Innovative thinking about a global world Thursday, February 11, "Theory" in sociology What is a sociological theory? And how does it relate to the challenge of providing explanations of social facts?
History of sociology The field of sociology itself—and sociological theory by Definition of sociological theory relatively new. Both date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The drastic social changes of that period, such as industrializationurbanizationand the rise of democratic states caused particularly Western thinkers to become aware of society.
The oldest sociological theories deal with broad historical processes relating to these changes. Since then, sociological theories have come Definition of sociological theory encompass most aspects of societyincluding communitiesorganizations and relationships.
Sociological theory attempts to answer the following three questions: In the myriad attempts to answer these questions, three predominately theoretical i.
These problems are largely inherited from the classical theoretical traditions. The consensus on the central theoretical problems is: The first deals with knowledge, the second with agency, and the last with time.
Lastly, sociological theory often grapples with the problem of integrating or transcending the divide between micro, meso and macro-scale social phenomena, which is a subset of all three central problems. These problems are not altogether empirical problems, rather they are epistemological: Objectivity and subjectivity[ edit ] Main articles: Objectivity scienceObjectivity philosophyand Subjectivity The problem of subjectivity and objectivity can be divided into a concern over the general possibilities of social actions, and, on the other hand the specific problem of social scientific knowledge.
In the former, the subjective is often equated though not necessarily with the individual, and the individual's intentions and interpretations of the objective. The objective is often considered any public or external action or outcome, on up to society writ large. A primary question for social theorists, is how knowledge reproduces along the chain of subjective-objective-subjective, that is to say: While, historically, qualitative methods have attempted to tease out subjective interpretations, quantitative survey methods also attempt to capture individual subjectivities.
Also, some qualitative methods take a radical approach to objective description in situ. The latter concern with scientific knowledge results from the fact that a sociologist is part of the very object they seek to explain. Bourdieu puts this problem rather succinctly: How can the sociologist effect in practice this radical doubting which is indispensable for bracketing all the presuppositions inherent in the fact that she is a social being, that she is therefore socialized and led to feel "like a fish in water" within that social world whose structures she has internalized?
How can she prevent the social world itself from carrying out the construction of the object, in a sense, through her, through these unself-conscious operations or operations unaware of themselves of which she is the apparent subject — Pierre Bourdieu, "The Problem of Reflexive Sociology" in An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology  Structure and agency[ edit ] Main article: Structure and agency Structure and agency, sometimes referred to as determinism versus voluntarism,  form an enduring ontological debate in social theory: Discussions over the primacy of either structure and agency relate to the core of sociological epistemology "What is the social world made of?
Synchrony and diachrony[ edit ] Synchrony and diachrony, or statics and dynamics, within social theory are terms that refer to a distinction emerging out of the work of Levi-Strauss who inherited it from the linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure.
Diachrony, on the other hand, attempts to analyze dynamic sequences. Following Saussure, synchrony would refer to social phenomena as a static concept like a language, while diachrony would refer to unfolding processes like actual speech. In Anthony Giddens' introduction to Central Problems in Social Theory, he states that, "in order to show the interdependence of action and structure In terms of sociology, historical sociology is often better positioned to analyze social life as diachronic, while survey research takes a snapshot of social life and is thus better equipped to understand social life as synchronic.
Some argue that the synchrony of social structure is a methodological perspective rather than an ontological claim.
Classical theoretical traditions[ edit ] The contemporary discipline of sociology is theoretically multi-paradigmatic. Utilitarianismalso known as "rational choice" or "social exchange", although often associated with economicsis an established tradition within sociological theory.
Ward and William Graham Sumner. Contemporary sociological theory retains traces of each these traditions and they are by no means mutually exclusive.
Structural functionalism A broad historical paradigm in both sociology and anthropologyfunctionalism addresses the social structure as a whole and in terms of the necessary function of its constituent elements.
A common analogy popularized by Herbert Spencer is to regard norms and institutions as 'organs' that work toward the proper-functioning of the entire 'body' of society.
It is in Radcliffe-Brown's specific usage that the prefix 'structural' emerged. Biology has been taken to provide a guide to conceptualizing the structure and the function of social systems and to analyzing processes of evolution via mechanisms of adaptation Conflict theories Social conflict is the struggle between segments of society over valued resources.
Capitalists are people who own and operate factories and other businesses in pursuit of profits.
In other words, they own virtually all large-scale means of production. However, capitalism turned most other people into industrial workers, whom Marx called proletarians. Proletarians are people who, because of the structure of capitalist economy, must sell their labor for wages.Sociological imagination C Wright Mills & The Sociological Imagination (Jureidini & Poole, ) To give a definition for ‘sociological imagination’ we must first give a definition for sociology, which is the study of the human society and is the main component of sociological imagination.
Definition Of Sociological Theory. Sociological Theories A sociological theory is a set of ideas that provides an explanation for human society.
Theories are selective in terms of their priorities and perspectives and the data they define as significant. As a result . theory (noun) “A coherent statement or set of ideas that explains observed facts or phenomena, or which sets out the laws and principles of something known or observed; a hypothesis confirmed by observation, experiment, etc.” (Wiktionary n.d.).
The three theories of sociology are symbolic interaction theory, conflict theory and functionalist theory. Sociologists analyze social phenomena at different levels and from different perspectives. Symbolic interaction theory is a major framework of sociological theory.
This theory relies on the. theory (noun) “A coherent statement or set of ideas that explains observed facts or phenomena, or which sets out the laws and principles of something known or observed; a hypothesis confirmed by observation, experiment, etc.” (Wiktionary n.d.).
Conflict theory states that tensions and conflicts arise when resources, status, and power are unevenly distributed between groups in society and that these conflicts become the engine for social change. In this context, power can be understood as control of material resources and accumulated.