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Sociological Theories and Research Methods SSU 3207

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Title: Sociological Theories and Research Methods SSU 3207


1
Sociological Theoriesand Research MethodsSSU
3207
  • Harini Amarasuriya
  • Email tantalus_at_sltnet.lk

2
Objectives of Presentation
  • To offer a guide to reading and understanding the
    course material
  • To outline key concepts in sociological theory
  • To promote an interest in critical thinking with
    regard to theoretical perspectives

3
Why study society?
  • Curiosity about how humans organise themselves
    and their lives
  • An attempt to understand key issues around us
  • An attempt to see if we can intervene
    meaningfully in the critical issues of our times
  • Human beings can be the most difficult and yet
    most interesting subjects of study for those with
    a curiosity about life and our fellow beings!
  • Caution If you really get into this area of
    study, your perspectives and approach to life
    will change fundamentally

4
What is a sociological outlook?
  • Sociology offers a way of looking at the world in
    a broad way asks why we are the way that we are,
    why we act as we do.
  • It teaches us to question what we take for
    granted as truth natural or good and to
    regard such things as influenced by historical
    and social forces
  • The sociological imagination makes us look at
    the familiar in different ways
  • We look at social contexts and social structures
    that help us to understand the ways in which
    social forces influence us but also how our
    actions shape social forces

5
What is a theoretical perspective?
  • In sociology, theories help us to explain social
    phenomenon
  • Theories contain certain things such as
  • Hypotheses-a proposition to test a generalisation
    about a phenomenon
  • A certain logic
  • Empirical facts- that is facts that are derived
    from systematic observation or experience

6
Is a science of society possible?
  • What we have is a range of abstract, general
    approaches, competing and complementary schools
    of thought, intellectual paradigms, and
    conceptual schemes. The different approaches
    sometimes emphasise different aspects of social
    reality or phenomenon or sometimes can even
    offer competing approaches. We generally
    distinguish between different approaches in
    relation to
  • Issues of epistemology
  • Issues of ontology
  • Issues of methodology

7
Epistemology, ontology and methodology
  • Epistemology the branch of philosophy concerned
    with the theory (or theories) of knowledge or in
    other words seeks to inform us about the ways in
    which to know the world
  • Ontology the branch of philosophy which tells us
    what can be studied-establishes what kinds of
    things exist.
  • Methodology the investigative techniques within
    a theoretical approach

8
Examples of different approaches
9
Theoretical Divisions within Sociology
  • Functionalism

10
Auguste Comte
  • French social thinker credited with coining the
    term sociology
  • Believed and worked towards establishing a
    science of society based on the principles and
    techniques of the natural sciences thus
    sociology would discover the laws of the social
    world that explain its functioning
  • Goal was to establish a social science that would
    form the basis of understanding society and also
    bringing about radical reform to shape our
    destiny and improve human welfare
  • He was a positivist

11
Influential concepts
  • Saw society as progressing through 3 stages
  • Theological society an expression of Gods will
  • Metaphysical Society seen as natural not
    supernatural
  • Positive (his own) application of scientific
    techniques to the social world
  • Was concerned with a question of social order,
    especially in relation to the inequalities
    created by industrialisation
  • Viewed society as an organism made up of
    different parts each with its own function in
    relation to each other- hence his influence on
    functionalism
  • Wanted to establish a religion of humanity
    where sociology would be the heart of this new
    religion.

12
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13
Herbert Spencer
  • Very much influenced by his commitment to
    economic individualism and the free market
  • Had an early interest in geology and then drawn
    to evolutionary theories
  • The popular phrase survival of the fittest was
    actually coined by Spencer, not Darwin as it is
    widely believed!
  • Uncritical assumption that biological science
    could provide the appropriate concepts for
    studying social phenomenon

14
Influential ideas
  • Social Darwinism
  • Evolutionary principle a law of universal
    applicability
  • Social systems move towards increasing
    differentiation and integration of structures
  • They move from a state where their constituent
    parts were homogenous and loosely cohering to one
    where they were increasingly heterogeneous and
    integrated
  • Influenced the structural functionalism approach
    especially of Talcott Parsons

15
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16
Vilfredo Pareto
  • An Engineer who turned to Sociology in his later
    years
  • Attempted to apply the principles of mechanical
    systems in equilibrium to social systems, an
    approach which influenced Parsons.
  • Best known for his work on political elites
    although he first gained recognition as an
    economist for his work on the distribution of
    income (Pareto optimality)
  • Major focus of his sociological analysis was on
    social differentiation as an enduring feature of
    social and political life
  • His later work reflects his disillusionment with
    liberal as well as Marxian conceptions. His
    ideas influenced Fascism and Mussolini in
    particular used Pareto to give intellectual
    credence to his regime, although Pareto himself
    was critical of the more extreme Fascist
    practices.

