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Theoretical Perspectives: Weberian

Key ideas:

Structuration (Social Action and Social Structure)


Market position (economic dimension of stratification)

Conflict (across class, gender, age, ethnicity, region, etc.).

Class (Market position), Status and Party (organised power) = basis for stratification

Life Chances

Status groups and Interest groups


Modernisation and Rationalisation

Power (coercive and authority types)

Objectivity (personal) and Subjectivity (Verstehn or "empathy")

Multi-causal analysis (e.g. Religion and Capitalism)

Meanings and Interpretations

Ideal Type

Value freedom

Key Names: Weber, Dahrendorf, Giddens, Haralambos, Goldthorpe / Lockwood

Theoretical Perspectives: Weberian

Key Criticisms:

Over-emphasis on motives, interpretations of individuals

Emphasis on subjective interpretations of individuals downgrades importance of social structures

Theoretical separation between Structure and Action not empirically justifiable

Impossible to clearly identify social classes

Fatalistic view of materialism, bureaucracy and Capitalism (successful Communist revolution impossible)

Can social structures be reduced to individual actions and motivations?

Over-emphasis on cultural conditions and changes at expense of economic conditions and changes.

Key Critics: Newby and Lee, Crompton, Marshall, Abercrombie and Urry.

Theoretical Perspectives: New Right

Key ideas:

Economic freedom (Liberalism)

Rationality (of individuals) / Consumer choice

Cost / Benefit analysis

Free Capitalist Markets (Market Economies)

Individual superior to the Collective (Anti-Collectivism - eg. Anti- Union)

Underclass theory (Murray)

Welfare dependency / Dependency culture

Limited role of State / Government (Defence, Public Order)

State as "oppressive of individual freedom"

Traditional family roles / gender relationships

Anti-socialist / Pro-Capitalist

Capitalism is highest form of economic organisation / society possible

Nature (biology / genes) more important than Nurture (environment)


Key Names: Hayek, Friedman, Thatcher, Reagan, Wilson, Van Den Haag. P.Morgan, Phillips.

Theoretical Perspectives: New Right

Key Criticisms:

Over-emphasis on Individuals at expense of social structures

Ignores inequalities of class, gender, status, power

Double Moral Standards (economic freedom but strict control of family life)

Political propaganda rather than analysis

New Right Realism (Deviance) - ignores white-collar crime / crimes of powerful

Are human beings "naturally selfish / self-seeking"?

Ignores role of culture in the shaping of social identities

Total "freedom of action for individual" impossible in modern, complex, societies

Dependency Culture = unproven assertion

Underclass theory not proven

Little or no empirical research / evidence to support New Right theories

Key Critics: All variants of Feminism, Marxism (Traditional and Neo)

( Chris.Livesey: www.sociology.org.uk

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