This tradition of structuralist thought argues that, rather than semiotics, social structure is networks of patterned social relations. And, rather than Levi-Strauss, this school of thought draws on the notions of structure as theorized by Levi-Strauss' contemporary anthropologist, Radcliffe-Brown.
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Post-structuralist thought has tended to reject 'humanist' assumptions in the construction of social theory. The anti-humanist position has been associated with " postmodernism ", a term used in specific contexts to describe an era or phenomena , but occasionally construed as a method.
Overall, there is a strong consensus regarding the central problems of sociological theory, which are largely inherited from the classical theoretical traditions.
This consensus is: how to link, transcend or cope with the following "big three" dichotomies:  subjectivity and objectivity , structure and agency , and synchrony and diachrony. The first deals with knowledge , the second with action , and the last with time. Lastly, sociological theory often grapples with the problem of integrating or transcending the divide between micro, meso and macro-scale social phenomena, which is a subset of all three central problems. The problem of subjectivity and objectivity can be divided into two parts: a concern over the general possibilities of social actions, and the specific problem of social scientific knowledge.
In the former, the subjective is often equated though not necessarily with the individual, and the individual's intentions and interpretations of the objective. The objective is often considered any public or external action or outcome, on up to society writ large. A primary question for social theorists is how knowledge reproduces along the chain of subjective-objective-subjective, that is to say: how is intersubjectivity achieved?
While, historically, qualitative methods have attempted to tease out subjective interpretations, quantitative survey methods also attempt to capture individual subjectivities. Also, some qualitative methods take a radical approach to objective description in situ. The latter concern with scientific knowledge results from the fact that a sociologist is part of the very object they seek to explain.
How can the sociologist effect in practice this radical doubting which is indispensable for bracketing all the presuppositions inherent in the fact that she is a social being, that she is therefore socialised and led to feel "like a fish in water" within that social world whose structures she has internalised? How can she prevent the social world itself from carrying out the construction of the object, in a sense, through her, through these unself-conscious operations or operations unaware of themselves of which she is the apparent subject.
Structure and agency, sometimes referred to as determinism versus voluntarism,  form an enduring ontological debate in social theory: "Do social structures determine an individual's behaviour or does human agency? Discussions over the primacy of either structure or agency relate to the core of sociological epistemology "What is the social world made of? Synchrony and diachrony, or statics and dynamics, within social theory are terms that refer to a distinction emerging out of the work of Levi-Strauss who inherited it from the linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure.
Diachrony, on the other hand, attempts to analyse dynamic sequences. Following Saussure, synchrony would refer to social phenomena as a static concept like a language , while diachrony would refer to unfolding processes like actual speech. In Anthony Giddens' introduction to Central Problems in Social Theory , he states that, "in order to show the interdependence of action and structure In terms of sociology, historical sociology is often better positioned to analyse social life as diachronic, while survey research takes a snapshot of social life and is thus better equipped to understand social life as synchronized.
Some argue that the synchrony of social structure is a methodological perspective rather than an ontological claim. Many people divide sociological research methods into two broad categories, although many others see research methods as a continuum: . Sociologists are often divided into camps of support for particular research techniques. These disputes relate to the epistemological debates at the historical core of social theory. While very different in many aspects, both qualitative and quantitative approaches involve a systematic interaction between theory and data.
Most textbooks on the methodology of social research are written from the quantitative perspective,  and the very term "methodology" is often used synonymously with " statistics. The work produced by quantitative researchers is also deemed more 'trustworthy' and 'unbiased' by the general public,  though this judgment continues to be challenged by antipositivists. The choice of method often depends largely on what the researcher intends to investigate.
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For example, a researcher concerned with drawing a statistical generalization across an entire population may administer a survey questionnaire to a representative sample population. By contrast, a researcher who seeks full contextual understanding of an individual's social actions may choose ethnographic participant observation or open-ended interviews.
Studies will commonly combine, or 'triangulate' , quantitative and qualitative methods as part of a 'multi-strategy' design. For instance, a quantitative study may be performed to obtain statistical patterns on a target sample, and then combined with a qualitative interview to determine the play of agency. Quantitative methods are often used to ask questions about a population that is very large, making a census or a complete enumeration of all the members in that population infeasible.
A 'sample' then forms a manageable subset of a population. In quantitative research, statistics are used to draw inferences from this sample regarding the population as a whole.
The process of selecting a sample is referred to as 'sampling'. While it is usually best to sample randomly , concern with differences between specific subpopulations sometimes calls for stratified sampling. Conversely, the impossibility of random sampling sometimes necessitates nonprobability sampling , such as convenience sampling or snowball sampling. Sociologists increasingly draw upon computationally intensive methods to analyse and model social phenomena.
Although the subject matter and methodologies in social science differ from those in natural science or computer science , several of the approaches used in contemporary social simulation originated from fields such as physics and artificial intelligence. In relevant literature, computational sociology is often related to the study of social complexity.
Sociologists' approach to culture can be divided into "sociology of culture" and "cultural sociology"—the terms are similar, though not entirely interchangeable. Conversely, cultural sociology sees all social phenomena as inherently cultural. For Simmel , culture referred to "the cultivation of individuals through the agency of external forms which have been objectified in the course of history".
