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Theory in Sociology and Social Science: Elements, Functions, Utility, Types, Problems

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A. What is Theory in Sociology/Social Sciences:

The statement about the situation of why and how the facts are related to each other is called theory. While starting a research with keen concentration on its objectives; the influencing factors, sides and variables and logical conclusion of interrelationship of subject is ultimately a theory which shows the fact of the situation of social events. The facts made in the sectors of physical, natural and social sciences can be checked on the measurement of theory. In physical science, the conclusion is made by studying the natural events of physical world and causes and consequences of it. For example in the theory of Neutron on Gravitational Force, the conclusion is made by studying why and how the gravitation occurs. In natural science, the subjects of study or units are independent. So, the conclusion made on the basis of condition is universal. For example - The composition of two third of Hydrogen and one third of Oxygen becomes water and it is universal theory. 

The same type of universality cannot be found in the conclusion of social sciences study. In social sciences, the conclusion is made on the basis of the study of social events, subjects or trends. Changeability occurs in the study of subjects of social sciences. In the subjects of social sciences and in the form of research subjects, theory means why and how the different events occur? What influences them? Why such types of events occur in particular place and society? Are some of the basic facts to be known, and the analysis of cause and effect relationship of facts and conclusion of it, is a theory. For example the theory of smoking causes lung cancer cannot be said with only assumption. It should have the study of hundreds of persons who smoke, and measurement of reliability of it. Likewise, the fact of illiterate increase the poverty may not be applicable in all place or the degree of poverty may not be determined by illiteracy. So, the concrete conclusion of it is difficult. So, in the theory, identification of right and concrete facts, classification, analysis and the conclusion with cause and effect relationship of social events are essential. In a theory, pre-hypotheses are measured and logical conclusion is drawn. 

The theoretical models are developed in social science with concentration of social subjects and the subjects of pure science in natural science. Among them here the theoretical model of social science has been described which is applicable and may be applicable. In other words, social theory is a form of conclusion based on events emerged in social life. It is factual conclusion in which social arrangement, interrelationship and influences are understood by following certain model. By the help of it socio-cultural development and the rule of procedure can be understood. We can search the whole factors which influence the event social theory has kept a conclusion based on scientific analysis about any events of the society, condition, procedure, behave etc. relating to why and how towards the society. But with the change of society and changeability occurs on social theory. Therefore, social theory contains the feature of falsifiability. Social theory is model and paradigm of social world and meas to show the facts and figures of the society, where the concrete vision on social world has been developed. In next perspective, social theory is an analytical, descriptive and subjective answer of why social behave and traditions are followed on. 

The main objective of social theory is to find out the causal relationship of social events. The concrete expression of the mutual relationship of factors involved in social events is also a social theory. 

In other words, the factual conclusion that contains the quality of generalization and pre-declaration is called the theory. Each social theory advocates the social fact or social reality. The theory presents the social system as in the form of rule.

While starting social research in any subject, first we should provide the proper concern about appropriate research design and method and expected outcome from it. Social or sociological theory becomes scientific one while we use systematic procedure on research. Scientific rules on social research and also follow the scientific method while collecting facts. The collected facts are organized by analyzing the relationship of variables, the conclusion of research is drawn by several sub-rules and developing a main rule of it. The research contains the quality of testable, formal, predictive power, cause effect relationship etc. at least. 

In this Context Morton says: "The term sociological theory refers to logically interconnected sets of preposition from which empirical uniformities can be derived." Calvin Larson 1973 has mentioned the following stages which are very useful to use the theory of sociologists: 
  • Concept - Conceptual ordering - construct - constructed type
  • Frame of references - conceptual framework - perspective 
  • Intelligent hunch (piece) - Hypothesis - Theorem - Postulate - Systematize assumption. 
  • Proposition - Axiom - Law - Generalization. 
  • Model - logic - Deductive scheme - Mathematical formulation
  • Ideal type - Paradigm - Typology - Continuum
Likewise, Morton has explain the works to be done to construct the sociologist theory as mentioned below:
  • Methodology
  • General Sociological orientation
  • General analysis of Sociological concepts
  • Post factum sociological interpretations
  • Empirical generalization in sociology
  • Sociological theory
 The conclusion of above mentioned social scientist and their definitions is that the sociological theory contains the quality of scientific, logical and systematic one. In sociological theory, the social subject has been kept on a particular model, particular method is applied and the relationship of variables related to social subject is analyzed well and then conclusion is drawn, which is possible to generalize in particular society and culture. For all these procedures conceptual operation is very essential and the use of particular theoretical model is necessary to apply.

