Showing posts with label Sociological Theories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sociological Theories. Show all posts

Thursday, 16 June 2022


In, as early as 1822 when Auguste Comte was still working as Saint-Simon’s secretary, he attempted to discover the successive stages through which human race had evolved. In his study, he began from the state of human race, not much superior to the great apes, to the state in which he found the civilized society of Europe. In this study, he applied scientific methods of comparison and arrived at ‘The Law of Human Progress’ or ‘The Law of Three Stages.’ The three stages are:

  1. The Theological or fictitious stage: According to Comte in this stage, “all theoretical conceptions, whether general or special bear a supernatural impress”. Unable to discover the natural causes of the various happenings, the primitive men attributed them to imaginary or divine forces. This stage is also divided into four sub-stages as (a) Fetishism (b) Anthropomorphism (c) Polytheism (d) Monotheism.

    1. Fetishism: During this sub-stage, the man accepts the existence of the spirit or the soul. It did not admit priesthood.

    2. Anthropomorphism: In the second sub-stage, with the gradual development in human thinking there occurred a change or improvement in the human thinking which resulted in the development of this stage.

    3. Polytheism: During this sub-stage, man begins to believe in magic and allied activities. He then transplants or imposes a special god in every object. Thus, they believed in several gods and created a class of priests to get the goodwill and the blessings of these gods.

    4. Monotheism: During this sub-stage of the theological stage man believes that there is only one centre of power which guides and controls all the activities of the world. Thus, a man believed in the superhuman power of only one god.

  2. The Metaphysical or abstract stage: This stage being an improvement upon the earlier stage, it was believed that the abstract power or force guides and determines the events in the world. Metaphysical thinking discards belief in a concrete god.

  3. The Scientific or positive stage: The dawn of the nineteenth century marked the beginning of the positive stage in which “observation predominates over imagination” and all theoretical concepts have become positive. In this final stage, dominated by industrial administrators and scientists, the nature of the human mind has given up its childish and vain search for Absolute notions, origins and destinations of the universe and its causes but seeks to establish scientific principles governing phenomena.

Auguste Comte maintained that each stage of the development of human thoughts necessarily grew out of the preceding one. Only when the previous stage exhausts itself does the new stage develop. He also correlated the three stages of human thought with the development of social organization, types of social order, the types of social units and material conditions found in society. He believed that social life evolved in the same way as the successive changes in human thought took place.

Friday, 21 January 2022

Q. In what way the postmodern theory ‘encompasses a new historical epoch, new cultural products and a new type of theorizing about the social world’? 10 (2020)

Understanding postmodern social theory, it is applicable to distinguish between postmodernity, postmodernism, and postmodern social theory. Postmodernity refers to a social and political epoch that is generally seen as following the modern era in a historical sense.  Postmodernism refers to cultural products (in art, movies, architecture, and so on) that are seen as different from modern cultural products, while postmodern social theory refers to a kind of social theory that is distinct from modern social theory.  Thus, the postmodern encompasses a new historical epoch, new cultural products and a new type of theorizing about the social world.

  1. Postmodernity: 

There is a widespread belief that the era of modernity is ending or has ended, and we have entered a new social epoch. In society, there are many ways to characterize the difference between the modern and the postmodern world, but as an illustration, one of the best is the difference in viewpoints on whether it is possible to find a rational solution to society’s problems. Firstly, most postmodernists are uneasy and even unwilling to discuss a historical transition from modernity to postmodernity. It constitutes the kind of grand narrative that we have already seen rejected. Secondly, it involves the kind of linear, chronological thinking that postmodernists associate with modernism and therefore also reject. To postmodernists, things rarely, if ever, progress in a simple, linear manner. Finally, it involves, in their view, far too neat and simplified a distinction between historical epochs.

Thus, while it is possible to think of a transition from modernity to postmodernity and much of this thinking has been given impetus by postmodern social theory, few, if any, postmodern theories accept such a simple, linear, and grand narrative. They do agree something has happened; something has changed, but it is not simple and it is not linear.

