Sociological Theory Condensed Notes

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SOCIOLOGICAL
THEORY:
CONDENSED REVISION
CONTENTS:
Functionalism
Marxism
Feminist Theories
Action Theories
Globalisation, modernity and
postmodernity
Sociology and science
Objectivity and values in sociology
Sociology and social policy
FUNCTIONALISM:

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Parsons:
Uses organic analogy - society is like a biological organism
3 similarities between society and biological organisms:
Systems are both self regulating and 'parts' play important role (organs v institutions)
Systems both have needs to survive (oxygen v socialisation)
Both have important functions
Value consensus integrates individuals into social system: socialisation ensures individuals internalise the
norms and values (education and family) and social control provides positive and negative sanctions for
actions
System has 4 needs - AGIL SCHEMA
1.…read more

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Class society and exploitation - in the earliest stage, there was no class or exploitation (= primitive
communism). In class societies, one class owns the means of production which enables them to exploit the
labour of others for their own benefit - can control society's surplus product
Class consciousness - Polarisation brings the poor together and creates the conditions under which the w/c
can develop a consciousness of their position.…read more

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Oakley distinguishes between sex and gender: sex = biological differences between males and females.…read more

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Traditionally ration action - involves routine or habitual actions
Affectual action - expresses emotion
Evaluation:
SCHUTZ - 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:
Emphasises the ways in which society is shaped by individuals and the meanings they attach to things
(MEAD)
We respond to the world by giving meaning to the things that are significant to us: we do not respond…read more

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Reflexivity = we use commonsense knowledge in everyday interactions to construct a sense of meaning and
order and stop indexicality from occurring - allows us to behave as if meanings are clear and obvious
In the case of suicide, coroners make sense of deaths by selecting particular features from the number of
possible 'facts' about the deceased
In the case of suicide, the seeming pattern that suicides are mentally ill becomes part of the coroners
taken-for-granted knowledge, thus when faced with future cases with similar…read more

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Individualism - we experience greater personal freedom and can increasingly choose our own course in life
and define our own identity
Globalisation:
Technological changes: Led to developments, allowing us to cross continent, exchange info easily and
created time-space compression through global television and internet. Technology also brings risk on a
global scale: Beck - live in a risk society
Economic changes: global economy is increasingly an electronic economy - much activity involves the
production of information.…read more

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Jameson: Postmodernity represents a more developed form of capitalism because it commodifies virtually all
aspects of life
Harvey argues that this leads to the compression of time and space
SOCIOLOGY AND SCIENCE:
Positivism:
If we apply the logic and methods of natural sciences to the study of society, we will gain true and objective
knowledge
It's the job of science to observe, identify, measure and record these patterns systematically
Sociologists can discover laws that determine how society works = inductive reasoning
Induction involves accumulating data…read more

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Positivistsociologists seek to discover the causes of patterns they observe ­ aim to produce scientific laws
about how society works which can then be used to predict future events and guide social policies
Favour the use of quantitative data because it allows positivists to discover the laws of cause and effect that
determine behaviour
Researchers should remain detached and objective to avoid influencing research
Interpretivism:
Sociology is about internal meanings
There are fundamental differences between the natural sciences and sociology:
Natural science: studies matter which…read more

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Postmodernists argue that a paradigm would also not be desirable in sociology because it is like a
meta-narrative and this will silence minority views and falsely claims to have a monopoly of the truth.…read more

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