Integrated sociological paradigm

Integrated sociological paradigm

Integrated Sociological Paradigm

In a modernised society, contemporary sociological theory has opened doors to provide pathways of meanings about the social phenomena of the world. In the process of acquiring this knowledge the formation of paradigms are released to offer structures in interpreting these meanings. In essence a paradigm may be described as the thought patterning of the subject matter within a science (Ritzer, 1975). Thus, “the problems of paradigm articulation are simultaneously theoretical and experimental” (Kuhn, 1962:33). Accordingly the notion of the paradigm by Thomas Kuhn (1962) has elicited various forms, which gives rise to a multiple paradigm science within sociology. In addition to detailing the nature of this paradigm science George Ritzer (1983) (sociologist) drew on the works of Kuhn (1962) to advance the multiple paradigm science, that tended to be one-sided, toward a more integrated sociological paradigm. Hence, this essay will aim to discuss Ritzer's (1983) integrated Sociological paradigm and show how he drew on the work of Thomas Kuhn (1962) to effect this schema. It will also take into consideration the critiques raised against this conception.

In the efforts to perfect the sociological integrated paradigm Ritzer (1983) has drawn on the works of Thomas Kuhn. According to Kuhn (1962) the development of a science is not consistent but has alternating ‘normal' and ‘revolutionary' (or ‘extraordinary') phases. The revolutionary phases are not simply periods of accelerated progress, but vary qualitatively from normal science. Kuhn (1962) describes normal science as ‘puzzle-solving' therefore normal science can expect to accumulate a growing supply of puzzle-solutions. Revolutionary science, however, is not cumulative in that, according to Kuhn (1962), scientific revolutions involve a revision to existing scientific certainty or practice.

Kuhn (1962) makes it clear that science does progress, even through revolutions. He claims that normal science can thrive in making progress only if there is a strong commitment by the relevant scientific community to their joint theoretical beliefs, values, instruments and techniques, and even metaphysics (Kuhn, 1962). This collection of shared commitments Kuhn at a certain point calls a ‘disciplinary matrix' although elsewhere he often uses the term ‘paradigm (Crombie, 1962).

The revolutionary phase of these shared commitments is particularly open to competition among varying ideas and logical disagreement about their relative merits (Crombie, 1963). Kuhn does briefly mention that extra-scientific factors may help decide the result of a scientific revolution— for example the nationalities and personalities of leading protagonists.

For a scientific revolution to occur the revolutionary search for a replacement paradigm needs to be driven by the failure of the existing paradigm to solve certain important irregularities (Kuhn, 1962). The paradigm according to Kuhn (1962) is derived from exemplary instances of scientific research. Exemplary instances of science are typically to be found in books and papers, and so Kuhn often also describes great texts as paradigm (Crombie, 1963). In this sense the notion of the paradigm according to Kuhn (1962) serves to separate one scientific community from another. This forms the basis for new scientific revolution which increases the growing speed of the developments within science to acquire knowledge.

This road to new scientific revolution proceeded along with the works of George Ritzer's (1983) development of a movement toward a sociological integrated paradigm. Ritzer (1983) identifies three paradigms to elicit the social phenomena. The first is the social facts paradigm. This paradigm is derived from the works of Emile Durkheim. The focus of the social facts paradigm surrounds the large scale structures of society. The methods used in this paradigm are questionnaires and historical comparative methods. The second is the social definition paradigm associated with the works of Max Weber. The social definition paradigm is concerned with the way actors define their social situations and the effects this has on ensuing further action and interaction (Ritzer, 1975). The method of this particular paradigm is observation. Lastly, the social behaviour paradigm associated with the works of B.F Skinner is what Ritzer refers to. This paradigm is concerned with the rewards and punishments that inhibit undersirable behaviours. The distinct method of this paradigm is the experiment (Ritzer, 1975).

This assumption toward a sociological integrated paradigm circled around the postulation that these multiple paradigms the social facts, social definition and social behaviour paradigm tended to focus on only one aspect of social reality, thereby paying little or even no attention to the other forms social reality (Ritzer, 1975). According to Ritzer (1975) the social facts paradigm concerned with the macrostructures, the social definitionists' interest in action and the social behaviourist focus on behaviour reflected this biasness of the multiple paradigm science. Thus, he suggested that a conceptual schema is evidently needed in an effort to deal with the social phenomena of the world.