  1. Postmodernism: 

It relates to the cultural realm in which it is argued that postmodern products have tended to supplant modern products. In architecture, architect Philip Johnson’s AT&T building in New York is often cited as an example of postmodern architecture since it includes both modern and traditional elements. In music, Shusterman sees rap music as postmodern because, among other things, of the fact that it recycles extant styles rather than creating new ones, eclectically mixes styles, and is local rather than universal. The movie, Blade Runner, showing a Los Angeles of the future combining highly futuristic and highly traditional elements and peopled by “replicants” who often seem more humane than the humans, may be seen as a postmodern work.

  1. Postmodern social theory: 

In the emergence of postmodern social theory, there are differences between modern theory. Modern social theory tends to be absolute, rational, and to accept the possibility of discovering the truth, whereas postmodern social theory tends to be relativistic and open to the possibility of irrationality. However, as in the case with modern social theory, not all postmodern social theory is of one piece. 

Barry Smart has sought to bring some order to this area by articulating three fundamental positions taken by postmodern social theorists.

  1. Extreme postmodernist: There has been a radical rupture, and modern society has been replaced by a postmodern society. 

  2. More moderate: A change has taken place, postmodernity grows out of, and is continuous with modernity. 

  3. In the third and final Smart himself rather than viewing them as epochs, we can see modernity and postmodernity as engaged in a long-running relationship with one another, with postmodernity continually pointing out the limitations of modernity.

All though it is useful, it would be noted that postmodern social theorists would likely dismiss Smart’s typology and would also reject the distinction among postmodernity, postmodernism and postmodern social theory, as greatly simplifying the enormous diversity of their ideas and distorting each individual’s work in the process.

Q. What do you mean by post-modern theory? Discus its major arguments. 6+4=10 (2019)

The term ‘postmodern social theory’ has special relevance for sociology. Postmodern social theory, according to Best and Kellner (1991) refers to a kind of social theory that is distinct from modern social theory. The “Modern” and “post-modern” were terms that were developed in the 20th century. “Modern” is the term that describes the period from the 1890s to 1945, and “post-modern” refers to the period after the Second World War, mainly after 1968.

The emergence of postmodern social theory and its differences from modern theory. In general, modern social theory tends to be absolute, rational, and to accept the possibility of discovering the truth, whereas postmodern social theory tends to be relativistic and open to the possibility of irrationality. However, as is the case with modern social theory, not all postmodern social theory is of one piece. 

Postmodern social theory has come to reality. It has begun to take roots. Some think that it is the declaration of the death of sociological theory. Others argue that it is an appropriate moment for sociological theory to transform itself by accepting some criticisms made by postmodern social theory.

Sociological theory and social theory are not and should not be at different poles. Postmodern social theory surely is not the result of the contributions of many non-sociologist thinkers only; it is also a product of sociologist thinkers. In fact, social theory is differentiated from sociological theory for its being interdisciplinary.

But it also means that social theory can also be looked at from the sociological vantage point. There is yet another perspective. Scholars like George Ritzer consider social theory not only from a sociological perspective but from the perspective of modernity.

Thus, the postmodern social theory includes perspectives of sociological theory, non-sociological perspectives such as literary criticism, anthropology and so on and modernist perspective. Ritzer seems to be liberal for looking at and analyzing postmodern social theory from the vantage point of modernism. (Postmodern Social Theory-George Ritzer)

Criticisms / major arguments on Post-Postmodern Social Theory

Postmodernism is criticized for being untestable, unsystematic, overly abstract, relativistic, pessimistic, and without vision. Nevertheless, there is some question as to what is the appropriate metric of success, as postmodernism has certainly posed a number of important and interesting questions to social theory. The major criticisms / major arguments on postmodern social theory will be discussed on the following:

  1. Postmodern theory is criticized for its failure to live up to modern scientific standards, standards that postmodernists eschew. To the scientifically oriented modernist, it is impossible to know whether the contentions of postmodernists are true. 

