Sociology SOCI1001B (Tamy Superle)
Sociology affects me as an individual. Sociology is the study of human life.
There are hidden markers in the world, which tell us how to act with others.
“Sociology is the study of human social life, groups and societies. It is a dazzling and
compelling enterprise, having as its subject matter our own behavior as social beings. The
scope of sociology is extremely wide, ranging from the analysis of passing encounters
between individuals in the street up to the investigation of worldwide social problems.”
Sociology: “the study of society”
The study of human behavior, collective action, interaction and
consequences of these behaviors, actions and interactions.
Sociology is about pulling back the curtain to what at first seems simple
and obvious. Things are not what they seem in society. We have to try to
defamiliarize ourselves with things that are normal so we can figure out
what’s going on behind them.
Sociology is a particular way of studying the world. It’s the systematic
study of social behaviors in human societies. Sociologists study
everything. Sociology figures out what we do and why.
Midterm: October 10 . th
Critical thinking Assignments 1 (10%): October 3 . th
Critical Thinking Assignment 2 (20%): November 14 .
DO NOT USE FOOTNOTES/ENDNOTES IN CITATIONS. Use APA style for citations.
Use Times New Roman 12 for assignments and double space assignments.
Why is sociology important? Goals of Sociology:
Sociology helps us understand ourselves, our relationships and our world.
Sociology give us knowledge into:
How societies function
How societies, and their people function.
Sociology helps to recognize trends and patterns, create concise reports
and essays, critical thinking skills, research skills, writing skills.
Knutilla Chapter 1: Understanding Human Behaviour (First Reading)
Why do human beings exhibit so many different kinds of human behavior?
All aspects of human behavior occur within complex sets of social structures, rules and
“common sense” can often times be wrong and outdated
the Scientific way says that conditions, phenomena or events do not just “happen”.
Rather, they are caused by following a certain scientific formula.
Production of data includes both empirical data and human reason. Scientists use inductive and deductive thinking. (Inductive moves from particular to
general and deductive is the opposite).
Knowledge has to have empirical proof in order to validate itself or else it is not
accepted as scientific. It needs to have been studied, and conclusions must be drawn
before it is “accepted”.
Term “Sociology” was coined by French thinker Auguste Comte in 1830.
Sociology: “the analysis of the structure of social relationships as constituted by social
sociology is differentiated form the other social sciences disciplines by the need to
understand the larger picture of how humans are shaped by society and how humans are
part of the process by which society is produced and reproduced through labour power,
both in the workplace and in the family settings.
Sociology encompasses many of the other social sciences in it’s large and vast field of
Sociology studies people on an individual level and then assess’ how their actions,
thoughts and emotions influence others on a larger scale.
Sociology: the systematic analysis of how humans, as social agents, produce their own
social structures and how humans are produced, and reproduced, by those structures.
In Auguste Comtes time, many people accepted the Church as the only real “knowing
Class 2: Sept 12 (Foundations)
Key Terms: Sociology, sociological perspective, common sense, critical thinking,
sociological imagination, C. Wright Mills, Structure, Agency.
3 Elements of Sociology:
1) A systematic study of social life
2) We need a variety of concepts, theories, and research methods
3) It is the knowledge of information and data resulting form the study
Understand our place in the world and why people do what they do.
Try to improve society, understand our current predicament, seeing possible ways of
dealing with it.
Sociological Perspective : See general social patterns in behaviors of certain
individuals (like how did people get to where they are ie: homeless people). Why are
certain types of people or groups in certain predicaments but others aren’t?
See the strange in the familiar. (question norms). Why do celebrities make ridiculous
amounts of money per episode/game/song but farmers and teachers get paid very little
compared to others.
Seeing personal choice in social context. (ie: choosing to have a baby later, deciding how
many babies etc…) The Outsiders
Marginality and crisis.
We can never truly understand human actions from simply a personal level. People are
more social than they are individual. “in the game of life, we may decide how to play our
cards, but it is society that deals us the hand” (Macionis and Plummer 2005: 9). Some
people have advantages or disadvantages that are “built into the system”.
