Lecture Notes:It is important to note that sociologist, even as scientists who rely on objective data, shape their theories according their pre-existing notions of social life and their own life experiences. For example, a sociologist who lives a well-adjusted, comfortable life might grow up to view society as a interrelated, cohesive whole. Whereas, a sociologist who grows up in abject poverty might see society as essentially the competition for scare resources. While personal biases and experiences do affect the types of questions sociologists ask, sociologists are committed to using the scientific method to arrive at conclusions about society.
Lecture Notes: Throughout the development of sociology and even now, sociologists operate according to a basic set of assumptions about social life and the role of sociology. As we’ve just discussed, no individual can be truly neutral about society. I’ve listed here some of the basic assumptions about society and social that guide the three major sociological perspectives. Each perspective discusses are based on one or more of these assumptions.
Lecture Notes:While there are several theoretical perspectives in sociology and many, many variations of each one, we will focus on the three major perspectives that sociological research and theory falls into. Functionalism-Society is divided into many parts (the family, government, religion, work) that work together for the overall balance. Functionalists recognize that there are dysfunctional parts, but the overall structure has a way of weeding out these parts. Conflict-Conflict theorists see different social groups fighting for power and resources. Conflict theorists often study labor conflicts, those between management and employees, racial and ethnic strife, and conflict between the genders and people of different sexual orientations. Symbolic interactionists-Symbolic interactionism is a very different way of looking at the world that the first two theories. While the functionalism and conflict perspective are macro social-that is they focus on large social structures and institutions, symbolic interactionism is microsocial-it focuses on small interactions between people. People use symbols, not just tangible ones, like how a wedding ring symbolizes the vows between two people, but gestures and body language.
Image taken from: http://www.nndb.com/people/811/000113472/Lecture Notes:Talcott Parsons, a Harvard sociologist, developed an overall perspective in sociology that dominated sociology for the first half of the 20th century-structural functionalism. He adapted the ideas of late 19th century French sociologist Emile Durkheim who viewed society as living organism. While he rejected the living organism analogy, Parsons did adapt Durkheim’s ideas to create a ‘grand theory’ that all parts of society ultimately worked together for the overall stability.
Lecture Notes:I chosen a few parts out of many, but I think this flow chart explains the functionalist view of society. The parts work together to build up the whole of society. They are not in competition with one another, but they are interlocking pieces in a grand puzzle called society.
Lecture Note:Parsons look at social structures like the family and saw the niche of each group. He stated that men occupied a specific role of instrumental leadership-he made decisions and worked for the family. Women on the other hand, had an expressive role-they cared for children. This arrangement was confirmed and supported by other institutions, such as the church and labor market. Traditional men’s work paid better and the church encouraged women to stay at home and cultivate domestic dreams. Thus, society worked as a whole.It should be noted that structural functionalists, like Robert Merton, amended the ideas of Parson to suggest that no all parts of social structures were functional. Critics of Parsons and other functionalist claimed that the perspective was overarching and took an inherently conservative view of the world. Robert Merton, a student of Parsons, divided social structures into manifest and latent functions. Manifest functions were the open, expressed functions of social structures and latent functions were the unintended ones. A manifest function of the 1950’s labor market was to provide breadwinner jobs for men. But a latent function of this was to discourage women from entering the labor market and thus competing with men. Robert Merton also the functions of social structures and relationships into functional and dysfunctional elements. While the breadwinner model persisted, Merton would suggest that unequal pay for women for the same jobs (and some would even argue that domestic labor should be compensated like formal employment) was dysfunctional. Merton’s adaptation of Parson’s functionalism stated, in essence, that elements can exist in society that do not help all parts or what is functional (ie advantageous) for one person is not for another person. These dysfunctional elements are generally unacknowledged and also latent functions. The tumultuous 1960’s shifted the theoretical focus of American sociology from functionalism to conflict theory which we will discuss next. While functionalism had garnered numerous criticisms in early part of the 20th century, the rapid social change of the 1960s and 1970’s made structural functionalism to seem incompatible with instability and change. Let’s discuss the emergence of this perspective……
Image taken from: http://www.lucidcafe.com/library/96may/marx.htmlLecture Notes:The conflict theory has its roots in Karl Marx, the German historian/philosopher/economist who is known most famously for his 1848 book, The Communist Manifesto. Marx was not a sociologist, but he influenced generation of sociologists with his peculiar worldview. He studied historical eras and came to the conclusion that society was divided into 2 groups: the oppressed and the oppressors. Marx had a materialist view of society-that everything boiled down to the economy and the pursuit of goods. In the feudal era, these groups took the form of feudal lords and serfs. He wrote the Manifesto at the height of industrialization in Germany and indentified the oppressed factory workers as the proletariat and factory owners as the bourgeoisie.In the 20th century, sociologists modified his views to incorporate other types of oppression-gender oppression, racial and ethnic oppression, and oppression of deviant sexual orientations. Where functionalists see order and function, conflict theorists see conflict. Social structures like the family and religion, in the view of conflict theorists, represent who is winning at the moment. Marx himself suggested that all structures were shaped around the means of production (ie. The primary mode of the economy). Later sociologists abandoned the view of the economy’s centrality, but retained the adversarial view of social groups. The focus of conflict perspective is macro-level. It analyzes large scale social structures and patterns. As you mentioned earlier, the conflict perspective became popular in sociological circles beginning in the 1960’s. This perspective is able to account for social change and conflicting values within a society. One of the criticisms of the conflict theory is that is it too action-oriented for object social science.