On the basis of several conclusions, Abraham Francis in his book 'Modern Sociological Theory' - 1985 has mentioned the following gist about social theory.
  1. Theory is a expression of proposals with well defined concept and incorporated logic's. 
  2. Theories are the creation of systematic and symbolic facts and are based on a full up of facts. 
  3. Theory contains the quality of revision, which is always open to incorporate new facts and in vision so it is not final. 
  4. Each theory contains the sufficient facts and a form of usual traits. 
  5. Theories are the expressions of systematic causes these attempt to combine systematically the needs of human related to humanitarian traditions and cooperation. 
 Theory analyses the social phenomena and clarifies the cause effect relationship of variable. But the conclusion of theory doesn't express the suggestions rather it expresses the procedural form. It is very difficult task to find out cause effect relationship of variable which are involved in a social event, the determination of causes of event and the actual number of causes of events are essential to find out but difficult in a social research. Therefore, to understand cause effect relationship, some conditions are very essential to know. These are also known as very essential elements of a theory, these are as:

1. Co-variance or Co-very:

In co-variance or co-very the observation of two variables which are involved in an event occurs, especially how the change on a variable affects to the next variable and how it affects positively or negatively and magnitude of its is observed. It means the relationship of two variable is observed and how and what sort of relationship they have are also analyzed. To find out cause - effect relationship, first the analysis of co-variance or co-very and cooperation of variable is essential. For example, poverty and illiteracy are two variable, the theory explains or should explain the magnitude of change while change occurs on a variable, and should find out the change of which makes the change to the next. The explanation of it is must to develop a theory. Likewise, the search of influence on one variable to the another is essential on the topics of income and expenditure, poverty etc.

2. Time lapse from cause-effect:

To find out the cause and effect of an event, the analysis of two variable regarding to cause and effect of one to the next and the time lapse of variable for any event is very essential to evaluate. On any event, the first is cause and next the effect. Time lapse is a tool to find out the variable either it is cause or effect and how these are inter connected.

3. Elimination of Rival Causes:

There may be the several causes of an event. Therefore, it is essential to find out what cause brought the particular event or condition. But it is also difficult to determine the causes of event because single event has many causes of it. To make the conclusion of theory as an authentic and general for the generalization we should find out the particular causes of an event. In a theory the dual cause are omitted and dual cause are changed into the cause effect relationship in a clear manner. For example: the cause-effect relationship in a clear manner. For example: the cause of low production may be technology, climate, fertilizer, seed, time etc. In a theory the quality of analysis of responsible factor for a event should be clear. It is also the considerable fact to develop the levels of procedures of a theory.

On the basis of above mentioned analysis, the attributes and characteristics of the theory can be mentioned as follows:
  • Universal
  • Simplicity
  • Cause-Effect knowledge
  • Axiom (Positive level relationship of single main rule and other sub-rules)
  • Falsifiability
  • Abstract
  • Conceptual explanation
  • Testability
  • Empiricism
  • Appropriate qualitative analysis
  • Theory as summarization form of existing knowledge in the field. 
To formulate a theory some of the fundamental elements are essential especially to formulate a sociological theory. Those elements are very essential which contribute to define social events and make clear the research study and subject matter of it to find out the boundaries of subject. On the basis of it, we can search the casual relationship of social events regarding to research study. By getting the help of statements and sub rules we can find the main rule about procedure of social event and that further helps to draw the factual conclusion. The theory has the quality to find out and explain why and how the social events are occurring and what are the procedures of events. So, the elements which are useful to formulate a theory play the vital role in the course of theory formulation. The explanation of each and every element with their limitations helps much to formulate a theory.

Also read: Social Thoughts: Characteristics, Importance and Types 

B. Function and Utility of Theory:

Theory is based on research and theory provides the logical analysis of social events, social behavior and procedures and the reliability test of theory provide the contextual social reality towards the society with time. Likewise, the study of social events, behavior and procedures prepares the new theoretical design. The implication of theory in the society is broad; by the help of it we can prepare the analysis of socio-culture of the society. In the context of today, several theoretical designs are developed to view the society, understand it and analysis of it clearly. On the basis of these facts and statements, the implications and functions of theory can be mentioned under here like this:
  • To summarize the existing knowledge.  
  • To generalize the conclusion of research. 
  • To pre-declares and predict the relationship of variables. To guide research by providing conceptual scheme. 
  • To unit the facts of theory. 
  • To summarize the social facts. 
  • To classify social phenomena, process and facts. 
  • To clarity the social curiosity. 
  • To help the theoretical model. 
  • To help the development of further theory building process. 
  • To help the development of sociological concept. 
  • To broad the human knowledge. 
  • To use the theory in research. 

