“Origins of sociological thinking can be traced to the scientific revolution in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century” (Kendall 11). In this time, great store was put on one’s possession of critical reasoning and experiences. In France the Enlightenment was dominated by a group called philosophes; these men believed that human society could be improved through scientific discoveries (Kendall 11). In France during this time period women were excluded from public life, but some women were able to influence the philosophes by participating in a “salon” which is much like an open house which encouraged discussion and debates. During these salon’s the men typically viewed the women as someone that was a good listener, or maybe even a mistress; they did not consider them intellectual equals. Sometimes they would even use the women’s thoughts and ideas like they were theirs (Kendall 11)
Some sociologist view society as basic and ongoing entity, some see it as groups competing for scarce resources and others see it as basic everyday interactions among people (Kendall 23). Each of these uses a theory that attempts to describe explain and sometimes predict social events (Kendall 23). These are referred a perspectives which means “to have a mental view or outlook or having the ability to perceive things in their actual interrelations or comparative importance” (dictionary).
Three major theoretical perspectives have emerged in sociology. The first would be functionalist theory, which means “a system of thoughts based on the premise that all mental processes derive from their usefulness to the organism in adapting to the environment” (dictionary). Second is conflict theory, which is based upon the view that the fundamental causes of crime are the social and economic forces operating within society.” (dictionary). The third is symbolic interactionist theory, which is a theory that human interaction and communication is facilitated by words, gestures, and other symbols that have acquired conventionalized meanings (dictionary). Today, postmodern theory remains an emerging perspective in science, but it remains to be seen what influence postmodern thinkers will have on the social sciences (Kendall 31) This approach does open up new broader avenues that challenge existing perspectives and they also question current belief systems, but is also ignores some of the central social problems of our times such as inequalities based on race, class gender, political and economic oppression (Kendall 31)
Influential Social Theorists
Emile Durkheim 1858-1917: He was a French sociologist who believed that people are the product of their social environment. He also believed that behavior could not be fully understood in terms of individual biological and psychological traits (Kendall 15). One of Durkheim’s most important contributions to sociology is in The Rules of Sociological Method (1964a/1895). This was that society is built on social facts (Kendall 15)....