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Lecture 2

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SOCI 2P10 Sept. 24, 2012 Critical Look at Theory Sociological Perspectives - The Functional Perspective - The Conflict perspective Functionalism - Views human society as being similar to an organism – organic analogy - Like the human body, society is made up of interrelated and interdependent parts – each has a structure and performs a function for the whole - System’s natural state of affairs is one of equilibrium – a point at which system is stable and homeostatic - Society must meet the needs of the majority; when it doesn’t, the system is sick and must make adjustments to return to a state of equilibrium and harmony o Teachers going on strike is a symptom that something is wrong with our education system much like a fever is a symptom of the flu - Short term periods of strife and conflict can occur, but over time these events will be addressed by the system and it will return to a state of homeostasis - The system is characterized by dynamic equilibrium -> it remains relatively stable and balanced over generations, although always absorbing and adapting to change - Variations in functions – Robert K. Merton: o Manifest functions: intended functions (e.g. teach knowledge and skills) o Latent functions: unintended but important consequences (e.g. Schools provide a social space for children to meet) o Dysfunctions: unintended negative consequences for society (e.g. schools label some children as “failures”) - BUT – must reflect on what is functional and for whom! o E.g. lowering taxes: wealthy argue that by lowering taxes encourages people to spend more money, which helps to create jobs [not okay for people on social assistance] o What if you are on social assistance and the decrease in taxes means that the government cuts programs for the poor? - What do functionalists tell us about education and differences in attainment? o The education system acts as a ladder of opportunity for people to achieve the best that they can, according to their ability o The best people go on to gain the best jobs and become the leaders of their society  Known as meritocracy o The education system is a meritocracy and that the education system exists to allow the most talented students through to fill the most important jobs in society [doctors vs. grocery clerks] SOCI 2P10 Sept. 24, 2012 - Conditions under which social orders break down: o 1) faulty socialization -> bad role models; learning of deviant subcultural values in high crime neighbourhoods, for example o 2) inconsistent role expectations and values -> ex. Dissonant acculturation – conflict between parent and children o 3) social systems fail to adapt to external change o 4) extreme ethnic diversity threatens integrations  Anomie -> the collapse of community values - Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) o Famous functionalist o Founded sociology as an academic discipline o Famous for his study on suicides (1897) o Use of statistics in sociology o Study of suicide  Examined association between suicide rates and social relations  Demonstrated that suicide rates are strongly influenced by social forces  Suicide is more than just an individual act of desperation resulting from psychological disorder, as was commonly believed at the time  Some categories of people (men, Christians, the unmarried, seniors) had higher rates of suicide than others (women, Jews, the married, the young and middle- aged)  Married adults half as likely as unmarried adults to commit suicide  Jews are less likely to commit suicide than Christians  Seniors are more likely to commit suicide  Social solidarity: degree to which group members share beliefs and values, and intensity and frequency of interaction  Demonstrated variation in social solidarity in different groups:  Those weakly integrated into social groups are more likely to commit suicide  As level of social solidarity increases, suicide rates decline, but beyond a certain point, rate begins to rise again  Types of suicide:  Anomic suicide: occurs in low social solidarity settings, where norms governing behaviour are vaguely defined (not enough regulation) o Certain breakdown of social equilibrium, such as, suicide after bankruptcy or after winning a lottery  Egoistic suicide: results from lack of integration of individual into society because of weak social ties to other (not enough integration)  Altruistic suicide: occurs in high social solidarity contexts, where norms tightly govern behaviour (too much integration) o Kamikaze pilots; suicide bombers SOCI 2P10 Sept. 24, 2012  Fatalistic suicide: occurs in societies high on regulation o Suicide of teacher accused of pedophilia  What are the implications of Durkheim’s analysis of suicide? o Social forces exist as distinct level of reality that are:  External to individuals  Constrains individual behaviour Suicide in Canada Today - Suicide for men rema
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