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Posts Tagged ‘durkheim’

Of Methods and Methodology: 3. Realism

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

A methodology is a framework for research that focuses on how it is possible to collect reliable and valid data about, in this instance, the social world. It’s shaped by two main considerations:

1. Our beliefs about the fundamental nature of the social world (ontological concerns).

2. How we believe is possible to construct knowledge about the world (epistemology).

In turn, these ideas shape our choice of research methods when we come to actually collect data.

Although an understanding of Realist methodology isn’t essential at a-level, if students can grasp its basics it’s very useful as a source of evaluation for alternative methodological approaches, such as positivism and interpretivism.

 It also adds a slightly different dimension to arguments over whether sociology is a science.

Realism, particularly at a-level, is often portrayed as a kind of methodological hybrid, one that combines a belief in the existence of objective social structures (positivism) with the idea they are subjectively experienced and socially constructed (interpretivism). While this is, in some respects, a valid way of looking at it, realist methodology is perhaps a little more subtle and complex than this simple formulation might suggest – an idea we can explore in the following way:

1. For Realists, societies consist of social structures that can be objectively studied because these structures have an independent existence from the people who move through them. Social structures, therefore, represent ‘real forces’ that act on, shape and in some ways determine our everyday political, economic and cultural lives.

2. While the real features of social systems make it possible to establish causal relationships, Realism breaks with positivism because it adds the proviso causality will be limited in time and space: what is true in one society / social context may not be true in another. This follows because for Realists there is a further dimension to understanding human behaviour – a subjective one that recognises and takes on board the importance of human meaning and interpretation.

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Of Methods and Methodology: 1. Positivism

Friday, February 28th, 2020
No.1 Positivism

A methodology is a framework for research that focuses on how it is possible to collect reliable and valid data about, in this instance, the social world. It’s shaped by two main considerations:

1. Our beliefs about the fundamental nature of the social world (ontological concerns).

2. How we believe is possible to construct knowledge about the world (epistemology).

In turn, these ideas shape our choice of research methods when we come to actually collect data.

Basic Principles

As a general approach Positivism argues it’s both possible and desirable for sociologists to study social behaviour using similar methods to those used to study behaviour in the natural world – a belief we can examine by identifying some of the key ideas underpinning this approach.

1. A basic principle of this methodological approach is that social systems consist of structures that exist independently of individuals.

Institutions, such as families, education systems, governments and so forth, represent behaviour, at the macro (or very large group) level of society. As individuals we experience social structures as forces bearing down on us, pushing us to behave in certain ways and shaping our behavioural choices. An interesting example of how an institutional structure works is language.

To be part of a society we must communicate using language, both verbal (words) and non-verbal (gestures). As conscious individuals we exercise some choice over which language we speak, but our freedom of choice is actually limited for two reasons:

There’s more. Oh Yes…

The D.O.V.E. Protocol: 4 Functions of Religion

Friday, February 21st, 2020
Four Functions of Religion PowerPoint: Click to download
Four Functions of Religion…

Classical functionalist theories of religion, associated with the work of writers like Durkheim (1912), Malinowski (1926), Alpert (1937), Parsons (1937) and more-latterly Luhmann (1977), generally see religion as a cultural institution: one mainly concerned with the creation and promotion of cultural values that function to support and maintain social order.  Underpinning the notion of order, in this respect, are two ideas:

1. Religion serves a structural or collective role in bringing people together “as a society”.

2. Religion serves an action or individual role in giving meaning and purpose to people’s lives.

The Functions of Religion Presentation is designed to introduce students to these general ideas by encouraging them to think about “the functions of religion” in terms of four broad categories:

1. Discipline involves the idea a sense of shared beliefs and values is created by following a set of religious moral rules and codes.

2. Organisation reflects the idea of people being brought together as a society through shared rituals, ceremonies and meanings.

3. Vitalisation reflects the idea common values and beliefs represent vital dimensions of culture, socialisation and control.

4. Euphony recognises there are times of pain and crisis in life that require individual or collective efforts to re-establish harmony.

Each category contains a few pointers to examples of each, 30 seconds of video clips that illustrate some aspects of these ideas and a simple question you might want to use to stimulate a bit of further debate (which you can obviously edit / change if you want to add a question or two of your own).

Five Things To Know About…

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

I’ve long been a fan / proponent of the “5 Things I Know” approach to teaching sociological perspectives – the idea that if a student can grasp 5 significant things about a perspective they can apply that knowledge to answer just about any “theory / perspective” question they may encounter in an exam.

Theory Take 5 Pdf version - click to download.
Theory Take 5 Cards

Vicki Woolven has taken this idea a creative step further with her brilliant-looking Theory Take 5 cards. These identify 5 key points associated with a sociological theorist that students can apply in their answers to 8 – 15 mark exam questions – although there’s nothing to say this level of knowledge couldn’t equally be applied to essay-type answers.

The cards cover 30 theorists distributed across areas like Family, Education and Crime and are available in both pdf and PowerPoint formats.

