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Ritzer: Contemporary Sociological Theory Book Cover
Contemporary Sociological Theory and Its Classical Roots: The Basics
George Ritzer, University of Maryland

Classical Theories of Everyday Life

Chapter Objectives

After reading Chapter 3, students should be able to:

recognize the difference between classical grand theories and classical theories of everyday life. Students should recognize that grand theories focus on macro-sociological issues such as social structure and social change, whereas theories of everyday life focus on micro-sociological issues such as the formation of self, interpersonal relationships, and small group behavior. As a result of these differences, grand theories and theories of everyday life necessarily draw on different conceptual and methodological tools.

describe the importance of classical theories of everyday life to sociological theory. Classical theories of everyday life take the phenomena of everyday life as worthy of study in and of themselves. However, students should also recognize that theories of everyday life, with their emphasis on individual and small-scale interpersonal processes, serve as the potential building blocks for large-scale social organization.

identify the general set of issues which classical theorists of everyday life address in common. These include studies of consciousness and action, the structure of mental processes, individual interpretations and definitions of social situations, and the interpersonal processes that generate categories of thought and action.

distinguish between the main classical theories of everyday life, the representative scholars of each theory, and the way that each uniquely addresses the problems of everyday life.

describe the historical relationships between various theoretical perspectives. For example, Weber's concept of social action influenced Parsons's formulation of action theory, and Mead's social behaviorism shaped the development of symbolic interactionism.

apply the classical theories of everyday life in understanding their own and other lives.