  2. Since the knowledge produced by postmodernists cannot be seen as constituting a body of scientific ideas, it might be better to look at postmodern social theory as ideology (Kumar, 1995). Once we do that, it is no longer a matter of whether the ideas are true, but simply whether we believe in them. Those who believe in one set of ideas have no grounds to argue that their ideas are any better or worse than any other set of ideas.

  1. Because they are unconstrained by the norms of science, postmodernists are free to do as they please, to “play” with a wide range of ideas. Broad generalizations are offered, often without qualification. Furthermore, in expressing their positions, postmodern social theorists are not restricted to the dispassionate rhetoric of the modern scientist. The excessive nature of much of postmodern discourse makes it difficult for most of those outside the perspective to accept its basic tenets.

  2. Postmodern ideas are often so vague and abstract that it is difficult, if not impossible, to connect them to the social world (Calhoun, 1993b). Relatedly, meanings of concepts tend to change over the course of a postmodernist’s work, but the reader, unaware of the original meanings, is unclear about any changes.

  3. Despite their propensity to criticize the grand narratives of modern theorists, postmodern social theorists often offer their own varieties of such narratives. For example, Jameson often is accused of employing Marxian grand narratives and totalizations.

  4. In their analyses, postmodern social theorists often offer critiques of modern society, but those critiques are of questionable validity because they generally lack a normative basis from which to make such judgments.

  5. Given their rejection of interest in the subject and subjectivity, postmodernists often lack a theory of agency.

  6. Postmodern social theorists are best at critiquing society, but they lack any vision of what society ought to be.

  7. The postmodern social theory leads to profound pessimism.

  8. While postmodern social theorists grapple with what they consider major social issues, they often end up ignoring what many consider the key problems of our time.

  9. The feminists have been particularly strong critics of postmodern social theory. Feminists have tended to be critical of postmodern social theory’s rejection of the subject, of its opposition to universal, cross-cultural categories (such as gender and gender oppression), of its excessive concern with a difference, of its rejection of truth, and of its inability to develop a critical political agenda.

Many other criticisms of postmodern social theory in general, to say nothing of many specific criticisms of each postmodern theorist, could be enumerated. However, the list above gives a good sense of the range of those criticisms. Whatever the merits of these critiques, the central issue is whether the postmodern theory has produced a set of interesting, insightful, and important ideas that are likely to affect social theory long into the future. It should be clear from this chapter that such ideas exist in profusion within postmodern social theory.

Q. Discuss the salient features of post-modern theory. 10 (2017)

The dominant position on the issue of postmodernity is clearly that there is a radical disjuncture between modernity and postmodernity. However, there are some postmodern theorists who argue that while postmodernity has important differences from modernity, there are also continuities between them. The best known of these arguments is made by Fredric Jameson in an essay entitled Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991).

Frederic Jameson sees postmodernism as an extension of modernity. In his view, capitalism still dominates social life. Jameson makes the claim that while there have been significant cultural changes, these are still the expression of the same sort of economic structures discussed by Karl Marx. Thus, despite attempts by the postmodern social theorists to use Marx as an archetype of modernist grand narratives, Jameson uses Marx’s theory to help explain postmodernity. These cultural changes represent capitalism’s expansion into the last uncommodified areas of life that are typical of “late capitalism.”  Late capitalism follows Marx’s market capitalism and V. I. Lenin’s (1870-1924) imperialist stage of capitalism. He also identifies cultures with specific economic structures, such as postmodern culture in multinational capitalism.

Fredric Jameson characterizes postmodern society with four elements:  

  1. Superficiality and lack of depth: 

Its cultural products are satisfied with surface images and do not delve deeply into the underlying meanings. A good example is Andy Warhol’s famous painting of Campbell soup cans that appear to be nothing more than perfect representations of those cans. To use a key term associated with postmodern theory, a picture is a simulacrum in which one cannot distinguish between the original and the copy. 

