For the second research paper, you will explain, analyze and/or understand some social
phenomenon.
In short, you will choose some social behavior or phenomenon and assess it according to two of
the explanatory or interpretive approaches discussed in the Hollis text.
You might choose to analyze some large-scale social structure or belief system like a religious practice, political or economic movement. You could investigate reasons offered for why people have religious beliefs, what function they serve or what social meanings are carried by them.
You might also go smaller scale: Explain why people shop excessively, why we go camping (when it’s dirty), or why we watch sports, or why the United States has become so politically polarized. In the middle, you could explain the failings of the American education system, why people rushed to buy automatic weapons after the Las Vegas shooting, or you might seek to explain the “Arab Spring.” You might explain why American teens like bad vampire movies, or why everyone raced out to by toilet paper when the global pandemic started. Conspiracy theories are fun – the anti-mask movement, anything from Qanon.
Once you choose a social phenomenon, you will analyze it in two ways:
First you will attempt to explain it according to a functionalist/structuralist approach. In doing this, you should first explain Durkheim’s approach to social explanation. Explain what that is and how one goes about explaining social phenomenon according to this approach. Then attempt to apply it to your example. There may be some guesswork involved here; that is okay. What I
want you to do is try to imagine how a Durkheimian would explain the phenomenon. Apply the relevant concepts; speculate on the social facts that might be appealed to.
Second, you will take a Wittgensteinian/Winchean approach to understanding your social phenomenon. Here, you will want explain Wittgenstein’s approach (or the hermeneutic approach in general) and then apply it to your example. Analyze the meaning system that people operate according to and how it might inform their behavior.
Lastly, compare and contrast these two approaches. Does one work better than the other? Can they be combined? What do you think is the best explanation of the phenomenon you have analyzed?

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