Social Network Analysis diagram
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In sociology, sociological theories are statements of how and why particular facts about the social world are related. They range in scope from concise descriptions of a single social process to paradigms for analysis and interpretation. Some sociological theories explain aspects of the social world and enable prediction about future events, while others function as broad perspectives which guide further sociological analyses.
Kenneth Allan proposed the distinction between sociological theory and social theory. In Allan's usage, sociological theory consists of abstract and testable propositions about society. It often heavily relies on the scientific method, which aims for objectivity, and attempts to avoid passing value judgments. In contrast, social theory, according to Allan, focuses on commentary and critique of modern society rather than explanation. Social theory is often closer to Continental philosophy, less concerned with objectivity and derivation of testable propositions, and more likely to pass normative judgments. Sociological theory is generally created only by sociologists, while social theory can frequently come from other disciplines.
Prominent sociological theorists include Talcott Parsons, Robert K. Merton, Randall Collins, James Samuel Coleman, Peter Blau, Marshal McLuhan, Immanuel Wallerstein, George Homans, Harrison White, Theda Skocpol, Gerhard Lenski, Pierre van den Berghe and Jonathan H. Turner. Prominent social theorists include: Jürgen Habermas, Anthony Giddens, Michel Foucault, Dorothy Smith, Alfred Schütz, Jeffrey Alexander, and Jacques Derrida. There are also prominent scholars who could be seen as being in between social and sociological theories, such as Harold Garfinkel, Herbert Blumer, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Pierre Bourdieu and Erving Goffman.
The field of sociology itself and sociological theory by extension is relatively new. Both date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The drastic social changes of that period, such as industrialization, urbanization, and the rise of democratic states. The oldest sociological theories deal with broad historical processes relating to these changes. Since then, sociological theories have come to encompass most aspects of society, including communities, organizations and relationships.
Social conflict is the struggle between segments of society over valued resources Due to social conflict, it turned a small population into capitalists in the nineteenth century. Capitalists, are people who own and operate factories and other businesses in pursuit of profits. However, capitalism turned most people into industrial workers, whom Marx called proletarians. Proletarians are people who sell their labour 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. Karl Marx is the father of the social conflict theory, which is a component of the four major paradigms of sociology. Other important sociologists associated with this theory include Harriet Martineau, Jane Addams and W.E.B. Du Bois. 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. However, some criticisms to this theory are that it disregards how shared values and the way in which people rely on each other help to unify the society.
Structural functionalism or Functionalism is a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability. This approach looks at society through a macro-level orientation, which is a broad focus on the social structures that shapes society as a whole. This approach looks at both social structure and social functions. Functionalism addresses society as a whole in terms of the function of its constituent elements; namely norms, customs, traditions and institutions. Important sociologists associated with this approach include Auguste Comte, Emile Durkheim, Herbert Spencer, Talcott Parsons, and Robert K. Merton. A common analogy, popularized by Herbert Spencer, presents these parts of society as "organs" that work toward the proper functioning of the "body" as a whole. A criticism for this approach is that it disregards any inequalities that exists within a society, which in turn causes tension and conflict and the approach ends up being politically conservative. So in order to focus on this topic, the social conflict theory was made.
Interpretivism or Symbolic interaction; also known as Interactionism, is a sociological theory that places emphasis on micro-scale social interaction to provide subjective meaning in human behavior, the social process and pragmatism. The approach focuses on creating a framework for building a theory that sees society as the product of the everyday interactions of individuals. 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. Therefore, society is a complex, ever-changing mosaic of subjective meanings. However some criticisms to this approach are that it only looks at what is happening in one particular social situation, and disregards the effects that culture, race or gender may have on the people in that situation. Some important sociologists associated with this approach include Max Weber, George Herbert Mead, Erving Goffman, George Homans and Peter Blau.
Positivism is a philosophy developed by Auguste Comte (widely regarded as the first true sociologist) 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. Society operates according to laws like the physical world. Introspective and intuitional attempts to gain knowledge are rejected. The positivist approach has been a recurrent theme in the history of western thought, from the Ancient Egyptians to the present day.
Antipositivism (also non-positivist or interpretive sociology) is the view in social science that the social realm may not be subject to the same methods of investigation as the natural world; that academics must reject empiricism and the scientific method in the conduct of social research. Interpretivists hold that researchers should focus on understanding the meanings that social actions have for the people being studied.
Field theory examines social fields, which are social environments in which competition takes place (e.g., the field of electronics manufacturers). 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.
Middle Range theory is an approach to sociological theorizing aimed at integrating theory and empirical research, developed by Robert K. Merton. 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.
