Chapter 1 – Sociology and the study of society
Society – consists of a group of people within a limited territory who share a common set of
behaviours, beliefs, values, material objects, and social institutions that exist as a coherent
Emile Durkheim – studied suicide and found patterns: men more likely than women,
single/divorced more likely than married, city people more likely than country
Sociocultural system – term for combination of society, social structure, and culture
Power – the ability of an individual/group to carry its will even when opposed by others; hard to
locate where it is and what it is.
Proximal relations of power – within personal relationship; easier to feel (parents, teachers)
Distal relations of power – more abstract level as society as a whole; often we blame
ourselves for not getting a job rather than discriminatory hiring practices, corporate
globalization, etc (Smail)
C. Wright Mills –personal troubles of mileu: a person in poverty. Public issues of social
structure: many people in poverty
Human agency – possibility of individual behaviours
Key elements of science:
1) Knowledge must be based on empirical observation; data observed through senses
2) Information must be analyzed through logic and rational thought
Auguste Comte – one of first social theorists to apply scientific principles to social analysis;
created term “social science”
Philosophical materialism – an analytical framework that asserts that the material world is
primary, and the mind/consciousness is a property of matter; focuses on external, objective
phenomena (Thunderstorms caused by banging together in clouds)
Philosophical idealism – assumes mind, idea, or spirit is primary and basis for material world
(Thunderstorms caused by anger of the gods)
Dialectics – change is result of internal stresses (goes as far back as Heraclitus; 2500 years
• Everything is related. Nothing is isolated, but rather dependent on everything else.
• Change is constant; nothing in the universe is final and in continual process of passing
away • Change proceeds from quantitative to qualitative (Increase heat (quantitative), water
turns to gas (qualitative).
• Change is the result of unity and struggle of opposites. Things can embody 2 opposing
tendencies, nothing is black/white, wrong/right
Order theories – focus and support current order of things (big fish) Ex. Biological determinism
Change theories – focus on how things have changed in past/can change in future; easier to
identify than order theories (little fish)
Marx and Engels – Change theorists
• Engels focused more on the sociological aspect
• Marx grew up in world of rapid social, political, and economic change
• Political economy approach to sociology: focus on economic conditions of people’s
Biological determinism – explaining human behaviour in some aspect of physiology
Functionalism/Structural functionalism – became widely accepted after WW2 to late 1970’s.
Argues that everything serves a purpose in society: war is functional because it fuels economy,
Macrosociology – focus on ways individual behaviour is influenced by broader society
Microsociology – focus on ways individual behaviour/perceptions influence society; human
agency is primary.
Chapter 2 – Is human behaviour the result of our biology?
Instinct – inborn complex pattern of behaviour that must normally exist in ever