C. Types of Sociological and Anthropological Theories:

There seems lack of informing about the explanation of sociological theory among different sociologists and anthropologist. By including all these aspects of them, the theories of sociology and anthropology are mentioned on list as:

1. Normative and Non -Normative Theory:

Normative theory is related to religion, ethics, morality and norms. This theory has the ethic of what sort should be the society world and person. On this theory, the society is evaluated with some sorts of norms, values and aspirations. According to this theory, theory should expose the society on what must be rather than how is it. (The established norms and values of the society are respected and protected by this theory). This theory has the protected vision to the norms and values of the society. 

Just opposite of this theory is the non normative theory. This theory has the ethic of objective of study of socio cultural aspects of the society and the sociological theory should show the cause and effect relationship. According to this ethic, the social processes cannot be divided on right or wrong, it needs the neutral view point to evaluate the social processes. Therefore, we classify the cause of social events but we cannot classify the causes or respects in the sense of right or wrong, it is based on reality rather than rhetoric.

Also read: Theory of Origin of Anthropology and Development of Anthropological Theory 

2. General Grand and Miniature Theory:

General grand theory is that on which the general behavior and activities of the society or institution, organization, systems and rules etc. all are kept on a concept and norms and these are explained. This theory has the vision that each and every aspects of the society (family, marriage, kinship, political organization etc.) as the matters of research should keep on a single norm for the study of sociological theory, and it is also essential. Thus, general grand theory is that which has the vision of explanation of all human life and activities on a single conceptual framework. But it in the present context is not possible. 

Some of the anthropologists and sociologists believe that the holistic vision to analyze changeability of the society, different social, geographical, economic, political and historical conditions cannot be included, so to analyze different societies on the basis of their own characteristics, contexts and influences different types of visions are essential and it is called miniature theory.

Also read: History of Origin of Sociology and Development of Sociological Theories
In conclusion, we can say that the study of society and culture has to be done with the norms and values of both theories; general grand and miniature theory. The grand theory forwards the vision of the study of small units of the society which are of common characteristics. 

3. Macro and Micro Theory:

The macro theories emphasize the holistic study of the society and its characteristics but the micro theories emphasize the study of individual units of society. Functionalism, conflict, Marxism etc. theories are the macro theories which do not care about the study of individual units of the society whereas action, interactionist, phenomenological, ethnomethodology etc. theories are emphasized the micro units of the society while analyzing and explaining the relation. The micro theory highly emphasizes the explanation of society with individual units and relationship of these units with others. 

4. Theory on the Basis of Perspective:

This theory includes subjective, causal and emic and etic theories. Theory that has the message of folk concept, behavior and activities of the society is called subjective theory. Subjective theory or folk behavior and representation of the knowledge of individuals of the society. It has the real message of meaningful and applied side of theory and it is also the value or norm of subjective theory.

Also read: Conflict Theory in Sociology: Causes, Characteristics, Strength, Weakness 

Likewise, etic theory has the main assumption of the explanation and analysis of individual behaviors of the society by the outsiders of the society to be out from the bias. Whereas, emic theory has the concept of the study of individuals of the society regarding to individual behaviors, experiences and learning from application are to be accepted absolutely. According to the explanation of causal theory, some sort of rules are essential to develop to make conclusion or generalization of cause and effect relationship based on social events and concerned variables of events. 

5. Critical Theory:

Critical theory has the logic of the development of critical vision to study several aspects of society and culture and the society. This theory don't take any great task of making theory or rule and formulation of assumptions, out of it theory has the assumption of great task as of the development of society, progress and helpful theory is essential to emaucipation of the people different obstacles. The applied side of the theory is greater than the theory as theory. 
Thus, theory highly focuses on development and progress of society rather than the slave from the theory and it values. So, this theory focuses or needs the critical vision as an essential for the progress and development of the society. 

6. Normative and Idiographic Theory:

Normative theory put forward the concept that the study of society and culture of any particular society helps to understand and generalize the facts, condition and knowledge as similar to the other societies. Whereas, idiographic theory forwards the concept of the study of each and every society with different perspective and vision for the generalization. 