Cultural sociology often involves the hermeneutic analysis of words, artefacts and symbols, or ethnographic interviews. However, some sociologists employ historical-comparative or quantitative techniques in the analysis of culture, Weber and Bourdieu for instance. The subfield is sometimes allied with critical theory in the vein of Theodor W. Adorno , Walter Benjamin , and other members of the Frankfurt School. Loosely distinct from the sociology of culture is the field of cultural studies.
Birmingham School theorists such as Richard Hoggart and Stuart Hall questioned the division between "producers" and "consumers" evident in earlier theory, emphasizing the reciprocity in the production of texts. Cultural Studies aims to examine its subject matter in terms of cultural practices and their relation to power. For example, a study of a subculture such as white working class youth in London would consider the social practices of the group as they relate to the dominant class.
The " cultural turn " of the s ultimately placed culture much higher on the sociological agenda. Sociology of literature, film, and art is a subset of the sociology of culture. This field studies the social production of artistic objects and its social implications. None of the founding fathers of sociology produced a detailed study of art, but they did develop ideas that were subsequently applied to literature by others. Durkheim's view of sociology as the study of externally defined social facts was redirected towards literature by Robert Escarpit. Bourdieu's own work is clearly indebted to Marx, Weber and Durkheim.
Criminologists analyse the nature, causes, and control of criminal activity, drawing upon methods across sociology, psychology , and the behavioural sciences. The sociology of deviance focuses on actions or behaviours that violate norms , including both infringements of formally enacted rules e. It is the remit of sociologists to study why these norms exist; how they change over time; and how they are enforced.
The concept of social disorganization is when the broader social systems leads to violations of norms. For instance, Robert K. Merton produced a typology of deviance , which includes both individual and system level causal explanations of deviance. The study of law played a significant role in the formation of classical sociology. Durkheim famously described law as the "visible symbol" of social solidarity. Sociology of law is a diverse field of study that examines the interaction of law with other aspects of society, such as the development of legal institutions and the effect of laws on social change and vice versa.
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For example, an influential recent work in the field relies on statistical analyses to argue that the increase in incarceration in the US over the last 30 years is due to changes in law and policing and not to an increase in crime; and that this increase has significantly contributed to the persistence of racial stratification.
The sociology of communications and information technologies includes "the social aspects of computing, the Internet, new media, computer networks, and other communication and information technologies". The Internet is of interest to sociologists in various ways; most practically as a tool for research and as a discussion platform. Online communities may be studied statistically through network analysis or interpreted qualitatively through virtual ethnography. Moreover, organizational change is catalysed through new media , thereby influencing social change at-large, perhaps forming the framework for a transformation from an industrial to an informational society.
As with cultural studies , media study is a distinct discipline that owes to the convergence of sociology and other social sciences and humanities, in particular, literary criticism and critical theory. Though neither the production process nor the critique of aesthetic forms is in the remit of sociologists, analyses of socializing factors, such as ideological effects and audience reception , stem from sociological theory and method.
Thus the 'sociology of the media' is not a subdiscipline per se , but the media is a common and often indispensable topic. The term "economic sociology" was first used by William Stanley Jevons in , later to be coined in the works of Durkheim, Weber and Simmel between and The relationship between capitalism and modernity is a salient issue, perhaps best demonstrated in Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and Simmel's The Philosophy of Money The contemporary period of economic sociology, also known as new economic sociology , was consolidated by the work of Mark Granovetter titled "Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem of Embeddedness".
This work elaborated the concept of embeddedness , which states that economic relations between individuals or firms take place within existing social relations and are thus structured by these relations as well as the greater social structures of which those relations are a part.
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Social network analysis has been the primary methodology for studying this phenomenon. Granovetter's theory of the strength of weak ties and Ronald Burt 's concept of structural holes are two of the best known theoretical contributions of this field. The sociology of work, or industrial sociology, examines "the direction and implications of trends in technological change, globalization , labour markets, work organization, managerial practices and employment relations to the extent to which these trends are intimately related to changing patterns of inequality in modern societies and to the changing experiences of individuals and families the ways in which workers challenge, resist and make their own contributions to the patterning of work and shaping of work institutions.
The sociology of education is the study of how educational institutions determine social structures, experiences, and other outcomes. It is particularly concerned with the schooling systems of modern industrial societies. The study also found that socially disadvantaged black students profited from schooling in racially mixed classrooms, and thus served as a catalyst for desegregation busing in American public schools. Environmental sociology is the study of human interactions with the natural environment, typically emphasizing human dimensions of environmental problems, social impacts of those problems, and efforts to resolve them.
As with other sub-fields of sociology, scholarship in environmental sociology may be at one or multiple levels of analysis, from global e.
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Attention is paid also to the processes by which environmental problems become defined and known to humans. As argued by notable environmental sociologist John Bellamy Foster , the predecessor to modern environmental sociology is Marx's analysis of the metabolic rift , which influenced contemporary thought on sustainability. Environmental sociology is often interdisciplinary and overlaps with the sociology of risk , rural sociology and the sociology of disaster.
Human ecology deals with interdisciplinary study of the relationship between humans and their natural, social, and built environments. In addition to Environmental sociology, this field overlaps with architectural sociology , urban sociology , and to some extent visual sociology. In turn, visual sociology—which is concerned with all visual dimensions of social life—overlaps with media studies in that it uses photography, film and other technologies of media. Social pre-wiring deals with the study of fetal social behavior and social interactions in a multi-fetal environment.
Specifically, social pre-wiring refers to the ontogeny of social interaction. Also informally referred to as, "wired to be social.
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