Socialization is the means by which human infants begin to acquire the skills necessary to perform as a functional member of their society, and are among the most influential learning processes one can experience. Sociologists use the term socialization to refer to the lifelong social experience by which people develop their human potential and learn culture. Unlike other living species, humans need socialization within their cultures for survival.
Structure and agency theory – The question over the primacy of either structure or agency in human behavior is a central debate in the social sciences. In this context, agency refers to the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. Structure, in contrast, refers to the recurrent patterned arrangements which influence or limit the choices and opportunities available.
Ethnomethodology examines how people make sense out of their social lives in the process of living, as if each individual were a researcher engaged in inquiry. It is the study of how people attempt to make sense of their everyday surroundings. Harold Garfinkel (1967) is the one who devised this approach. It begins by pointing out that everyday behavior rests on a number of assumptions. Those assumptions are usually predictable due to the reaction of people or their behavior in everyday reality.
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.
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. The social phenomenology of Alfred Schütz influenced the development of the social constructionism and ethnomethodology. It was originally developed by Edmund Husserl.
Post-colonial theory is a post-modern approach that consists of the reactions to and the analysis of colonialism.
Rational choice theory models social behavior as the interaction of utility maximizing individuals. "Rational" implies cost-effectiveness is balanced against cost to accomplish a utility maximizing interaction. Costs are extrinsic, meaning intrinsic values such as feelings of guilt will not be accounted for in the cost to commit a crime.
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. These roles serve as a script, supplying dialogue and action for the characters (the people in reality). They also involve props and certain settings. 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). In addition, our performance is the "presentation of self," which is how people perceive us, based on the ways in which we portray ourselves. This process, sometimes called impression management, begins with the idea of personal performance.
Anomie theory, also known as normlessness, is where society provides little moral guidance to individuals. It is difficult for individuals to find their place in the society without clear rules or norms to help guide them. Sociologist Emile Durkheim observed that social period of disruption. The economic depression results in greater anomie and higher rates of suicide and crimes. Merton theorizes that anomie (normative breakdown) and some forms of deviant behavior derive largely from a disjunction between “culturally prescribed aspirations” of a society and “socially structured avenues for realizing those aspirations. In other words, a gap between people’s aspirations and their access to legitimate means of achieving them results in a breakdown of values, at both societal and individual levels. In The Division of Labor in Society, Durkheim described anomie as one result of an inequitable division of labour within the society; such inequality, Durkheim wrote, causes a breakdown or lack of rules in society and results in class conflict. In Suicide, Durkheim viewed anomie as an outcome of rapid social and economic change and hypothesized that it explained a particular kind of suicide that occurs when individuals experience marked and sudden changes in their social condition. Broadly speaking, then, during times of great upheaval, increasing numbers of individuals’ ‘cease to accept the moral legitimacy of society,” as sociologist Anthony R. Mawson, University of Keele, UK, notes.
Thomas theorem refers to situations that are defined as real are real in their consequences. Suggests that the reality people construct in their interaction has real consequences for the future. For example, a teacher who believes a certain student to be intellectually gifted may well encourage exceptional academic performance.
Social Exchange Theory says that the interaction that occurs between people can be partly based on what someone may "gain and lose" by being with others. For example, when people think about who they may date, they'll look to see if they other person will offer just as much (or perhaps more) than they do. This can include judging an individual's looks and appearance, or their social status.
Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. The theory focuses on how gender inequality shapes social life. This approach shows how sexuality both reflects patterns of social inequality and helps to perpetuate them. Feminism, from a social conflict perspective, focuses on gender inequality and links sexuality to the domination of women by men.
Postmodernism is a theoretical perspective approach that criticises modernism and believes anti-theory and anti-method and has a great mistrust of grand theories and ideologies. Due to human subjectivity, theorists believe that discovering the objective truth is impossible or unachievable. This is due to a perspective that sees society as ever-changing along with the assumption that truth is constantly subject to change. A post-modern theorist's purpose is to achieve understanding through observation, rather than data collection. This approach uses both micro and macro level analysis. A question that is asked by this approach would be, "How do we understand societies or interpersonal relations, while rejecting the theories and methods of the social sciences, and our assumptions about human nature? or How does power permeate social relations or society, and change with the circumstances? " An example of a famous Post Modernist is Michael Foucault. He was a French philosopher and one of the most influential post modernist of all time.
Physical traits do not distinguish criminals from non criminals, but genetic factors together with environmental factors are strong predictors of adult crime and violence. Most psychologists see deviance as the result of "unsuccessful" socialization and abnormality in an individual personality.
Sociologists have been active in developing theories about the nature of science and technology:
Sociologists have developed various theories about social movements [Kendall, 2005]. Chronologically (by approximate date of origin) they include:
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