Examining The Social World Essay

2467 words - 10 pages

Chapter 2 – Examining the Social
World: How Do We Know?
Ballantine, Roberts, and Korgen. Our Social World: Condensed, Fourth Edition. © 2015 SAGE Publications

The Development of Sociology
• Social thought before sociology: strongly influenced
by religion and philosophy
• Modern sociology arose in 19th century Europe,
influenced by several conditions:
– Colonialism: exposure to other cultures
– Industrial Revolution & French Revolution: desire to know
how dramatic change could be systematically explained
– Advances in the natural sciences: desire to apply scientific
method to the social world

Ballantine, Roberts, and Korgen. Our Social World: Condensed, Fourth Edition. © ...view middle of the document...

Ballantine, Roberts, and Korgen. Our Social World: Condensed, Fourth Edition. © 2015 SAGE Publications

Empirical Research & Social Theory
Theory & research are interdependent
• Theories are statements regarding how facts are related
to each other
– Sociological theories attempt to explain and make predictions
about the social world

• The researcher’s choice of theory and research method is
guided by the research question and level of social
analysis
• Theories tell researchers what kinds of facts to look for
• Researchers use facts to test theories

Ballantine, Roberts, and Korgen. Our Social World: Condensed, Fourth Edition. © 2015 SAGE Publications

Sociology’s Major Theoretical Perspectives
Theoretical perspective: a basic view of society
that
• Guides sociological research and analysis

• Provides an overall approach to understanding social
behavior, social systems, and relationships between
them
• Can be micro- or macro-level; all can be used at the
meso-level

Ballantine, Roberts, and Korgen. Our Social World: Condensed, Fourth Edition. © 2015 SAGE Publications

Micro-to-Meso Level Theories
Symbolic interaction theory

(or social construction, interpretative theory)
• Main ideas:

– People interact on the basis of shared symbols to construct a
meaningful world—which then serves as a basis for further
interaction.
– Some emphasize agency, individuals’ active role in constructing
their social environments, or how their social positions shape
their constructions

• Main criticisms:

– Neglects macro-structures
– Difficult to study concepts like “mind” and “self”
• Key theorists: George H. Mead, the Iowa School

Ballantine, Roberts, and Korgen. Our Social World: Condensed, Fourth Edition. © 2015 SAGE Publications

Micro-to-Meso Level Theories
Rational choice theory
(or exchange theory)
• Main ideas:

– People act by making rational, self-interested decisions
that will maximize their rewards and minimize costs

• Main criticisms:
– Neglects macro-level processes and micro-level, internal
mental processes
– Cannot easily explain altruistic behavior
– People do not always act rationally or accurately assess
their self-interest
Ballantine, Roberts, and Korgen. Our Social World: Condensed, Fourth Edition. © 2015 SAGE Publications

Meso- and Macro-Level Theories
Structural-functional theory
(or functional theory)
• Main ideas:

– Each part of society has a necessary function
– Parts fit together into a stable, orderly whole
– Functions may be manifest (planned) or latent
(unintended); some things may be dysfunctional

• Main criticisms:



Some claims are abstract, difficult to test
Can’t easily explain social change
Assumes conflict is harmful, which isn’t always true
Assumes stability is good, ignoring inequities
• Key theorists: Comte, Durkheim, Merton

Ballantine, Roberts, and Korgen. Our Social World: Condensed, Fourth Edition. © 2015 SAGE...

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