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SociologyExchange.co.uk Shared Resource

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  • 1. Sociological Theory and Methods
  • 2. Positivism Looks for social facts “Looks to make sociology scientific” Structuralist Sociology = Society shapes our behaviour Interpretivist Individuals create society as they act and interact in meaningful ways Interpretivist look for individual meanings, feelings motives and emotionsMaintains Sociology can not, and should not be studied scientifically (Field) (Laboratory) Social Action -Interactionist -Phenomenology -Ethnomethodology Conflict/Consensus -Functionalism -Marxism Quantitative data Qualitative data
  • 3. Positivism • Positivists model Sociology on logic and methods used by natural sciences such as Biology or Chemistry • Ideally Positivists would prefer experiments to study social facts, but there are practical/ethical problems: - can’t study large groups/long periods/historical events - People act differently when being observed (Hawthorne effect) • Positivism is considered theoretical, and value free Science: 1. Observes natural phenomena e.g. Using experiments 2. Identifies and measures patterns/regularities (water always boils at the same temp’ 3. Develops cause and effect statements of scientific laws to explain them (back up statements) Sociology must do the same e.g. Durkheim (1895): 1. Society made of social facts (values, patterns) 2. Social facts= subject matter of sociology 3. Social facts exist over and above individuals and shape behaviour 4. Use Quantitive data to measure social facts (e.g. statistics)
  • 4. Anti-Positivism (Interpretivist) • Rejects the idea that we can use logic/methods of natural science to study society. • Sociology has no one set paradigm (or goal) Key differences: • Humans have consciousness/free will: natural science objects don’t • Human action governed by choices, not causes When a car stops at a red light, its not because something in the light physically caused it to stop, rather the driver chose to stop. To understand choice, we need to understand what the red light means to the driver.
  • 5. Karl Popper and Science • Popper argued that you can never be sure that you have found the truth. What is considered true today, may be disproved tomorrow. • A Scientific theory is one that can be tested. From the theory, you can deduce hypothesis and make precise predictions. If repeatedly tested and found to be correct, a theory may be provisionally accepted, but there is always the possibility that it’ll be proved wrong (falsified) in the future. • Popper used a deductive approach: you deduce hypothesis from a theory and check they are correct. • Popper argues the Positivist claim • Thomas Kuhn/Kaplan believe that natural science isn’t a great model to follow as ‘natural science’ isn’t very objective- science changes all the time
  • 6. Positivist case study: Suicide
  • 7. Durkheim on Suicide • Durkheim tried to show that suicide was not just a product of individual psychology and that positivist methods could be used to study it and explain suicide rates. • Durkheim showed that suicide rates varied fairly consistently. High suicide rates were correlated with: • Protestants rather then Catholics or Jews • Married people rather then single people • Parents rather then the childless • Political stability and peace, rather than political upheaval and war. • From the statistical patterns, Durkheim claimed to have found four types of suicide:
  • 8. • 1- Egoistic Suicide was caused by insufficient integration into social groups (e.g. Protestants had less connection to their church than Catholics) • 2- Anomic Suicide resulted from too little regulation in industrial societies at times when rapid social change disputed traditional norms (e.g. Both economic booms and depression led to rise in suicide rates) • 3- Altruistic suicide resulted from too much integration (e.g. Jumping into a burning building to save a dog, even though the person jumping into the burning building knows his/her live will be lost) • 4- Fatalistic suicide resulted from too much regulation in non- industrial societies (e.g. The suicide of slaves) • Although every Psychological and Sociological theory has its critics, ‘Durkheim on suicide’ was generally accepted as a water-tight theory which could be used time after time when studying suicide. His ‘types of suicide’ are timeless i.e. can be used at anytime in history, or in the future. Also, his research held no bias.
  • 9. Sociological Theories -Functionalism -Marxism -Interactionist -Phenomenology -Feminism -Postmodernism For more info’, and criticisms, refer to Sociology folder
  • 10. Functionalism • Dominant in the in 1950’s, especially in the USA, but has declined in influence since • Main Functionalist thinkers include: Emile Durkheim, Talcott Parsons and Robert Merton. • Social structure plays a part in Social consensus • Key Idea: (Durkheim’s) Organic analogy- sees society as like an organism. • However, Functionalism ignores conflict within society. Marxism highlights this • Remember to take a look at what Parsons, Merton and Durkheim believe in the revision pack
  • 11. Marxism • Derives from ideas of Karl Marx (1818-83) and Friedreich Engels (1820-95) • Marxist Sociology is concerned with Economics • Marxism since Marx takes two major forms • Key terms: Materialism (Economic), Economic Determinism (Linked with Superstructure) • However. Communism isn’t very successful (Eastern bloc) and ignores the advantages of Capitalism. Stucturalist Marxism Humanistic Marxism
  • 12. Marxist Superstructure • The idea that society’s economic base determines its superstructure. However, not all of Marx’s writing are concerned with economic determinism Base: Forces and relations of Production and ownership Superstructure: Social institutions i.e. Family, state, Religion etc. All forms of values and beliefs
  • 13. Social Action perspectives • Max Weber defined sociology as “The study of meaningful social action” • Weber believed you must find casual explanations for understanding why people act/interact the way they do (I.e. The protestant ethic and the sprit of capitalism) • Symbolic interactionism explains actions in terms of meanings individuals give to them. • Key figures of S.I. Include George Mead and Herbert Blumer. • Blumer described 3 principles of interactionism: Actions are based on the meanings we give to objects, events etc. They are not automatic responses Meanings arise from and develop during interaction. Not fixed (Changeable, negotiable) Meanings are the result of Interpretive procedures (i.e. Role taking)
  • 14. Phenomenology and Ethnomethodology • Edmund Husserl and Alfred Schutz are key Phenomenologist's • Husserl was concerned with subjective meanings like Weber, but says using casual explanations for describing behaviour is just impossible • Husserl was only concerned with Human consciousness, not the objective world since mental states are the only things we can perceive (everything else is empirical) • Hussel’s basic assumption: the world we live in is created in the consciousness, in our heads. The external world only has meaning in and through the consciousness of it. • Schutz was interested in how we make the social world meaningful • Found out that different individuals classify same things differently
  • 15. Phenomenology and Ethnomethodology • Key sociologist: Harold Garfinkel • “The only think we can be sure of is that we are thinking beings” • Ethnomethodology is Deontological Interactionism: Concerned with the processes, not outcomes. (Interactionism is interested in the outcomes) • Ethnomethodology= the study of methods (Interpretivist procedures) members of groups use to make sense of/ or construct social world.
