The Origins of Sociological Thinking
•Where did social thought originate?
–Early Greeks studied society, but spent most of...
The Origins of Sociological Thinking
•The origins of sociology were influenced by two separate
“revolutions”:
–The Age of ...
The Origins of Sociological Thinking
Sociology and the Age of Enlightenment
•From the late 1600s to the mid 1700s, some ph...
The Origins of Sociological Thinking
Sociology and the Age of Revolution,
Industrialization, and Urbanization
•The introdu...
The Origins of Sociological Thinking
Sociology and the Age of Revolution,
Industrialization, and Urbanization
•Another res...
The Origins of Sociological Thinking
Sociology and the Age of Revolution,
Industrialization, and Urbanization
•Urbanizatio...
The Origins of Sociological Thinking
Sociology and the Age of Revolution,
Industrialization, and Urbanization
Auguste Comt...
Positivism
August Comte’s Positivist philosophy was based on his
conclusion that an intellectual discipline progresses onl...
Positivism
Positivism: seeks to describe only what “obviously” is,
what one can really be positive about, that is, sense d...
Positivism
As more and more Laws are discovered, it will
be possible, in turn, for these Laws to be
explained in terms of ...
Positivism
For Comte, therefore, the main task of sociology
was one of discovering the general laws of social
development ...
Positivism
2. Laws of succession (or "social dynamics"):
These were laws governing social change and
they involved an exam...
But the Interpretivists Beg to
Differ…
Interpretivist Sociology takes issue with the approach of
Positivism:
They argue th...
Interpretivists
Any attempt to establish ‘social facts’ founders on the
agency of the individual’s subjective understandin...
Realist Sociology – the ‘Middle Way…’
Like Positivism, Realist science accepts that social structures
have some form of in...
Positivism and Interpretivism:
Consider the sociology of crime and deviance in Britain. Is it a
social "fact“ – straightfo...
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  1. 1. The Origins of Sociological Thinking •Where did social thought originate? –Early Greeks studied society, but spent most of their time discussing what it should be like – not how it actually was –With the development of modern science in 1700s, social thinkers began to study society in a more scientific, systematic way
  2. 2. The Origins of Sociological Thinking •The origins of sociology were influenced by two separate “revolutions”: –The Age of Enlightenment (a revolution of thought) –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0B28_gwj0M –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Vkx7hNXE3Y –The Industrial Revolution (a revolution of technology) –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IKw_-FJSB8
  3. 3. The Origins of Sociological Thinking Sociology and the Age of Enlightenment •From the late 1600s to the mid 1700s, some philosophers began to demonstrate a skepticism of the power of religion the monarchy, while emphasizing the importance of reason –They believed that human society would be improved by scientific discovery and the assertion of reason, evidence based knowledge and democracy. –By the late 1700s / early 1800s, sociology as we know it (i.e.. observing and analyzing society in a systematic manner) began to take shape
  4. 4. The Origins of Sociological Thinking Sociology and the Age of Revolution, Industrialization, and Urbanization •The introduction of industrialization changed society irreversibly –Industrialization transformed agriculture- and craft-based societies into industry- and manufacturing-based societies –As a result, people left their farms to go work in the cities (sometimes, as in the case of the Highland Clearances, not entirely willingly), creating a new social ‘class’ of people (the working class) living in radically altered circumstances.
