Sociology- September 18 2012
- Sociology can be broken down into three categories.
- 1. A way of thinking about the world, it’s a study of social life.
- 2. The concepts the theories the idea, the ways in which we talk about and study sociology.
Ex) norms, socializations, different methods for sociology- stats, interviews etc.
- 3. The results of the systematic study, what do we know about society, inequality etc.
- Sociology is a perspective
- 1. General patterns- finding out what’s happening in patterns. How des this pattern
of behaviours look like when we look at the general population, by observation,
asking and watching. We are interested in more than one person and what they are
- 2. See the strange in the familiar. We don’t take things as they are. Ex) what is most
important thing in life that we cant live without?? Food. Who makes food? Farmers-
very important job, avg. farm makes just over 100,000/year. PER FAMILY. We value
these people very little and we don’t give them the right worth. Kim Kardashian is
worth 45 million. What does this say??
- 3. Seeing the personal choice in social context. Ex) Guys don’t wear skirts because it
is a cultural norm that just girls wear them. We can choose what we want to wear
but we are constrained to the social norms in many cases. Personal decisions are
made in the context of social norms.
- 4.Marginality and Crisis. People being identified as different; non-white,
homosexual. Crisis refers to transforming society.
- We are going to look at groups not an individual, families, societies, organizations,
and people coming together because we cannot understand human actions from a
personal or individual level.
- How do we as individuals fit into societies?
- Social structure; the way we organize ourselves, the social categories we find
ourselves in; racial, class, sexual categories. The things that live below the surface,
how we organize society. They affect us in huge ways.
- We have the ability to change these circumstances and structures, but we have to do
- Sociology goals: sociology wants to improve society but there are no easy solutions.
Sociology is very good at trying to figure out how to change these unequal
structures. To figure out possible ways of dealing with problems.
- The ways we organize society are not natural conditions. They are decisions that
humans have made over time and are changeable. IMPORTANT
- Critical thinking is the ability and willingness to ask hard and uncomfortable
- Sometimes the things that we believe are going to get in the way of how we think
and our belief on our worldviews.
- We are “trying to expose the man behind the curtain” sometimes we don’t want to
believe what is behind the curtain.
- It’s different than the traditional ways of thinking.
- C Wright Mills wrote a book called the sociological imagination in 1959
- This is one of the starting points in sociology
- Grasping the connection between history and biography
- Allows us to know our place in the world. Opens up the world to us in a different
way. - Personal troubles:
- What we would consider private problems.
- Social issues:
- They lay beyond ones personal control. How to understand when personal troubles
become social issues.
- Example 2) Unemployment:
- Personal trouble: Ex) lazy, no skills, lives in a small town with few job opportunities.
- Social Issues: Ex) Its not one person now, its 100. So it is unreasonable to say that
they are all lazy. Thus there may be racism, homophobes, etc. Greater forces are at
work- there is something larger going on recession.
- Capitalism is one of the ways to organize the economy.
- Lack of family/community support.
- Lack of job training, or being able to be supportive while looking for jobs having a
Gov. that supports particular endeavors.
- Disintegrating unions
- Body Image:
- Personal issue: connected to social issue- media and relationships
- The social imagination is about determining the individual lives of people and the
wider social forces. How are these connected to wider social structures and issues
- Scope of sociology: From the analysis of passing encounters between individuals in
the street, friend groups, families, communities, schools and up to the organizations,
- 1. Macro-sociology – studies large scale organizations, looking at the structure of
society. Looking at patterns of society as a whole. Ex) functionalism
- 2. Micro-sociology - smaller scale. How individuals interact with each other, the
maintenance of symbols. How do we agree as society, as a community and family
come about as a meaning of fix?
- Global Structure - our society is based on buying things, based on the exploitation of
labor in other countries. We get things cheap from china and places. We have to
understand how our society is connected to the rest of the world.
- One of the ways sociologists understand the world is through the “sociological
toolbox” which is the tools, theories and methods we use to understand the world.
- Theories are just things to get used at every stage of research.
- Social theories – a way of viewing the world.
- Sociology does not have one universal definition of things. And there will be
differences and contradictions.
Sociological Foundations 2- Founders of Sociological Though
- Social structure: Life entails social processes that sift and sort people into and out of various
settings, and open or close opportunities depending on the characteristics of people and the
contexts that surround them.
- Agency: Individuals are the primary architects of their own lives – making their own
decisions, creating their own opportunities, and generating their own meanings
- Agency within structure: yes we have freewill but these wills will be constrained.
Individuals actively create their own lives, but do so within parameters set by their social
worlds (can constrain or enable).
- People interact with and make attempts to alter those worlds.
