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BSOC-133: Sociological Theories

BSOC-133: Sociological Theories

IGNOU Solved Assignment Solution for 2021-22

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Assignment Code: ASST/BSOC 133/ 2021-22

Course Code: BSOC 133

Assignment Name: Sociological Theories

Year: 2021-2022

Verification Status: Verified by Professor

Assignment I


Answer the following Descriptive Category Questions in about 500 words each. Each question carries 20 marks. 2 × 20 = 40


1. Discuss the Marxian concepts of dialectics and social change.

Ans) The Marxian concepts of dialectics and social change are:

Primitive-Communal Form of Society

During the period of this form of mode of production, appearance of improved and new implements, such as bows and arrows and learning to make a fire were examples of quantitative changes in terms of the laws of dialectical materialism. Even beginning of cultivation and herding were examples of similar type of changes. The extremely low-level relations of production were based on cooperation and mutual help due to common, communal ownership of means of production. These relations were conditioned by the fact that people with their primitive tools could only collectively withstand the mighty forces of nature.

Slave-Owning Society

In this form of society, the primitive equality gave way to social inequality and emergence of slave-owning classes and slaves. The forces of production underwent further quantitative changes. In the slave-owning society, the relations of production were based on the slave-owner’s absolute ownership of both the means of production and the slaves themselves and their produce. In this society, there existed the contradictions between slave-owners and slaves. When the mature conditions were reached the struggle of these contradictions led to the qualitative change i.e. the negation of slave-owning society by way of its transition into feudal society. The conflict of the opposites i.e., the slave-owners and slave culminated into violent slave revolts ultimately effecting the negation. We can say that the feudal system stands as an example of negation of negation. It means that feudal society can be seen as an example of negation of slave owning society which itself is a negation of primitive-communal society.

Feudal Society

Slavery system was the first stage where relations of production were based on domination and exploitation by the slave-owner class of the slave class. This was the stage, where the relations of production saw qualitatively fundamental differences compared to previous stage. In feudal stage, the forces of production saw rapid quantitative change where for the first-time inanimate sources of energy such as water and wind were tapped. The development of these productive forces was facilitated by the feudal relations of production. The feudal lords oppressed and exploited their serfs. However, towns began to emerge at this time. Trade, commerce and manufacture began to flourish. Many serfs ran away from the feudal estates to pursue a trade in the growing towns. The conflict of opposites within the feudal system namely, that of landless serfs against feudal lords, reached its maturity. The feudal system declined, and its negation was the capitalist system.

Capitalist Society

Based on private capitalist ownership the capitalist relations of production facilitated tremendous growth of the productive forces. With this growth of productive forces, capitalist relations of production ceased to correspond to forces of production in feudal system. The most significant contradiction of the capitalist mode of production is the contradiction between the social character of production and the private capitalist form of appropriation. Production in capitalist society bears a strikingly pronounced social character. Many millions of workers are concentrated at large plants and take part in social production, while the fruits of their labour are appropriated by a small group of owners of the means of production. This is the basic economic contradiction of capitalism.


2. What is social revolution and how it will be reached? Discuss from Marxian perspective.

Ans) Social revolutions are sudden changes in the structure and nature of society. These revolutions are usually recognized as having transformed society, economy, culture, philosophy, and technology along with but more than just the political systems. There are number of factors that contribute to revolutions. Often, social injustice, like class struggle (or conflict between different social classes with different access to resources) can inspire citizens to rise up. When societies feel unequal, we might turn to revolution to address inequality.

In the German Ideology, both Marx and Engels outlined their scheme of history. Here, the main idea was that based on a mode of production there was a succession of historical phases. Change from one phase to the next was viewed by them as a state of revolution brought about by conflicts between old institutions and new productive forces. It was only later that both Marx and Engels devoted more time and studied English, French and American revolutions. They named them as bourgeois revolutions. Marx’s hypothesis of bourgeois revolution as given us a perspective to look at social changes in Europe and America. But more than this, it has stimulated further research by scholars on this subject. Secondly, Marx spoke of another kind of revolution. It pertained to communism. Marx viewed communism as a sequel to capitalism. Communism, according to Marx, would wipe out all class divisions and therefore would allow for a fresh start with moral and social transformation. This was the vision both Marx and Engels carried in their minds for future society.

Marx’s concept of socialist revolution presupposes an era of shift from capitalism to socialism. He explained bourgeois revolution as a defeat of the aristocracy. This defeat came at the end of a long period of growth of capitalism. The overthrow of the bourgeoisie is, on the other hand, only the first phase of the revolutionary change from capitalism to socialism. According to Marx the socialistic phase of revolution would not be without classes, occupational division of labour and market economy etc. It is only in the higher phase of revolution there would be distribution of goods to each according to his needs. This would be the phase of communism. Thus, change to communism was perceived by Marx as a series of steps to completely revolutionise the entire mode of production.

