What is sociology?
• The systematic
study of human
groups and social
life in modern
cfs.sa.gov.au. Accessed 11.11.2013.
The sociological Imagination, you
tube, 5 minutes.
Common Sense versus Sociological Explanations
• Based on opinion
• May be individualistic
(moral censure) or
• Takes situations at face
• Tend to be subjective
• Attempts to be objective
• Based on particular theories
& may have been tested
• Attempts to be objective &
acknowledges the role of
values in theory
• Challenges taken for
What Makes us Human? Horizon, BBC 1,
4/7/13 programme. Show from 5-21
minutes ,1 HOUR).
Nature versus nurture
The debate in sociology focuses on how human
behaviour is determined.
Are we the sum of our genes or our
Norms, values & roles in societies
• Norms: Informal & formal rules which guide
our behaviour (what’s considered normal)
• Values: things we believe to be important –
justice, toleration, competitiveness, various
• Roles: the parts we play in society- parent,
carer, hunter, lover, prison officer. The
positions come with expected behaviours.
How do we learn the norms & values
Agents of socialisation
• What values and norms?
• Sociologists recognise the importance of
biological influences on our lives, but they are
generally more interested in the role played by
• Social behaviour is so diverse between
different cultures that it cannot be explained
by genetic inheritance.
The absence of socialisation: Oxana Malaya (5min) : http://youtu.be/CV6LEf7EDAQ
Feral kids- myth or reality ? ( 9 min): http://youtu.be/STn3bpTTU6c
Comparisons of gender roles
Traditional view in
Passive, cooperative, caring
impatient, irritable impatient, irritable
What’s a sociological theory?
• A framework to explain how society works.
• It helps us understand how societies develop
• It is the analysis of behaviour and social
• It attempts to explain the fundamental reality
of human ‘being’.
Structure & Action theories
• Determinism: Focus is
on how the individual is
shaped by society and
its social structures.
• Free Will: Focus is on
how the individual
shapes society and its
• Proposes human beings
have little choice and
are coerced by the
those with power.
• Proposes human beings
decide their own fate
through choices they
Functionalism : a structural-consensus theory
• Examines social structures.
• Identifies that functional prerequisites exist for
the survival of society.
• Emphasises harmony, integration and stability.
• Assumes everyone shares the same norms and
values – they have a collective consciousness.
Emile Durkheim: the ‘godfather’ of
functionalism, 1858 - 1917
His analysis of the advent of the
• The division of labour caused
major social upheaval as people
took on new roles /occupations –
• Saw this social upheaval as
destructive to the previously
existing moral / religious values.
• This led to ANOMIE – a symptom
of the uncertainty of modern life :
people despair - life lacks
• ‘The Division of
Social Facts: institutions, beliefs and values of
Durkheim believed we should ‘consider social
facts as things’ which have 2 characteristics –
• They are external to the individual – they have
their own reality.
• They direct and control the individual – laws,
morals, social acceptance.
• Functionalism re role of education (4 min): http://youtu.be/4JWkhM1Ak68
Durkheim’s functionalist analogies
• Primitive societies are ‘mechanical’ – gelled by
sameness – no-one had anything of worth,
which encouraged people to work together for
the greater good.
• Modern societies such as UK are ‘organic’ and
have interdependent ‘social systems’ – Each
structure has a specific role in society and
they work in harmony to maintain social order.
Durkheim likens this to the organs of the body.
Talcott Parsons 1902 – 1979.
Socialisation & value consensus
• Argued that social institutions
are responsible for the
socialisation of their members.
• That members of society adopt
and conform to prescribed
codes of behaviour.
• Mainly interested in the
function of families.
Strengths & Weaknesses
• Logical and systematic
analysis of society and
• Shows the importance
of social structure & its
affects on individuals
• Explains how societies
maintain existence over
time – value consensus
• Shows the individual as
having little/no control
over his/her actions
• Society treated as
from its members
• Just because a ‘social
system’ exists doesn’t
mean it’s functional
• Does not explain
conflict in society
Marxism : a structural – conflict theory.
• ‘Objectivity’. There is a conflict of
interests – employers/employees
• Class-struggle is starting point.
