CST Notes 2 - Sociology 319 Contemporary Social Theories...

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Sociology 319 Contemporary Social Theories -- Introduction January 13, 2006 Readings for week of January 16: CST , Chapter 2 – Twentieth Century Functionalism: Parsons and Merton Parsons, “Action Systems and Social System” Parsons, “Sex Roles in the American Kinship System” Next week we will discuss Chapter 2 of the text and these two readings from Parsons. NOTE : In Table 2.1 of CST , p. 15, the two entries in the last row should be reversed. That is, diffuseness is associated with Traditional Society and Secificity is associated with Modern Society. See about half-way down the page. Paper topics to be provided by Wednesday, January 18. Other book by Rosalind Sydie – Natural Women, Cultured Men: A Feminist Perspective on Sociological Theory . For more information about Sydie, check web site Survey of topics for this semester – feminist and postmodern approaches conclude the CST text. 2. Redistribution or Recognition? The second text is Redistribution or Recognition? a Political-Philosophical Exchange , co-authored by Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth. We will not discuss this in class until near the end of the semester, around mid-March. This text is intended to provide an example of how contemporary social theory can be developed and applied to a contemporary social issue, and how there is difference and debate over both the theory itself and the application of the theory. The text contains an initial discussion by each of Fraser and Honneth, and then a debate between them. The particular issue of concern to Fraser and Honneth in this book is how social justice can be achieved in the contemporary world. Earlier theorists, especially those in the Marxist and socialist tradition, emphasized redistribution, that is, attempting to change economic, political, and social conditions and structures to obtain a socially just distribution of resources, wealth, and income. This was
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represented by social movements connected with trade unions, socialist or social democratic political parties, and social welfare programs such as pensions, minimum wage legislation, unemployment or employment insurance, child welfare, anti-poverty programs, and progressive taxation. Social theorists and those involved in social movements around these issues generally looked on achievement of these reforms as a means of redistributing the wealth of society more equally, so that all members of a society could benefit equitably and in order to reduce or eliminate extreme economic inequalities. These are what Fraser and Honneth refer to as redistribution or achieving distributive justice. Over the last sixty or seventy years, it became apparent that social movements and struggles for redistribution or distributive justice alone were inadequate or incomplete mechanisms for achieving social justice. These class-based social movements that attempted to achieve distributive justice did not always address
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