In fact, Marx conceived intensification of class antagonism in capitalism, because the new forces of production do not correspond to the relations of production. There will be increasing gap between the levels of distribution of gains between the two classes. This shall leave the have-nots extremely alienated and conscious of their class interests. The new forces of production in capitalism are capable of mass production and will dump heaps of prosperity at the feet of bourgeoisie without helping a lot of proletariats, who would continue to suffer from misery and poverty. This shall accentuate the class consciousness and hasten the maturation of the conditions for socialist revolution. The socialist revolution according to Marx would be qualitatively different from all the revolutions of the past as it would for the first time, after the beginning of history of inequality and exploitation, usher in a stage of classless society with a hope for all members of society.



Assignment II


Answer the following Middle Category Questions in about 250 words each. Each question carries 10 marks. 3 × 10 = 30


3. Compare and contrast the viewpoint of Durkheim and Marx on division of labour.

Ans) The viewpoint of Durkheim and Marx on division of labour:

Causes of Division of Labour

Both, Durkheim and Marx make a very clear distinction between division of labour in simple societies and complex industrial societies. Division of labour is an inevitable and necessary aspect of the socio-economic life of any society. But they are more concerned and interested in the division of labour that takes place in industrial societies.

Consequences of Division of Labour

Following from their differing views on the causes of division of labour in modern industrial societies, Durkheim’s and Marx’s perceptions on the consequences of division of labour too are bound to be different. Durkheim, as earlier mentioned, sees division of labour as a process that would help individuals coexist and cooperate. We have already studied how he views division of labour as being a force of social integration promoting organic solidarity.

Solutions to the Problems Related to Division of Labour

As we have seen earlier, Durkheim sees division of labour as a process, which under normal circumstances will bring about social integration. The pathological or abnormal forms of division of labour that prevail in society must be solved in order that division of labour might perform its integrative functions.

Durkheim’s ‘Functional Model’ of Society and Marx’s ‘Conflict Model’

Durkheim’s study of division of labour brings out his functional model of society. Social institutions and processes are viewed by him in terms of the contributions they make to keeping a society alive. You have studied this in Unit 18 of this Block. Durkheim tries to give an explanation to the question of order. Remember, he lived at a time when social order seemed to be under threat. His task therefore was to demonstrate that the changes that were taking place would not destroy society but contribute to integrating the new society that was emerging. Durkheim does not merely look at the economic aspect of division of labour but rather its social aspect, its contribution to social integration.

4. What did Durkheim mean by ‘collective conscience’?

Ans) “Durkheim describes collective consciousness as ‘the body of beliefs and sentiments common to the average of the members of a society’. The system of these beliefs and sentiments has a life of its own. It is distributed throughout the whole of the society. It has specific features, which make it a distinct reality. Collective consciousness is independent of the conditions in which individuals are placed. It is spread out over the whole of the territory of a society — to large and small towns and villages. It is common to all occupations or professions etc. It links successive generations to one another. Individuals come in and go out of society, however collective conscience remains. Although collective conscience can only be realised through individuals, it has a form beyond a particular person, and operates at a level higher than him/her. Collective conscience varies in extent and force from one society to another. In less advanced societies collective conscience embraces the greater part of individual consciousness. In such societies the extent of collective conscience is stronger and greater.

For example, social controls and prohibitions prevalent in primitive societies are imposed upon individual members in strongest fashion and they all submit to it. It is the collective conscience, which governs the existence of individuals. The collective sentiments experienced in common have an extreme force and are reflected in the form of severe punishments on those who violate prohibitions. The stronger the collective conscience of a society, the greater the indignation against crime or against any other violation of the social imperative”.


5. Distinguish between normal and pathological social facts.

Ans) Further Durkheim made an important distinction in terms of normal and pathological social facts. A social fact is normal when it is generally encountered in a society of a certain type at a certain phase in its evolution. Every deviation from this standard is a pathological fact. For example, some degree of crime is inevitable in any society. Hence according to Durkheim crime to that extent is a normal fact. However, an extraordinary increase in the rate of crime is pathological. A general weakening in the moral condemnation of crime and certain type of economic crisis leading to anarchy in society are other examples of pathological facts.

The main characteristics of social facts are (i) externality, (ii) constraint, (iii) independence, and (iv) generality. Social facts, according to Durkheim, exist outside individual consciences. Their existence is external to the individuals. For example, domestic or civic or contractual obligations are defined externally to the individual in laws and customs. Religious beliefs and practices exist outside and prior to the individual. An individual takes birth in a society and leaves it after birth death, however social facts are already given in society and remain in existence irrespective of birth or death of an individual. For example, language continues to function independently of any single individual.

