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SOC 101 Wednesday February 17 Lecture Outline Theoretical Perspectives in Contemporary Mainstream Sociology A theory is a general statement about how some parts of the world fit together and how they work it is an explanation of how two or more facts are related to one another I Symbolic Interactionism Focus is on how people themselves define reality how they make sense of the world how they experience and define what people are doing Assumption is that social structures are created through interactions among people so that patterns and standards of behaviour emerge i e social reality is a construction by people Focus on meanings assigned to actions and symbols how meanings are learned and modified Inquires into factors that influence how we interpret what we say and do and patterns that give rise to same interpretation for many Suggest individuals exist in analogy to actors in a play dramaturgy a sub theory of interactionism Key sociologists George Herbert Mead and Herbert Blumer Criticisms No systematic frameworks for prediction or persistence evolving of meanings Potential for subjectivity in analysis greater Goffman s dramaturgical approach understanding social interaction through an analogy of theatre and performance Social life a stage in which people interact and perform humans are both actors and audience members parts they play are roles in everyday life mother teacher factory 1 worker the roles change depending upon the setting roles consist of two types front stage and back stage characterized by difference in behavior formal and informal II Functionalism also known as Structural Functionalism Focus on order and stability in society and assumes society is a complex system whose parts work together to promote social stability Society is a system of interrelated interdependent parts which are called social structures e g family education economic religion etc each social structure has a purpose or function for the continued maintenance of social stability e g nuclear family provides sustenance shelter primary care childhood socialization provides codes of social behavior practice of religion the learning of values and rituals The function of a structure is its contribution to the system and its effects on other structures Each structure functions to maintain an orderly and predictable system preserving social order The functions of each social structure consist of A manifest functions the recognized and intended consequences of the social structure B latent functions the often unrecognized and unintended consequences C social dysfunctions undesirable consequences There is a normative consensus where members of society share a set of values and behaviors An analogy is the thermostat heat regulation or the human body 2 Key sociologists Emile Durkheim Talcott Parsons Robert Merton Criticisms May justify and legitimize the existence of a part of society e g poverty or unemployment Helps to preserve status quo by overlooking or downplaying sources of tension and inequality Efficiency of a part may not be questioned Origins of social conflict and instability not accountable or are considered dysfunctional III Conflict Theory Focus on conflict as inevitable part of social life Societies are characterized by inequality and thus there is an emphasis on the role of competition in producing conflict Conflict is not necessarily a negative aspect of society since it produces social change Society comprised of dominant and subordinate groups which compete for resources the have and the have nots Who benefits at whose expense is the question Key sociologists Karl Marx Max Weber Criticisms overemphasize tensions and divisions relationship between groups more complex situations exist where subordinate groups control the interactions are ignored Chapter 3 Doing Sociological Research 3 The approaches and methods used by social science researchers Science is a logical system that bases knowledge on direct systematic observation What is A Valid Sociological Topic Sociologists conduct research on almost every area of human behavior This includes research at the both the macro level and the Sociological research includes a specified method of how it is micro level to be done Typical Steps for Research Step 1 select a topic A sociologist may choose a particular topic for a variety of reasons For example he or she may be interested in the topic there may be funding available to do research on the topic and or the topic may constitute a pressing social problem that the sociologist wants to help people better understand and perhaps help to solve Ways to Select Topics Personal experience Curiosity based on media State of knowledge in the field Solving a problem Step 2 define the problem This involves developing a researchable question focusing on a specific subject and figuring out exactly what it is you want to learn about it 4 5 Step 3 review the existing literature This is required in order to learn whether studies have already been done on the subject and if so what the results were Goals of a Literature Review Demonstrate a familiarity Show the path of prior research Integrate and summarize Learn from others 6 Reviewing the literature helps the researcher narrow down the subject come up with ideas about specific questions to ask and or particular areas to explore and to assess if there is anything new to learn about the subject that has not already been uncovered by previous studies 7

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UB SOC 101 - Theoretical Perspectives in Contemporary Mainstream Sociology

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