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Lecture

Sociology Notes.docx


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC101
Professor
Barry Mc Clinchey

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CHAPTER 1: UNDERSTANDING THE SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION
The Sociological Perspective
Sociology:
o The systematic study of human groups and their interactions
Sociological perspective:
o A view of society based on the dynamic relationships between individuals and the larger
social network in which we all live
Charles Wright Mills and the Sociological Imagination
Suggests that people who do not, or cannot, recognize the social origins and character of their
problems may be unable to respond to these problems effectively.
Personal troubles:
o Personal challenges that require individual solutions
Social issues:
o Challenges caused by larger social factors that require collective solutions
Quality of mind:
o Mills’ term for the ability to view personal circumstance within a social context
o Has nothing to do with a person’s intelligence or level of education
o to improve, Mills argued that sociologists need to expose individuals to what he called
the sociological imagination
Sociological imagination:
o C.W. Mills’ term for the ability to perceive how dynamic social forces influence
individual lives
Defines sociological perspective as the ability to view the world from two distinct yet
complementary perspectives: seeing general in the particular and seeing the strange in the
familiar
Seeing the General in the Particular
According to Berger, seeing the general in the particular is the ability to look at seemingly
unique events or circumstances and then recognize the larger (or general) features involved
Ability to move from the particular to the general and back again is one of the hallmarks of the
sociological perspective
Seeing the Strange in the Familiar
According to Berger, sociologists also need to tune their sociological perspective by thinking
about what is familiar and seeing it as strange
While something seems familiar and normal, if you really think about it, it is truly strange
Ability to see the general in the particular and the strange in the familiar is the cornerstone of
the sociological perspective
Sociology is less about remembering details and specifics than about seeing the social world
from a unique position one that allows us to understand social context and to appreciate the
position of others
What Makes You, You? Engaging the Sociological Imagination
To some extent, we all have what sociologists refer to as agency
o The assumption that individuals have the ability to alter their socially constructed lives
We are all individuals, we are also the culmination of many social forces
There are ways to define ourselves
Minority Status

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People who are members of a visible minority groups, who have a physical disability, or a mental
disability, or who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual, face various forms of discrimination
o Social experiences would influence the person you would become
Gender
Society treats men and women differently
Canada, and virtually all human societies, remains patriarchal
o A system of rule that translates to “rule by the father” in which men control the political
and economic resources of society
Socio-Economic Status (SES)
Term used to describe a combination of variables to position or score people on criteria such as
income level, level of education achieved, occupation, and area of residence
Ascribed status:
o Attributes (advantages and disadvantages) assigned at birth (e.g., sex)
Achieved status:
o Attributes developed throughout life as a result of effort and skill (e.g., course grades)
Family Structure
Socio-economic status does influence a person’s opportunities
Well-being of children is almost always associated with household income
o Higher income tends to be related to better physical, social/economical, cognitive, and
behavioural well-being
Family structure influences a child’s development
o Female lone-parent families tend to have lower incomes than two-parent family
structures
Urban-Rural Differences
Nature of growing up in either location is more subtle and contextual
The Origins of Sociology
Chinese philosopher K’ung fu-tzu (Confucius) and ancient Greeks engaged in elaborate
discussions and writings about society in general and the role of the individual citizen in
particular
Sophists were the first thinkers to focus their efforts on the human being, in contrast to the
earlier tradition that concentrated on understanding the physical world
Late philosophers, Socrates and his student Plato challenged the virtue of being pad for one’s
knowledge and advocated the necessity of deeper reflection on the human social condition
Plato’s The Republic is one of the most important works in Western philosophy, as it asks what
social justice is and what the characteristics of a just individual are
Ideas that form the foundation of sociology, then, have been around for a long time
Comte is often referred to as the father of sociology
o Auguste Comte, coined the term sociology
Three Revolutions: The Rise in Sociology
Emergence of sociology was a product of the time
Three revolutionary events inspired the rise of sociology:
o Scientific revolution
o Political revolution
o Industrial revolution
The Scientific Revolution

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Development of the scientific method during the Enlightenment period that followed facilitated
the pace of social change
Auguste Comte considered himself a scientist and believed that the techniques used in the hard
sciences (physics, chemistry, etc.) to explain the physical world should be applied to the social
world as well
To believe the inner workings of society, one needed to understand how human thinking has
changed through time
3 stages
o Theological Stage
Longest period of human thinking
Characterized by religious outlook that explains the world and human society as
an expression of God’s will and views science as a means to discover God’s
interactions
Concluded with emergence of the Renaissance and later the Enlightenment,
when science, not religion, was used to explain the world
o Metaphysical Stage
Stage of intellectual development
A field of philosophy dedicated to an understanding of truth and the
relationship between mind and matter
Characterized by assumption that people could understand and explain their
universe through their own insight and reflection
To explore what it meant to be a conscience being, people tried to experience
and understand their world through abstractions such as emotion and beauty
o Positive Stage
Began to emerge during Comte’s lifetime
Believed that the world would be interpreted through a scientific lens that
society would be guided by the rules of observation, experimentation, and logic
Argued that sociologists would be ideal leaders for this emerging society
because they would be trained fin the science of society: sociology
Sociologists today do not grant much credibility to Comte’s ideas
o 3 stages assumes that human thinking is currently as good as it will ever get
o Third (and final) stage was just emerging during Comte’s lifetime is somewhat self-
serving
Positivism
o A theoretical approach that considers all understanding to be based on science
o Three primary assumptions:
There exists an objected and knowable reality
Physical and social worlds can be understood through observation,
experimentation, and logic
Suggests that reality is objective and beyond individual interpretation or
manipulation
Positivistic believe that we can understand our objective world is also
grounded in the premise that we have the capacity to do so that our
physical and social existence is knowable
Since all sciences explore the same, singular reality, over time all sciences will
before more alike
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