, argue that scientists also need to take sides to carry out a beneficial social change.
Durkheim saw the creation of a common culture as the key to social integration (stability of a society).
Some sociologists argue that entertainment, like sports, are a modern replacement for unity we had from religion.
Mead (1863 -1931) influenced the sociology with his focus on studying the micro level interactions (between small groups) rather than the macro level (between large groups).
Weber sided with Durkheim in arguing that sociological analysis should be objective and neutral.
Whereas previous sociologists focused on the "big picture" - the society - Mead focused on smaller groups, and the relations between them and individuals within them.
Weber also argued that conflict is not inevitable, but probabilistic; it is likely when charismatic leaders evolve. However, rational-legal bureaucratic system has less need for such leaders.
Those led Weber to conclude that the modern, rational society may be limiting freedom (the "iron cage" phenomenon), and imagination, as when it becomes to rational, the joy of life may disappear. He termed this "disenchantment".
Weber was concerned by the growing power of the modern state and rationalization of the society.
In all his research, Durkheim
stressed the importance of
Early American sociology (late 19th/early 20th century introduced two trends:
* increased use of quantitative, statistical methods
* increased stress on the importance of applied sociology
Many forms of data can be used to TEST a THEORY.
A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through OBSERVATION and EXPERIMENT.
A scientific HYPOTHESIS is a proposed explanation of a phenomenon which still have to be rigorously tested.
A hypothesis is testable if there is possibility of deciding whether it is true or false of real experience.
In other words, the prediction made by the hypothesis should be verifiable.
EMPIRICAL: acquired by means of OBSERVATION or EXPERIMENTATION.
Research question -> hypothesis -> testing -> theory
Is there a RELATIONSHIP between certain VARIABLES?
Scientists create scientific THEORIES from HYPOTHESES, subjected to EMPIRICAL TESTING.
A HYPOTHESES is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. In other words, it it a TESTABLE prediction, proposition and/or explanation.
A research question is a question about what we are trying to discover.
Do the economies that result from a trash burning plant outweigh or not outweigh its environmental impact?
Research question should not be too narrow or too broad.
For example, if you choose juvenile delinquency (a topic that can be researched), you might ask the following questions:
a. What is the 1994 rate of juvenile delinquency in the U.S.?
b. What can we do to reduce juvenile delinquency.?
c. Does education play a role in reducing juvenile delinquents' return to crime?
Once you complete your list, review your questions in order to choose a usable one that is neither too broad nor too narrow. In this case, the best research question is "c." Question "a" is too narrow, since it can be answered with a simple statistic. Question "b" is too broad; it implies that the researcher will cover many tactics for reducing juvenile delinquency that could be used throughout the country. Question "c," on the other hand, is focused enough to research in some depth.
A VARIABLE describes an ATTRIBUTE (a characteristic of an object or concept) in such a way that it can be OPERATIONALIZED (measured).
Other examples: Age can be operationalized with numbers representing years or days.
Social class can be operationalized as "lower", "middle" or "upper".
Do some VARIABLES affect others?
Research usually begins with a research question and goes through the following progression:
(SOCIETY is a group of people related to each other through persistent SOCIAL RELATIONS.)
There are many different types of social relations:
While on the surface the difference between sociology and biology are obvious, there exists a field of sociobiology which is based on the assumption that social behavior has resulted from evolution.
A major question related to sociobiology resolves around the nature vs nurture argument:
what is more important - our genes or our environment?
Some sample hypothesis include:
A) Poorly educated youths have a higher delinquency rates than those with more years of schooling.
B) Gender is related to support for women's rights, with women being more supportive then men.
In those hypothesis, we have VARIABLES: in examle A) education and delinquency and B) gender and support for women's rights.
All those VARIABLES should be properly OPERATIONALIZED so we can measure them.
Education can be operationalized as number of years of schooling.
Delinquency can be operationalized as a number of criminal convictions.
Gender can be operationalized as male or female.
