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Feminist Criticisms and Our Founding Fathers of Sociology

By Aneesa Feb 18, 2011 1373 Words
Feminist Criticisms and Our Founding Fathers of Sociology

Assignment 3 - Part B
SOCI 287

Each of the three classical sociological approaches, Marx, Weber, and Durkheim, provides analyses and models which capture many elements of the social world. They identify features of society and methods of study that yield great insight into how people interact with each other and how society is structured and develops. Feminists and analysts of sexuality argue that classical sociologists were male writers with a male centered and conventional analysis of women, family, and sexuality. As a result, one major feminist criticism was that women were absent from the social analyses and social world of classical sociology. The language and analysis of classical sociologists is that of men, male activities and experiences, and the parts of society dominated by males. Many analyses excluded portions of the social world which were typically occupied by women and children, with classical writers showing little interest in institutions such as the household, family, and community where women’s experiences have often been centered. The approach of Marx with respect to women and the family was little different than that of conventional economics. In the Marxian model, women were part of the household, responsible for bearing and raising children and for maintaining the household. Both Marxist theory and practice continue to ignore, recent developments in feminist theory and practice. Feminist theory challenges a definition of production as narrowly confined to the production of commodities, commonly used in Marxist literature, examines the production and reproduction of people under patriarchal relations, and focuses on the conflicts that arise between women and men because of their differing relations to these two types of production. Feminist practice emphasizes building consensus strategies, supporting women in their individual struggles, because women in their homes tend to face patriarchy as individuals, and helping each woman feel both her oppression and her power. In Weber’s work it appears that the place of women and their situation were largely overlooked. He, also, used the concept of a patriarchal family as a basic way to understand the social organization of a traditional society and assumed that women conformed into certain roles of reproduction and sexual division of labour naturally. Although, there are many definitions of patriarchy; some are very general, arguing that this is any form of male domination over females, within the feminist movement and feminist writings the term patriarchy has been and is widely used as a method of describing societies where women do not have the same equality as with men. Such patriarchal societies may be characterized by women and men living parallel but separate lives with different experiences (Code, p. 19). Weber's model of power and authority are male models. He assumed that the male-female division of labour was natural, the mother-child relationship was natural, and that most of the male-female relationships could be explained on the basis of biological factors. As such these relationships were not really worthy of sociological investigation, and Weber has little to say about the form these were structured or how they changed. Durkheim viewed women as less intelligent and less culturally developed beings. He believed that the intellectual inferiority women possessed restricted them to the life of the household. Men and women were naturally divided in their roles, and this role division had the effect of compelling them to depend on each other: men depended on women for domestic life, and the care of children; women on the other hand depended on men for economic support and social protection. Durkheim, concentrated on the division of labour, and its implications for social development and social solidarity. Since women did not generally participate in the labour force in Durkheim’s day, this eliminated women from the division of labour. To the extent that the division of labour forms the basis for morality and organic solidarity in modern society, it is primarily the activity of men that create this solidarity. Since the proper study of sociology is social facts, but women are absent from the creation of social facts, women are not the proper subject of sociology. Another way that classical sociologists define the social world is through their categories and concepts. For Marx, class and class struggle, exploitation and surplus labour, and accumulation and crises have little to do with what women experience or do. Durkheim’s social facts could include women, but they generally do not. Similarly, Weber’s class, status, and party, domination, authority, bureaucracy, and rationality are all part of a public sphere in which women play little to no part. The social world of the classical sociologists generally excluded the actions of women. As a result, sociology as a discipline did not have much to say about women.

Bibliography:
➢ Parkinson, Gary and Drislane, Robert Exploring Society Pathways in Sociology, (Thomas Nelson), pp. 131-132

➢ Sydie, R. A., Natural Women Cultured Men: A Feminist Perspective on Sociological Theory, Toronto, Methuen, 1987.

Suicide, Culture and Social Structure

Assignment 3 - Part B
SOCI 287

Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) is considered one of the most influential figures in the founding of modern sociology. One of Durkheim's most influential books is a detailed study of suicide. When it was published in 1897, Le Suicide not only changed the way in which suicide was understood, it fundamentally transformed the way sociological research was subsequently conducted. In that work, Durkheim created what became the standard structure for sociological research. In critically reviewing the existing suicide literature, which largely viewed acts of self-destruction as having physiological or psychological origins, Durkheim wondered why people from similar genetic origins did not have similar rates of suicide. Durkheim believed that societies themselves played a role in protecting individuals from translating a personal crisis into an act of suicide. He looked into the suicide data for different countries and regions to try to detect a possible link between suicide rates and the societies surrounding it. He discovered that individuals where the surrounding society upheld strong traditional norms and values or where they were strongly integrated into family, group, and community were less likely to commit suicide. Egoistic suicide, where individuals are weakly integrated into social structures, was most common among groups of individuals with few connections to social groupings of any kind. Thus, loosely bound liberal Protestant groups had higher suicide rates than Catholics and Jews; married people committed suicide at lower rates than singles; and nations undergoing political crises experienced lower rates because competing interests and parties became tightly integrated under stress. Culture generally refers to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activities significance and importance. Durkeim observed low suicide rates were consistently found in societies and groups that had strong cultural values and norms and dense linkages of family and community. The term anomie was introduced by Emile Durkheim in the study of suicide. He believed that an anomic type of suicide resulted from the breakdown of the social standards necessary for regulating behaviour. When a social system is in a state of anomie, common values and common meanings are no longer understood or accepted, and new values and meanings have not developed. According to Durkheim, such a society produces, in many of its members, psychological states characterized by a sense of futility, lack of purpose, and emotional emptiness and despair. Striving is considered useless, because there is no accepted definition of what is desirable. Durkheim showed that nations where divorce was common experienced higher suicide rates than nations where the practice was illegal. Similarly, economic crisis could lead to personal crises for individuals who once thought of themselves as important providers for their families, but when confronted with persisting unemployment found themselves evicted from their homes, their credit rejected, and prospects for improvement dim. If these individuals and their friends were accustomed to thinking of poor people as responsible for their circumstances, then they found themselves condemned by their own categories of thought. Faced with humiliation and a lack of connection with groups who might ease their self-doubts, such individuals might commit anomic suicide. Bibliography:

➢ Parkinson, Gary and Drislane, Robert Exploring Society Pathways in Sociology, (Thomas Nelson), pp. 131-132

➢ Durkheim, Émile. Suicide. New York: Free Press, 1951.

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