Social Structure: Constrains and helps determine actions of individuals.
Factors such as: social class, religion, gender, ethnicity, customs. These things impact and
affect the opportunities that we have.
Agency: Own ability to act. (Individual has agency, but social structures limit our
Critical Thinking: A willingness to ask any question, no matter how difficult. To be
open to any answer that is supported by reason and evidence. To confront one’s own
biases and prejudices openly when they get in the way.
C. Wright Mills wrote The Sociological Imagination in 1959.
Wrote about the connection between biography and history.
Advocated active engagement.
The sociological imagination is the starting point to sociology.
One of its’ main goals is to get you thinking sociologically.
3 Essential Questions:
1) What are the structures of my society like?
2) Where does my society fit into the broader picture of history?
3) How do the structures of my society and the historical period of which I am a
part of influence me and others.
Sociological Imagination= the vivd awareness of the relationship between
experience and the wider society. It enables us to grasp history and biography
and the relations between the two within society.
Personal troubles: private problems experienced on an individual level (ie:
character of a person) and their effects on others close to them. (ie: lazy,
unreliable, refuses to learn skills, unpleasant, quits job for no reason).
Sociological Issues: lay beyond an individual’s personal control. (ie: structure
of the economy, lack of social support, lack of family support, lack of
affordable education and training, racial discrimination, disintegrating unions,
body image). Old beauty DOES NOT EQUAL “today’s Beauty”. It is not ONE PERSON
who has a problem with beauty, it’s SOCIETY.
The Scope of Sociology
From the analysis of passing encounters between individuals in the street,
friend groups, families, communities, schools and up to the organizations,
cultures and nations. (from the very little ie: individuals to very large ie:
Studies of largescale social organizations (ie: birds eye view).
Change is often very slow to come.
Creation and maintenance of symbols. Smallscale interactions. (ie:
person to person).
Internation organizations, patterns of worldwide travel and
communications and relations between countries.
Theories and methods are both a part of the toolbox. Use theory to understand and
Theories are things that can be used at every stage of research, not just end.
Most sociologists draw on different theories for different purposes.
Attempt to systematically explain social situations/behavior.
There is not a unified theory that everyone agrees on as the “right way” of explaining
Both reveal and conceal certain aspects.
A set of assumptions about society and behavior.
Directs sociological research.
1) Structural functionalism
2) Conflict theory
3) Symbolic Interactionism
5) Post Modernism
1) Structural Functionalism
Inspired by Durkheim Society is defined as a social system, with structures organized in an orderly way
to form a stable whole.
The system has certain basic needs that must be met in order to survive.
Structures within the system exist to fulfill one or more needs
The normal state of the system is equilibrium (in balance).
Changes in one structure provoke changes in others (change is disruptive).
Not commonly used anymore. It doesn’t explain social change and sees it as a
negative thing. (NO IMPROVEMENTS, ONLY BALANCE. CONSTANCE).
2) Conflict Theory
Social inequality the most important social fact in society.
Conflict, Class, Contestation/Challenge, CHANGE.
Eliminate social inequality.
Conflict between classes and groups provoke social change.
3) Symbolic Interactionism
Humans act toward things on the basis of the meanings that the things have for
Meanings arise out of social interaction.
Means are modified through an interpretive process.
Society is seen as a product of continuous face to face interactions
A SYMBOL is something that represents something else.
The Importance of Symbols: they are instrumental in helping people derive
meanings, subjective reality is acquired and shared through agreedupon symbols
like language. When these symbolic meanings aren’t shared confusion arrises.
Gender inequalities are not biologically determined but socially constructed.
Not natural but social
Focuses on various aspects of patriarchy (male domination in society).
Suggests that men > women are determined by structures of power.
Different paradigms can be applied to the same topic but the analysis can be
different. EX: same sex marriage. (functionalism would say that we need to figure
out how to balance our society out again, conflict theory would look at why there
was so much resistance and who did it benefit… etc).