From here comes ideas to change
• The values and norms of society
related to relations of production
• The vast majority( w class) have
to end wage slavery so we can all
• Failure : no sign of this happening
• Total rejection of marxian belief
that the majority can develope
socialist consciousness within
capitalism (heirs of Lenin)
• Only an elite vanguard can lead
the unconscious masses to
• Gramsci : w class seduced by
baubles – supports capitalism.
Its cultural grip has to be
subverted by an intellectual
• W class is no longer seen as the
agent of social change.
Strengths & Weaknesses
• Strong on analysing society
as a whole – base
• As a conflict theory strong
in analysing power/conflict
in society, esp inequalities
in wealth and power
• Viewed as very strong in
analysing economic factors
and objectively defines class
re relationship 2 means of
• Allegedly over-emphasises
economic factors shaping
• Failure of the majority to
show any interest in change
• Can’t explain workers’
attraction to capitalism
• Downplays role of
individuals in shaping
Neo – ‘Marxism’ :
Strengths & Weaknesses
• Strong in recognising changes
in the 20th century
• Recognises the importance of
culture as a factor in
determining society which
Marxism downplays. It
emphasises the determining
role of ideas etc
(superstructure) in social
• Recognises that the ruling
class can only rule with the
support of other classes –
workers accept their
• It rejects marxism for being
irrelevant so by implication
neo-’marxism’ is also
• If as they claim cultural factors
determine social relationships
they stand accused of failing to
decide the relative importance
of various aspects of the
• Criticised 4 using term as they
seem far removed from
Feminism: a structural – conflict theory
Oppression and domination
• Women are oppressed by men
who hold the power.
• The family is a key agent in
maintaining male power and
• Liberal feminists seek legal
changes to remedy gender pay
• ‘Marxist’ – feminists
concerned with w.class
women & men - want
‘socialism’. Exploitation of
women specific to
• Radical feminists argue men
control by force. Women
should detach from male
society – reproduction can
be managed with sperm
banks and technology –
men can eventually be
• A culture through which men
dominate, exploit and oppress
• Life chances are unequal, as
they are influenced by the
(ascribed) status of being a
woman because of male
• This allows men to create and
maintain group privileges
Social construction of gender roles
• Ann Oakley (1974) studied
the ‘sexual division of
labour’ and argued that in
some societies sex has little
bearing on the activities of
men and women
• Mbuti Pygmies of the
Congo rainforest, hunt and
gather food together - share
responsibility for the care
Socialisation of Gender Roles.
What understanding do we have of …
• ‘Jack the Lad’
• leader quality
• A ‘new man’
Gender and employment
Employment patterns in Britain are deeply
• 66% of women aged 16-64 are in employment
compared with 79% of men
• Female employees working full-time earn around
85% of the average hourly earnings of male fulltime employees
• for women who work part-time, the gap in pay
relative to full-time men is 38% per hour.
Equal Opportunities Commission, 2007.
Sexist jokes –harmless fun?
• Yesterday scientists suggested that beer
contains female hormones. To test the theory
100 men were fed 6 pints of lager. It was
observed that 100% of the men gained
weight, talked excessively without making any
sense, became overly emotional, couldn’t
drive, failed to think rationally, argued over
nothing and refused to apologise when wrong.
No further testing is planned.
Strengths & Weaknesses
• Raised awareness of gender
bias & gender issues
• Strong on the social
construction of gender roles
• Brought more balance to
• Gave a voice to the underrepresented half of the
• Gender is considered a
weak basis to form a theory
• Narrow & excludes other
factors such as class/
economic & social system
• Ignores categories such as
• Blames 50% of humanity for
all the ills suffered by the
Symbolic Interactionism & Weberian social action wk 7
•Weber saw sociology as a science which
could explain human behaviour.
• Argued that social structures e.g.
politics and culture, affected how
individuals and groups behave.
weber.jpg liberal-vision.org. Accessed 13.11.13
• Believed people looked for meaning in all things;
language, interpretation, behaviour etc
Key features of Weberianism
• Emphasises interaction between social actors.
Founding ‘father’ of social action/interpretive
• Increasing rationalisation/growth of bureaucracy is
crucial. Disappearance of trad forms of action –
religion etc. Bureaucracy & managers have power.
• Verstehen ( putting one’s self in others’ shoes) .