  5. 5. The Origins of Sociological Thinking Sociology and the Age of Revolution, Industrialization, and Urbanization •Another result of industrialization was the emergence of urbanization –As people moved to the cities to work in factories, populations became more dense, hundreds of thousands of people experienced new ways of working and living. •This process is called urbanization
  6. 6. The Origins of Sociological Thinking Sociology and the Age of Revolution, Industrialization, and Urbanization •Urbanization meant that many people shifted from being producers to being consumers –i.e.. if you move to the city and you no longer grow crops, you have to use your money to buy your own food and pay rent –This led to new social problems (e.g.. poor housing, poverty, unsanitary conditions, crowding, etc.) and forced entire families to work under poor conditions with no job security •Social thinkers began to try to understand how and why society was changing…
  7. 7. The Origins of Sociological Thinking Sociology and the Age of Revolution, Industrialization, and Urbanization Auguste Comte The new social science that Comte sought to establish was first called social physicssocial physics but he coined the word sociology,sociology, a hybrid term compounded of Latin and Greek parts Comte first used the term sociology in print in 1838
  8. 8. Positivism August Comte’s Positivist philosophy was based on his conclusion that an intellectual discipline progresses only to the degree that it is grounded in facts and experience, i.e., rests on empirical (observable) information about which one can reasonably make positive statements Comte sought to establish ‘laws’ of human society and behavior in the same way as the ‘natural sciences’ had for the natural world. In this way, people would begin to reject the superstitions of religion and the divine right of kings and embrace the certainties of ‘social facts.’ But Comte was concerned about where this might lead! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TcdAkQJpQE
  9. 9. Positivism Positivism: seeks to describe only what “obviously” is, what one can really be positive about, that is, sense data. A strict positivist, seeing a black sheep on a meadow could not say, “There is a black sheep.” He could only say, “I see a sheep, one side of which is black.” For Comte, the task of science was not the explanation of why things originally came into being (the causes of phenomena). Physicists, for example, could no more explain why a rock was a rock, a flower a flower or a cloud a cloud than they could explain the origin of matter. The task of science had to be the explanation of how things related to one another in terms of invariable and universal laws.
  10. 10. Positivism As more and more Laws are discovered, it will be possible, in turn, for these Laws to be explained in terms of their relationship to one another. In this sense Comte argues, science consists of the progressive discovery of Laws and their inter-relationships such that, ultimately, science will arrive at a general Law from which all other Laws derive... Comtean Positivism.
  11. 11. Positivism For Comte, therefore, the main task of sociology was one of discovering the general laws of social development and, in this respect, he categorised these general laws thus: 1. Laws of coexistence: These were the laws that governed the relationship between different parts of society. They involved, therefore, an examination of the functions and inter-relationships between those various parts. What parts make up this thing we call ‘society?’
  12. 12. Positivism 2. Laws of succession (or "social dynamics"): These were laws governing social change and they involved an examination of the way the nature and function of social institutions changed over time. If human beings could isolate why and how things change, what might we then be empowered to achieve?
  13. 13. But the Interpretivists Beg to Differ… Interpretivist Sociology takes issue with the approach of Positivism: They argue that since the material world is subjectively experienced and interpreted by individuals, it is not possible to measure something whose ‘meaning’ may shift from context to context (i.e. culture to culture) For instance, what is the lecturer currently holding? OK, but if you were from an isolated tribe and had never seen a ‘chair,’ this could just as easily be a weapon, and your behaviour understood quite differently…
  14. 14. Interpretivists Any attempt to establish ‘social facts’ founders on the agency of the individual’s subjective understanding of her surroundings. The task of sociologists is therefore is to record and make sense of the meanings systems individuals (for of instance by placing yourself in the shoes of others and exercising Max Weber’s concept of ‘Verstehen’). For both theories this assumes a specific methodological approach – the pursuit of qualitative (people’s thoughts, feelings and opinions) or quantitative data (information presented in numerical form). Which of these do you think Positivists and Interpretivists favour?
  15. 15. Realist Sociology – the ‘Middle Way…’ Like Positivism, Realist science accepts that social structures have some form of independent existence which is experienced as "external" to us as individuals. These structures act upon us - pressurising and constraining our behaviour - and, for this reason, the study of social structures is considered to be of primary importance for Realist science. On the other hand, like Interpretivism, Realism accepts that what we believe to be real will have important consequences for our behaviour. Thus, those things we believe to be real are experienced by us as real. If, for example, I believe myself to be middle class (my subjective belief), whilst every indicator we can use to define social class holds that I am working class (my objective class position), then this will have important consequences for my personal behaviour. If Del Boy thinks he’s a Yuppie, does that maker it real (at least for him?)
  16. 16. Positivism and Interpretivism: Consider the sociology of crime and deviance in Britain. Is it a social "fact“ – straightforward to record - that most crime is committed by young, working-class, males? a. On what evidence do you base your judgement that this is, or is not, the case? b. Can such a "fact" be explained or understood in another way and, if so, how? c. Suggest how we can we distinguish between different interpretations of "the facts“ Clue: are ‘criminal’ and ‘deviant’ behaviours open to interpretation, historically, culturally and contextually?

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