Accordingly Ritzer (1983) expanded on the idea of social interaction and change as a figure of social phenomena. In doing so he postulated that the key to an integrated paradigm rests in the “levels of social reality” (Ritzer, 1979). Ritzer's (1983) perspective in this case is that there is too many forms of social reality that range in various circumstances which makes it difficult to uncover the meaning of social phenomena of such a wide range.

These “levels of social reality” according to Ritzer (1975) are based on two distinctions, the microscopic and the macroscopic continuum. Both distinctions are associated with the objective and subjective views. For example the macroscopic field is concerned with the large scale material phenomena such as the education part of society and how education can be effective in a positive way. On the other hand the microscopic field is associated with the small scale nonmaterial phenomena. For example this would include patterns of behaviour and interaction. In this case one can identify the micro level with individual subjective components influenced by the actor and the objective patterns of actions in which the actor partakes (Ritzer, 1975).

In the efforts to perfect this sociological integrated paradigm Ritzer (1983) has drawn on the works of Thomas Kuhn in recognising the value and significance of the use of the paradigm concept. Thus Ritzer (1983) accepts that the paradigm concept forms part of science along with the notion that it is capable of change through revolution and social phenomena. Ritzer (1983) has also agreed with Kuhn (1962) on the fact that the paradigm serves a purpose to create avenues of inquiry, formulation of questions and the adherence to rules which lead to the interpretations of meanings.

According to Wallace (2009) where Kuhn's (1962) concept of the paradigm forms sets of theories, attitudes and methods that scientists do not question, in contrast to this Ritzer's (1983) concepts of an integrated paradigm are sets of functioning hypotheses that sociologists are in the process of developing. Ritzer's sociological integrated paradigm is also positivistic in nature which is contrast to Khun's (1962) view of the paradigm. Ritzer (1983) in this sense tries to cope with some of the problems in extant paradigms by creating a exemplar for a integrated sociological paradigm.

The benefits of Ritzer's (1983) integrated sociological paradigm, is that the model of levels of reality makes it easier for sociologists to deduct situations on the various aspects of social reality (Ritzer, 1975). Another benefit is that the model supplies a wide schema for acquiring knowledge in the large spectrum (Ritzer. 1975). This helps to divide social phenomena in a orderly manner. According to Ritzer (1983) an integrated sociological paradigm must deal with the interrelationship of macroscopic-objective entities like bureaucracy, macro-subjective structures like culture, microscopic-objective phenomena like patterns of interaction and microscopic-subjective facts like the process of reality construction (Ritzer. 1983). It is also evident that Kuhns (1962) paradigm science deals with a given level whereas Ritzer's (1983) integrated paradigm deals with all levels of social reality.

Ritzer's (1983) development of a integrated sociological paradigm has raised some critiques. Ritzer's (1983) division of social theories instead of describing different paradigms, in fact, avoids the paradigmatic elements that exist in social theory. He suggests that an examination of social systems as complex systems using concepts developed in the study of complexity shows that his three "paradigms" are simply three sets of tools sociologists apply to their study of human society (Wallace, 2009). According to Wallace (2009) Kuhn's purpose was to show that science progresses by sudden revolutionary jumps followed by long periods of gradual development. This is not the case with Ritzer's integrated sociological paradigm. Instead in this case Ritzer (1983) assumes meta-theories along with the levels of social reality to explain social phenomena. Ritzer has also been critiqued on his use of language and literature in defining the integrated sociological paradigm as he makes use of words such as meta-theories, meta-physics macro-subjective etc (Wallace, 2009).

The notion of a integrated sociological paradigm as developed by Ritzer (1983) has offered benefits, however still needs to be expanded to provide a efficient basis for interpretation of social reality. It is clear that the concept of the Paradigm as created by Kuhn (1962) has elevated Ritzer's (1983) model. Though there have been many critiques against both Ritzer and Kuhn their work in comparison still offers pathways to eliciting social phenomena and thus expanding the acquisition of knowledge globally.

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