Social science is a broad field that seeks to understand how humans interact with each other, society, and the environment. To make sense of these complex interactions, social scientists have developed various theoretical frameworks over the years. Three prominent theories in social science are conflict/dialectic, structuralism, and postmodernism. In this blog post, we will explore each of these theories and their key concepts.
Conflict and dialectical theory are based on the idea that society is made up of different groups with conflicting interests. This theory suggests that social change occurs as a result of these conflicts between groups. According to this theory, change is a constant and necessary part of society. In other words, societies are always in a state of flux as different groups try to gain power and influence.
One of the key concepts in conflict and dialectical theory is the idea of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. This concept suggests that a thesis (an idea or belief) will inevitably be met with an opposing antithesis (another idea or belief). The conflict between these two opposing forces will eventually lead to a synthesis (a new idea or belief that incorporates elements of both the thesis and antithesis).
Another important concept in conflict and dialectical theory is the idea of class struggle. This concept suggests that social change occurs as a result of conflicts between different social classes. In other words, the working class and the ruling class are in constant conflict as the working class seeks to gain more power and influence.
Structuralism is a theory that suggests that the structure of society determines the behavior of individuals. This theory emphasizes the importance of analysing the underlying structures of society rather than just looking at individual behavior. According to structuralist theory, social structures are made up of rules, norms, and values that are shared by members of society.
One of the key concepts in structural theory is the idea of binary oppositions. This concept suggests that all elements of society can be understood as existing in opposition to something else. For example, light can be understood as existing in opposition to darkness, or male can be understood as existing in opposition to female.
Another important concept in structuralism is the idea of sign systems. This concept suggests that all communication is based on a system of signs and symbols. For example, language is a sign system that allows us to communicate with each other.
Postmodernism is a theory that emerged in the late 20th century. This theory emphasizes the importance of questioning established norms and values. According to postmodernism, there is no objective truth or reality. Instead, the reality is shaped by the individual's subjective experience.
One of the key concepts in postmodernism is the idea of deconstruction. This concept suggests that all texts (including literature, art, and even social structures) are based on binary oppositions that can be deconstructed. By breaking down these binary oppositions, we can better understand how they shape our understanding of reality.
Another important concept in postmodernism is the idea of the "death of the author." This concept suggests that the meaning of a text is not fixed but rather is determined by the reader. In other words, the author's intent is not the only thing that matters when interpreting a text.
There are several theorists associated with each of these concepts in social science.
Ferdinand de Saussure
It's important to note that these are just a few of the many theorists who have contributed to the development of these concepts.
In conclusion, conflict/dialectic, structuralism, and postmodernism are three major theories in social science. Conflict and dialectical theory emphasize the importance of social change and class struggle. Structuralism emphasizes the importance of analyzing the underlying structures of society.
Here are a few academic sources that discuss the concepts of Conflict/Dialectical theory, Structuralism, and Postmodernism:
Marx, K. (1867). Capital: A Critique of Political Economy.
Engels, F. (1845). The Condition of the Working Class in England.
Levi-Strauss, C. (1966). The Savage Mind.
Saussure, F. D. (1916). Course in General Linguistics.
Lyotard, J. F. (1984). The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge.
Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison.
Derrida, J. (1976). Of Grammatology.
Baudrillard, J. (1981). Simulacra and Simulation.
These sources are just a starting point and there are many other academic articles and books that discuss these concepts in greater depth.