Support for women's rights can be operationalized as an answer to a survey asking "Do you support women's rights?"
A research question can take a form of an untested theory.
Derivation of a hypothesis from an untested theory is called DEDUCTIVE REASONING.
Development of a THEORY from specific observations is called INDUCTIVE REASONING.
Deductive reasoning starts with a theory and then tests whether it is correct.
Inductive reasoning starts with a question and tries to answer it by building a theory.
We all theoretize, whenever we attempt to explain something.
Our informal theories are affected by personal experiences and the environment (traditions, family, friends, education, society).
Scientific theorists do the same, but in a more systematic way.
Are theories true?
In 19th century philosopher Karl Popper made a compelling argument that theories can never be proven true. They can only be proven false.
Thus the best theories are the ones that have been most tested and least falsified.
Theories cannot predict the future. Theories can offer insights into why things happened and how they may happen, but it is impossible to take into account all factors.
SOCIAL THEORY or CRITICAL THEORY goes even further, focusing commenting, evaluating and criticizing the society. It is subjective, and closer to philosophy and ethics. Its propositions may often be untestable (and hence, unfalsifiable). It is highly politicized, often valuing policies using the “good vs. bad” language.
Examples of sociological theories:
* Comte's Law of Three Stages
* White's sociocultural theory equating energy consumption with progress
* Gusfield theory that societal attitude to drunk driving is related to road accidents
* Sadker's theory that different stereotypes of gender influence the amount of attention boys and girls get in school
*Jin's economic situation explanation for Starcraft popularity in Korea
*Whyte's theory that people will prefer sunny and open parks
Sociology is a science because it employs scientific method
Not all what passes for sociological (or even scientific) research uses the scientific method; for example social theory works may often ignore it.
Max Weber distinguished three ideal types of legitimate political leadership, domination and authority:
* charismatic authority (familial and religious)
* traditional authority (patriarchs, patrimonalism, feudalism)
* rational-legal authority (modern law and state, bureaucracy).
Weber also studied religion. His three main themes were the effect of religious ideas on economic activities, the relation between social stratification and religious ideas and the distinguishable characteristics of Western civilization.
In short, Weber argued that the Western civilization became dominant because its favoured religion (Christianity) was most synergistic with capitalism, which in turn made the West wealthier and more technologically developed than the rest of the world.
Social Darwinism: Translation of Darwin’s theory (evolution through natural selection) into societies: over time, societies are improving.
Others: Comte's law of three stages can be applied to societies. Morgan's stress on technology. Marx's historical materialism (from tribal through feudal and capitalism to communism). Durkheim's solidarity (how reliant people are on each other). White's law (energy consumption determines advancement).
Marx: social behavior is best explained as the process of conflict – the attempt to dominate others and to avoid being dominated. Competition is a key concept.
The focus on the micro world, such as the interactions within one's family.
As Turner (2006:49) writes: "the social universe is ultimately composed of individual people interacting with each other; and so, interactionist theories try to understand this micro universe of face-to-face contact.
Assumes that humans are rational more often then not and that (inter)actions are based on cost-benefit analysis.
Ethnomethodology – a method for understanding the social orders people use to make sense of the world through analyzing their accounts and descriptions of their day-to-day experiences.
Feminists are concerned with the treatment of women and the experience of oppression and inequality.
A social entity can be viewed as an organism. A social system is made up of parts, each of which contributes to the functioning of the whole.
Sociobiology theories emphasize hard-wired genetic propensities that have evolved during the course of human evolution.
This paradigm argues that social behavior can be explained in terms of genetic characteristics and behavior.
Functional theory asks what function those prats of the social organism (social phenomenon) have for the society.
For example, what is the function of going to schools? What is the function of banks?
Originated with Spencer and Durkheim in the 19th century.
Sociologist Robert K. Merton introduced a useful division into manifest and latent functions and dysfunctions.