7. Theory Based on Objective rules Emunciation:

This theory has the assumption that the theory should do unification of rules, norms, values and culture which are already developed in the society. Theory has to do the clarification of all these rules, norms, values culture. This theory further assumes that the sociological theory has to do further explain of the problems and activities which are there in the society. 

8. Theory Based on Existing and Non Existing Objective of Social World:

Within this theory, there are two different types of assumptions. The first assumption is related to the existence of the society before the existence of human beings but next believes on the existence of socity with the existence of human beings on this earth. Some of the theorists believe on non existing objective in the world without the existence of human beings especially in the social system. While studying the society within these assumptions, the society remains on unrealistic in the sense that either before the existence of human beings. So the theory has to keep assumption as this.  

D. Problems on the Process of Social Theory Building:

1. Problem in Generalization:

Generalization is a process to explain the facts and conclusions received from research work. There are found several problems while generalizing facts and conclusions received from research works conducted on social research. Such types of problems do not exist on pure science. The problems these exist on social science research and generalization can be mentioned on points as:
  • Changeability and complexity on the subjects of social research. 
  • The selection of less representative samples. Mistakes on sample selection. 
  • Biasness while collecting the facts or data. 
  • Twisting the facts or figures knowingly or unknowingly. 
  • Nature of unavailable data. 
  • Difficult to test reliability and validity of facts. 
  • Influence of social research by human nature and external events. 

2. Problem in Validity:

On validity, we look forward the facts either these are measured as these are to be measured or not. So validity is the quality on measurement. The quality on measurement tools and measurement of what to be measured is called validity. On the process of social research several problems can be occurred. On validity these are mentioned on points as:
  • Single research method unable to study and analyze similar types of subjects of all society and culture. 
  • Lack of the knowledge and quality with researchers to identify the nature of research subjects. 
  • The trend of researches to follow the scientific rules while study the social events which is not possible. 
  • Lack of university accepted measure method. 
  • Trend to modify facts and figures of social events as variables according to the desires and expectation of researchers. 
  • Problem on the test and retest of reliability and validity. 

3. Problem of Falsifiability: 

The main characteristic of social theory is that the social theory never be remained on valid form for the long time after its formulation. On the other side, the same theory on the same level cannot be implemented. Therefore, the problem of sociological theory is falsifiability. After a certain course of time the representation level of sociological theory automatically decreases and also decreases the utility of the theory for the society. Because of this nature of sociological theory the believe on theory can be found very less. The theory formulated as according to the changeable nature of society also needs the restructure. 

4. Problem of Paradigm shift:

Paradigm is the model to view social events, condition and processes. It is also a way to understand society. Therefore, paradigm is a point of view or tool to understand physical and social facts and figures and change on point of view, understanding, explanation and analysis is called paradigm shift. Especially this type of problem seems on social theories. The assumption of multi truth regarding to social events and because of the social complexity such types of problems occur. The change on the varieties of social events beings the paradigm shift and it also brings the problems on sociological theory. 

5. Problem in Conceptual Definition:

There remains flexibility on concepts as verified on the process of formulation of theory. Concepts contain the multi meaning because of which these need to be made the concrete definition. If not so, that make the complexity on understanding. 

6. Qualitative Nature of Facts:

Because of the qualitative nature on facts and figures of social events the conclusion is not understandable easily. The social research is generalized by analyzing the relationship of variables, on social research. It is very difficult to identify the consequence of particular variables. The variables are not measurable on quantitative forms/number/value because of which the biasness may occur there as the problem.

Also Read: Cultural Ecology: Relationship between Culture and Environment 

7. More Cause and More reality:

There are several variables of a research subject on which we are going to conduct social research. So, difficulty occurs to find out the impact of particular variables. Some time it becomes very difficult to identify what is cause and what is consequence of it. For example we can take relationship between poverty and illiteracy. Here the complexity occurs what is cause and what is consequence of it. 

8. Dynamic Nature and Society:

Society is a dynamic concept. The change occurs there in society either directly or indirectly on any form or any aspect. This type of changeability nature of society effects to the subject of research and it also affects to the conclusion and generalization of social research. 

9. Problem to Predict:

Because of the possible changeability on the variables of social events the conclusion can not be predict on sovereign form in social theories. The social behaviors, events and attitudes are unpredictable. The conclusions of social or sociological theories cannot be applied on sovereign form in each place and society equally. But this type of problem doesn't remain in pure science theories.


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