The key strands of thought in Sociology

Topics: Human Nature

In this assignment I intend to examine in detail some of the main strands of thought associated with industrial sociology. To avoid the notion of schools of thought within sociology the term ‘strand’ has been coined which allows to bring together the different contributions with whom a pattern has appeared and have something in common (Watson, 2003, p. 21) In exploring this topic in further detail one can see that there are six main strands.

These include the managerial-psychologistic strand in which Watson points out is a strand in which contains what are usually seen as quite separate and indeed contrasting styles of thought (Watson, 2003 p.

21) Other stands include work by influential and renowned figures of sociology who include Durkheim in the Durkheim-systems strand, Marx in the Marxian strand and Weber in the Weber-social action strand. Lastly the sixth strand which will be examined within the assignment is that of the postmodernist perspective and poststructuralist.

The first strand that will be explored is the managerial-psychologistic strand.

This strand can be broken down into two key developments in this strand which are Scientific management and Psychological humanism. In looking at this one could argue that this strand does not strictly cover the work of sociology at work but rather it looks at the human side and is one in which sociologists look to and indeed critique to provide alternatives.

The scientific management’s advocate was F.W Taylor whom was an American engineer and consultant between 18-56-1917. Essentially what Taylor tried to do was develop an efficient work-force by cutting the unnecessary workers which became surplus to requirements due to the experiments he conducted which focused on the time being the factor.

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Taylor’s formulation signified producing more for lower cost per unit, usually by eliminating unnecessary workers. Similarly, ‘how quickly’ signified that time and money were equivalent. Above all, efficiency was a science (Norton, 2006 p. 468)

According to Watson (2003, p. 21) psychologism is a tendency to explain social behaviour based solely on terms of the psychological characteristics of the individual. This leads onto an important sociologists work; Mc Gregor’s theory X and Y. Essentially what this theory is trying to establish is that workers have a need to find fulfilment at work (Parker et al. 1967 p, 158) Theory X suggests that individuals need to be controlled by managers whereas Theory Y suggests that managers should adapt a strategy of worker self-fulfilment.

If they do not, they will feel deprived, resulting in a work force negatively inclined to management’s goals. (Parker et al. 1967, p, 158) Another aspect of the psychologistic strand in the people with needs, democratic humanism is that of Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper ‘hierarchy of needs’. Essentially what Maslow was implying was that a person has a basic set of needs that need to be fulfilled before one can move onto the next level of needs.

As people move up the pyramid the needs become more social and psychological as opposed to the base levels which are effectively very basic needs like shelter, food and sleep. One can see that the humanistic nature of the psychological strand leads onto and indeed can be linked to that of the Durkheim-systems strand which will now be explored. Durkheim-systems styles contrasts with that of the psychologistic in that it looks at the social system in which the individual is a part.

Watson (2003, p, 27) describes the social system as society as a whole, or, alternatively, it may be the work of the organisation or even a subunit of the organisation. The key idea within this concept is that the relationship patterns within a society are explored rather than the actual individual. One of the leading sociologists who pioneered this work is Emile Durkheim. Durkheim explored the concept of anomie which as Watson (2003, p, 28) describes a form of social breakdown in which the norms that would otherwise prevail in a given situation cease to operate.

Durkheim gave rise to a concept which is coined as systems thinking. Watson (2008, p. 44) describes systems thinking as social entities such as societies or organisations which are viewed as if they were self-regulating bodies exchanging energy and matter with their environment in order to survive. It can be argued that the greatest benefit of systems thinking gave rise to the development of study on work organisations which became recognised as a part of a social environment.

Two important strengths from recognising the organisation as an environment where relationships have to be developed and maintained in order for the organisation to continue and also the fact that any factor affecting relationships in subunit of the organisation can be impacted on in another part of the organisation. The influence on systems thinking has a long reach into industrial relations and played a key part in many of the reports commissioned and indeed had its roots planted deeply in the Fox report of 1972.

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The key strands of thought in Sociology
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