17
Basic Principles in Paretos social theory
  • People are irrational and act on the basis of non
    logical sentiments (residues)
  • The content and form (ideology) that justifies
    human acts are known as derivations
  • Residues are rooted in the basic aspirations and
    drives of people
  • Pareto identified 6 classes of residues of which
    Class 1 and Class 2 are the most important

18
Pareto contd
  • Class 1- innovative (Foxes)
  • Class 2- conservative (Lions)
  • Equilibrium is reached in a society when there
    are equal numbers of foxes and lions within the
    governing elite if it gets too lopsided (i.e.
    there are too many of one type) one elite will be
    replaced by another (circulation of elites)
  • Thus according to Pareto, social organisations
    including states are always governed by a ruling
    elite
  • This is a cyclical process that is inevitable

19
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20
Durkheim
  • Along with Marx and Weber, Durkheim forms the
    triumvirate of major sociologists who most
    influenced the establishment and shape of the
    discipline
  • Also, like other great thinkers of his time,
    Durkheims work was characterised by a sense that
    European society was in a state of crisis and the
    need to explain this state of crisis or the
    profound changes in society at the time

21
Science vs. Religion
  • One of the fundamental questions of the time was
    to do with the relationship between science and
    religion
  • During this era, Science was seen as the model
    for precise thinking or even the only model for
    valid thinking
  • Durkheim too believed in the validity and
    possibilities of Science and believed himself to
    be a Scientist
  • The question that also confronted him and others
    like him was their belief that societies can only
    maintain their coherence and stability through
    common beliefs-which was traditionally provided
    by religion
  • However, traditional religion was being
    challenged by Scientific ideas
  • Durkheim believed that the crisis of modern
    society had been created by the non replacement
    of traditional moralities based on religion
  • He believed in a morality that could be based on
    Science and that Sociology could help establish
    such a morality

22
The Division of Labour in Society
  • The major theme of Durkheims work is an attempt
    to understand the link between the individual and
    the collective
  • How can a multiplicity of individuals make up a
    society?
  • How can individuals achieve (what he believed was
    a condition of social existence), consensus?

23
Mechanical solidarity
  • A solidarity of resemblance
  • Individuals differ from each other as little as
    possible
  • Members are bound together by common experiences
    and shared beliefs
  • They feel the same emotions, cherish the same
    values and hold the same things sacred a common
    collective conscience
  • Little room for dissent those challenging
    conventional thinking will be swiftly punished

24
Organic Solidarity
  • Consensus is expressed by differentiation
  • Specialisation of tasks and increasing social
    differentiation as a result of industrialisation
    and urbanisation
  • Individuals are not the same
  • Durkheim called this type of solidarity organic
    because he used the analogy of a living organism
    the parts of a living organism do not resemble
    each other they each perform a different
    function but it is precisely because they each
    perform a different function that they are
    indispensable to each other
  • Society is held together through economic
    interdependence and a recognition of others
    contributions
  • However, rapid and intense processes of change in
    the modern world give rise to social
    difficulties-anomie a feeling of aimlessness or
    despair

25
Types of Social Organisation
  • The two forms of solidarity represent two types
    of social organisation
  • Mechanical solidarity primitive or segmental
    societies
  • Individual members are interchangeable
  • Each segment (e.g. tribe) is locally situated,
    relatively isolated from each other and leads its
    own life
  • It is self sufficient
  • Organic solidarity-modern society
  • Members are more individualised and not
    interchangeable

26
Collective conscience
  • The body of beliefs and sentiments common to the
    average of the members of a society
  • Is separable from individual consciousness
  • In societies where mechanical solidarity
    predominates collective conscience is a strong
    force
  • The experience of the collective conscience is
    intense as well as precise in societies with
    mechanical solidarity

