Social theory

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Merton's social strain theory.

Social theories or social thoughts are frameworks of empirical evidence used to study and interpret social phenomena. A tool used by social scientists, social theories relate to historical debates over the most valid and reliable methodologies (e.g. positivism and anti-positivism), as well as the primacy of either structure or agency.

CONTENT : A - F , G - L , M - R , S - Z , See also , External links

Quotes[edit]

Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author

A - F[edit]

  • Widely dispersed knowledge concerning the important role of basic cooperative processes among living beings may lead to the acceptance of cooperation as a guiding principle both in social theory and as a basis for human behavior. Such a development when it occurs will alter the course of human history.
    • W. C. Allee Cooperation among Animals with Human Implications (1951) Page 213 (cited in "The Altruism Equation", by Lee Alan Dugatkin (2006), page 58)
  • Saint-Simon leaves a legacy which affects all socialisms, for he introduces into social theory (he theme of idleness and parasitism as social problems consequent on the evasion of the central social responsibility ascribed to citizens: the duty to be productive.
    • Peter Beilharz, in Labour's Utopias: Bolshevism, Fabianism, Social Democracy (1992).
  • Writers are greatly respected. The intelligent public is wonderfully patient with them, continues to read them, and endures disappointment after disappointment, waiting to hear from art what it does not hear from theology, philosophy, social theory, and what it cannot hear from pure science. Out of the struggle at the center has come an immense, painful longing for a broader, more flexible, fuller, more coherent, more comprehensive account of what we human beings are, who we are and what this life is for.

G - L[edit]

  • The merit of Marx is that he suddenly produces a qualitative change in the history of social thought. He interprets history, understands its dynamic, predicts the future, but in addition to predicting it (which would satisfy his scientific obligation), he expresses a revolutionary concept: the world must not only be interpreted, it must be transformed. Man ceases to be the slave and tool of his environment and converts himself into the architect of his own destiny.
  • I have tried to show that psychiatric research can be empirical and experimental, controlled, and operational and not dependent on inferences, analogies, or anecdotes. Hypotheses can be derived which are testable. Theory is a different matter. At the present we rely heavily on psychoanalytic theory or on still poorly formulated and defined general systems theory, information theory, or transactional theory. To explain the depth and variety of the interrelationship of somatopsychosocial facets of the totality of human behavior in process requires a unified theory of human behavior which we have not yet even approached. Integration or synthesis of biological, psychological, and social theory is not enough.
    • Roy R. Grinker, Sr. (1964) as cited in: S. Nassir Ghaemi (2009) The Rise and Fall of the Biopsychosocial Model. p.24
  • ... a rather different class of applications of the idea of best allocation of scarce resources... usually referred to as the theory of optimal economic growth. In most studies of this kind made in the countries with market economies there is not an identifiable client to whom the findings are submitted as policy recommendations. Nor is there an obvious choice of objective function, such as cost minimization or profit maximization in the studies addressed to individual enterprises. The field has more of a speculative character. The models studied usually contain only a few highly aggregated variables. One considers alternative objective functions that incorporate or emphasize various strands of ethical, political, or social thought. These objectives are then tried out to see what future paths of the economy they imply under equally simplified assumptions of technology or resource availability.
    • Tjalling Koopmans Three essays on the state of economic science. Vol. 21. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1957. p. 244
  • The great attraction of cultural anthropology in the past was precisely that it seemed to offer such a richness of independent natural experiments; but unfortunately it is now clear that there has been a great deal of historical continuity and exchange among those "independent" experiments, most of which have felt the strong effect of contact with societies organized as modern states. More important, there has never been a human society with unlimited resources, of three sexes, or the power to read other people's minds, or to be transported great distances at the speed of light. How then are we to know the effect on human social organization and history of the need to scrabble for a living, or of the existence of males and females, or of the power to make our tongues drop manna and so to make the worse appear the better reason? A solution to the epistemological impotence of social theory has been to create a literature of imagination and logic in which the consequences of radical alterations in the conditions of human existence are deduced. It is the literature of science fiction. ... [S]cience fiction is the laboratory in which extraordinary social conditions, never possible in actuality, are used to illumine the social and historical norm. ... Science fiction stories are the Gedanken experiments of social science.
    • Richard Lewontin "The Last of the Nasties?" in New York Review of Books (2/29/96)

M - R[edit]

  • Jurgen Habermas is widely considered as the most influential thinker in Germany over the past decade. As a philosopher and sociologist he has mastered and creatively articulated an extraordinary range of specialized literature in the social sciences, social theory and the history of ideas in the development of a comprehensive and provocative critical theory of knowledge and human interests. His roots are in the tradition of German thought from Kant to Marx, and he has been associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theorists which pioneered in the study of the relationship of the ideas of Marx and Freud.
    • Jack Mezirow (1981). "A critical theory of adult learning and education". in: Adult Education. Vol 32, nr. 1, p.3
  • Whoever saw, as many did, a whole city reduced to rubble — kilometers of streets on which there remained no trace of life, not even a cat, not even a homeless dog — emerged with a rather ironic attitude toward descriptions of the hell of the big city by contemporary poets, descriptions of the hell in their own souls. A real "wasteland" is much more terrible than any imaginary one. Whoever has not dwelt in the midst of horror and dread cannot know how strongly a witness and participant protests against himself, against his own neglect and egoism. Destruction and suffering are the school of social thought.
  • Democracy and socialism are means to an end, not the end itself. We talk of the good of society. Is this something apart from, and transcending, the good of the individuals composing it? If the individual is ignored and sacrificed for what is considered the good of the society, is that the right objective to have?
    It was agreed that the individual should not be sacrificed and indeed that real social progress will come only when opportunity is given to the individual to develop, provided "the individual" is not a selected group but comprises the whole community. The touchstone, therefore, should be how far any political or social theory enables the individual to rise above his petty self and thus think in terms of the good of all. The law of life should not be competition or acquisitiveness but cooperation, the good of each contributing to the good of all.
    • Jawaharlal Nehru As quoted in World Marxist Review : Problems of Peace and Socialism (1958), p. 40

S - Z[edit]

  • We are all familiar with the passionate and closely argued appeal against censorship by the outstanding Soviet writer A. Solzhenitsyn.He as well as G. Vladimov, G. Svirsky, and other writers who have spoken out on the subject have clearly shown how incompetent censorship destroys the living soul of Soviet literature, but the same applies of course to all other manifestations of social thought, causing stagnation and dullness and preventing fresh and deep ideas.
    Such ideas, after all, can arise only in discussion, in the face of objections, only if there is a potential possibility of expressing not only true but also dubious ideas.
    This was clear to the philosophers of ancient Greece and hardly anyone nowadays would have any doubts on that score. But after fifty years of complete domination over the minds of an entire nation, our leaders seem to fear even allusions to such a discussion.
  • Islam is the first school of social thought that recognizes the masses as the basis, the fundamental and conscious factor in determining history and society not the elect as Nietzsche thought, not the aristocracy and nobility as Plato claimed, nor great personalities as Carlyle and Emerson believed, not those of pure blood as Alexis Carrel imagined, not the priests or the intellectuals, but the masses."
    • Ali Shariati (1979), On the sociology of Islam: lectures. p. 49
  • I shall treat anarchism, despite its many variations: as a system of social thought, aiming at fundamental changes in the structure of society and particularly — for this is the common element uniting all its forms — at the replacement of the authoritarian state by some form of non-governmental cooperation between free individuals.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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