SOC 101 Lecture Notes - Critical Race Theory, George Herbert Mead, Talcott Parsons
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WHAT I S SO CIO LO GY ?
Sociology is the systematic study of human groups and their interactions. It is the study of everything that
people do. Major areas of sociological inquiry include:
Socialization (how do we become what we are),
Groups and organizations (religion, education, healthcare, etc.),
Crime and deviance,
Social stratification and class,
Race and ethnic relations,
Sex and gender,
The Sociological perspective is a view of society based on the dynamic relationships between individuals and
the larger social network in which we all live.
CHARL E S WRI G H T MI L LS A N D T H E SOCI O L OGIC AL IMAGINAT I O N
Charles Wright Mills defines sociological imagination as the ability to perceive how dynamic social forces
influence individual lives. In other words, it is developing an appreciation of how individual challenges are
influenced by larger social forces.
Personal troubles are personal challenges that require individual solutions. Social issues are challenges
caused by larger social factors that require collective solutions. Quality of mind is Mills’ term for the ability to
view personal circumstance within a social context. Mills believed that everyone is influenced by society.
PETE R BERGER
Sociologists see the general in the particular. They have the ability to look at seemingly unique events or
circumstances and then recognize the larger (or general) features involved. What societal factors lead to the
Sociologists think about what is familiar and see it as strange. See ordinary behaviour (which is deemed
normal) and look at it from an outside perspective, seeing it as strange.
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ENGAGING YO U R SO C I OLO GI CAL IM AGI N A TIO N
Our perception of ourselves and others are the products of many factors, for example:
These factors shape what a person will become.
THE HIS T O RIC AL DEVEL O P M ENT OF SOC I O L O GY
The Scientific Revolution: 1650-1800
AUGUSTE COMTE: LAW OF THREE STAGES
Theological – The longest period of human thinking, starting with the middle ages. Explains the world and
human society as an expression of God’s will and views science as a means to discover God’s intentions.
Metaphysical – Begins with the Renaissance. Assumes people could understand and explain their universe
through their own insight and reflection. Questions religious beliefs.
Positive – Begins during Comte’s lifetime. Society begins to see the world scientifically and to be guided by
the rules of observation, experimentation and logic.
POSITIVISM AND ANTI-POSITIVISM
Positivism is a theoretical approach that considers all understanding to be based on science.
1. There exists an objective, knowable reality. Truths exist, which can be discovered and proven.
2. Since all sciences explore the same, singular reality, over time all sciences will become more
3. There is no room in science for value judgments. Science cannot be good or bad, because it is
exploring the same reality, but from different perspectives.
Anti-Positivism is a theoretical approach that considers knowledge and understanding to be the result of
human subjectivity. It challenges all positivist assumptions.
1. The social world cannot be understood through numbers and formulas. Numbers only have
relative importance, because their values have been assigned by man.
2. All sciences will not merge over time and no single methodological approach can reach a
complete understanding of our world. Science cannot teach us to appreciate and validate
emotions, values and human subjectivity. In fact, in finding new areas of research, all sciences
will eventually become more unique over time.
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3. Science cannot be separated from our values. Values are cultural assessments that identify
something as right, desirable and moral.
QUANTITATIVE VERSUS QUALITATIVE SOCIOLOGY
Quantitative Sociology is the study of behaviours that can be measured, while Qualitative Sociology is the
study of non-measurable, subjective behaviours.
The Political Revolution: Renaissance to the Enlightenment
The political revolution is known for the promotion of individual rights and social responsibility, equality of
opportunity and the political ideology of democracy.
The Industrial Revolution
During the industrial revolution a transition was made from Rural to Urban lifestyle, which lead to social
problems, such as child labour, poverty, malnourishment and exploding crime rates. The differences between
town-dwellers and city-dwellers became apparent.
MACRO AND MICRO APPROACHES
Macrosociology refers to attempting to understand society as a whole. Examples of macrosociologists
include Marx and Durkheim.
Microsociology refers to attempting to understand individual or small group dynamics. Examples of
microsociologists include Mead, Cooley and Blumer.
“SEEING” THE WORLD THEORETICALLY
Theory is a statement that tries to explain how facts or events are related. It develops skills necessary to see
the world from alternative perspectives. Each theorist offers unique insights into our social world.
Epistemology is the “ways of knowing”. For example, the positivistic epistemology would be to formulate a
theory and test it out with experiments. Positivists look at the objective reality. Anti-Positivists look at the
Classical Sociological Theory (1600 – 1750)
THOMAS HOBBES (1588-1679)
Hobbes argued that people are responsible for creating their social worlds. According to him, without society
we cannot be human. People are motivated by self-interest and the pursuit of power. We give up our rights
in exchange for the security society provides.
Natural state is the state at which humans existed prior to emergence of social structures.
JOHN LOCKE (1632 – 1794)
Locke suggested that it is God who is responsible for the immergence of society and government. He
introduced the concept of tabula rasa: people are born as blank slates, which society writes on. A person