Theory and methods

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Refers to pre existing structures within which people live and continue after
their death e.g. child speaks a language they did not invent
Wider constructs in which people act e.g. education
Associated with macro level analysis
Society consists of reproduced orderly patterns that cause behaviour
Ask how social context shapes individual behaviour
Remains problematic because it is not directly observable or verifiable
Reification ­ society is seen as a thing that exists and acts independently of
Criticised for denying importance of choice and creativity expressed in action
DURKHEIM Social facts external, objective and constraining
PARSONS Social system made up of institution fulfil basic needs
Society is a functional unit
MERTON Goals and means of society
MARX Consists of base and super structure
Structure of inequality between proletariat and bourgeoisie
ALTHUSSER Social formation of economic, ideological and political levels
ISA reproduces inequality
FRANKFURT SCHOOL Culture industry produces and satisfies false needs
WALBY Structures of patriarchy oppress women
Weber argues we should avoid over generalised theories because people not
determined by general laws
Sociologists should proceed by constructing ideal types and use them to
analyse unique situations
May not exist in reality but help sociologists understand
4 ideal types of action:
Traditional ­ action carried out because of custom or habit
Affective ­ action influenced by emotional state
Rational value orientated ­ overriding idea, belief or value
Rational goal orientated ­ people calculate results of behaviour in relation to

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Weber believed rational goal and value were appropriate for interpretive analysis
because they were based on reflective action not automatic behaviour
Can be applied to individual action as well as groups
Weber believed society had a tendency towards rational goal orientated action,
society was an iron cage devoid of myth and magic
Ritzer developed Weber's theory by which society had adopted the values of
fast food outlet, becoming dehumanised, automated, uniform and with
emphasis on efficiency, calculability and control through machines.…read more

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Actors in social interaction plan performance to give an impression e.g.…read more

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Criticism ­ loses sight of structure
Position 4 ­ (structure and agency are linked)
Life word and system
Regognises how systems and action intersect
Proposed this theory to overcome the structure/agency debate.…read more

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Open systems ­ Variables cannot be controlled. Can be explained by
underlying structures.
Closed systems ­ the variables can be controlled
Research methods must be appropriate to the study and must be critical.
TAYLOR: Argues that whilst DURKHIEM used positivist methods in his suicide
study his theory was realist. The statistics he discovered showed underlying pattern
of anomie, which cannot be observed but represent underlying process.
Positivists are critical of this approach arguing it is not value free.…read more

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Therefore it is the not the product of obdervation but socially constructed
Demonstated by FOUCAULT:
Used case studies to look at prisons, sexuality etc.…read more

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REALISM Research should be used alongside
concepts such as `anomie' to reveal
underlying structures or mechanism
such as alienation
FEMINIST METHODOLOGY Use methods to capture the unique
standpoint of women
SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONISM Used discourse to construct
knowledge that is taken for granted
METHODOLOGICAL Posed questions about how research
COSMOPOLITANISM is conducted in the second age of
modernity…read more


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