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Readings Sociological Imagination.docx

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Sandra Colavecchia

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Readings: The Sociological Imagination Sociological Theories (Ch 1 New Society (NS), Ch 1 Society in Question (SIQ), Ch 3 SIQ, Ch 7 SIQ, Ch 1 Becker) Chapter 1 NS Introducing Sociology Sociology: the systematic study of human behaviour in social context  Social causes are distinct from physical and emotional causes The Sociological Explanation of Suicide Durkheim: demonstrated that suicide is more than just an individual act of desperation resulting from psychological disorder  Suicide rates are strongly influenced by social forces  Suicide rates and rates of psychological disorder did not vary proportionately  Argued that suicide rates vary because of differences in the degree of social solidarity in different groups  Believed the more a group’s members share beliefs and values, and the more frequently and intensely they interact, the more social solidarity there is in the group – the more social solidarity there is in the group, the more firmly anchored individuals are to social world and less likely to take their own lives if adversity strikes  Argued that married couples are less likely to commit suicide, as well as females than males Suicide in Canada Today  Men are about four times more likely than women are to commit suicide  Durkheim said youth suicide is rare and suicide among working-age people was uncommon, in Canada today, suicide among people between 15-64 is much more common  Suicide rates do not increase steadily with age in Canada From Personal Troubles to Social Structures Patterns of social relations affect your innermost thoughts and feelings, influence your actions, and thus help shape who you are  Sociologists call relatively stable patterns of social relations social structures Three levels of social structure surround and penetrate us: 1) Microstructures are patterns of intimate social relations  They are found during face to face interactions  Family, friendship circles, work associations  You are more likely to get a job faster if you understand the “strength of weak ties” in microstructural settings 2) Macrostructures are patterns of social relations that lie outside and above your circle of intimates  Includes class relations and patriarchy, the traditional system of economic and political inequality between women and men in most societies  (patriarchy) Sociological research shows that when spouses share domestic responsibilities equally, they are happier with their marriage and less likely to get a divorce 3) Global structures: international organizations, patterns of worldwide travel and communication, and the economic relations between countries are examples  Global structures are increasingly important as inexpensive travel and communication allow all parts of the world to become interconnected culturally, economically, and politically The Sociological Imagination Wright Mills: called the ability to see the connection between personal troubles and social structures the sociological imagination and emphasizes the difficulty with developing this quality of mind  When a society becomes industrialized, a peasant becomes a worker, a fuedal lord is liquidate or becomes a business man  Believed when classes rise or fall a man is employed or unemployed; when the rate of investment goes up or down, a man takes a new heart or goes broke The sociological imagination was born when three modern revolutions pushed people to think about society in an entirely new way 1) Scientific Revolution  It encouraged the view that sound conclusions about the workings of society must be based on solid evidence not just speculation 2) Democratic Revolution  Suggested that people are responsible for organizing society and that human intervention can therefore solve social problems  The second pillar of sociological imagination is the realization that people control society and can change it 3) Industrial Revolution  Created a host of new and serious social problems that attracted the attention of many social thinkers  Because of the growth of industry, masses of people left country to city Theory, Research and Values Sociological ideas are usually stated in the form of theories 1) Theory: A tentative explanation of some aspect of social life that states how and why certain facts are related 2) After theories are formed, the sociologists conduct research: the process of carefully observing social reality to assess the validity of a theory  Before sociologists can formulate a theory, they must decide which problems are important enough to study and how the parts of society fit together 3) Values: ideas about what is right and wrong, good and bad  Values help sociologists formulate and favour certain theories over others Therefore, sociologists’ theories may be modified or rejected by research, but they are often motivated by sociologists’ values Durkheim, Marx and Weber initiated three of the major theoretical traditions in sociology: 1) Functionalism 2) Conflict theory 3) Symbolic interactionism A fourth approach has arisen in recent decades to correct some of the deficiencies of the three long- established traditions 4) Feminism Functionalism Durkheim’s theory of suicide is an early example of what sociologists now call functionalism Incorporates four features 1) Stress that human behaviour is governed by relatively stable patterns of social relations, or social structures (e.g.: Durkheim studied how suicide rates are influenced by patterns of social solidarity) 2) Underlines how social structures maintain or undermine social stability 3) Functionalists theories emphasize that social structures are based mainly on shared values (Durkheim thought of social solidarity as a sort of moral cement that binds people together) 4) Functionalism suggests that re-establishing equilibrium can best solve most social problems Conflict Theory Incorporates four main feature 1) Generally focuses on large, macro level structures, such as relations between or among classes 2) Shows how major patterns of inequality in society produce social stability in some circumstances and social change in others 3) Stresses how members of privileged groups try to maintain their advantages while subordinate groups struggle to increase theirs 4) Typically leads to the suggestion that eliminating privilege will lower the level of conflict and increase the sum total of human welfare Karl Marx  Rights for workers  “communist” society in which there is no private property and everyone shares property and wealth  Drive for profits and wanting better and new machines to advance business causes capitalists to concentrate workers in larger establishments, keep wages low as possible and invest as little as possible in improving working conditions Symbolic Interactionism Protestants believed their religious doubts could be reduced, and a state of grace ensured, if they worked diligently and lived modestly: Weber called this protestant ethics  He believed people that adhered to this protestant ethics saved and invested more Verstahen: weber emphasized the importance of empathetically understanding people’s motives and the meanings they attach to things to gain a clear sense of the significance of their actions  Functionalists and conflict theorists assume that people’s group memberships – whether they are young or old, male or female, rich or poor – determine their behaviour Incorporates these four things 1) Focuses on face-to-face communication or interaction in micro level social settings. This distinguishes it from both functionalist and conflict paradigm 2) Emphasizes that an adequate of social behaviour requires understanding the subjective meanings people attach to their social circumstances 3) Symbolic interactionism stresses that people help to create their social circumstances and do not merely react to them 4) By understanding subjective meanings people create in small social settings, symbolic interactionists validate unpopular and unofficial view-points, thus increasing our understanding and tolerance of people who may be different from us Feminist Theory Harriet Martineau is often called the first women of sociology Incorporate these four features 1) Focuses on various aspects of patriarchy, the system of male domination in society. Patriarchy, feminists contend, is at least as important as class inequality in determining a person’s opportunities in life, and perhaps m
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