- volunteering has a manifest function of doing something good, and the latent function of gaining social status. Manifest dysfunction is the lack of income.
- criminalization of drugs had manifest function of reducing drug use, a manifest dysfunction of creating international drug trafficking syndicates, the latent function of becoming a major resource drain on the part of countries that engage in fighting drugs and have to spend a lot of money on doing so, and the latent dysfunction of creating a "drug culture".
What are the manifest and latent (dys)functions of going to school?
Those theories focus on the evolution of human societies from simple to complex.
See also: evolutionary psychology
Inequalities produce tensions, generate conflict and change. Classical example: Marx's theory of why communism should triumph (because workers will rise up and overthrow capitalism).
Where the functionalist theories focus on how parts of the system work together, conflict theories focus on the conflicts between those parts.
Turner (2006:46) notes that the common part of all conflict theories is inequality, "which is the driving force behind conflict and conflict is the central dynamic of human relations."
Another example: instructor in the classroom has the power to decide your grade.
How does this power inequality influence your behavior in the classroom?
Poor people resent wealth inequality. Women resent the power and privileged status of men. Ethnic minorities resent the power and privileged status of the majority.
Important contributions were made by:
Mead: “taking the role of the other” - importance of imagining how others feel
Simmel – interested in how individuals interacted with one another, a micro approach.
Cooley: “looking-glass self” (our identity is shaped by reactions of others around us), primary groups (intimate associates).
How is our identity shaped through reactions of others?
Weber's (1864 - 1920) main concern was understanding the processes of rationalisation that he associated with the rise of capitalism and the modern culture.
See also: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
Weber was also the one that defined the state as an entity which successfully claims a "monopoly on the legitimate use of violence"
Mead went against the focus on the "big picture" (structure) and encouraged the study of individuals (actors).
Whether to study the micro or the macro is also known as the structure and agency dilemma.
Interactions can be analyzed through symbols - words, body language, items. Those meta-language allow us to understand others, and allow them to understand us.
We create the social reality through our interactions. Consider:
what are we signaling through the choice of our individual clothing in the classroom?
Image source: public domain
Image source: public domain
Image source: public domain
Ecological theories stress the aspect of competition for scarce resources by social structures.
For example, different families can be seen as competing with others over housing in a desirable urban areas.
humans set goals, and chose a way to reach that that maximizes benefits and minimizes the costs.
For example, we go to schools and exchange time, money and resources because we believe that what we gain will be more valuable than if we were to do something else.
Feminist standpoint theory – members of certain groups have knowledge about their status and experience that is not available to outsiders.
How does gender inequality influence our lives?
This is also known as the rational choice theory.
Goffman saw society as theatre and individuals as actors.
Social network theory
Social network theory goes beyond the structure and actors dychtomy, and focus on the analysis of the relationships between them.
Social network analysis views social relationships in terms of network theory, consisting of nodes (representing individual actors within the network) and ties (which represent relationships between the individuals, such as friendship, kinship, organizational position, sexual relationships, etc.). These networks are often depicted in a social network diagram, where nodes are represented as points and ties are represented as lines.
A social network diagram displaying friendship ties between a set of Facebook users.
Source: Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kencf0618FacebookNetwork.jpg)
Here are some key sociological theory
(this list is not intended to be fully comprehensive!)
What do you think?
Durkheim established the world's first...
* course in sociology (1887)
* department of sociology (1895)
* academic sociology journal (1898)
Can we find some arguments to support or refute the hypothesis that societies go through three states (theological, metaphisical and positivist)?
How are bonds created through group enjoyment of sports (soccer, baseball, Starcraft) similar to bonds created through religious experience?
Durkheim also believed that religion was becoming less important, as it was being gradually superseded by science and the cult of an individual
Can you think of examples of charismatic, traditional and rational-legal leaders or governments in the history of your own country?
Good rule of thumb:
Soiologists love to ask about things that "everyone knows"...
