Theory and Methods Topic 2 - The Perspectives



  • There is a social structure of society which is made up of our norms and values which are passed down through the institutions. This structure shapes an individuals behaviour 
  • They believe that sociologists should use scientific methods to uncover the basic laws of society (as illustrated through Durkheim's suicide study)
  • Believe that individuals need to be restrained because they are naturally selfish; it is up to society to regulate individual behaviour for the benefit of all. Too much freedom can result in anomie - a crisis of moral regulation
  • Believes that effective socialisation is crucial for achieveing solidarity - the family is crucial for primary socialisation and education is crucial for secondary socialisation 
  • Believes in the organic analogy - see society as working like a human body with institutions performing specific, specialised functions that are necessary to the maintenance of society as a whole. Education provides an integrative function through socialising individuals into the values of hard work and meritocracy
  • Functional Pre-requisites - things that society needs in order to survive. Talcott Parsons argued that society has four needs which must be met; adaptation, goal attainment, integration and latency 
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The New Right

  • This is a modern day version of Functionalism in the sense that they believe that society and our traditional social institutions are generally good but that certain elements of society have become dysfunctional and need fixing. These elements include single parent families, the welfare state, and the education system
  • The New Right argues that there is only one correct/normal family and that is the nuclear family (two heterosexual parents and two children) They see this family as natural and based on fundamental biological differences between men and women 
  • The family is the centre of society and they argue that the decline in the nuclear family/growth of family diversity is the cause of other social problems such as crime and declining morality
  • The introduction of the welfare state led to a culture of dependency whereby people depend on handouts from the state. This encouarges single parenting because it means that women do not need a stable income from a man to raise a child
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  • Karl Marx argued that society is based around the conflict between the two main classes; the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat. The Bourgeoisie are the rich, wealthy class and the Proletariat ae the working class
  • Marx argued that the relationship between these two classes was exploitative - the Bourgoisie controlled and exploited the work of the Proletariat for profit
  • Economic Base - the means of production 
  • Superstructure - institutions within society which are based around production (family, education, health, media, the law etc.)
  • Marx argued that control of the economic base meant control of the superstructure, because the economic base shapes the superstructure and the superstructure maintains the economic base
  • The Bourgeoisie use their control of the institutions to keep the masses ignorant of their exploitation and their true class position - this is known as ideological control and results in false class conciousness 
  • Capitalism leads to increasing levels of exploitation which causes alienation - lack of power, control, fulfilment and satisfaction
  • The only solution to the problem is for the Proletariat to rise up against the Bourgeoisie and overthrow them in a communist revolution
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  • Liberal Feminism - supports the March of Progress view of women in society; women have made progress in the family and in the workplace, but they do recognise that more work needs to be done
  • Marxist Feminism - argues that the exploitation of women comes from the exploitation of capitalism. Women are the reserve force for labour and they are seen as the bearers of the workforce, as well as being paid less than men
  • Radical Feminism - see men and patriarchy as the sole cause of the oppression of women. Women need to cut ties with men in order to be truly free as all relationships with men are based on patriarchy 
  • Backlash against Feminism
  • Feminism is still relevant to society today because of:                                                                                               
  • Violence agains women 
  • The beauty myth/pornification of culture 
  • The glass ceiling 
  • Conservative spending cuts affect women
  • Sex trafficking 
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Existence of gender roles
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Post Modernism

  • Post-modernism is after the 1950s and Post-modernists argue that modern social theories are no longer relevant to society. This is beause we have more individual choice, society has become fragmented and society is much more diverse due to globalisation and the increased importance of the media. Traditional divisions such as class and gender, which were thought to have 'structured' society, have gone and instead the world is much less predictable. Post-modernists are critical of modern social thought:                                                                                         

1. Individuals are freer than modern sociologists believed 
We live in a 'pick and mix' society whereby individuals are free to pick their lifestyle and course from a wider range of options (family diversity, more career opportunities, gender, sexuality etc.)

2. Hyperreality is more important than actual reality (Jean Baudrillard)
The media creates a hyperreality where what we see in the media is different from reality. This hyperreality influences peoples lives because it is all that they know

3. Knowledge is not objective, it is distored by power (Michael Foucault)
The Enlightenment is a myth as throughout history, knowledge has not been objective and it has not necessarily been used to make the world a better place

4. The abandonment of Englightenment (Lyotard)
Post-modernism is an 'incredulity towards metanarratives' (a theory that holds that it is the universal truth). Diversty and freedom has led to the abandonment of the search of one univseral truth

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Post Modernism 2

  • Post-modernists now argue that sociology should be the study of transgression and narrative
  • Transgression - new areas of society have been opened up for study because culture has become more important and society is more diverse. For example, studies of rave culture, new genders and 'queer' theory have been opened up. 
  • Narrative - Post-modern society limits itself to a description of the ways of life of these groups and attempts to theorise that group. Post-modernists are not interested in constructing generalisable social theory as they believe that this is flawed
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Late Modernism

  • Theories of late modernism argue that the rapid changes we are witnessing are not the dawn of a new postmodern era - these changes are a continuation of the modern era before
  • However, Late-modernists do recognise that something important is happening - key features of modernity that have always been present are now becoming instensified 
  • Late-modernists also believe in the Englightenment - they believe that we can understand objective knowledge about the world and use this knowledge to improve it
  • Detraditionalisation (Anthony Giddens) - traditional values of society have been weakened - people are no longer doing things for the sake of tradition
  • Risk Society (Ulrich Beck) - people in modern society are driven by the risk of things and a greater risk has been added to our actions 
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