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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chatper 3, Section 3.1 & 3.4, Study Notes

3.1 (We'll skip Methodology revisited section)
Interesting Wikipedia article on Ontology, click HERE

Ontology - It is concerned with WHAT SOCIETIES ARE

Since this is talking about society as a whole, this would be a macro view.

Comte's determinism concept also falls under the ontology umbrella. A better way to understand this, think of the CASTE system. You're born into what you're born into.

Marx & Durkheim viewed societies as social structures. It's the social structures that regulate and shape individual's behavior.

That's where they agree, but the differences are:
Marx - He believed as the actions of the individuals were shaped by the economic structure of the society. (Materialist view)
Weber - Believed the actions of the individuals were shaped by the morals and values of the society put in place. (Idealist view)

In other words, they both believe that the structural organization of society shaped the people within it, they disagreed on how their actions were shaped (materialist vs. idealist)

Also related to empiricism, positivism, realism & post-modernism.

Then there are tow more theories within ontology:
1. Action theorists - Simply put, people shape society not the other way around. They believed that sociologists should study the social actions and the meaning people attach to these actions. (Weber, interpretivitism, or anti-determinism)
Example: Capitalism borne out of the Protestant work ethic and predestination.
2. Structural theorists - (Think Marx & Durkheim) Believes that the organization of society shapes the action of the people.

Now, let talk about Epistemology:
It explores the basis for knowledge - HOW WE KNOW WHAT WE KNOW.
In other words, by using the scientific method, how did you get the results, how do you JUSTIFY your findings?

There are 2 camps in Epistemology:
1. Naturalist - Think of them as positivists, believers in the scientific method (as applied to the natural sciences like chemistry, physics, etc. Thus Naturalist) to justify their findings. They believed results of social science studies can be quantified.
2. Anti Naturalist - Natural sciences can be quantified because of the nature of the science, for example, 2+2 will always = 4. Whereas societies and people are dynamic, so it's not constant. They believed in interpreting the subjectivity of the people they're studying. (Interpretivism - Weber).

Even within epistemology, there are disagreements. What is called the subject(ive) or object(ive) dilemma? There are 3 schools of thoughts on this.
1. Detachment (I hope this is self explanatory)
2. Immersing yourself as closely as possible in the lives of those they are studying (See page 38 of the SG, Video/DVD: The Making of a Moonie, where the author actually lives with and joins the church).
3. You actually have to be a member of the social group being studied, or at least have share the same kind of experiences personally, to provide valid knowledge of their behavior. Simply put, if you never went through it how can you speak with any authority on it?

I myself am a personal believer in steps 2 & 3. For example, how can I know anything about, for example, about Islam unless I go to the mosque, pray, eat Halal food, participate in the Ramadhan, etc.

As for #3, how can a white researcher write about and make theories about Asian people or black people. How can a researcher understand about ex-convicts if he/she's never been in jail or prison?

Sorry that's my 2 cents. It's because if an Asian or black person wrote a sociological research paper on white people, they would give us the same crap. Once again, I"m sorry, this isn't a political pulpit :)

Finally, we talked about Realism:
Realism is similar to positivism in the sense that the scientific methods should be applied, but differs in its interpretation.

Positivists believe all results/findings can be quantified like math, chemistry (natural sciences) and they believed in the causation theory (aka correlation = causation).

Whereas realists believed there are underlying generative mechanisms (fancy way of saying variables to what caused what happened).

Realism is very non-empiricist unlike positivism. All data is theory-dependent. They believed in generating data to test theories against each other (comparing theories).

The main goal of realism is to find the underlying causes of the effect. For example, Comte's causality theory believed

a) Economic recession -> b) Increased unemployment & economic deprivation -> c) increased crime

Whereas in realism, you would look for rival theories and compare the data/findings and the underlying generative mechanisms (increased crime).

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