The latter is useful if you want to add your own cards to the deck because you can use it as an editable template (and it’s easy enough to save the cards in pdf format from PowerPoint).

These are slightly-edited versions of the originals to remove a reference to Weber as a “Marxist”.

Attending Church at the Turn of the (20th) Century

Saturday, October 19th, 2019
Leaving Church: England c.1900
Leaving Church: England c.1900

One of the things about teaching the sociology of religion is that, at various points – from its function and role in society to secularisation theory – you’ll find yourself referring to “religion in the past”.

And if you want to anchor your observations in something slightly more-solid than an airy wave of the hand behind your shoulder, this bit of film I’ve stumbled across might help.

It’s around 4 minutes of “people leaving church”; the first 2 minutes focus on a single (unnamed) Church while the final couple of minutes feature people leaving a Church in Hanley, Staffordshire and a parish Church in Sheffield.

While this, in itself, isn’t particularly interesting, the fact the films date from 1901-1902 should give them a little more resonance – particularly if you use them to illustrate a range of sociological ideas, observations and discussion points about “religion in the past”.

I’ve noted a few to get you started:

1. What do the very large numbers of people leaving each Church service tell us about “religious attendance” in the past?

2. The people leaving the services are, in the main, very well dressed for the time. What does this tell us about both the process of “attending Church” and the class of people for whom Church attendance was important?

3. Why was Church attendance important to the urban middles classes around the turn of the 20th century?

4. How do the films provide evidence that an integral part of “Churchgoing” was “to see and be seen” – not just in terms of displaying “religious piety”, but also social status? How might this – and also the film of large numbers of children in a Church parade – be related to Durkheim’s ideas about the function of religion?

6. Is there any evidence in the films that suggest Churchgoing was as much a social as a religious occasion?

These questions are, of course, merely indicative – the kinds of questions that popped into my head as I watched the films.

If you think of any better ones, feel free to let me know.

Leaving Church: England 1901-1902

Defining and Measuring Crime: The Cyber Dimension

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019
Cybercrime…

One of the most interesting developments in criminology over the past 25 years is the extent to which crime has moved online, something that has important ramifications for the sociology of crime and deviance, both in terms of how it’s theorised and how it’s taught.

When thinking about the different ways crime can be defined and measured, for example, there’s still a general preoccupation at a-level with what we might call face-to-face / bricks-and-mortar types of crime – from interpersonal violence, through burglary to fraud: crime that, by-and-large, takes place in real, as opposed to cyber, space.

While it’s not to say these forms of crime are suddenly unimportant or unworthy of our interest, it’s important for students to recognise and understand changes to criminal behaviour and activity reflected by developments in cybercrime.

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Sociology in Focus for A2: Free Textbook

Sunday, February 10th, 2019

Sociology in Focus for A2 is, as you may have guessed, the companion volume to the previously-posted AS text and it’s no great surprise that its design and layout perfectly complements its AS counterpart. This includes the by-now standard colour-coded sections, lots of pictures, activities and questions that, at the time, were considered a quite radical design departure that was not, it hardly needs to be said, to everyone’s taste.
The main concern, particularly but not exclusively among those who were concerned about this kind of thing, was that something had to make way for all the activities, pretty pictures, questions and even prettier pictures.

And that something was, inevitably, the amount of text that managed to squeeze its way on pages crammed with all kinds of attractive, if sometimes largely superfluous, imagery.

While it’s relatively easy to get away with this at AS level, it’s somewhat harder to pull-off the same trick at A2 level.

So does it manage to pull it off?

Well. Yes and No.

The text, although limited in length, is generally well-written and informative and sometimes takes students into areas – particularly related to sociological theory – they aren’t usually expected to venture. Unfortunately, by meandering off the beaten track the text runs the risk, at times, of failing to adequately cover the bare essentials.

Although it’s a moot point as to whether this text alone adequately prepares students for A2, this is where you and your students are quid’s in: you can use bits-and-bobs to supplement the more up-to-date texts you undoubtedly use in your day-to-day teaching.

Alternatively, it’s a nice, big, bold, colourful text with lots of ideas for activities. And questions.

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Crime and Deviance Theories

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

A little while back (maybe 5 or 6 years ago – I lose track) I created 3 Crime and Deviance Presentations that were, I like to think, quite ground-breaking at the time for their combination of text, graphics, audio and video – and while they may be looking a little dated now they still have a little mileage left in them. Probably. You can be the judge of that, I suppose.

Anyway, I think I only ever posted an early version of the Functionalism file and having rediscovered the files on one of my many hard drives I thought it might be nice to update the files slightly, mainly to fix a few little irritating bugettes, such as text not conforming correctly to the original font size and post them here.

The Presentations, which can be downloaded as PowerPoint Shows (.ppsx) in case you want to use them without the need to have PowerPoint, were, I think, originally designed as some sort of revision exercise, but I could be, and frequently am, wrong.