  • 16. Ethnomethodology and Order • Other sociological perspectives assume social order exists objectively. EM rejects this view. Society only exists only as far as members perceive it. A lack of order. • Life appears orders, but members use commonsense/knowledge to impose ordered social reality • Sociologist’s job therefore is to study methods members use to construct sense of order. I.e. J.M.Atkinson’s follow up to the study of suicide and coroners- ‘suicide’ is a construction, not an objective fact. • EM is not really interested in Suicide, rather how a death gets classified as suicide. • Coroners use commonsense theories to determine suicide: Why, how, etc Subjective: Opinions, beliefs, debatable Objective: not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased: an objective opinion.
  • 17. Key quotes associated with Phenomenology • “The only think we can be sure of is that we are thinking beings”- H.Garfinkel • “Cognito ergo sum”- Rene Descarte Translated means; “I think therefore I am”
  • 18. Feminism • Feminism can be divided into 3 schools of thought: Marxist, Radical and Liberal. • Marxist feminists believe women are oppressed for the benefits of capitalism. • Radical feminists believe men and women should be separate within society. In the home, men dominate women through the threat of violence. • Through Education, Liberal Feminists believe any differences can be over come in time. • Main feminist figures include; Anne Oakley, Germaine Greer
  • 19. Feminism • Sees inequality between men and women as the crucial factor in explaining societies • See most societies as patriarchal • Believe old sociological theories such as ‘functionalism’ and ‘Marxism’ as irrelevant. • However, Feminism overemphasise Gender, and ignores other inequalities such as Age, Ethnicity and Health. • Ignore that some women are happy with traditional roles
  • 20. Research approach
  • 21. Interpretivists prefer... • Unstructured or semi- structured interviews- it allows for more flexibility, and allows the subject to convey their true feelings. • However, this is criticised by Positivists for lacking reliability. • Qualitative Data
  • 22. Participant Observation (PO) • Participant Observation is an alternative to asking questions; it involves getting involved, and experiencing first hand how the group live/ behave. • Covert or Overt PO • PO can be divided into 3 stages; getting in, staying in (without your cover being blown) and then, getting out. • P.O is usually small-scale, and is hard to generalise has its unlikely to observe the same findings. • Paul Willis found getting out an issue when he studied 12 working class males from a midlands school (‘Learning to labour) (overt PO) • In Laud Humphreys study of ‘tearoom trade’, he breached serious ethical guidelines when watching homosexual sexual activity, and recording car registration of the people involved
  • 23. Secondary sources • Official statistics are a major source of secondary data. • O.S. Are collected by the state such as a Census. • Unofficial statistics are collected by agencies such as pressure groups, or trade unions • Bryan Wilson used Church attendance statistics in his study of secularization • Positivists believe providing O.S. Are accurate, they are a valid and reliable source of data • Interactionist are very critical. For example, they argue Crime stats’ are socially constructed and probably tell us more about police priorities, rather then about the patterns of crime. • Marxists argues that the state serves the ruling class. Therefore, anything published by the state is likely to give a distorted impression that serves capitalism.
  • 24. Other -Theories - Research method: Structuation - Terminology
  • 25. Post-modernism • Marxism, Functionalism and Social Action would be considered ‘Modernist Theories’. • The term ‘post’, means future, or after the now. • Main post-modernists include: Lyotard and Baudrillard. • Lyotard believes social life is based on language games: • Close ties to Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • 26. Giddens and ‘Structuration’ • Giddens tried to combine structuralism, with social action. He called it the ‘duality of structure’ But social actions create structure Structures make social action possible
  • 27. Terminology • A Longitudinal study is one that follows the same group or sample over an extended period of time. (Lacey spend 4 years studying students at hightown grammar) • Triangulation is a technique used that involves more then one kind of method or source • Pilot study: a trial run • Sampling frame: a list of people in a given population i.e. Electoral role • Random Sample: a sample is chosen from the sampling frame at random. • Stratified R.S; This is where random samples are chosen from ‘sub-groups’ within the survey population i.e. Men over 45 • Quota sample: i.e. Must interview 20 females over the age of 35 • Snowball sample: The researcher would ask respondents to refer to him or her etc.
  • 28. Good books….