The typical definition of this specific type of assignment is a piece of writing, in which an author analyzes, critiques, and interprets the certain event, situation or even a work of art.
It is one of the most frequently cited works in the social sciences as it is a collection of theories and insights within structural — functional paradigm. Merton studied under Talcott Parsons at Harvard and later became professor at Columbia.
In this work consisting of almost pages, the author develops a theory of deviant behavior linked to various types of social adaptations.
Merton rejects the idea of grand theories for the discipline of sociology and introduces the notion of middle range theories falling between grand theories on one hand and narrow, empirical observation on the other.
Like Durkheim, he focuses on objective facts and attempts to delineate objective consequences that are observable from subjective dispositions.
He distinguishes latent functions from manifest functions based on functional analysis. While both manifest and latent functions have objective consequences for the social system, the former are intended or recognized, the latter are not.
Evidently, of all theorists of social structure, Merton perhaps made the greatest impact on empirical research.
Part I deals with Theoretical Sociology, its history and systematics. Manifest and Latent Functions p. Local and Cosmopolitan Influentials p. In the first part, Merton makes at least two important useful contributions in the field of sociology — the theories of the middle range and the manifest and latent functions.
He identifies two unacceptable trends within sociology that are narrow or radical empiricism focused just to collection of data without theorizing and abstract theorizing and consequently recommends sociological theories of the middle range as a solution. The introduction of Manifest and Latent functions in chapter III is designed to improve functional analysis.
Merton further discusses the relationship between theory and empirical research and their intimate links at length. Merton cautions against confusing sociological theory with five scientific activities including methodology, general sociological orientations, concepts, interpretations and statements of uniformities and recommends that these activities need to be distinguished from one another.
Merton analyzes sociological theory the function of which is to unify disparate empirical findings. In the discussion of social goals and anomie in chapter 6, Merton identifies causes of dysfunctions one among which is the conflict between cultural goals and institutional norms.
Some of the other landmark contributions that Merton makes in this work include contributions to the theory of reference group behavior and the concept of relative deprivation and self fulfilling prophecy.
The concept of relative deprivation is related to the concept of reference group behavior in that the concept of relative deprivation is helpful in clarifying what according to Merton is counter intuitive, yet in the absence of a theory, according to Merton, concept alone cannot explain a phenomenon.
The theory of reference group therefore has greater explanatory value in understanding the notion of relative deprivation. In other words, it is a false definition of the situation attracting a response that makes the originally false conception real in outcome. S society has come to share certain characteristics with the European societies where the discipline originally developed with the consequence that sociology of knowledge has moved from periphery to the center of attention.
In Part IV of the book, Merton examines what he calls the norms of science, a set of basic values that govern scientific communities. These values according to Merton are universalism, communism, disinterestedness and organized skepticism.
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