Sociological Theory Introduction

Sociological theory is probably one of the most difficult, but certainly the most important, areas of Sociological study. Sociological theory allows us to understand that (in the words of C. Wright-Mills) our private troubles are in fact public issues. That is to say, social theory allows us to employ our ‘sociological imagination’ and understand how our everyday lives and lived experiences are shaped by wider social process.

Sociological Theory

For many students of Sociology, classical Sociological theory, particularly in the shape of Marx, Weber, Durkheim, can seem abstract and disconnected of the contemporary world and their lived experiences. The key to teaching social theory is to try and bring this alive, and show the relevance of Sociological theory in understanding the world we live in today.

The resources here start by focusing on Functionalism, Marxism, Symbolic Interactionism, and finally, the Looking Glass Self, which was a key theory that influenced Symbolic Interactionism. We then consider Modernity, The Enlightenment, and Postmodernism. Next we turn to the nature of science and the extent to which Sociology can be regarded as scientific, by asking Is Sociology a Science? Next, we offer an exercise in research speed-dating, and resources on questions of value freedom. Finally in this section we look at how Sociology can influence Social Policy, and specifically the influential role of Anthony Giddens here.


More Resources from Discovering Sociology

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Correspondence Principle

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Ethnicity & Education

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Gender and Schooling

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New Right

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Subcultures in Education

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What is the role of education?

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Race and Education

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