- Sociology emerged in the late 19th and the early 20th century as an attempt to understand
the rapid social change accompanying the transition to ‘Modernity’ - Change and Stability were very important to the founders.
- August Comte- “We should study the social reality using a scientific approach. We should call
this new discipline Sociology.
- Karl Marx- (1818-1883)- inequality was the key feature of any society.
- He focused on the material needs of a society; he believed that it shaped everything.
- He had a materialist approach- Material production (production of satisfaction for our
material needs) is deemed to be the main essential human activity.
- He came up with two terms:
- Bourgeois- the owners, the oppressors
- Proletariat- the workers, the oppressed
- **Social Class- Determined by his or her relationship to the means of production.
- Made up of all individuals who have the same relationship to the means of production.
- Class Conflict: the struggle between classes to resist and overcome the opposition of other
- Differential, unequal and oppressive power relations are constantly present.
- Change and social conflict normal and constant
- The owners want to get the most work labour for the least amount of money and the
workers want the most amount of money.
- Soloution= Revoloution! This was the way that social
- Emile Durkheim: What holds individuals together in social institutions? What holds society
together? Interested in knowing how to create a stable society.
- Wanted to establish sociology as a legitimate science that could make a positive contribution
to social order.
- Overriding concern: Social order and stability.
- Intense dislike of social disorder.
- His ideas of social solidarity:
- 1. The degree to which group members share beliefs and values
- 2.The intensity and frequency of their interactions
- These were the ideas that tied society together
- What happens when norms breakdown or there is social disorder? When the norms no
longer control the activities of members in society? This is called Anomie.
- Max Weber: How do social actors concept their social actions
- Considered sociology to be about understanding and explaining individual social actions.
- Social behaviour and actions have subjective meanings to the actor.
- We should try to uncover and understand these motives and subjective meanings.
- Weber suggested that we create “ideal types” to guide our thinking, facilitate explanation,
and allow comparative analysis of the phenomenon we are studying
- Ideal Types:
- An abstract statement of the essential characteristics of any social phenomenon
- A mental construct or abstract representation of what we are studying
- Benchmarks to analyze and understand behaviour
- Verstehen: how we behvaiour of someone else by putting ourselves in their shoes
- German word which means ‘understanding’ or ‘insight’
- Weber used it to mean understanding arrived at through empathetic connection with the
- Stresses the importance of taking into account people’s emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and
- Weber Today: Rationalization
- The process by which traditional methods of social organization, characterized by
informality and spontaneity, are gradually replaced by efficiently administered formal rules
- Mcdonaldization- George ritzer- interested in looking at the spread of the business of
McDonalds- predictability- know what you’re going to get. - Harriet Matineau (1802-1876)
- -Called the first female sociologist
- -Believed that an analysis of a society was need to have an understanding of women's lives
- -Brought attention to previously ignored topics such as marriage, children, domestic and
religious life, and race relation
- Why Are the Founders Important?
- -can’t understand psychology today if we don’t study the foundation
- -Established foundational ideas for the discipline of sociology
- -Many of these founding ideas still have relevance
- -Founded social theories that are still employed today
- -set of assumptions about society & behaviour
- -directs sociological research: what kinds of questions are asked? How are research results
- Sociological Paradigms
- 1. Structural functionalism
- 2. Conflict theory
- 3. Symbolic interactionism
- 4. Feminism
- 5. Postmodernism
- Structural Functionalism
- All about stability & how society functions
- Structures within the system exist to fulfill one or more of these needs
- -The normal state of the system is equilibrium
- -Changes in one structure provoke changes in other structures
- -Change is disruptive
- Conflict Theory
- -Social inequality—the most important social fact in society
- - Inequality gives rise to social classes and other social groups
- - Conflict between classes and other social groups is the main engine of social change
- Symbolic Interactionism
- -More macro
- -Human beings act toward things on the basis of the meanings that the things have for them
- -Meanings arise out of social interaction
- -Meanings are modified through an interpretive process
- -Gained prevalence only in the last few decades
- -Focuses on various aspects of patriarchy (system of male domination in society).
- -Patriarchy is present in nearly all societies
- -Gender inequalities are not biologically determined, but socially constructed
- -Expanded to include other categories of gender (women of color)
- -Feminists brought huge range of new theories
- Postmodern Social Theory
- -Societies characterized by post-industrialization, consumerism, and global communications
bring into question existing assumptions about social life and the nature of reality
- -Rejects many earlier theories such as Marxs’s
October 2 - Culture
- Culture- is what allows us to build building and communicate
- As soon as we start using tools and weapons and art that is when we start talking about
- Culture is not just something that happens that we just see, we create culture
- Culture is a social product
- Culture differs from nature - We don’t talk too much about human nature- sociology is very interested in how we create
- The way we express emotions, how we express emotions, going to the bathroom, having sex
is all cultural
- How men choose urinals in the bathroom? Do you look around, no.. do you stand beside the
only guy in there.. probably not.
