What has sociological theory contributed to our understanding of modern capitalist societies? Answer with reference to the works of one of the major figures in the classical tradition of sociological theory…
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These theories basically encompass all the societal factors and structures that help shaping the society that we see around us at any point or over a period of time. (Berger, et al., 1989) As with everything else in the world, sociological theories also impact capitalism and pioneers of sociology also contribute to our understanding of modern capitalist theories. Emile Durkheim was also a French sociologist who was one of the pioneers in shaping sociology today along with Karl Marx and Weber. One of his main beliefs is that society cannot be reduced into the elements that make it up and therefore is different and unique as a whole. This is also called ‘sui generis’ reality. He believes that the whole was greater than the sum of its part and it was formed by individuals and their interactions but was completely new form what happened individually in society. He further went on to state that societies could also be observed scientifically. He called his methodology ‘social facts’ or elements of life as whole that were individual but were able to influence an individual in society. (Giddins, 1978) Study of society and social facts Durkheim believed that every aspect of society was due to history and they had no separate origin and therefore they could be analyzed in a scientific sense and therefore sociology could be considered as a science. Particularly used as a science, sociology was important for all beliefs and institutions. Building further on social facts, which was the methodology to prove that society was greater than individual interactions, they are “a category of facts which present very special characteristics: they consist of manners of acting, thinking, and feeling external to the individual, which are invested with a coercive power by virtue of which they exercise control over him” (Berger, 1989). How scientists observe physical facts in the world, similarly social facts can also be observed as they are objective. They are also internal aspects of individuals much like physical aspects and they exist through individuals as well. This makes social facts a paradox; they seem to be both external and internal since facts which are internal to one individual may be external to another individual. This adds vagueness to Durkheim’s work and leaves it open to criticism. (Parkin, 1992) Society it is believed is not just people living in one place geographically and social facts cannot be understood with this mindset. Society however is more than that; it is a combination of ideas which are emanated when individuals associate and meet each other and their consciences come into play. Therefore it is beyond one individual or phenomenon but rather a ‘sui generis’ reality which also means that society is more complex, deeper and richer than one individual who is entirely different from society yet part of forming it. This is also called ‘conscience collective’ which means the mixture of different consciences. Social facts are also what allows individuals in a society to have certain traits such as values, a religious and belief system and even technology and having or not having the right to goods and property. There also two different kinds of social facts. The first kind revolves around psychology such as what is to be deemed beautiful, or a dressing style, religion and the legal code of society. Society therefore will impose itself on individuals in the society. How people express themselves and opinions also comprise of this first kind of social facts such as birth, death rate etc. The influence of society on individuals in
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What contribution can a sociological perspective(s) make to the study of human rights?
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