Andy Warhol: Campbell’s Soup Cans


A simulacrum is also a copy of a copy; Warhol was reputed to have painted his soup cans not from the cans themselves but from a photograph of the cans. Jameson describes a simulacrum as “the identical copy for which no original ever existed” (1991:18). A simulacrum is, by definition, superficial, lacking in depth. (You can do further reading on Simulacrum on Jean Baudrillard “Simulation and Simulacra”)

  1. The waning of emotion or affect: 

Second, postmodernism is characterized by a waning of emotion or affect. As his example, Jameson contrasts another of Warhol’s paintings, another near-photographic representation, this time of Marilyn Monroe to a classic modernist piece of art Edvard Munch’s The Scream. The Scream is a surreal painting of a person expressing the depth of despair, or in sociological terms, anomie or alienation. Warhol’s painting of Marilyn Monroe is superficial and expresses no genuine emotion. This reflects the fact that to the postmodernists, the alienation and anomie that caused the kind of reaction depicted by Munch is part of the now-past modern world. In the postmodern world, alienation has been replaced by fragmentation. Since the world and the people in it have become fragmented, the affect that remains is “free-floating and impersonal” (Jameson, 1991:16). There is a peculiar kind of euphoria associated with these postmodern feelings, or what Jameson prefers to call “intensities.” He gives as an example a photorealist cityscape “where even automobile wrecks gleam with some new hallucinatory splendour” (Jameson, 1991:32-33). 

Andy Warhol—Marilyn Monroe (1967)



Edvard Munch’s The Scream


  1. A loss of historicity: 

Third, there is a loss of historicity. We cannot know the past. All we have access to are texts about the past, and all we can do is produce yet other texts about that topic. This loss of historicity has led to the “random cannibalization of all styles of the past” (Jameson, 1991:18). The result leads us to another key term in postmodern thinking pastiche. Because it is impossible for historians to find the truth about the past, or even to put together a coherent story about it, they are satisfied with creating pastiches, or hodgepodges of ideas, sometimes contradictory and confused, about the past. Further, there is no clear sense of historical development, of time passing. Past and present are inextricably intertwined. For example, in historical novels such as E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime, we see the “disappearance of the historical referent. This historical novel can no longer set out to represent historical past; it can only ‘represent’ our ideas and stereotypes about that past” (Jameson, 1991:25). Another example is the movie Body Heat, which, while clearly about the present, creates an atmosphere reminiscent of the 1930s. 

A movie like Body Heat or a novel like Ragtime is “an elaborated symptom of the waning of our historicity” (Jameson, 1991:21). This loss of temporality, this inability to distinguish between past, present, and future, is manifested at the individual level in a kind of schizophrenia. For the postmodern individual, events are fragmented and discontinuous.

  1. New technologies:

Fourth, there is a new technology associated with postmodern society. Instead of productive technologies such as the automobile assembly line, we have the dominance of reproductive technologies, especially electronic media such as the television set and the computer. Rather than the “exciting” technology of the Industrial Revolution, we have technologies such as television, “which articulates nothing but rather implodes, carrying its flattened image surface within itself” (Jameson, 1991:37). The implosive, flattening technologies of the postmodern era give birth to very different cultural products than the explosive, expanding technologies of the modern era did.

In sum, Jameson presents us with an image of postmodernity in which people are adrift and unable to comprehend the multinational capitalist system or the explosively growing culture in which they live. As a paradigm of this world, and of one’s place in it, Jameson offers the example of Los Angeles’s Hotel Bonaventure, designed by a famous postmodern architect, John Portman. One of the points Jameson makes about the hotel is that one is unable to get one’s bearings in the lobby. The lobby is an example of what Jameson means by hyperspace, (Jameson, 1991:43-44, 115-118) an area where modern conceptions of space are useless in helping us orient ourselves. In this case, the lobby is surrounded by four absolutely symmetrical towers that contain the rooms. In fact, the hotel had to add colour coding and directional signals to help people find their way. But the key point is that, as it was designed, people had great difficulty getting their bearings in the hotel lobby.