Lecture Notes:It should be noted that conflict theorists find that social structures represent, at least for the moment, who wins. While the conflict does not cease, it is easy to see how social structures represent the interests of those who have the upper hand. Like functionalists, conflict theorists paint a broad picture of society in social institutions are interwoven with social patterns. Instead of breeding stability, however, conflict theorists see these social structures as perpetuating the unfair advantage of one group over another. It is not hard to see how free trade agreements, for example, benefitted managers over workers. Dominant groups affect, through their active involvement or through the cultural norms that benefit them, affect multiple institutions. In the case of free trade, large corporations lobbied politicians to enact free trade AND they benefitted from a mentality that existed in the 1990’s that what’s good for business is good for everyone. The conflict perspective, more than the structural functionalist perspective, concedes that through the social ‘tug of war’, can produce social change. The conflict view is that society is always in flux, whereas the functionalist view tends toward an image of homeostasis.
Image taken from: http://www.politicalcowardice.com/tag/radical-feminism/#axzz1qhvW4jnvLecture Note:What Parsons saw as functional, conflict theorists see as an indication of who has the upper hand. In the case of the traditional family structure, men benefit from social structures that give them the upper hand. Through cultural norms and their active efforts, they systematically block women from having careers that pay well and reiterate their role in the house. Social institutions, what Marx would call the ‘ideological superstructure’, uphold social inequalities. Churches, for example, might indoctrinate people to believe that women should serve a submissive role in family and society. It is no coincidence that, traditionally, men most leadership roles in the church. Conflict theorists suggest that perpetual conflict can and does led to social change. The women’s suffrage movement, women’s liberation movement, and even the current debates on the government’s role in providing contraception for women are examples of how conflict is manifested and how over time, oppressed groups can earn some concessions.
Image taken from: http://www.sociosite.net/topics/sociologists.phpLecture Notes:Symbolic interactionism stands apart from the other theoretical perspectives we have covered thus far in that it is a micro-level approach to studying society. Symbolic interactionists, like Herbert Blumer who coined the term, believed that society is the sum of one-on-one interactions. For example, if I’m your academic advisor, there is a certain protocol that we follow. I assume the role of a caring and perhaps wise academic and you will affect a role of a deferential student. The way we speak to one another confirms this. You will likely use proper English when speaking to me, whereas you might use slang when speaking to friends. By playing our roles nicely, we confirm a shared agreement on reality. Our relationship is professional (as evidenced in the way we speak to one another) and you will (hopefully) agree to take my advice.
Lecture Notes:Notice in my drawing how neither circle is much bigger than the other. This is intentional-symbolic interactionists count even the smallest, most mundane actions in their analysis of society. It is the sum these actions that creates society. Symbolic interactionism maintain that we need others to help us shape and negotiate reality. Reality is a social construction that we agree upon through our interactions with others.
