Socioloical theory

All the theoris that are required fo A2 sociology!

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The theory is a consensus structural approach to viewing society. Consensus means agreement,
harmony, balance and structuralism refers to the way in which the individual is seen as constrained by
society. New- rights have built on the research conducted by functionalists and are often regarded as
the modern functionalists.
Durkheim 1858- 1917
Emile Durkheim was the founding father of sociology and of functionalism. Durkheim introduced the
idea of `collective conscience'to show how societies needed agreement to stick together. He was
concerned that the changes in modern society were going to weaken the `social solidarity'and as a
consequence we needed the institutions in society to act together to prevent a state of anomie
(normlessness) from occurring within society.
Society exists externally to the individual for Durkheim and there are a group of external factors
(social facts) acting on us as individuals changing our behaviour.
Examples- Durkheim's research on suicides and the different social facts that effect suicide from
occurring. The difference effects that religion can have on people, he researched the difference in
suicide rates between Protestants and Catholics arguing that stronger social control among Catholics
results in lower suicide rates.
He also found that suicide rates were higher among men than women , higher for those who are
single than those who are married, higher for people without children than people with children,
higher among soldiers than civilians, and higher at times of peace than in times of war.
Durkheim was the first to argue that the causes of suicide were to be found in social factors and not
individual personalities. Observing that the rate of suicide varied with time and place, Durkheim
looked for causes linked to these factors other than emotional stress. He looked at the degree to
which people feel integrated into the structure of society and their social surroundings as social
factors producing suicide and argued that suicide rates are affected by the different social contexts in
which they emerge.
Durkheim also distinguished between three types of suicide:
· Anomic Suicide : Anomic suicide happens when the disintegrating forces in the society make
individuals feel lost or alone. Teenage suicide is usually cited as an example of this type of suicide, as
is suicide committed by those who have been sexually abused as children or whose parents are
· Altruistic Suicide: Altruistic suicide happens when there is excessive regulation of individuals by
social forces. An example is someone who commits suicide for the sake of a religious or political
cause, such as the hijackers of the airplanes that crashed into the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon,
and a field in Pennsylvania on 9/11/01. People who commit altruistic suicide subordinate themselves
to collective expectations, even when death is the result.
· Egoistic Suicide : Egoistic suicide happens when people feel totally detached from society. Ordinarily,
people are integrated into society by work roles, ties to family and community, and other social
bonds. When these bonds are weakened through retirement or loss of family and friends, the

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Elderly people who lose these ties are the most susceptible to
egoistic suicide.
Parsons 1902- 1979
Talcott Parsons is credited with the development of the modern strands of functionalism and the
introduction of the biological (organic) analogy where society is compared to the human body with all
the institutions working together like the parts of the body.
Having a shared culture (norms, values and beliefs) is essential for social order.…read more

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Although Merton is a functionalist like Parsons he did have some issues with the work and ideas put
forward by Parsons.
Dysfunctional elements (e.g. crime)- Merton recognises that some elements of society can be
harmful, for example in some cases Religion can unite people, but can also cause divisions.
Indispensability - Merton argues that other institutions can perform tasks well e.g. single
parent families can do the same thing as a nuclear family
Merton also believed that Parsons missed the importance of material interest.…read more

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The theory is a conflict structualist theory. This means that Marxists believe that society is based on
conflict, in comparison to functionalism which argue that society is based on conflict. There are a
variety of different conflicts that are explored throughout the theory of Marxism. Structuralism means
that Marxists focus on society as a whole and the reasons that they are constrained.
Karl Marx (1818- 1883)
Was the founder of Marxism and had views that helped to shape the whole theory.…read more

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Criticisms of traditional Marxism
It is along with functionalism is, a reasonably successful attempt to produce a general theory
about society.
It is seen as too simplistic. Society is more complex than the two classes described by Marx.
Weber argued that status and power are also important factors.
Class polarisation has not occurred - the new middle class has grown and the old industrial
working class has shrunk (apart from countries like China and India where the working class
has grown).…read more

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He also looks at how capitalism keeps going- it regenerates every generation via
socialisation. The ideological state apparatus (ISA) transmits the values via the family, education and
the media. Also there are repressive state apparatus (RSA) to keep us further in line- the Police and
the army. We are all products of this conditioning.
Too much emphasis is placed on the structure rather than the actions.
It is seen as abstract with little empirical evidence to back it up.…read more

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Sex and gender- Oakley (1972)
Talk about the difference between gender and sex . She argues that sex refers to thebiological
differences between males and females for example their reproductive roles, hormonal and physical
differences. Gender refers to culturally constructed differences between the `masculine' and
`feminine' roles and why sex is fixed, gender differences vary between cultures and over time. She
also argues that sexist attitudes are stereotypical beliefs about gender and are culturally
constructed and transmitted through socialization.…read more

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The key division is society is between men and women as men are
women's main enemy. All many oppress all women. All men benefit from patriarchy especially from
women's unpaid domestic labour and form their sexual services. Patriarchy is direct and personal ,
not only in the public sphere of work and politics but in the private sphere of the family, domestic
labour and sexual relationships. All relationships involve power and they are political when one
individual tries to dominate another.…read more

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Some Marxist feminists argue that non-econic factors must also be taken into account:
The ideology of familism - Barret - women's role in ideology. The overthrow of capitalism is necessary
to secure women's liberation.
Femininity and the unconscious - Mitchell - femininity is part of who women are.…read more

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Sociology and social policy
Social policy refers to the tackling of social problems. It looks at how the actions of the government
both locally and nationally affect the lives of its members, both positively and negatively.
Even when sociologists aren't directly concerned with the research into social problems, there is no
guarantee that their work will affect the policy makers decisions .…read more


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