Hotel Bonaventure, designed by John Portman

This situation in the lobby of the Hotel Bonaventure is a metaphor for our inability to get our bearings in the multinational economy and cultural explosion of late capitalism. Unlike many postmodernists, Jameson as a Marxist is unwilling to leave it at that and comes up with at least a partial solution to the problem of living in a postmodern society. What we need, he says, are cognitive maps in order to find our way around (Jagtenberg and McKie, 1997).

These cognitive maps can come from various sources—social theorists (including Jameson himself, who can be seen as providing such a map in his work), novelists, and people on an everyday basis who can map their own spaces. Of course, the maps are not ends in themselves to a Marxist like Jameson but are to be used as the basis for radical political action in postmodern society.

The need for maps is linked to Jameson’s view that we have moved from a world that is defined temporally to one that is defined spatially. Indeed, the idea of hyperspace and the example of the lobby of the Hotel Bonaventure reflect the dominance of space in the postmodern world.

Interrelationship among Postmodernity, Postmodernism and Postmodern Social Theory

Normally, ‘postmodern’ is the term used by most social scientists. However, there is also use of the terms ‘postmodernism’ and ‘postmodern social theory.’ Best and Kellner – the postmodern thinkers – have made a differentiation between these three terms.

  1. Postmodernity:

The term ‘postmodernity’ means that the era of modernity has ended and the postmodern era has come. Historical meaning is also attached to postmodernity. Such meaning was given by Arnold Toynbee. He mentioned it in his six-volume book A Study of History. D.C. Somervell suggested that Toynbee’s focus on history could be called the ‘postmodern age’. Toynbee thus took it up, and in the subsequent volumes of his work, he put forward the notion of a postmodern age.

Lamert is yet another postmodernist who traces the origin of modernity from history. But his history is only symbolic. He recalls the moment which took place at 3.32 p.m., July 15, 1972 at St. Louis when the modernist architecture of Pruit-Igoe housing project was destroyed. The massive housing project which represented modernist architecture was constructed with the belief that by building the biggest and best public housing, poverty and human misery would be eradicated. But, the bulldozing of the project was the destruction of modernity.

Lamert says that symbolically at least postmodernity emerged with the destruction of this project in 1972. The destruction raises the issue of whether postmodernity can solve the problems created by modernity. To conclude, it could be said that postmodernity emerged on the scene at different times at different places. It is all a historical phenomenon.

  1. Postmodernism:

The term ‘postmodernism’ is used to denote the cultural products which appeared newly in the already existing modem culture. Popular culture in the form of remix photography and new forms of art are some of the examples of new postmodern culture.

In the realm of television, some untraditional and unconventional serials have come to screen. The same has happened in the music of movies and entertainment programmes. Postmodernism, thus, can be defined as a movement that rejects or moderates the ideas of a previous movement considered modernist often encompassing a reinterpretation of classical ideas, forms and practices.

However, the term has gained a specific definition with reference to western art and architecture after the decline of modernism in 1995. Particularly associated with post-industrial society and the ‘cultural topic of late capitalism’, it suggests multiple quotations, cultural crossover and multicultural borrowing. It is a generalized term for the knowing of the hi-tech pluralist character of contemporary society.

  1. Postmodern Social Theory:

The term ‘postmodern social theory’ has special relevance for sociology. Before the beginning of postmodernity, sociology used to have a sociological theory. It was classical contemporary and modern. Such a theory was foundational which developed in a cumulative way from Durkheim, Weber, Marx and others to Parsons and Merton.

Postmodernism calls these foundational theories merely as metanarratives. These are rejected. It is argued that the foundational theories tend to privilege some people and downgrade the significance of others, or in other words, give some groups power and render other groups powerless.

Take the case of India: the functional theory which has been an obsession for Indian sociologists and which very rigidly draws from foundational theory hardly takes into consideration the issues and problems with which the scheduled tribes, scheduled castes and women struggle. They kept themselves engaged in maintaining the status quo of the privileged groups.

The postmodernists use the term ‘social theory’ instead of sociological theory. It shows that they have thrown away the yoke of foundational theory. They have crossed the boundaries of sociology. And, they argue that the postmodern social theory is not essentially a sociological theory.