Image taken from: http://www.thelovejourney.com/2012/03/the-other-s-word/Lecture Note:Couples may consciously or unconsciously work out what it means to be married. Though they are ostensible symbols, like a wedding ring and marriage ceremony at a church, there are numerous symbols embedded in the conversations and actions that cue the social actors into what is reality. From personal experience, I’ve noticed that some married couples distance themselves from their single friends once they get married. I’ve talked to some married couples about this and some of them actually discuss with one another how much time should be spent with each other and how much time should be spent with friends. Other times, however, there is an unspoken agreement that the one-on-one time with one’s spouse takes precedent over old friends. There is no universal law, according to symbolic interactionists, as to why this exists. Sometimes people are socialized into this belief through observing their friends and family members who were recently married. Other times, couples forge their own expectations for a marriage; they might decide that hanging out with old friends should be kept to a minimum. Symbolic interactionists are not necessarily concerned with structural inequalities, like conflict theorists, nor do they believe that seek order and stability when observing social life. There is no overarching theme for social life, but instead a thousand small interactions that make up the whole. This ‘bottom-up’ approach to studying social life takes a neutral stance on the role of the sociology. Symbolic interactionists do not generally see the discipline of sociology as a vehicle for social change. Symbolic interactionism has been criticized for the immediacy of its observations. We may, for example, interact with people of other races according to deep-seated biases. In no way, then, do we negotiate the meaning our interactions. There are variables, like sex, education, and gender, that influence how we interact. Some critics point to the fact that symbolic interactionism blurs these distinctions. The third criticism of symbolic interactionism is that not all interactions are of equal value. Telling a friend who’s moving away “Let’s keep in touch” is not the same as telling your future spouse “I do” at the altar of the church.**Criticisms of Symbolic Interactionism adopted from: Folts, E. (2011). The Sociological Perspective [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from ASU Learn: http://asulearn.appstate.edu/
I will ask these questions at the end of the lecture to stimulate final thoughts. I will, of course, allow time between the slides to gauge student’s understanding. I will ask the last four questions as an informal summative assessment. I want to know what stuck, what didn’t stick, and what was most memorable. At the very end of class, I will pass out note cards and ask students to write their name, what was most memorable about the lecture, what made no sense whatsoever about what I said, and a thing or two they learned throughout the lecture. This will help me, as a new instructor, to calibrate my teaching strategy and look for new ways to explain things that did not make sense for a number of students.
Major theoretical perspectives in sociology
Major TheoreticalPerspectives in Sociology GS 138:Introduction to Sociology New Life Theological Seminary Seth Allen
What is a theoretical perspective?Theoretical perspectives are the basic assumptions about how society functions, the role of sociology, and the application of a specific set theories in studying social life.
Examples of these basic assumptions: Society is a unified whole that seeks equilibrium Society is composed of groups competing for scare resources Social life can be measured through observing daily interactions Sociology should be used to enact social change Sociology should be value free
Why Should I Care about Theory? Explanation from the Dalton Conley (Link):
Three Major Perspectives Structural Functionalism-society is an organic being of interrelated parts that work together in harmony Conflict –society is the competition of a few groups of people for scarce resources Symbolic Interactionism-Society is essentially a set of daily interactions that are guided by symbols
Three Perspectives Visualized Believes that sociology Macro orPerspective Major Tenets should enact Micro Focus: social change: Society is an Structural organic whole No MacroFunctionalism of stable parts Society is a set of groups Conflict competing for Yes Macro power and resources Society is the sum of daily Symbolic interactions No MicroInteractionism guided by symbols
Structural Functionalism•Popularized by Americansociologist Talcott Parsons inthe 1940’s•Society is a stablearrangement of parts that fittogether•Social is glued together byshared values Talcott Parsons,1902-1979•Each part contributes to theoverall function•Macro-level focus
Structural Functionalism Visualized Religion Judicial Education System Society The Family
Real World Application: Functionalist Perspective and MarriageThe traditional family structure inwhich the husband was abreadwinner and the wifetended children and didhousework was ‘functional’.Men could earn more incomeand women were naturallybetter at childcare and thus,the traditional family structureworked.
The Conflict Perspective•Originated with the Germaneconomist/historian Karl Marx,the ‘father of communism’•Social groups (i.e. workers andcapitalists, men and women)struggle for scarce resourcesand power•Conflict is normal, stability andorder are not Karl Marx, 1818-1883•Macro-level focus
Conflict Perspective Visualized Men Women European Racial Americans minorities Workers Management Heterosexuals LGBTQ
Real World Application: Conflict Perspective and MarriageThe male breadwinner model benefits men in 2 ways (among others): It reduces potential competition from women in the labor market It downplays womens contributions in domestic workThis model demonstrates that men have the upper hand in society
Symbolic Interactionism•Micro-level analysis of society•Society is ‘played out’ throughdaily interactions between people•People interact through sharedsymbols (physical ones andintangible ones like bodylanguage) which gives meaning insocial interactions•All reality is based on shared Herbert Blumer, 1900-1987subjective agreement
Symbolic Interactionism Visualized Text your You Husband Smile at and Wife friend the barista respond about the at the to your Talk sale at the coffee shop Gap boss’s email Society Give up Move to the You greet your seat next lane on Your on the bus highway for Tuck the neighbor for the the car on exit children on the way elderly ramp into bed to work woman
Real World Application: Symbolic Interactionism and MarriageSymbolic interactionists would suggest that couples negotiate their particular roles. Through verbal and non-verbal interactions, they can negotiate things like:•If and how many children they will have•How domestic chores should be split•How will they divide time for themselves from timewith other couples and friends
In Conclusion…. Questions? Thoughts? Personal observations about the three theoretical perspectives? Which perspective appeals to you the most? Which of these perspectives believes that sociology should be used for social change? Which perspective has a micro-level focus? Which perspective believes that society is comprised of interlocking parts?