Their insights (such as "people like open, sunny places" or "if you want people to sit, put places they can sit on" help design more friendly and efficient urban spaces (buildings, parks).
You can watch a documentary about Whyte's findingss at
You can blog your impressions from that video for extra blog credit
You can blog about any of those works for extra credit
South Korea has elected a female president. Why should we care about the gender of a politician?
How can religion affect the economy?
In the past, the main difference used to be the fields of interests. Sociologists studied "us", meaning primarily urban, western societies, whereas Anthropologists studied "them", meaning small tribes, colonized peoples and the like.
In our days, the lines between the disciplines has blurred. The main difference seems to be methodical, as sociologists prefer a quantitative approach, with tools like polls, statistics, mass interviews etc, where anthropologists prefer a qualitative approach, meaning in-depth interviews and participatory observation.
Whyte's observation of people behavior in public places (parks, streets) was an example of an ethnographic study.
What could we learn from observing Starcraft players?
In proper science, we should avoid judgemental opinions. Sociologists analyze facts, we do not value them "good" or "bad".
Why is the distinction between divine and natural important?
The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the ENLIGHTENMENT or Age of Reason) was a cultural movement of intellectuals in the 17th and 18th centuries, first in Europe and later in the American colonies. Its purpose was to reform society using reason, challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and advance knowledge through the scientific method. It promoted science, skepticism and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition, intolerance and some abuses by church and state.
(this was en early example of a socioevolutionary thery)
In a simpler formulation, do you think that religion is becoming less important in our society compared to science?
Militant society, structured around relationships of hierarchy and obedience, was simple and undifferentiated; industrial society, based on voluntary, contractually assumed social obligations, was complex and differentiated.
Society, which Spencer conceptualized as a 'social organism' evolved from the simpler state to the more complex according to the universal law of evolution.
Do you agree with this description of human nature, attributing evil to economy?
Do you think sociologists should take side or try to be neutral?
Do you think that this is an important characteristic of the state?
This is a good topic to consider for an extra blog credit
EXPERIMENTAL data is best, but difficult to come by in the study of societies.
SURVEY data allows us to collect observations on the world in a structured way.
It’s not as good as experimental data, where we can control background conditions. It does, however, allow for statistical control of background conditions.
OBSERVATIONAL and HISTORICAL data are subject to serious biases, but are often the only data we have.
In contrast, a scientific THEORY has undergone extensive testing and is generally accepted to be the accurate explanation behind an observation.
Theories have been confirmed by a significance body of evidence. They can still be changed or obsoleted (that's part of the progress in science).
Manifest (dys)functions are the consequences that people observe or expect.
While functions have a positive effect on the society, dysfunctions have a negative effect.
Latent (dys)functions are those that are neither recognized nor intended.
MDF: fewer young workers, requires funding
LDF: rote (impractical) learning, binge drinking
If we imagine ourselves as directors observing what goes on in the theatre of everyday life, we are doing what Goffman called dramaturgical analysis, the study of social interaction in terms of theatrical performance.
We play different roles in different setting.
What kind of roles?
Garfinkel: People are continually creating social structure through their actions and interactions, creating their realities.
Are humans really
Or explains that humans form families because young children cannot fend for themselves.
Which theory do you find most interesting?
What to do with a degree in sociology?
* Ashley Crossman, What Can I Do With A Degree In Sociology? http://sociology.about.com/od/Careers/a/Sociology-Degree.htm
* Paula Chambers, Sociological Careers:Finding Your Way Outside the Academy http://www.asanet.org/footnotes/mar11/careers_0311.html
Try to operationalize (define and make measurable):
2) power in a relationship
3) depression (emotional)
Love can be operationalized as the amount of time one thinks of another person.
Most early sociologists lived during the INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION, which impacted their thinking.
Health can be operationalized as BMI (body-mass index), or a compound of a survey asking one about more items ("do you smoke?", "do you have any allergies?", "do you have any prolong illnesses?", etc."