SOC 355 Social Theory Study

March 8, 2022
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SOC 355 Social Theory Study

SOC 355 Social Theory Study

Social theories are analytical frameworks, or paradigms, that are used to study and interpret social phenomena.[1] A tool used by social scientists, social theories relate to historical debates over the validity and reliability of different methodologies (e.g. positivism and antipositivism), the primacy of either structure or agency, as well as the relationship between contingency and necessity. Social theory in an informal nature, or authorship based outside of academic social and political science, may be referred to as “social criticism” or “social commentary”, or “cultural criticism” and may be associated both with formal cultural and literary scholarship, as well as other non-academic or journalistic forms of writing.

Social theory by definition is used to make distinctions and generalizations among different types of societies, and to analyze modernity as it has emerged in the past few centuries.[2]: 10  Social theory as it is recognized today emerged in the 20th century as a distinct discipline, and was largely equated with an attitude of critical thinking and the desire for knowledge through a posteriori methods of discovery, rather than a priori methods of tradition.[citation needed]

Social thought provides general theories to explain actions and behavior of society as a whole, encompassing sociological, political, and philosophical ideas. Classical social theory has generally been presented from a perspective of Western philosophy, and often regarded as Eurocentric.[by whom?]

SOC 355 Social Theory StudyTheory construction, according to The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, is instrumental: “Their goal is to promote accurate communication, rigorous testing, high accuracy, and broad applicability. They include the following: absence of contradictions, absence of ambivalence, abstractness, generality, precision, parsimony, and conditionality.”[3] Therefore, a social theory consists of well-defined terms, statements, arguments and scope conditions.

In the past few decades, in response to postmodern critiques,[citation needed] social theory has begun to stress free will, individual choice, subjective reasoning, and the importance of unpredictable events in place of deterministic necessity. Rational choice theory, symbolic interactionism, false necessity are examples of more recent developments. A view among contemporary sociologists is that there are no great unifying ‘laws of history’, but rather smaller, more specific, and more complex laws that govern society.[citation needed]

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Philosopher and politician Roberto Mangabeira Unger recently attempted to revise classical social theory by exploring how things fit together, rather than to provide an all encompassing single explanation of a universal reality. He begins by recognizing the key insight of classical social theory of society as an artifact, and then by discarding the law-like characteristics forcibly attached to it. Unger argues that classical social theory was born proclaiming that society is made and imagined, and not the expression of an underlying natural order, but at the same time its capacity was checked by the equally prevalent ambition to create law-like explanations of history and social development. The human sciences that developed claimed to identify a small number of possible types of social organization that coexisted or succeeded one another through inescapable developmental tendencies or deep-seated economic organization or psychological constraints. Marxism is the star example.[14]: 1

SOC 355 Social Theory StudyUnger, calling his efforts “super-theory”, has thus sought to develop a comprehensive view of history and society. Unger does so without subsuming deep structure analysis under an indivisible and repeatable type of social organization or with recourse to law-like constraints and tendencies.[14]: 165  His articulation of such a theory is in False Necessity: anti-necessitarian social theory in the service of radical democracy, where he uses deep-logic practice to theorize human social activity through anti-necessitarian analysis.

Unger begins by formulating the theory of false necessity, which claims that social worlds are the artifact of human endeavors. There is no pre-set institutional arrangement that societies must adhere to, and there is no necessary historical mold of development that they will follow. We are free to choose and to create the forms and the paths that our societies will take. However, this does not give license to absolute contingency. Unger finds that there are groups of institutional arrangements that work together to bring about certain institutional forms—liberal democracy, for example. These forms are the basis of a social structure, which Unger calls formative context. In order to explain how we move from one formative context to another without the conventional social theory constraints of historical necessity (e.g. feudalism to capitalism), and to do so while remaining true to the key insight of individual human empowerment and anti-necessitarian social thought, Unger recognized that there are an infinite number of ways of resisting social and institutional constraints, which can lead to an infinite number of outcomes. This variety of forms of resistance and empowerment make change possible. Unger calls this empowerment negative capability. However, Unger adds that these outcomes are always reliant on the forms from which they spring. The new world is built upon the existing one

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