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The Crime and Deviance Channel

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

The Crime and Deviance Channel now offers a wide range of free Text, PowerPoint, Audio and Video resources organised into 5 categories:

1. Theories
2. Social Distribution
3. Power and Control
4. Globalisation
5. Research Methods

Each category contains a mix of content:

Text materials range from complete pdf chapters to a variety of shorter “Update” materials (quizzes, research synopses, items “In the News”) related to key sociological theories, concepts, issues and methods.

PowerPoint resources range from single slides designed as a high-impact visual background to the explanation of key theories and concepts, to complete Presentations that can be used to introduce or illuminate a particular general theme.

Audio materials consist of 17 podcasts designed to provide background briefing material, talking points (comparing different theories for example), updates on new research and revision exercises.

Video resources generally consist of short clips (currently around 30 separate films ranging in length from 1 to several minutes) designed to illustrate key concepts, introduce new research and researchers and stimulate classroom-based thinking and discussion.

More Crime and Deviance Pages

Friday, June 15th, 2018

Crime pages from the University of Portsmouth archive. This set provides notes and activities focused on theories of crime that are generally suitable for a-level sociology (and criminology) students.

When I first started posting these crime resources I had to link directly to each page in a module because the menu that I was convinced bound everything neatly together was “missing” (in the sense “I couldn’t initially work out where it was hiding” rather than it having disappeared, never to be seen again).

This, as you may have discovered, was a bit of a pain and not conducive to encouraging students to explore the pages on offer.

I knew, however, there had to be a menu somewhere and that it was just a matter of finding it. And, after a bit of detective work, I did.

At least for some of the individual chapters.

While I still think there is an overall menu somewhere that provides easy access to all the materials in the complete “crime resource”, I haven’t been able to find it; so for now it’s a case of using the individual links for the various categories I have managed to find.

The first batch of modules / pages linked here mainly relate to theories of crime and deviance (some of which I’ve already posted as individual pages, but since I can’t remember which I decided to post them all).

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Why Don’t More People Commit Crimes?

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

In a world where most theoretical approaches to crime either focus on the socio-psychological backgrounds of criminals (most conventional criminology), the social contexts in which crime plays-out (labelling theory) or a combination of the two (radical criminology), one particular strand of criminology stands-out because it focuses less on trying to understand and explain why a minority of people commit crime and more on understanding and explaining why most people do not.

Control theories are, in this respect, a little different to most conventional forms of criminology and this set of pages from the University of Portsmouth looks at different aspects of this general perspective on crime through the work of different writers working in this tradition. In this respect it’s worth noting two things:

1. Control theories have a relatively long and persistent tradition – going back to the 19th century at least – in the explanation of crime and deviance.

2. The broad theoretical sweep of the general theory – explaining why most people obey laws and rules – means it has been interpreted in different ways by different writers, a diversity of opinion reflected in the following pages:  (more…)

NotAFactsheet: Crime and Deviance

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

I thought it would make a change from research methods to put together a few NotAFactsheets on crime and deviance, so here are the first products of what no-one’s calling a “radical new departure in NotAFactsheet production”.

These three efforts focus on and around Functionalist-type approaches to crime:

D1. Functionalist Approaches | D1. Functionalist Approaches (includes short video) Functionalism and Crime includes Durkheim on the functions of crime, Strain theory and General Strain Theory.

 D2. Administrative Criminology | D2. Administrative Criminology (includes short video) Administrative Criminology focuses on New Right ideas about crime prevention and management and outlines some general social policies associated with this approach.

D3. Right Realism Right Realism outlines the Broken Windows thesis – and it’s critics – in addition to noting a range of social policies that have stemmed from a right realist approach to crime.

 

 

Seven Functions of Culture

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

As you may have noticed I’m quite attached to the idea of lists, so this second “list post” (did you see what I did there?) should come as no surprise. Nor should it be surprising that the list focuses on functions. Again. I can’t really explain why there’s so many Functionalist lists – perhaps they just really like them?

Anyway, if you’re looking at the concept of culture – what Fisher (1997) calls “shared behaviour…that systematises the way people do things, thus avoiding confusion and allowing cooperation so that groups of people can accomplish what no single individual could do alone” – Mazrui (1996) has identified seven functions culture performs for both societies and individuals.

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Modernity and Sociological Theory

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

modernity_coverThis is the first part of a two-part series looking at the relationship between modernity, postmodernity and the development of sociological theory.

This set of Notes focuses on:

  1. Identifying the basic economic, political and cultural characteristics of modernity
  2. Relating these characteristics to the development of Consensus and Conflict Structuralism.

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The Functions of Crime

Friday, March 11th, 2016

This PowerPoint file combines text, graphics, audio and video to outline four types of Functionalist theory on crime and deviance:

  1. Durkheimian,
  2. Strain (Merton),
  3. General Strain
  4. Subcultural.

A self-selected, unrepresentative of anyone-but-themselves, sample of reviewers have described this resource as:

“Brilliant”; “Utterly amazing” and “Too complicated to follow”.

Is this, as Meatloaf so perceptively once asserted, a case of “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad”?

Judge for yourself…