Sociological Theories and Social Institutions Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Sociological Theories and Social Institutions Deck (131)
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1) (Structural) Functionalism

Founder: Émile Durkheim (founder of sociology)
Level: macro
Definition: society is a complex system, individual parts work together to maintain solidarity, order, balance and social stability
Flaws: assumes equal and functioning society, individual circumstances not considered
Key words: dynamic equilibrium, common consciousness, anomie


Dynamic Equillibrium

occurs when complex societies contain many different but interdependent parts working together to maintain stability


Collective consciousness

how people of a shared culture come to think in the same manner due to their shared beliefs, ideas, and moral attitudes, all which operate to unify society


Manifest Function

official, intended and anticipated consequences of a structure, and are beneficial


Latent Function

Consequences of a structure that are not officially sought or sanctioned. Can be beneficial, neutral or harmful


Social dysfunction

a process that has undesirable consequences and may actually reduce the stability of society


2) Conflict Theory

Founder: Karl Marx and Max Weber (founders of sociology)
Level: macro
Definition: society is a competition for limited resources, individuals and groups compete for social, political and material power.
-Marx = looked at the economic conflict between social classes, capitalism encourages private ownership. Felt that workers' revolution was inevitable, and capitalism would be replaced by socialism
Flaws: too extreme, too focused on economics
-Weber = refined and critiqued Marx's tenets. Did not believe collapse of capitalism was inevitable. There could be more than one source of conflict, such as agreement with authority, high rates of social mobility and low rates of class difference
Key words: imbalances, class struggle, inequality



encourages competition and private ownership



the ruling class owns the means of production



working-class, provides labour
is oppressed and exploited by the capitalist bourgeois class, paying members a fraction of the production value of their labour



coerced acceptance of the values, expectations and conditions as determined by the capitalist class


Class consciousness

exploited workers' awareness of the reasons for their oppression



all means of production are owned by all workers equally


Protestant/Puritan work ethic

the widely-held religious belief that lauded the morality of hard work for the sake of godliness


Rationalization of Society

our increasing concern with efficiency (achieving max results with the min amount of effort)


3) Symbolic Interaction

Founder: Herbert Mead
Level: micro
Definition: emphasizes the ways by which individuals actively shape their world through their understanding and subsequent behavioural responses to the meanings they attribute to the societal symbols through which individuals define their reality. Examines the relationships between individuals and society by focusing on the exchange of information through language and symbols.
-Mead = interested in identity and the development of. the self, developed through 3 activities (language, games, play). "I" represents individualistic self, "me" represents the social self
Key words:


Thomas Theorem

theory that interpretation of a situation affects the response to that situation


4) Social Constructionism

Level: both macro and micro
Definition: "reality" is not inherent, but socially constructed. argues that people actively shape their reality through social interactions. Focuses on social constructs that change across cultures and within a single culture over time. Also analyzes the effects of mass media and contends. that. mass media corporations have become the main mechanisms by which our social institutions transmit culture to preserve power and authority
Key words:


Stocks of knowledge

allow us to classify objects and actions we observe quickly and routinely structure our own actions in immediate response (notification)


5) Feminist Theory

Level: both micro and macro
Definition: Concerned with the social experiences of. both men. and women and the differences between these experiences. Described as a collection of social movements with the purpose of establishing men and women as equals in terms of social rights, roles, statuses.
Key words: gender inequality



posits that various human aspects subject to societal oppression do not exist isolated. and separated from each other, but instead have complex, influential and interwoven relationships


6) Rational Choice and Social Exchange theories

Level: usually micro
Definition: individuals seek to maximize the benefits they gain and minimize the disadvantages they sustain in all of their social interactions.
Key words: maximize benefits/rewards and reduce costs/punishments



based on 2 assumptions (1) that the individual. humans are rational in their actions and (2) that in every human interaction, individuals will seek to maximize their own self-interest


Social Institutions

complexes of roles, norms, and values organized into a relatively stable form that contribute to social order by governing the behaviour of people. Examples include education systems, family, religions, government and health care systems



defined as a set of. people related by blood, marriage, adoption or some other agreed-upon relationship that signifies some responsibility to each other. Serve 5 functions
1) reproduction and the monitoring of sexual behaviour
2) protection
3) socialization - passing down norms and values of society
4) affection and companionshio
5) social status - social position is often based on family background and reputation


Nuclear family

consisting of direct blood relations


Extended family

grandparents, aunts, uncles and others are included



refers to forms of marriage in which two individuals are married only to each other



allows an individual to have multiple wives or husbands simultaneously



refers to a man married to more than one woman