Preview

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We begin with three questions:

  • Why is there so much theory in sociology?
  • Why are there different theories?
  • Can sociological theory be made a little clearer?

The rest of the programme addresses these questions. It explains the role of theory, the distinction between structure and action, and illuminates three of the major perspectives in sociology by looking at their origins, key ideas and showing how they can be applied to case study examples.

The programme is divided into 5 self-standing parts that can be shown separately or as a whole:

1: Introduction

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We begin by introducing the idea of sociological problems, the role of theory in sociology and the notion of social structure as a way of explaining the relationship between the individual and society.

2: Societies as Organic Structures

This section begins with the development of structural theory in the work of Durkheim and Parsons. We then see how it applies to students’ experiences of education. However, some students’ experiences seem to fall outside this ‘consensual’ view. Are there other theories that might help explain their views?

3: Societies as Economic Structures

Sociology: Making Sense of Sociological TheorySociology: Making Sense of Sociological TheorySociology: Making Sense of Sociological Theory

This section focuses on the re-emergence of conflict theory. It looks at the key ideas of Marx’s work and at the application of Marxist/conflict theories to contemporary societies and to education in particular. Despite their many differences, both functionalist and Marxist theories view social structures as shaping people’s lives. We end this section by asking if people are really just the puppets of societies.

4: Societies as Social Action

This section begins by looking at what sociologists mean by social action and introduces the ideas of GH Mead and symbolic interactionist theory. It then illustrates these ideas by looking at how meanings are negotiated in the classroom and shows how negative labelling can be incorporated into students’ self concepts.

5: Case Study: Medicalisation

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This section is about developing a ‘sociological imagination’ and applying sociological theories. It begins by illustrating the ‘medicalisation’ of life problems in contemporary societies and then considers how Durkheimian, Marxist and interactionist theories might explain it. We conclude with another look at the importance of theory in sociology.
Teacher Booklet (PDF Document 678.8 KB.)

Making Sense of Sociological Theory

Running time 60 minutes.

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“On receiving the video, the first thought that occurs is ‘How can anyone dare to cover such an abstract area as this in this form?’ Such doubts are quickly assuaged as the programme develops. The standard of presentation in an age of extremely ‘high tech’ media is very professional….. It is thought-provoking and accessible in the best sense of acting to excite interest and the desire to follow-up the material offered.”

Nik Jorgensen, Social Science Teacher

“Congratulations on another excellent video on Making Sense of Sociological Theory. Keep up the good work. Your team is making a major contribution to teaching A Level Sociology.”

Paul Kelly

“A lively, enjoyable and entertaining resource that was likely to hold student interest throughout. Multi-purpose, it could be useful as an introduction to theory and methods or for revision. It was polished and professional in the way it was presented, so its already booked for Recruitment Evening next Thursday. ”

Jenny Martin: City of Leicester School