Thesis: Boudon 2001 Theories of Social

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Boudon 2001: Theories of Social

Does the author present a view of society?

Although he does not present his own view of society, the author presents several different views of society, espoused by leading theorists. These theorists do not have one prominent view of society, nor does the author suggest which view he finds the most valid, therefore, it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine the author's view of society.

How does the author discuss the relationship between individual and society?

The author discusses the relationship between the individual and society by discussing the perspectives that different theorists have taken on this relationship. According to the author, Weber believes that sociology needs to be individualistic in its methodology, like economics. In fact, he espoused a theory now-known as individualism, which states that a "collective phenomenon is the outcome of individual actions, attitudes, beliefs, etc." Therefore, in order to understand any group "social" action, theorists like Weber believe that one must first understand the behavior of the individuals involved. Weber calls the understanding of individual actions "Verstehen."

In contrast to Weber's view that the study of sociology needs to focus on the individual, Parson believes it is impossible to consider any action strictly individual. Instead, human beings are "social actors" embedded in "systems of social roles." Therefore, these roles, rather than any individual actions, should be the smallest unit of social analysis. Parson's typology of the pattern variables includes a set of four binary attributes by which all roles can be characterized.

Merton built upon Parson's idea that roles define social actors, but went further by pointing out that people play multiple roles, and that they have to deal with the incompatibilities that necessarily arise as the result of these multiple roles. Merton's theory is described as functionalism, but many critics believe that functionalism is not scientifically fruitful, but is instead a means of legitimating existing social institutions. However, functionalism helps explain social phenomenon like class differences, which are difficult to explain on an individualistic basis, especially if one considers human desires as the motivation for human behavior in the context of a social matrix.

Some of those who have contributed most notably to sociology have not been sociologists.

Tullock believed that criminal behavior could be explained using neoclassical economic theories of behavior. Becker believed that even such seemingly irrational behaviors as addiction could be explained using a cost-benefit analysis, which is a classical economic theory. Coleman has developed Becker's theories. However, it is important to understand that cost-benefit… [END OF PREVIEW]

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