27
Cont
  • In contrast, in societies with organic
    solidarity, individuals are free to believe,
    desire, and to act according to his/her own
    preferences
  • In such societies the sphere of influence of the
    collective conscience is reduced and there is a
    greater margin for the individual interpretation
    of social norms and values

28
Punishment
  • Durkheim identifies two types of law each of
    which is characteristic of one of the types of
    solidarity
  • Repressive law- punishes misdeeds or crimes
  • Restitutive law- restores things to an order when
    a crime has been committed
  • The purpose of punishment is to satisfy the
    collective conscience and to maintain an ordered
    coexistence among individuals who are
    differentiated

29
Primacy of society over the individual
  • Social facts are things social life could be
    analysed as rigorously as objects and events in
    nature
  • Social facts are ways of thinking, acting or
    feeling which are external to the individual
  • Social facts exercise a coercive power over
    individuals
  • Individual is born of society not society of the
    individual
  • Irreducibility of the social entity to the sum of
    its elements
  • Two essential ideas
  • Collectivist societies come first in time
  • Individual phenomena can only be explained by the
    state of the collectivity and not the state of
    the collectivity by the individual

30
Social phenomena can only be explained by other
social phenomena
  • Division of labour being a social phenomenon can
    only be explained by another social phenomenon
  • Material and moral density of society
  • Volume number
  • Moral density intensity of communication
    between individuals
  • Social differentiation is the peaceful solution
    to the struggle for survival
  • Individual is the expression of the collectivity
    itself

31
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32
The Anthropological Tradition
  • Anthropology studies the structures and cultures
    produced by humans
  • Traditionally the difference between sociology
    and anthropology was in terms of emphasis and
    methodology
  • Emphasis-
  • Sociologists study their own societies and
    anthropologists study the other.
  • Methodology-
  • Ethnography and participant observation
  • Thick description

33
Radcliffe Brown
  • Part of the tradition of anthropologists studying
    exotic locations. In his case, field sites
    were the Andaman Islands and Australia
  • Credited with founding the British tradition of
    social anthropology in the structural
    functionalist tradition
  • Major contribution to the study of kinship
    systems- and the function of kinship systems in
    ascribing normative behaviour to various
    relationships

34
Malinowski
  • Most influential in setting the ideal of field
    work and the methodology of ethnography long
    term immersion in the community being studied,
    fluent knowledge of local language and
    participating in everyday culture and practices
  • His own fieldwork was in New Guinea and the
    Trobriand Islands
  • Famous Work Argonauts of the Western Pacific,
    describing in great empirical detail the
    intricate trading system of the Trobriands,
    including the kula system and its function in
    maintaining stability among the communities

35
Structural Functionalism
36
Basic principles and approach
  • Society is a complex system whose various parts
    work together to produce stability and solidarity
  • Functionalist perspectives study the relationship
    of the different parts of society to each other
    and to society as a whole
  • Functionalists use an organic analogy to compare
    the operation of society to that of a living
    organism
  • Emphasises the importance of moral consensus in
    maintaining order and stability
  • Moral consensus exists when there are common
    values
  • Functionalists consider social equilibrium to be
    the normal state of society minimising factors
    such as class, gender, and ethnicity which create
    divisions or inequalities in society

37
Talcott Parsons
  • Leading American sociologist of the 20th century
    and leading exponent of structural functionalism
  • Structural functionalism conceptualises societies
    as social systems. Social structures are
    explained in terms of their contribution to the
    maintenance of these systems.
  • Eg Religious rituals perform the function of
    ensuring social integration
  • Worked towards formulating a single, coherent,
    analytical theory of social action
  • Was concerned with the problem of social order
    and the maintenance of social stability
  • Considered the United States the lead society
    which occupied the pinnacle of evolutionary
    societies
  • Interestingly, (and rather tellingly) completely
    ignored the work of Marx

38
Main characteristics of Parsons theory
  • Social action is voluntaristic-not automatic
    response to external stimuli or due to coercion
    or self interest
  • Actors are individuals
  • They are goal seeking
  • Also possess alternative means to achieve goals
  • Actors are faced with different situational
    conditions that influence the selection of goals
    and means
  • People act on the basis of their values which are
    shaped by the norms around them-thus integration
    and social order is maintained.
  • Peoples actions (means to achieve goals) are
    therefore based on subjective decisions that are
    constrained by situational conditions

