Structural Theories and social action theory


Structural Theories

Structural Theories are Hierarchial theories that considers society being more important than the individuals within it.

Social behaviours are influenced by social institutions and that the role of these institutions and other social structures such as class, gender and ethnicity are the most important factors in determining the way in which people act.

Structural theories prefer positivist methodologies and quantitative data, this is because they believe human behaviour is predictable and through analysis of such data, we can provide solutions to social issues.

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Consensus theories and Conflict theories.

Structural theory is divided in two: Consensus theories and Conflict theories.

Structural theories can be applied to anaylse: education, family, crime, etc

In contemporary society, structural theories are relevent when analysing: Division (social class, gender and ethnicity).

However, some would argue in contemporary society, people are becoming increasingly unique, and sociologist should rather examine peoples individual experiences instead of relying on metanarratives (this process is called social action theory)

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Structural + Social action theory = structuration

Anthony Giddens proposes an alternative - structuration theory - a combination of the two.

Even when individuals display independence, they're still tied to structures through rules and resources. Rules and resources are both structurally assigned but are created through the work of individuals. Therefore without the actions performed by individuals, structures would be unable to function. And without the resources and rules allocated, individuals would not be able to act.

People are able to change social institutions by reflecting and choosing new actions that change a structure, e.g. change of school policies by a headteacher.

Giddens suggests that structure and action co-exist and one cannot exist without the other.

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