Understand society from an individual’s point of view
in order to explain interactions & the motives behind
• Society should be
• Weber made an
Value-free approach –
between the concepts
Weber was interested in
of ‘behaviour’ and
understanding – not to
• ‘Behaviour ‘ only
skew meaning with
becomes ‘action’ when
it is directed towards
• Particularly concerned
other people in such a
with social structures;
way that it takes
account of how others
Patterns of social action
New forms of social action
• Traditional Action where
people carry out daily tasks or
act in a particular way
because they have always
• Goal Oriented (or Rational)
action is driven by principles of
efficiency and science.
• Formal Rationalisation
calculating to achieve ends
replaced tradition, emotion
and values as motivators for
• Bureaucracy is the ‘technically
superior’ form of org needed
in industrial society. But also
views it as a threat to
Affective Actions are driven
by powerful human emotions
such as hate, rage or love.
• Value Oriented Action refers
to actions where behaviour is
motivated by a higher
‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’ (1930) *1905+ (Trans
Talcott Parsons) .Or an Idealist Conception of History.
• The ideas & motives of Calvinist
protestants led to intro of
Capitalism in 17th Century
• John Calvin : only an ‘elect’
group would get to heaven.
This had been pre-destined by
God no matter what good
deeds done on earth
• Weber: Calvinists had a
psychological problem- they
didn’t know if they were among
• In order to convince themselves
that they were they reasoned
that only the ‘chosen’ would be
able to live a good/successful
life on earth
The ascetic protestant’s Good Life
• Self-discipline, austerity, hard-work,
thrift, career ‘calling’. But also
• This is the mentality of the
entrepeneur – profits & reinvestment.
• Making money became a religious
& business ethic.
• Weber: Calvinism encouraged 2 key
features of capitalismstandardisation of production &
specialised division of labour.
• Calvinism encouraged modernity:
rationalisation (secular process)
that undermines all religions
Social action & social change
• Transition from feudal, pre-industrial
society to modern capitalism is seen
by Weber in terms of a shift in the
typical meanings that individuals give
to their actions.
• So capitalism, is the result of rational
action irrationally enacted by
Calvinist sects with psychological
problems concerning predestination!
Marxists claim capitalism predates Calvin, &
Protestantism was used as an ideology by the
capitalist class to legitimise/enhance their position.
Weberian social action
Strengths & weaknesses
• First to emphasise importance
of social interactions
• Focus on people & what
happens between them –
• Acknowledgement of
perspective of individual gives
kudos to qualitative research
• Weber seen as bridge
between (inter-) action &
• Also seen as an influence on
• Open to accusations of just
‘common sense’ and
• How one feels is difficult to
analyse and generalise to
society as a whole
• Hugely pessimistic about
society or social change
• Difficult to see how human
agency prevails in an age of
• Fundamental to action theory
is that we consciously
interpret the meanings behind
our actions /others. Doubtful!
Revision on theories wk 9.
Compare & contrast functionalism & feminism
• Both are structural
theories stressing the
education) in shaping
• Both analyse society as
a whole with
eg, family, legal system
• Func is a consensus theory
emphasising shared values as basis of
society. Fem is a conflict theory
emphasising social division
• Func argue many levels in society ‘mini’
social systems- fem say only 2 – base &
• Func argue 4 value-consensus – holds
society together. They defend the
system. Fem- there are more than one
set of values. Values of the powerful
Compare & contrast structural & action theories
• Both recognise there’s • Struc theories: structure shapes 1s
action/behaviour. Action: 1s
society. Macro v micro theory.
individuals. Difference • Struc theories see roles & values
as inflexible limits on individuals :
is over where
action theory regards them as
emphasis is placed.
open to interpretation.
• Overlap is so great
• Struc theories macro favour
that distinction is
quantitative research methods.
Action study small scale
interactions tend 2 use qualitative
• Surveys (generic term 4 all
kinds of questionnaires,
structured interviews, polls,
counts of preferences)
• Structured interviews
• Official statistics
• Unstructured interviews
• Participant observation
• Non- participant
• Case- studies
• Written evidence -other
people’s letters, diaries etc.
• Visual resourcesdocumentaries, newsreel,
pix and paintings
Case – study in Gender development
David Reimer; boy – girl – man.
• Informed & dangerous
psychology on the nature of
• Highlights huge problems of
subjectivity in the researcher.
• Examines ethical issues.