- IMPORTANT CONCEPT SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION - All knowledge, customs, habits etc., no
matter how basic and natural they seem, are the by-products (mostly unintended or
unconscious) of countless human choices rather than resulting from divine will or
- SLIDE SHOW
- Social construction is a main concept in sociology
- Certain sounds mean certain things
- Social constructions- collectively held beliefs
- Social constructions do change- pink and blue- boys and girls
- Food- we all have to eat but how we eat is a product of our culture- do we eat on the floor,
with chopsticks, what time do we eat, do we eat at a table, do we eat natural or processed
- Characteristics of culture-
- culture is learned- we are not born knowing a culture. We don’t know the cultural norms and
values we learn it
- We share it- culture depends on peoples experiences and sharing it.
- It’s symbolic- we create and maintain meaning through the use of symbols- which people
create and determine through interactions
- It is transmitted- we earn culture from generation. It is passed from generation o generation
through stories, social interactions, materials
- It is cumulative- just because it is passed on from generations, doesn’t mean that it is going
to stay the same, we build we learn we change based on the social norms
- Material Culture: The stuff of culture, the tools used to gets tasks completed to improve our
ability to take what we want from culture
- Technology: all the knowledge, techniques, and tools that make it possible for people to
transform resources into usable forms, and the knowledge and skills required to use them
after they have been developed. The specific and important part of human culture
- Non-material: the beliefs, the norms, the symbols, and language of our culture
- 1. Symbols- a symbol is anything that carries a meaning, crosses, flags, pictures that we use
for crosswalks and signs. Symbols are powerful.
- 2. Language- we agree upon language and is shared amoung people who share the same
culture. It is very important- because it communicates a culture’s most important norms,
values and sanctions to people. How we speak, the way we speak and what we speak comes
from our social environment Therefore language must be learned. Language has the power
to create culture and reflect culture. Thoughts and behaviours are influenced by language
- 3. Beliefs- things that we believe that we think are true. Things that we collectively and
individually believe. The ways things ought to be, the ways things are, the things we value.
Beliefs are changed, science explains things not god or vice-versa.
- 4. Values- these are the standards that we use, they are general and abstract. They are the
general principles, which underline norms.
- 5. Norms- they are the rules that govern society. We all know the norms of a society. How do
we value personal space? Norms are incredibly important in society, without norms we
wouldn’t be able to function. Proscriptive norms—stating what we should not do.
- Prescriptive norms—state what we should do. Norms are what is normal and expected.
Types of norms- 1. Mores- the difference between right and wrong. 2. Folkways- the
difference between right and rude. 3. Laws- law is one formal way that we govern behaviour.
Laws have more power than formal looks for example.
- Social control is a way of maintaining norms and conformity. Norms are usually based on
meeting mutual goals. What happens when we break norms? Garfinkel – we can really learn a lot by breaking norms. He encouraged people in breeching experiments. Breaking the
norms give us a better understanding about what would happen without them.
- When we break norms we are judged and criticised. Sanctions: we are punished for
inappropriate behaviour and rewarded for appropriate behaviour.
- Subculture: A category of people who share distinguishing attributes, beliefs, values, and/or
norms that set them apart in some significant manner from the dominant culture.
- Ethnocentrism- The view that one particular ethnic group is somehow superior to all others
and that a particular ethnic group’s system of beliefs and values is morally superior to all
others. Known as the practice of judging another culture by the standards of one’s own. The
downside of this is there can be a loss of culture ex) languages that aren’t spoken are
- There is a wide range of differences and people. Can be a result of natural circumstances
- Subculture- a smaller culture within a larger culture. Something about a group of people that
makes them distinct. Ex) tattoos- people who have a lot of tattoos may show norms of a
- Counter-culture- goes against and opposed to dominant culture- some activists, hippies,
Socialization and Social Interaction
-There is no set of complex, innate behaviors that accompanies any specific human bodily need.
-Culturally appropriate responses are learned to accommodate needs (i.e. food)
-There does not seem to be any human physical condition for which cultural treatment is consistent
across the globe.
-sociologists believe there’s no evidence for a universal way we do things
-food is surrounded by cultural norms and expectations, going to the bathroom
We are not born social
-We are not born fitting in to our particular culture - we have to be taught
-We must learn how to fit into our society, our culture(s)
-We must learn the rules and the norms
How do we become members of society?
-how we learn how to be members of society and how we are taught
-The process by which people learn to become members of socie