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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: 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.

Structure and agency, sometimes referred to as determinism versus voluntarism, [9] 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, 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 position 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. The contemporary discipline of sociology is theoretically multi-paradigmatic.

Utilitarianism , also known as "rational choice" or "social exchange", although often associated with economics , is 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. A broad historical paradigm in both sociology and anthropology , functionalism 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 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. Conflict theories draw attention to power differentials, such as class, gender and race conflict, and contrast historically dominant ideologies.

It is therefore a macro level analysis of society that sees society as an arena of inequality that generates conflict and social change. This sociological approach doesn't look at how social structures help society to operate, but instead looks at how "social patterns" can cause some people in society to be dominant, and others to be oppressed. Symbolic interaction , often associated with interactionism , phenomenological sociology , dramaturgy , and interpretivism , is a sociological tradition that places emphasis on subjective meanings and the empirical unfolding of social processes, generally accessed through analysis.

Society is nothing more than the shared reality that people construct as they interact with one another. This approach sees people interacting in countless settings using symbolic communications to accomplish the tasks at hand. Therefore, society is a complex, ever-changing mosaic of subjective meanings.

It is also in this tradition that the radical-empirical approach of Ethnomethodology emerges from the work of Harold Garfinkel. Utilitarianism is often referred to as exchange theory or rational choice theory in the context of sociology. This tradition tends to privilege the agency of individual rational actors and assumes that within interactions individuals always seek to maximize their own self-interest. As argued by Josh Whitford , rational actors are assumed to have four basic elements, the individual has 1 "a knowledge of alternatives," 2 "a knowledge of, or beliefs about the consequences of the various alternatives," 3 "an ordering of preferences over outcomes," 4 "A decision rule, to select amongst the possible alternatives".

Homans , Peter Blau and Richard Emerson. March and Herbert A. Simon noted that an individual's rationality is bounded by the context or organizational setting. The utilitarian perspective in sociology was, most notably, revitalized in the late 20th century by the work of former ASA president James Coleman. Anomie theory , seeks to understand normlessness , where society provides little moral guidance to individuals.

In The Division of Labor in Society , Durkheim described anomie as one result of an inequitable division of labour within the society. Mawson, University of Keele, UK, notes. Critical theory is a lineage of sociological theory, with reference to such groups as the Frankfurt School, that aims to critique and change society and culture, not simply to document and understand it. Dramaturgy or dramaturgical perspective is a specialized symbolic interactionism paradigm developed by Erving Goffman , seeing life as a performance.

As "actors," we have a status, which is the part that we play, where we are given various roles. For instance, a doctor the role , uses instruments like a heart monitor the prop , all the while using medical terms the script , while in his doctor's office the setting.

Engaged theory is an approach that seeks to understand the complexity of social life through synthesizing empirical research with more abstract layers of analysis, including analysis of modes of practice, and analysis of basic categories of existence such a time, space, embodiment, and knowledge. Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women.

Feminism, from a social conflict perspective, focuses on gender inequality and links sexuality to the domination of women by men. Field theory examines social fields, which are social environments in which competition takes place e.

It is concerned with how individuals construct such fields, with how the fields are structured, and with the effects the field has on people occupying different positions in it. Grounded theory is a systematic methodology in the social sciences involving the generation of theory from data. Interpretive sociology is a theoretical perspective based on the work of Max Weber, proposes that social, economic and historical research can never be fully empirical or descriptive as one must always approach it with a conceptual apparatus.

Middle range theory is an approach to sociological theorizing aimed at integrating theory and empirical research. It is currently the de facto dominant approach to sociological theory construction, especially in the United States. Middle range theory starts with an empirical phenomenon as opposed to a broad abstract entity like the social system and abstracts from it to create general statements that can be verified by data.

Mathematical theory , also known as formal theory, is the use of mathematics to construct social theories. Mathematical sociology aims to take sociological theory, which is strong in intuitive content but weak from a formal point of view, and to express it in formal terms.

The benefits of this approach include increased clarity and the ability to use mathematics to derive implications of a theory that cannot be arrived at intuitively. The models typically used in mathematical sociology allow sociologists to understand how predictable local interactions are often able to elicit global patterns of social structure.

Positivism is a philosophy developed by Auguste Comte in the middle of the 19th century that stated that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge , and that such knowledge can only come from positive affirmation of theories through strict scientific method.

Introspective and intuitional attempts to gain knowledge are rejected. The positivist approach has been a recurrent theme in the history of western thought , from ancient times to the present day. Network theory is a structural approach to sociology that is most closely associated with the work of Harrison White , who views norms and behaviors as embedded in chains of social relations.