39
Social System
  • Presented a social order which presents societies
    as internally interrelated and self sustaining
    social systems
  • Personality system
  • Social system
  • Cultural system

40
The Social System
  • There are provisions (functional pre requisites)
    that all societies are required to make in order
    for any society to come into existence and
    survive
  • Adaptation
  • Securing sufficient resources from the
    environment and distributing throughout the
    system (the economy)
  • Goal attainment
  • Establishing and attaining system goals (the
    polity of the government)
  • Integration
  • Coordinating and maintaining inter relationships
    among system units (communities, associations,
    organisations)
  • Latency
  • Pattern maintenance-maintaining commitment to
    values (family, household, school)

41
Neo evolutionary model of social development
  • Functionalist account of social change
  • Stages of social development are characterised by
  • Degree of structural differentiation achieved
  • Adaptive capacity-evolution into more adaptive
    systems
  • Inclusion-inclusion of elements previously
    excluded
  • Value generalisation-increasing the legitimation
    of more complex systems

42
Robert Merton
  • Tried to bridge the gap between Parsons abstract
    theory and empirical survey work
  • Mertons alternative to abstract theory middle
    range theories- theories that are close to
    observed data and are empirically tested

43
Mertons critique of Functionalism
  • Merton critiqued 3 postulates within
    functionalism
  • The idea of functional unity, which argues that
    social institutions work together in order to
    promote social integration
  • The idea of functional universality that posits
    that all social and cultural practices and
    institutions have positive functions
  • The idea of indispensability where each custom,
    belief fulfils a vital function

44
Alternative functional analysis proposed by Merton
  • Description of the social or cultural item
  • Understanding the meaning and significance of the
    social or cultural item to the group
  • Understanding different motives for conformity or
    deviance
  • Understanding the unintended consequences or
    latent functions of social and cultural items

45
Manifest and latent functions
  • Manifest functions functions of a social system
    which are intended or overtly recognised by the
    participants
  • Latent functions functions which are hidden and
    remain unacknowledged by participants
  • Eg Funeral rites

46
Deviance
  • Deviance is a result of the mismatch between
    cultural goals and institutional norms in a
    society
  • Eg Sri Lankan cultural goal of hospitality vs
    institutional norms/means of modern economics

47
Mertons deviance typology
Rebellion
Cultural goals
conformity
Innovation
Retreatism
Ritualism
Institutional means
48
Conflict Theory
49
Basic principles and approaches
  • Like functionalists this perspective too
    emphasises the importance of structures within
    society and propose models to explain how
    society functions
  • Unlike functionalisms emphasis on consensus, the
    emphasis here is on divisions in society
  • Thus, they highlight issues of power, inequality
    and struggle
  • Society is viewed as consisting of different
    interest groups each pursuing their own interests
  • Thus, potential for conflict always exists and
    some groups benefit more than others
  • Conflict theorists explore the tensions between
    different groups and seek to understand how
    relationships of control are established and
    perpetuated

50
Karl Marx
  • Along with Durkheim and Weber, Marx had a
    profound influence on the development of
    sociology
  • Marx believed that society should be studied in
    order to change it
  • The philosophers have only interpreted the
    world the point is to change it

51
Overview of Marxian theory
  • Marx attempted to
  • Understand and explain human condition,
    especially in capitalist societies
  • To describe the working of capitalist society and
    its impact on human relations
  • To provide a theory of historical change (known
    as historical materialism) of which capitalism
    was one phase

52
Fundamental ideas
  • The economy is a primary influence in the
    formation and development of social structures
    and ideas. In other words, material life
    determines social life and human consciousness
  • Base structure-economic relations
  • Super structure-political and legal institutions.
    These are substantially determined by economic
    relations or the base structure
  • Human development is dialectical- it develops
    through a process of contradictions and
    resolutions.
  • The human condition in industrial capitalist
    societies is characterised by alienation. Human
    beings are estranged from their world, work,
    products, fellow creatures and themselves as a
    result of capitalist modes of production