Dr Money & the boy with no penis, Horizon BBC
Describe main features of a postal questionnaire
• It’s a primary method & a quantitative
• It’s a set of uniform questions which people
respond to & return to the researcher (usually
in pre-paid, addressed envelope
• Generally they are brief & contain closed
questions, eg asking for a yes/no answer
Task re questionnaires
• Let’s design the worst questionnaire
ever written. It can be on:
• the college refurbishment
• the library
• the expansion of cafe spaces
• But it must break all the rules
Describe main features of participant observation
• Primary method of research & a qualitative
• The researcher takes part in the activities of
the individual/group on which the research is
based (can be overt/covert).
• Researcher then records what’s observed
either immediately or asap after the
• May occur over a long period of time.
On participant observation
• Participant/Observation - A Digital Story by Wynne Maggi:
women & childbirth etc in a rural Pakistan village (4 min)
• MacIntyre Undercover: the Chelsea Headhunters (54 min):
football gang violence- probably the greatest participant
• Donal MacIntyre talks about a revenge attack & being hunted
by the headhunters (7 min):
Explain the advantages of structured interviews
• Usually gets good response as questions have
to be answered there & then.
• Questions generally pre-set so the findings are
relatively easy to quantify & analyse
• Because they are face to face interviews the
respondents can ask for clarification if there is
any difficulty interpreting the meaning of a
Poor interview skills….‘Boemerang’
(‘in de gloria’, Belgium, 4min)
Bad ‘unstructured’ interview. Michael
Parkinson interviewing actress Meg
Ryan on the Parkinson show, BBC (3
Crime & Deviance
The Long Firm (lenny’s story). Harry Starks:
“deviancy theory is as dead as a dodo” (2 min)
Summary of official statistics on
crime & deviance: The Dark Figure (8
Documentaries & cultural
The Scheme (Best bits) BBC (5 min)
London riots- one night in Hackney (4
Secret of the wild child pt 1 (Genie, 9 min)
The Research Process : a cyclical model
Research is an on-going process: When
results are processed, more questions
are raised and researchers may be
prompted to revisit the theory and may
start all over again.
Stage 1 : Theory
Literature Review: What the theory is built on • This is a key part of the research process and
should be carried out prior to any research
• By doing so, the researcher can understand the
history and theoretical underpinnings of their
particular area of study.
• This stage frames the researcher’s hypothesis
within current knowledge.
• This allows the researcher to critique other work
and propose developments.
Stage 2 : Hypothesis
• Involves working out a clear formulation of the
research focus and making a clear prediction about the
relationship between two variables, or not. In sociology
it is more likely to be an aim of intention or a
• Alternative Hypotheses (One-tailed (part)and twotailed hypothesis):
1: ‘Giving children sugar will make them hyperactive’
2: ‘Giving children sugar will affect their behaviour’
• Null Hypothesis: Sugar will make no difference to the
children’s behaviour, or change is coincidental.
Stage 4 : Fieldwork
• Having finalised operational plans, data is
collected by the chosen method
• Research must be undertaken following strict
ethical guidelines – failure to follow guidelines
means research may be considered invalid.
• Follow the design & collect necessary data
Stage 5: Processing & presenting results
• Raw data is collected and
• Data is logged and
• Data is checked for
• Data is entered into the
• Data is analysed – this
allows the researcher to
make sense of it and draw
This stage deals with the
way in which we present
• Summary tables
• Graphs (bar charts, pie
• Written reports e.g.
An integral part of the
research process: allows
the researcher (and
anyone else) to see
patterns at a glance.
Describe the Theory stage & the fieldwork stage
of the research process
• The start when the
sociologist chooses field of
study. The existing set of
ideas which forms the basis
of the study
• May be a new area or an
area already studied.
• Carrying out the research
from the methods chosen,
• Goal is to follow the general
research design to get the
Describe the hypothesis & processing of results stages of the
Processing of results
• It’s a statement which is a
starting point for a piece of
• This statement can be
proved or disproved on the
basis of the research carried
• The final stage where data
is tallied up & analysed
• Data is collated and may
involve summarising and
• Results are written up and
Animation :Some men can’t take a hint (5 min)
• Site for various resources:
Conservative black woman on feminism (5 min)
The Simpsons. Skinner v the feminists (3 min)
Women & equal pay: Ford (Dagenham) sewing
machinists strike 1968 (9 min)