Social Theory

Functional and Conflict Theories of Stratification

The classic, functionalist statement on social stratification is by Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore (1945). ”Starting from the proposition that no society is ‘classless,’ or unstratified,” they sought ”to explain, in functional terms, the universal necessity that calls forth stratification in any social system” (p. 242). The main functional requisites that stratification fulfills are the […]

Theories of Stratification and Inequality

The term stratification system refers to the complex of institutions that generate inequalities in income, political power, social honor, and other valued goods. The main components of such systems are: (1) the social processes that define certain types of goods as valuable and desirable, (2) the rules of allocation that distribute these goods across various […]

Social Work: Theory and Methods

Theory construction in social work as a discipline and profession grows out of (1) a theory of the individual and society and the interaction between them; (2) policy/action guidelines for changing problematic situations; and (3) clients, professionals, social services, social movements, etc. committed to carry this change through with the help of specific science-based methods. […]

Grounded Theory

The term grounded theory refers to systematic guidelines for data gathering, coding, synthesizing, categorizing, and integrating concepts to generate middle-range theory. Data collection and analysis proceed simultaneously and each informs the other. In their cutting-edge book, The Discovery of Grounded Theory (1967), Barney G. Glaser and Anselm L. Strauss proposed that: (1) qualitative inquiry could […]

Theory and Methods

Theories reside in a realm of ideas, establishing meanings and organizing our beliefs about reality. Theories are expressed through sets of abstract, general, logically related statements. In contrast, methods pertain to concrete objects in the natural world which, in sociology, usually implies one of two things: (1) research methods – procedures enacted in the natural […]

Theory Construction

The ideal theory is a set of explicit, abstract, general, logically related statements formulated to explain phenomena in the natural world. Theory construction is the process of either formulating and assembling components of theories into coherent wholes, or revising and expanding theories in light of logical, semantic, or empirical analyses. At their core, theories are […]

Affect Control Theory

Affect control theory (ACT) is grounded in symbolic interactionist insights about the importance of using language and symbols to define situations. The theory begins with the assertion that people reduce uncertainty by developing ”working understandings” of their social worlds. They label parts of social situations, using language available to them. After creating this definition, they […]

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

Cognitive dissonance theory posits that individuals seek to maintain consistency among multiple cognitions (e.g., thoughts, behaviors, attitudes, values, beliefs). Inconsistent cognitions produce unpleasant arousal that leads individuals to reduce dissonance by: (1) changing one’s cognition so that all cognitions are in agreement, (2) adopting cognitions that strengthen the ”desirable” cognition, or (3) reducing the importance […]

Exchange Network Theory

An exchange network is a system of two or more connected exchange relations (Emerson 1962). Two exchange relations are connected if exchange in one relation affects exchange in the other. Exchange network theories explain how network structures affect power distributions, power exercise, and the benefits network members gain in exchanges. NETWORK CONNECTIONS Power-dependence (PD) theorists […]

Identity Control Theory

Identity control theory (ICT) is that part of identity theory that focuses on the relationships among a person’s identities, their behavior, and their emotions. An identity is a set of meanings used to define the self as a group member (e.g., American), as a role occupant (e.g., student), or as a unique individual (e.g., honest). […]

Identity Theory

Identity Theory is a social psychological theory based on structural symbolic interactionism. The theory posits that identities are embedded in social structures, i.e. that what it means to be someone (or something) is directly affected by one’s relationship and interactions with others. It assumes society is stable – the result of repeated, patterned behaviors of […]

Power-Dependence Theory

Power-dependence theory is the name commonly given to the social exchange theory originally formulated by Richard Emerson (1972). The dynamics of the theory revolve around power, power use, and power-balancing operations, and rest on the central concept of dependence. Mutual dependence brings people together, increasing their likelihood of forming and maintaining exchange relationships, while inequalities […]

Role Theory

Role theory is designed to explain how individuals who occupy particular social positions are expected to behave and how they expect others to behave. Role theory is based on the observation that people behave predictably and that an individual’s behavior is context-specific, based on their social position and situation. Role theory is often described using […]

Social Comparison Theory

Comparisons with other people play a significant role in social life, as they provide meaning and self-relevant knowledge. How people view their own circumstances, abilities, and behaviors varies according to the types of social comparisons they make. Although in his seminal work Leon Festinger (1954) did not offer a precise definition of social comparison, it […]

Social Exchange Theory

Social exchange theory analyzes the nature and internal dynamics of individual acts of exchange as well as explaining the development of social systems emerging from exchange processes. Widely used in the 1960s, it was largely replaced by rational choice and social network theories although the revived interest in Georg Simmel has drawn attention again to […]

Social Identity Theory

Social identity theory offers a social psychological explanation of intergroup prejudice, discrimination, and conflict. Its origins lie in the work of Henri Tajfel (Tajfel & Turner 1979) and his associates who have been instrumental in the development of a distinctly European approach to psychology. For Tajfel, the key to understanding prejudice, discrimination, and intergroup conflict […]

Social Learning Theory

Social learning theory was developed in the 1950s by Albert Bandura to explain the reciprocal influence of environmental cues on an individual’s behavior, and the impact of the individual’s behavior on the environment. In addition, social learning theory places an emphasis on individuals’ cognitive processes as they decide upon future courses of action. Thus, social […]

Status Construction Theory

Status construction theory is a theory of how widely shared status beliefs form about apparently nominal social differences among people, such as sex or ethnicity. Status beliefs associate greater respect and competence with people in one category of a social difference (e.g., men, whites) than with those in another category of that difference (women, people […]

New Social Movement Theory

New social movement theory (NSMT) emerged in the 1980s in Europe to analyze new movements that appeared from the 1960s onward. They were ”new” vis-a-vis the ”old” working-class movement of Marxist theory. By contrast, new social movements are organized around race, ethnicity, youth, sexuality, countercultures, environmentalism, pacifism, human rights, and the like. NSMT is a […]

Resource Mobilization Theory

A renaissance of social movement research has occurred since the 1980s as scholars have sought to understand the emergence, significance and effects of social movements. Resource mobilization theory (RMT) contributes to our understanding by taking the analytical insights of organizational sociology and extending them by analogy to social movements. RMT views social movements as purposive […]