53
Basic Concepts of Marx
54
The Labour Theory of Value
  • Provides an analysis of capitalist profit as the
    extraction of surplus value from the exploitation
    of the proletariat (worker)
  • Commodities
  • Commodities are necessary to satisfy human needs
  • Commodities are external objects produced for
    exchange in the market
  • Two conditions are necessary for commodity
    production
  • Market
  • Social division of labour-different people need
    to produce different goods for exchange

55
  • There are two types of values for commodities
  • Consumption value (also known as use value)
  • Exchange value, which is calculated on the basis
    of labour time required to produce it
  • Thus, the value of a commodity is determined by
    the quantity of socially necessary labour time
    required to produce it

56
Surplus Value
  • Under capitalist modes of production, commodities
    are not merely exchanged but capital is advanced
    in the form of money with the purpose of
    generating profit by purchasing commodities and
    transforming them into other commodities which
    can be sold for a higher price, thus yielding a
    profit

57
  • There are two types of capital
  • Constant capital-raw material, buildings etc
  • Variable capital- labour power
  • Surplus value (profit) is created by variable
    capital
  • The value of labour power is calculated on the
    basis of the value of commodities needed to keep
    a worker alive for a day
  • This is necessary labour-labour that is needed to
    produce the value of commodities necessary for
    him or her to keep alive for a day-and this is
    what he or she gets paid
  • Surplus value is the labour power which is over
    and above the necessary labour
  • This is the source of profit for capitalists
    exploitation of labour

58
Historical materialism
  • Ideas and values are not the source of social
    change but economic influences
  • Humans are essentially productive and must
    therefore produce their means of subsistence in
    order to satisfy their material needs
  • This requires certain forms of society and means
    of production, modes of cooperation
  • Types of modes of production
  • Primitive communist
  • Slavery
  • Feudalism
  • Capitalism
  • Classless society

59
  • Each mode of production gives rise to particular
    forms of relations between different classes
  • New modes of production produce new social groups
    with new forms of relations
  • Change occurs when existing relations of
    production strangle new developments provoking
    the class associated with the new development to
    overthrow old system and replace with a new one
  • Social class conflict leads to transformation of
    existing relations of productions and the
    creation of new modes of production and relations
    of production
  • Believed in the inevitability of the workers
    revolution which would usher in a society where
    the economic system would come under communal
    ownership and a more humane society would be
    established

60
Class conflict
  • Human consciousness is developed as a result of
    material consciousness
  • Marxs idea of class refer to those who share a
    common interest because they share a common
    relationship to the means of production
  • Each mode of production creates its own relations
    of production which is maintained by a dominant
    class
  • Thus capitalist societies have those who own the
    capital (capitalists) who form the ruling class
    and wage workers or working class who provide
    wage labour to the capitalist class
  • Dominant classes (those who own and control the
    means of production and those who appropriate
    surplus) obstruct the development of the
    consciousness of the subordinate classes
  • Dominant classes control ideology (religion, art,
    moral and philosophical beliefs) and create false
    consciousness among the subordinate classes
  • However, increased alienation leads to class
    consciousness and the eventual overthrowing of
    the dominant class through revolution and the
    creation of new modes of production

61
Dialectical Conflict Perspective
  • Ralf Dahrendorf

62
Main concepts
  • Argues for the need to study areas of society
    marked by conflict and division
  • Unlike Marx however, Dahrendorf argues that
    conflict of interests exists between different
    groups in society with differential levels of
    authority and power rather than economic
    interests
  • Thus, argued that there were other social groups
    (not only the proletariat and the capitalist)
    such as managers etc

63
Authority and Power
  • Authority is associated with social position or
    roles
  • Eg Teacher
  • Power comes from the personality of the
    individual
  • Eg Preacher

64
Imperatively Coordinated Associations
  • Organisations organised around authority
    relations
  • There are many such associations in society
    school, cricket team, the army
  • In each ICA there are those who exercise
    authority and those who are subordinated by
    authority
  • An individual may have positions in multiple ICAs
    and have multiple roles with different levels of
    authority
  • Eg The cricket captain may also be a member of
    the school Parent Teacher Association
  • There are groups within the organisations who may
    have similar interests
  • Quasi groups those who share interests because
    of their position in relation to authority (in a
    university academic staff, support staff,
    students)
  • Interest groups groups with an organisation,
    goal and programme teachers union, students
    union
  • Conflict occurs through the struggle that takes
    place between the different interest groups
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