Sociological Foundations 2: Founders of Sociological Thought
5) Postmodern Social Theory
Societies characterized by postindustrialization, consumerism and global
communications bring into question existing assumptions about social life and the
nature of reality. (Deconstruction) (Pulls apart a lot of theories and assumptions). Reaction against modern theory
Key Terms; Hyperconsumption, Simulation.
Inspired often by the postmodern culture in which we live.
Attempt to rethink some Enlightenment concepts that are taken for granted by
Applying the Four Theoretical Perspectives
Functionalist view: Fashion performs important social function of helping
maintaining orderly class system.
Conflict view: Fashion cycles are means by which industry owners make big
Symbolic Interactionism View: Fashion helps us express our shifting identities.
Feminist View: Fashion is form of patriarchy that consumes the time, money and
sometimes health of most females; modern fashion contributes to male
domination by turning women into sexual objects.
These paradigms are flexible and fluid.
Structural Functionalism > Stability
Conflit Theory > (Class) Inequality
Symbolic Interactionism > Symbols and Interaction
Postmodern social Theory>
>There are plenty more other theories (ie: Marxism).
Origins of Sociology
Sociology emerged in the late 19 century. We started understanding that we
needed to look at natural world in a scientific way. Observation, logic and reason
became very important. In the early 19 century, we started having the industrial
revolution in Britain (building new factories, machines etc…). Sociology emerged
because it was an attempt to understand the quick social change when the
transition to “modernity” occurred.
Sociology began as a science. Social thinks began to think that by applying
methods developed by the natural sciences, they could discover and understand
social human behavior and use it to solve social problems.
Auguste Comte was the first to use the term “Sociology”. He wanted to study
social reality in a scientific way. Emile Durheim: What holds individuals together in social institutions and society in
general? Solidarity. He wanted to establish sociology as a legitimate science that could
make a positive contribution to social order. He hates social disorder and instability.
1) Degree to which group members share beliefs
2) The intensity and frequency of their interactions
Anomie: a break down of social norms. The norms don’t control the
activities of the members in society anymore. (ie: If Tamy doesn’t
show up to teach the class, there is social disorder). Negative
occurrence for society.
Durkheim argues that weak social bonds can be selfdestructive.
Considered sociology to be about understanding and explaining individual social actions.
We should try to uncover and understand these motives and subjective meanings.
Verstehen (Understanding) We should put ourselves in the shoes of others to try to
understand their reality. He was also concerned that bureaucracies were becoming
increasingly oriented toward routine administration and a specialized division of labor.
This was destructive to human vitality and freedom.
The process by which traditional methods of organizations are gradually replaced
by efficiently administered formal rules.
Invented by George Ritzer.
Standardization over the world.
Process by which principles of fast food restaurants are dominating more and more
sections of American society as well as the world.
In a country so rich, why are so many poor?
Inequality was the key feature of any society.
Society’s system of production shapes everything else.
Social revolutionary seeking a utopian future.
Material production (production of goods to satisfy material needs) is the main essential
the economy dominates all other social institutions.
Bourgeois: Owners, oppressors
Proletariat: Workers, Oppressed.
Alienation Capitalist class controls and exploits all the struggling workers by paying less than their
value of their labour.
Exploitation results in alienation: a feeling of powerlessness and estrangement from
A revolution would occur when the working class realizes their being exploited.
Determined by his or her relationship to the means of production.
Made up of all individuals who have same relationship to means of production.
The struggle between classes to resist and overcome the opposition of other social
Change and social conflict are normal and common
First female sociologist
Brought attention to previously ignored topics like marriage, children, domestic life
Advocated racial and gender equality
Analyzed how largescale social creations impacted people like women and children.
Why are the founders important?
Established main ideas of sociology
Many ideas still have relevance
Founded social theories that are still employed today
Very influential in sociology today. Known for critical studies in medicine, education
Panopticon and Power: a structure that gives prison officials the possibility of complete
observation of criminals at all times.
The panopticon represents the way in which discipline work in modern society.
Current Example: red light cameras, cameras on public streets.
Critical Race Theory
Racism is engrained in the fabric of our society
Power structures are based on white power
The marginalization of people of colour is maintained.
