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The Nature and Type of Sociological Theory

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Kate Calle

on 10 October 2014

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Transcript of The Nature and Type of Sociological Theory

Categories of sociological theory
Definition
An examination of the processes by which humans can posses knowledge
The Nature and Type of Sociological Theory
Epistemology
Importance
The way we understand the world around us is impacted by the way we use language and symbols

We must think critically about how categorization impacts our interpretation of reality
How do we acquire knowledge?
Senses
touch
taste
see
hear
smell
Symbols
language
gestures
The symbols we use affect the way we think and see things

Symbolic complexity provides more knowledge
Example: Snow for the Eskimos
Relationship between
both contain knowledge and provide concepts to explain the real world
Language
Theory
&
with language we are taught to accept definitions of reality
without thinking critically
theory requires reflections on the meaning of concepts and ability to explain the real world
Acquired through
Retained through
Positivism
Definition
a technical theory seeking to reveal laws in order to predict and control the empirical world
Knowledge is formed through the scientific method
Knowledge Making Process
synthesize existing theories and knowledge
develop hypothesis
operationalize concepts
collect data
analyze data
compare analysis to hypothesis
develop theory
Positivism entails a commitment to
instrumentalism
determinism
empiricism
definition: the value of a theory rests in its
usefulness
in predicting the real world
Positivism attempts to better understand something so that it can be
manipulated
definition: the value of a theory rests in its ability to help control and manipulate the environment
definition: knowledge is achieved through experience
Positivism attempts to find statistical correlations
Positivism attempts to describe
fixed relationships
What are some of the problems associated with positivism?
Observation
Are there missing variables we can't observe?

Does everyone observe the same thing?
Categorization
Does the meaning of an empirical event remain the same?

Are categories accurate and do they remain the same for everyone?
Measurement
Validity: Are we measuring what we think we are measuring?

Reliability: Can the measurement be repeated?
Major Limitations
It restricts social inquiry

It claims it is value-free when it is not
Interpretive Theory
Definition
Attempts to understand shared meanings of
social actions
among humans through the process of
symbolic interaction



Comparison of Positivism & Interpretive Theory
Positivism
Interpretive Theory
&
attempts to be value free
claims all human activity is value-laden
Weber's Contribution
hermeneutics
: interpretive theory that attempts to develop reciprocal understanding among humans in a process of symbolic interaction

He stressed the idea that it is important to understand the context underlying human action
Social Action
: action oriented to others or influenced by others

Symbolic Interaction
: Interaction among humans is based on symbols used to evaluate the meaning of the speech and action of others

Gesture
: physical movement or vocal expression that conveys meaning
Knowledge Making Process
learn the theoretical language
understand the mode of communication
develop meaning
Positivism
Interpretive Theory
&
attempts to predict behavior by observation
attempts to understand the meaning of behavior
What are the major presuppositions of interpretive theory?
No Sociological Laws
Human action is meaningful in terms of social rules

Testing theory requires reference to human practice
Critical Theory
Critical theory is an
emancipatory
theory
emancipation
: the desire to move beyond the current constraints on human behavior. It provides knowledge about ends and how to achieve them.

Historical Origins
Initiated by Marx and Hegel
Definition
Theoretical perspectives concerned with the degree to which social structures control our behavior and how to reduce controls over human action


Before human behavior constraints can be reduced, we must ‘move beyond the current limits of human thought.’
Before human behavior constraints can be reduced, we must ‘move beyond the current limits of human thought.’
Example
Anti- War Movement
Habermas
Theory is integral to human existence
Critical theory focuses on totality
Knowledge Making Process
Identify Constraints on Behavior
Develop Scheme to Overcome Constraints
Follow Through with Social Action to Change Society
Critical Theory is
Threatening
Characteristics of Critical Theory
Critical theory examines the rules of action
Critical theory critiques social constraints
How is knowledge possible?
Comparison of Positivism & Critical Theory
Positivism
Critical Theory
&
reduces whole to parts
examines totality
Positivism
Critical Theory
&
deterministic
emancipatory
Positivism
Critical Theory
&
causality is due to nature
causality is socially constructed
Causality of fate:
Causality that we subject ourselves to and, therefore, have no control over
Reification
: the experience of something that was humanly created as something other than a human product
available at bit.ly/TypesOfTheory
Full transcript