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Society as a system:
Uses an organic analogy: society is like a biological organism
3 similarities between society and biological organisms:
1. System: both are self regulating and 'parts' play an important role (organs = institutions)
2. System needs: Organisms have needs without which, they will die. For society, basic needs need to be
met in order to survive (e.g. members need socialisation)
3. Functions: The function of anything is its contribution to the overall wellbeing (e.g.…read more

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Functional unity: Parsons assumes that all parts of society are tightly integrated into a single whole and
that change in one part will have a knock-on-effect - Merton argues that some parts may have
'functional unity' (independence from others)
3.…read more

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Materialism: humans have material needs - must work in order to meet them. In doing so, they use
forces of production
Forces were just unaided human labour but over time, people developed tools to assist production
As the forces grew, there was a division between 2 classes : 1) A class that owns means of production 2)A
class of labourers
Forces and relations of production = mode of production and this forms the economic base of society and
determines the superstructure
2.…read more

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Economic determinism: assumes economic factors are the sole cause of everything - fails to recognise
humans can bring about change through own free will and actions
Weber: Calvinist ideas helped bring about modern capitalism
The two Marxism's:
Gouldner describes two Marxisms as:
1. Humanistic/Critical Marxism: some similarities with action theories and interpretive sociology
Voluntarism: humans have free will - produce change
Encourages political action to overthrow capitalism
2.…read more

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Liberal feminists: sexist attitudes and stereotypical beliefs about gender are culturally constructed and
transmitted through socialisation
Therefore, to achieve gender equality, we must change society's socialisation patterns: Liberal feminists
seek to promote appropriate role models in education and family (e.g.…read more

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Women reproduce the labour force through their unpaid domestic labour both by nurturing and
socialising children to become the next generation of workers and maintaining and servicing the current
generation of workers
Women absorb anger that would otherwise be directed at capitalism - Ansley describe wives as 'takers
of shit' who soak up the frustration of their workers because of the alienation and exploitation they
suffer at work
Barrett: the ideology of familism
We must give more emphasis to women's consciousness and motivations and the…read more

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Traditional action - involves routine or habitual actions; no conscious thought has gone into it
Affectual action -action that expresses emotion; important in religious and political movements
Schutz - the action theory is too individualistic and cannot explain the shared nature of meanings
We can never truly understand an individual's action, so idea of verstehen cannot be applied
Symbolic Interactionism: Mead
Symbolic interactionists emphasise the ways in which society is actively shaped by individuals and the
meaning they attach to everyday things
Symbols vs.…read more

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We have a series of typifications (categories) we use to organise our experiences into a shared world of
The meaning of any action depends on its context - therefore meanings are potentially unclear and unstable,
especially if others classify the actions in a different way from oneself
Typifications stabilise and clarify meanings by ensuring that we agree on the meaning of things - without
shared typifications, social order would become impossible
We have a store of commonsense knowledge which helps us make sense of…read more

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Makes an important attempt to overcome the division between structure and action in sociological
Giddens implies that actors can change structures simply by deciding to do so: Archer - he
underestimates the capacity of structures to resist change - e.g. slaves may wish to abolish slavery but
lack the power to do so
Modern society:
Characteristics which distinguish it from previous traditional societies
The nation state : The state is a focal point of modern society, organising social life on a national basis.…read more


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