Theory and Research
The relationship between theory and research has been described as a continuous cycle. Deductive Approach: the researcher begins with a theory and uses research to teset the
Inductive Approach: Researcher collects data and then generates a theory.
1) Select a research topic (personal background can influence an interest in topic.
Other researchers find area that has not much info and chooses to research that)
2) You then need to review the literature (relevant books and scholarly articles) to
see what others have said about topic
3) Decide on a research method: experiments, survey, field research (participate in
research topic), secondary analysis of data.
4) Carry out research
5) Analyze and report findings (multiple methods)
6) Write up report
READING: Chapter 3: Culture
We learn how to act/behave in our societies through culture and through imitation of
culture can account for almost all of our behaviors.
material culture is comprised of tangible things that people in our society make and
use. This can include raw materials an oils and also the items which are produced out of
these materials like technology (books etc…). Technology is all things which are tools
and knowledge based. Technology also requires a skill to know how to use it.
nonmaterial culture are abstract components of culture which can not be touched like
language, beliefs and values created by the people of a society.
cultural universals are things which are the same throughout all cultures (ie: family,
cooking, dancing etc…).
all cultures have four nonmaterial components: symbols, language, values and norms.
A symbol is anything which meaningfully represents something else (ie: flags).
However, the interpretation of symbols can change depending on the culture or person.
(ie: a middle finger in North America is offensive but might mean something else for
language is a system of symbols which allows people to express themselves and
communicate with others. Language can be verbal (spoken) or nonverbal (gestures). Does
language create or simply communicate reality? Language and gender can be sometimes
an issue (ie: the words like mankind, chairman, etc…), (ie: when women are defined as
fox, babe which are animallike qualities and men are defined as hunk, dude, stud based
on sexual appeal). Language can also be an issue with race (ie: chink, honky etc…).
Black people and aboriginal people have also been described by language as primitive,
uncivilized etc… Language is very diverse in Canada (Aboriginal tongues, English and
French). The aboriginial communities are having trouble keeping and using their mother
tongues and the arrival of new languages is always on the rise in Canada.
values are a collective idea about what is right and what is wrong. They do not tell us
what to do but tell us how to evaluate people, objects and events. Value contradictions
are values that contradict each other or are mutually exclusive (achieving one makes it
difficult/impossible to achieve other) (ie: values promoting individualism may contradict
values supporting sharring or equal distribution of means etc…). Ideal culture is the values that a culture claims to hold and real culture are values which a culture actually
holds (ie: we claim to be lawabiding but we smoke marijuana).
norms are established rules of behavior or ways of conduct which are typical in a
society (ie: if you make a certain amount of money, you are expected to pay a certain
amount of taxes). Formal norms are written down and have punishments if not followed
(ie: laws). Informal norms are standards of behavior which most people follow and agree
upon. Folkways are everyday customs which may be violated without serious
consequence in the given society (ie: wearing deodorant, brushing teeth etc…). Mores
are strongly held norms with moral and ethical connotations that may not be violated
without serious consequence. Strongly held Mores are called taboos (ie: incest).
Laws are official norms/rules that have been enacted by legislatures and are enforced by
formal sanctions. Civil laws are a disturbance/dispute between people or groups.
Criminal laws deal with the safety and well being of the society/culture.
cultural lag is the gap between the technology of a society and it’s moral and legal
invention , in culture is when we reshape existing cultural items to form a new one.
diffusion is the transmission of cultural items form one society to another.
a subculture consists of a group of people who share certain beliefs which differ largely
from those of the whole society.
a counterculture is a group that strongly rejects dominant societal values and beliefs
and seeks alternative lifestyles.
culture shock is an experience people get when they experience cultures radically
different form their own.
ethnocentrism is when someone sees their cultural group as superior.
cultural relativism is the belief that the customs of any culture have to be analyzed by
the culture’s own standards.
Critical thinking assignments due Thursday. Hand them in in Tutorials.
culture is essential for our survival and communication with other people.
We learn about culture through interaction, observation and imitation of groups and to be
a part of them.
High Culture, Low Culture, Popular Culture.
