Theory and Methods

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  • Theory and methods
    • Feminism
      • There are inequalities in power and status between men and women, with women being subordinate to men in most areas of society and social life
      • The gender inequalities generate differences in interests and conflict
      • Gender roles and inequalities are socially constructed
        • The patriarchy: a system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women
          • The household
          • Paid work
          • The state
          • Sexuality
          • Male violence
          • Cultural institutions
      • Liberal feminism
        • Women's inequality arises from factors such as gender role socialisation and sexist stereotypes
        • Theses factors generate a lack of equal opportunities for women
        • Research demonstrates that gender differences are socially constructed
        • has had effects on equal opportunities acts and social policies
        • Discusses the effects of women's subordination to men but does not discuss the causes
      • Radical feminism
        • Patriarchy is the fundamental  form of inequality
        • All women have a shared interest in challenging men
        • Men are the key instrument of women's oppression and all relationships with men involve sexual politics
        • Firestone and Ortner link women subordination to women's biology which makes them dependents and vulnerable to men (child birth etc.)
        • Untitled
        • Assumes all women share common interests
        • Fails to recognise the gradual reform that has improved women's opportunities
        • Doesn't offer explanations or solutions for how the patriarchy could be abolished
        • Doesn't realised that that not all men may be engaged in the domination and oppression of women
        • Fails to recognise that capitalism may be the main source of women's subordination rather than the patriachy
      • Marxist feminism
        • Gender inequality arises primarily from the nature of capitalist society
        • Capitalism intensifies patriarchal inequalities in pursuit of its own interests
        • Women's as expressive role is to absorb men's anger at their exploitation at work to keep capitalism stable
        • They don't explain the fact that the patriarchy existed in most know societies including  non-capitalist ones.
        • It is men, not just capitalism who benefit from women's subordination and oppression, and who enjoy positions of power and status
    • Social action / interpretivists
      • Focus on individual behaviour
      • Society and institutions are socially constructed
      • Free will
      • Small scale research
      • Peoples behaviour is driven by their personal beliefs and opinions
      • Qualitative research
      • Symbolic interactionism
        • People act in terms of symbols
        • Meanings of a symbol may change through social interaction
        • Meaning of symbols arise from personal interpretation
        • The looking glass self: Cooley
        • Labelling theory
        • Goffman: impression management
      • Ethnomethodology
        • Garfinkel
        • The description of the methods or interpretive procedures wish people use to make sense of and construct order in their everyday lives
        • Social order is an illusion and only seems to occur because people share culturally embedded assumptions and rules considered common sense
      • Shows that human beings make sense of the world either through interaction with others or their own understandings
      • Recognises that people have reasons for their actions
      • Recognises that, to fully explain people's actions and create social order we must first understand the motivations and meanings they attach to their actions
      • Provides insights into the consequences interaction has for people
      • Research often has high validity
      • Does not pay sufficient attention to the structure of society
      • Under-estimates or ignores the unequal distribution of power in society
      • Is still technically a metanarrative
    • Neo-marxism
      • Gramsci: hegemony is the acceptance of the dominant ideology by most of society as the right way to think and act
      • Althusser
        • The economic level
        • The political level: RSA
        • The ideological level: ISA
      • Recognises the importance of peoples actions and ideas
      • Relative autonomy: the superstructure has some independence of the economy
      • Relative autonomy explain how institutions can affect the economy and vice versa
      • Underplay the importance of the economy and the role of material factors
      • Over-emphasise the role of ideas
    • Functionalism
      • Views society as a system of interconnected parts
        • Body analong
      • Parsons: Functional prerequisites are the basic needs of society
      • Social institutions make up key parts of society, fulfilling the functional prerequisites of it
      • Deviance is a sign of disorder and as a warning that society is failing or there is tension
      • Durkheim: Society works through the socialisation of people into a collective conscience or value consensus
      • Social change occurs when new functions emerge or society needs to adapt
        • Structural differentiation: the way new social institutions emerge
      • Merton: dyfunction occurs when some parts of the the social structure do not work as intended
        • Manifest functions: the recognised and intended outcome of the action of an individual or institution
        • Latent functions: The unrecognised or unintended outcome of the action of an individual or institution
      • Reasonably successful attempt to produce a general theory of society
      • Recognises the importance of social structures in society
      • Provides an explanation for social order and stability
      • Too deterministic
      • Does not allow for individual choices and actions
      • Metanarratives can no longer explain contemporary societies
      • Does not effectively explain (sudden) social change
      • Takes for granted that there is a value consensus in society and that this will provide social stability
      • Over-emphasises the beneficial aspects of functions performed by social institutions and often ignores harmful dysfuntions
      • Over-emphasises consensus and ignores conflict and the unequal distribution of power in society
      • Tends to be very conservative and supportive of the status quo
    • Marxism
      • Economic base
        • Means of production
        • Relations of production
      • Superstructure
      • Work is a source of wealth with private ownership of this means of production emerging. As a result, workers rely on the owners for employment
      • Extra product produced by workers is surplus value and where the owners make their profit, keeping wages low so that the workers do not get the full value of their work
        • Exploitation
      • Democratically elected governments cannot afford to ignore social problems that may occur if the bourgeoisie choose to not invest their moeny
        • The state (RSAs) are more concerned with protecting the interests of the ruling elite than protecting the actual citizens
      • The major institutions reflect the dominant ideology dictated by the ruling class
      • Marx believed that the inequalities would result in the working class developing a class consciousness and overthrowing the bourgeoisie
        • Changing the basis of society from a capitalist system to a communist one
      • Recognises the importance of the economy
      • Provides an explanation for the extreme inequalities in society
      • Recognises the importance of society's social structure
      • Is a highly influential theory
      • Marx's predictions have not come true
      • Classical Marxism over-emphasises the extent of conflict in society
      • The two-class model of inequality is inadequate in modern society with the emergence of the middle class
      • Over-emphasises class as a source if inequality and conflict (feminism = patriarchy)
      • Too deterministic
      • See individual as simply passive products of the social system
      • It is a metanarrative which does not work in modern contemporary society
      • Post-modernists argue that the economy is not the key factor in influencing people and their actions
      • Class is no longer the most important aspect of ones identity
      • The proletariat (working class) do not own means of production so sell their labour power to the bourgeoisie (owners)
    • Postmodernism
      • Pick 'n' mix identities
      • Fluidity
      • Consumers of identities
      • Bauman et al: society is now in a state of constant change and is unpredictable in that respect, marked by chaos and uncertainty
        • The structures are breaking down
      • Globalization and disembedding of local  identities
      • Lyotard: people no longer believe the myth of truth or buy into metanarratives
      • Postmodern societies are characterised by a growing individualism
      • Baudrillard: media saturated societies
      • Has highlighted some important cultural changes
      • Emphasises that the construction of identity has become more fluid and complex
      • Provides insight into most contemporary social changes
      • Encouraged sociologists to reflect more on some of their assumptions
      • Giddens: these changes are just a continuation of modernity into late or high modernity which requires adaptation but not abandonment of traditional theories
      • Beck: the second modernity or reflexive modernity has high levels of uncertainty and risk (risk society)
      • Harvey: many of these changes can be explained by Marxism in relation to the global economy
      • Lacks values or a vision for improving society
      • Over-emphasises the influence of the media
      • Exaggerates the scale of social change
      • Assumes all individuals are free to act as they wish
      • It is, in itself, a metanarrative

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