SOCI 2P00 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Social Class, Sociological Perspectives, Class Conflict

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9 Nov 2012
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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]
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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
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