Canadian Culture Examples: saying sorry (being nice), embracing diversity, hardy,
hockey, maple syrup, maple leaf, beavers, loons, cold weather, north, winter, skiing,
coffee, Tim Hortons, healthcare, peacekeepers, “EH”, nature, curling, lacrosse, Molson
Canadian (or beer), poutine.
Canada also has symbols (ie: stop sign, Canada flag) and language and values and norms
(shaking hands when meeting).
Culture: the knowledge, language, values and customs that are passed on from person to
person and from generation to generation. Humans surpace their given nature.
members of any given culture share values, norms, beliefs.
Cultural aspects are not natural, they are “learned” through others.
We must learn about culture or else we can not move forward. There is contrast between nature (the use of instinct to live as beings unlearned and
biologically determined) and nurture (our social environment). Most sociologists agree
that nurture has more of an effect than nature.
SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION : we create our social world. All knowledge, no matter
how basic, are the byproducts (mostly unconscious ones) of countless human choices
rather than being from a divine being or from nature.
language is a system of sounds to which we collectively attach meaning.
a symbol is a thing that stands in for another thing.
colours a social constructions/symbols (ie: blue for boys and pink for
food can also provide a connection from food to culture (ie: fortune
cookies=china even though they aren’t found there).
gestures are mainly body language which mean things
something has been successfully socially constructed when most people in a
culture agree on a meaning.
EX: we all have digestive systems but where we get rid of our “waste” is a social
construction (ie: the separation of the gendered bathrooms in North America but
this might be different elsewhere).
Characteristics of culture: it’s learned, it’s symbolic, it’s shared, it’s transmitted, it’s
cumulative (every generation can change the culture do adapt to their needs).
Symbols, language, beliefs, values, norms (folkways, mores, laws).
Symbols: All cultures use language and symbols. Symbols meanings are often
Language: is another set of symbols. It expresses ideas and enable people to
communicate with each other. Without being able to interpret we can’t
understand because language and symbols are learned (like all of culture).
Language might influence reality and/or create it.
We can mostly all communicate with language, but it is the social
environment which puts meanings to the words.
Language isn’t just a way to communicate, it’s a way to link people with
their past and certain groups (ie: aboriginal language).
Beliefs: specific statements that people hold to be true. Beliefs are particular
matters that individuals consider to be true/false.
Values: culturally defined standards that people use to decide what is desirable,
good and beautiful. Values are standards that people who share a culture use to
make life choices. More general and abstract than norms.
Values underline the norms.
Norms: Rules and expectations by which a society guides the behavior of it’s
members. What is considered “normal”. They can vary over time (context, degree
of enforcement). Proscriptive norms: stating what we shouldn’t do
Prescriptive norms: state what we should do.
Folkways: norms for routine or casual interaction, difference between
RIGHT and RUDE (not really a big deal).
Mores: norms that are widely observed and have great moral significance.
Difference between RIGHT and WRONG (more important).
Laws: institutionalized mores, formal that have been enacted by
Sanctions: rewards for appropriate behavior and punishments for
What is Cultural Diversity?
The wide range of cultural differences found between and within nations.
Can be a result of natural circumstances (climate, geography) or social
circumstances (technology or demographics).
Group of people who are different in some way from the dominant culture. (ie: Amish).
A group that strongly rejects dominant culture and seeks alternative lifestyle. (subversive
subcultures). (ie: Neo Nazis, Skinheads).
The view that one particular ethnic group is superior to all others and their values and
morals are superior to all others.
Practice of judging another culture by the standards of one’s own.
Societies continually experience cultural change at both material and nonmaterial levels.
Changes in tech. always shape material culture of society. (ie: smoking has changed and
where you can smoke).
New technologies make a significant difference in peoples lives.
Also see cultures change through: discovery (learning), Invention (reshape existing
culture), diffusion (transmission of cultural items or social practices from one culture to
October 3 , 20 3
Human Needs: no set of complex, innate behavior that accompanies any specific human
Culturally appropriate responses are learned to accommodate needs (ie: food).
There doesn’t seem to be any human physical condition for which cultural treatment is