It is interdisciplinary and is inclusive of philosophy, linguistics, communication, knowledge and aesthetics. For instance, Jean-Francois Lyotard begins by identifying modern (scientific) knowledge with the kind of single grand synthesis.

Friday, 14 January 2022

What is the Difference Between Social Theory and Sociological Theory?

The main difference between social theory and sociological theory is that social theory is a set of ideas, hypotheses, arguments, or paradigms that help to study and analyze social phenomena while the sociological theory is basically a set of ideas that provides an explanation about society.

Although most people use these two terms interchangeably, some sociologists identify a distinct difference between social theory and sociological theory. According to Kenneth Allan, the social theory focuses on commentary and critique of modern society while sociological theory contains abstract and testable propositions about society. Moreover, the sociological theory attempts to be subjective, whereas social theory is less concerned with objectivity and is more likely to pass normative judgments.

What is Social Theory

The social theory refers to a set of ideas, hypotheses, arguments, or paradigms that help to study and analyze social phenomena. It helps to explain how and why human societies form, change and develop over time. It also explains concepts such as social behaviour, social structure and power, social norms, gender, ethnicity, and modernity. Moreover, most people equate social theory with an attitude of critical thinking and the desire for knowledge through a posteriori methods of discovery. Furthermore, social theory is an interdisciplinary field, drawing knowledge from various disciplines such as anthropology, gender studies, media studies, and political sciences.

Moreover, social theory (as we know it today) emerged as a distinct discipline in the 20th century. Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, Anthony Giddens, Dorothy Smith, Roberto Unger, and Jürgen Habermas are some well-known social theorists.

What is Sociological Theory

Sociological theory is basically a set of ideas that provides an explanation about society. Sociologists study social interactions, relations, events and patterns and formulate theories to explain various phenomena in the society.

Given below are a list of major sociological theories and frameworks.

Functionalism – describes society as a complex system whose parts work together while  focusing on the ways social institutions meet social needs

Conflict Theory – suggested by Karl Marx, describes that society is made of individuals who are competing for limited resources

Symbolic Interactionism – focuses on the symbolic meaning that people develop and depend on in the process of social interactions

Feminist Theory – analyzes the status of women and men in society with the aim of using that knowledge to make women’s lives better

Rational Choice Theory – a framework for understanding as well as modelling social and economic behaviour

Furthermore, Talcott Parsons, Robert K Merton, George Homans, Harrison White, Randall Collins, Peter Blau, Immanuel Wallerstein,  Theda Skocpol, and James Samuel Coleman are some famous sociological theorists.

Difference Between Social Theory and Sociological Theory


Social theory is a set of ideas, hypotheses, arguments, or paradigms that help to study and analyze social phenomena while the sociological theory is basically a set of ideas that provides an explanation about society.


Social theory is a commentary and critique of modern society, while sociological theory consists of abstract and testable propositions about society.


When compared to sociological theory, social theory is less concerned with objectivity.

Well-known Figures

Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, Anthony Giddens, Dorothy Smith, Roberto Unger, and Jürgen Habermas are some well-known social theorists while Talcott Parsons, Robert K Merton, George Homans, Harrison White, Randall Collins, Peter Blau, Immanuel Wallerstein,  Theda Skocpol, and James Samuel Coleman are some famous sociological theorists.


Some sociologists identify a distinct difference between social theory and sociological theory. According to Kenneth Allan, the social theory focuses on commentary and critique of modern society while sociological theory contains abstract and testable propositions about society.


  1. Crossman, Ashley. “15 Sociology Theories You Should Know.” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 4 May 2019, Available here.

  2. “What Is Social Theory?” Social Theory Applied, Available here.

  3. “Sociological Theory.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Aug. 2019, Available here.

  4. “Sociological Theory/Introduction.” Sociological Theory/Introduction – Wikibooks, Open Books for an Open World, Available here.

Web Courtesy:

1. ~ Link