Sociology Chapter 2

What is social theory? Social theories enable us to see the social world in different ways.
How did the early social theorists make sense of the world? The foundations of modern sociology, and the social theory as we know it today, can be traced to the writings of a handful of key thinkers working in the second half of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century such as Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weer, Georg Simmel, and W.E.B. Du Bois.
What innovations in the social theory emerged in the mid-twentieth century? After WWII, the interests of social theorists began to shift in new and unexpected directions, and leadership in the development of social theory and sociology as a whole passed form being located primarily in Europe to America. Directions were embodied by functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism.
How has a new generation of social theory evolved? Finally, we provide a brief sampling of some important new theories that have evolved since the 1960s.
Define Social Theory Social theories are systematic ideas about he relationship between individuals and societies. They are analytical frameworks for understanding the social world. Sociology can explain universal features of all societies or singular topics such as race, gender, or religion.
Three Common themes that all of the major sociological theories have sought to address 1)What is the nature of the individual? How does the individual act in the context of society?2)What is the basis for social order? What is it that holds societies together?3)What are the circumstances of conditions under which societies change?
1/4 key transitions of the late 19th and the early 20th centuries in classical social theory The change from an economy rooted in farming and agriculture to one based on industry and factory work (Industrial Revolution).
2/4 key transitions of the late 19th and the early 20th centuries in classical social theory The movement of people from rural areas to cities
3/4 key transitions of the late 19th and the early 20th centuries in classical social theory The change of the predominat form of government from monarchies to democracies, organized as sovereign nation-states (many of the countries in Europe established their more or less permanent boundaries in this period).
4/4 key transitions of the late 19th and the early 20th centuries in classical social theory Changes in terms of the role of faith, with a decline in religious influence in public life as a nonreligious ideas became increasingly important
Karl Marx (1818-1883) Marx believed that societies are heavily shaped by their economic systems. Goods are produced collectively but are usually produced in surplus to the min physical needs of the society. He studied who takes possession of the surplus, what means do they use to do so, and how control over the surplus gives some members of any society extra rewards that are not shared by everyone else. Marx suggested that tensions exist between groups in a society’s economic system that give give rise to conflict and sometimes social revolutions.
Marx’s term “classes” Classes are groups of ppl who share a similar set of economic interests in a given society
The Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels most famous work published in 1848 that divides the history of all societies from antiquity up to their own time into three distinctive modes of production
3 Distinctive “Modes of Production” characterizations characterizes the dominant economic system in a society and the classes that the economic system gives rise to: ancient societies based on slavery; feudalism, which was characterized by largely agrarian societies with a tiny group of landowners; and capitalism, economies organized around market-based exchange
Two parts of the modes of productions: forces of production and social relations of production
Marx’s definition of the “forces of production” are the technological and productive capacity of any society at a given point in time. The forces of production are all of the different tools people use to make things.
Marx’s definition of the “social relations of production” are the relationships and inequalities between different kinds of people within the economy. The relations of production are how people are organized to carry out the tasks needed to produce the tools for the forces of production.
Marx’s analysis and prediction that capitalism would dominate the economic system around the world consisted of the idea that at the heart of capitalist societies lies the central conflict between members of two classes: the bourgeoisie
The bourgeoisie possess special resources called capital that can be used to finance business investments, and everyone else. Bourgeosies own property and can hire other ppl to work for them
The proletariat are the working class people. Bec members of the proletariat own no capital, Marx noted that they must seek paid employment in order to meet their basic needs.
Other social groups such as shopkeepers, craftsmen, and farmers occupied a space between the elite capitalists and workers
Since larger enterprises can produce more cheaply than smaller ones, Marx predicted that… these intermediate groups would shrink as small producers were driven into bankruptcy and forced to join the ranks of the proletariat
Marx also thought that modern capitalist societies would increasingly be polarized between a very small bourgeoisie and an increasingly large working class
Marx argued that in order for capitalism to arise, all of the hereditary privileges of landlords, including rules that allowed them to control the lives of agricultural workers, had to be destroyed. This revolutionary change would be about about by a rising class of capitalists who demanded economic freedoms that did not exist under feudalism.
Marx thought that as capitalists overthrew feudalism to create a new and dynamic economic system, the proletariat would create a revolution that would overthrow capitalism in favor of a socialist society.
Socialist society is a society where the productive forces of the society are owned by everyone and not by individual business owners
Class struggle theory Classes of people who are treated so differently by the economic system are inevitably going to be in conflict with Marx believed that a revolution towards a socialist society would be desired because in order to maintain or increase their profit, capitalists would be driven to push down the wages of workers until those workers finally revolt.
How has capitalism changed in ways that Marx and Engels did not anticipate in their writings in the 19th century Capitalist societies, especially in the richer parts of the world, have developed large government-funded and operated social programs such as social security, unemployment insurance, free or low-cost health insurance, and educational systems designed to reduce poverty and inequality even in the context of thriving capitalist economies. Marx also underestimated the willingness of capitalists to pay workers decent wages, esp when they need to recruit workers w/valuable skills or in order to keep workers satisfied. Rather then getting steadily worse for workers, living standards have steadily risen from the 19th century onward.
capitalism an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state
Marx, the German thinker was an early theorist of of globalization. He and Engels anticipated the spread of the capitalist economy to the entire world in the late 1840s. One of Marx’s most fundamental claims is that capitalism is capable of building up tremendous productive capacity, and in that way creates the conditions for socialism to become viable(socialist leaders in [countries like Russia & China] like Lenin and Mao attempted to skip this crucial stage in development by moving from a feudal mode of production directly to socialism- this proved to be impossible, and in responding to these failures, leaders in these countries eventually resorted to reintroducing capitalism)
Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) Emile is a French sociologist who sought to trying to understand the changes taking place around him during the late 19th & early 20th centuries. He saw sociologists as the doctors of social problems.
Three major contributions of Emile Durkheim: 1) his development of the concept of social fact2) his analysis of the roots of social solidarity3) his analysis of religion as a force in modern life
In “The Rules of Sociological method,” Durkheim made a case for the need for sociology by comparing it to the sciences of biology and physics. He argued that just like those sciences, sociology examines a force in the world that is objective and exists independently of our ability to control it
Durkheim’s Social facts or social forces are regularities and rules of everyday life that every human community has. Ex. just as gravity is a force that exists external to us and is not made by us, so too do social forces exist objectively in the world. We cannot defy gravity (not easily), but we also cannot usually defy social facts
Weber -power-authority-legitimacy -status groups (similar interests: religion, race, or ethnicity -not liking the same genre of music/lady gaga examples)-social closure: certain groups seek to close off opportunities for other groups to monopolize opportunities for their own members (such as in the American South after the Civil war, the system or apartheid in South Africa- where blacks were often legally prevented from attending the same schools, using certain public facilities, marrying whites, or living in the same neighborhoods as whites).
Social Stratification inequalities between groups that persist over time (Weber agreed w/Marx that it existed, but he thought Marx’s emphasis on class struggle as the motor force of history neglected many other ways group competition & conflict influence the process of historical change.

You Might Also Like