Phenomenological sociology is an approach within the field of sociology that aims to reveal what role human awareness plays in the production of social action, social situations and social worlds. In essence, phenomenology is the belief that society is a human construction.

Computational sociology Sociologists increasingly draw upon computationally intensive methods to analyze and model social phenomena. Together the works of these great classical sociologists suggest what Giddens has recently described as 'a multidimensional view of institutions of modernity' and which emphasizes not only capitalism and industrialism as key institutions of modernity, but also 'surveillance' meaning 'control of information and social supervision' and 'military power' control of the means of violence in the context of the industrialization of war.

Feminist sociology, on the other hand, is a normative subfield that observes and critiques the cultural categories of gender and sexuality, particularly with respect to power and inequality. The sociology of the family examines the family, as an institution and unit of socialisation , with special concern for the comparatively modern historical emergence of the nuclear family and its distinct gender roles.

Karl MarxBoth Comte and Karl Marx — set out to develop scientifically justified systems in the wake of European industrialisation and secularisation, informed by various key movements in the philosophies of history and science.

Cultural sociology is seldom empirical, preferring instead the hermeneutic analysis of words, artefacts and symbols. Sociology evolved as an academic response to the challenges of modernity , such as industrialization, urbanization, secularization, and a perceived process of enveloping rationalization.

In this context, 'structure' refers not to 'social structure' but to the semiotic understanding of human culture as a system of signs. By the turn of the 20th century, however, many theorists were active in the Anglo-Saxon world. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation[2] and critical analysis[3] to develop and refine a body of knowledge about human social activity, often with the goal of applying such knowledge to the pursuit of social welfare.

As a nonpositivist, however, Weber sought relationships that are not as " ahistorical , invariant, or generalizable"[49] as those pursued by natural scientists. The primary concern of feminist theory is the patriarchy and the systematic oppression of women apparent in many societies, both at the level of small-scale interaction and in terms of the broader social structure. An emphasis on empiricism and the scientific method is sought to provide a tested foundation for sociological research, based on the assumption that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge, and that such knowledge can only arrive by positive affirmation through scientific methodology.

Merton produced a typology of deviance, and also established the terms "role model", "unintended consequences", and "self-fulfilling prophecy". At the level of political policy, ethnic relations is discussed in terms of either assimilationism or multiculturalism.

Sociology in the United States was less historically influenced by Marxism than its European counterpart, and to this day broadly remains more statistical in its approach. Capitalism at the End of the Twentieth Century , [37] [edit] Positivism and anti-positivism [edit] Positivism Main article: MertonThe overarching methodological principle of positivism is to conduct sociology in broadly the same manner as natural science.

It also marked a major contribution to the theoretical concept of structural functionalism. The linguistic and cultural turns of the mid-twentieth century led to increasingly interpretative, hermeneutic, and philosophic approaches to the analysis of society. Biology has been taken to provide a guide to conceptualizing the structure and the function of social systems and to analysing processes of evolution via mechanisms of adaptation Using computer simulations, artificial intelligence , complex statistical methods, and new analytic approaches like social network analysis, computational sociology develops and tests theories of complex social processes through bottom-up modeling of social interactions.

Through the work of Simmel, in particular, sociology acquired a possible character beyond positivist data-collection or grand, deterministic systems of structural law. He maintained that appearances need to be critiqued rather than simply documented. Various neo-Kantian philosophers, phenomenologists and human scientists further theorized how the analysis of the social world differs to that of the natural world due to the irreducibly complex aspects of human society, culture, and being. Most textbooks on the methodology of social research are written from the quantitative perspective,[75] and the very term "methodology" is often used synonymously with "statistics.

Sociology evolved as an academic response to the challenges of modernity, such as industrialization, urbanization , secularization, and a perceived process of enveloping rationalization. Karl MarxBoth Comte and Karl Marx — set out to develop scientifically justified systems in the wake of European industrialisation and secularisation , informed by various key movements in the philosophies of history and science.

This third 'generation' of social theory includes phenomenologically inspired approaches, critical theory, ethnomethodology, symbolic interactionism, structuralism, post-structuralism, and theories written in the tradition of hermeneutics and ordinary language philosophy. Contemporary debates often centre on topics such as secularization, civil religion, and the role of religion in a context of globalization and multiculturalism. Social network A social network is a social structure composed of individuals or organizations called "nodes", which are tied connected by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, financial exchange, dislike, sexual relationships, Criminology , Sociology of law, Sociology of punishment, and Deviance sociology Criminologists analyse the nature, causes, and control of criminal activity, drawing upon methods across sociology, psychology, and the behavioural sciences.

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