The other characteristic of social fact is that it exercises a constraint on individuals. Social fact is recognized because it forces itself on the individual. For example, the institutions of law, education, beliefs etc. are already given to everyone from without. They are commanding and obligatory for all. There is constraint, when in a crowd, a feeling or thinking imposes itself on everyone. Such a phenomenon is typically social because its basis, its subject is the group as a whole and not one individual. A social fact is that which has a general occurrence in a society. Also, it is independent of the personal features of individuals or universal attributes of human nature. Examples are the beliefs, feelings and practices of the group taken collectively. In sum, the social fact is specific. It is born of the association of individuals. It represents a collective content of social group or society. It differs in kind from what occurs in individual consciousness. Social facts can be subjected to categorisation and classification. Above all social facts form the subject matter of the science of sociology



Assignment III


Answer the following Short Category Questions in about 100 words each. Each question carries 6 marks. 5 × 6 = 30


6. What did Weber mean by verstehen or interpretative understanding?

Ans) “Weber points out that a natural scientist’s understanding of natural phenomena is from the outside. Let us take an example. When a chemist studies the properties of a particular substance, he does so from the outside. When a sociologist tries to understand human society and culture, he approaches it as an insider, or a participant. Being human, the social scientist has access to the motives and feelings of his/her subject matter. Social scientists can understand human action by probing the subjective meanings that actors attach to their own behaviour and the behaviour of others. Sociological understanding is thus qualitatively different from that of other sciences. Sociology, in Weber’s opinion, must use the method of interpretative understanding or “verstehen”. The method of verstehen implies that the sociologist should visualise the motivations of the actor by trying to interpret his feelings, his understanding of the situation.“


7. Describe the three types of authority.

Ans) The three types of authority are:

  1. First, charismatic authority points to an individual who possesses certain traits that make a leader extraordinary. This type of leader is not only capable of but actually possesses the superior power of charisma to rally diverse and conflict-prone people behind him. His power comes from the massive trust and almost unbreakable faith people put in him.

  2. Second, traditional authority indicates the presence of a dominant personality. This leader is someone who depends on established tradition or order. While this leader is also a dominant personality, the prevailing order in society gives him the mandate to rule. This type of leadership, however, is reflective of everyday routine and conduct.

  3. Third, legal-rational authority is one that is grounded in clearly defined laws. The obedience of people is not based on the capacity of any leader but on the legitimacy and competence that procedures and laws bestow upon persons in authority. Contemporary society depends on this type of rationalization, as the complexities of its problems require the emergence of a bureaucracy that embodies order and systematization.

8. Explain the difference between ‘value relevance’ and ‘value neutrality’.

Ans) While emphasising the importance of values in understanding social behaviour, he was also equally clear that the personal evaluations of the sociologist must be separate from the analysis of the society and processes under study. He distinguished between ‘value relevance’ and ‘value neutrality’. In other words, even if a researcher selects a particular problem for investigation because of his/her interest or value orientations, the process of inquiry and the study of the phenomenon at hand must be strictly in accordance with the value-neutral principles of science. In other words, the researcher cannot twist or manipulate the findings to suit his or her own ideology or value system. Value neutrality highlights the gap between ‘facts’ and ‘values’; Weber held that an empirical science can never advise a person what s/he should do; however, it can clarify for that person what s/he can or wants to do. According to Weber, the role of the scientist was not to engage in moral debates or to act like prophets or sages, but rather, to throw light upon facts and their interrelationships. Let us refer to Box 7.3 to understand the place of values in social sciences.


9. What did Marx mean by ‘mode of production’?

Ans) In the writings of Karl Marx and the Marxist theory of historical materialism, a mode of production is a specific combination of the following:

  1. Productive Forces: these include human labour power and means of production (e.g. tools, productive machinery, commercial and industrial buildings, other infrastructure, technical knowledge, materials, plants, animals and exploitable land).

  2. Social and Technical Relations of Production: these include the property, power and control relations governing society's productive assets, cooperative work relations and forms of association, relations between people and the objects of their work and the relations between social classes.

  3. Marx regarded productive ability and participation in social relations as two essential characteristics of social reproduction and that the modality of these relations in capitalist production are inherently in conflict with the increasing development of human productive capacities.

10. Explain the purpose and use of ideal types in social sciences.

Ans) Ideal types are constructed to facilitate the analysis of empirical questions. Most researchers are not fully aware of the concepts they use. As a result, their formulations often tend to be imprecise and ambiguous, or as Weber himself says, ‘the language which the historians talk contains hundreds of words which are ambiguous constructs created to meet the unconsciously conceived need for adequate expression, and whose meaning is definitely felt, but not clearly thought out’. It is however the job of social scientists to render subject matter intelligible by avoiding confusion and obscurity. For example, we may talk about the construction of ideal types of authority. Weber distinguishes three types of authority, namely, rational, legal, traditional, and charismatic, each of which was defined by the motivation of obedience or by the nature of legitimacy claimed by the leader.

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