SOC 1101 Lecture 7
Thursday October 3 , 2013.
Sociology is organized as a science and has a number of characteristics in common
with other sciences. They solve a central problem or a set of related central
problems. Sociologists investigate culture. A characteristic of every science is that
they are factually based. We don’t all use the same research methods to make our
observations. Another characteristic of every science is that you find within that
science a specialized language. When you learn a science, you learn the definitions of
the concepts that the scientists used. These concepts are used by scientists to
interpret the observations made and for the construction of that theory.
Today: systematically look at the concepts most used by sociologists.
Perspective: how you see things. In relation to sociology, it is the concepts that give
you the insight into the study.
Kant was a functionalist sociologist. They are not all the same, but they share
similarities. It is because of these similarities that we can group them together.
1. The argument that it is useful to think of society as a living thing. Kant
studied biology before sociology and said that it is useful for us to think of
society as a living thing. Today all sociologists think of society as a living
2. Of all the facts/ components that make up society (culture is non material
and non-material facts), the most important is the Normative System. This
consists of many different things, one of them being culture values. These are
widespread in society that tells us what is important and what is not
important. One of these values is on achievement orientation. This is the idea
that whatever you do, you do to the best of your ability. Of all the
material/non-material facts (this is non-material) that make a culture that
you find in society, the most emphasized (and this goes back to Kant) goes
back to the Normative Structure.
3. They think of conflict in society between individuals and conflict between
groups as being superficial in nature. It’s not built right into the structure of
society. It might be there today, but it will not be there tomorrow. It is not
thought to be fundamental in society. De-emphasis on the importance of
conflict in society.
Kant told us that we should think of society as an organism.
1. The goal of the organism. The overall goal of every organism is to keep itself
alive (main purpose). To reproduce itself day after day. 2. An organism consists of component parts. Those component parts are
specialized in achieving what the organism needs to stay alive.
a. I.e. a human needs to take in energy to stay alive. The mouth that
opens, teeth that grind, esophagus that takes in food, etc..
b. We need to be mobile, and in order to do so, we need a skeletal system
3. These component parts act and react on one another. They do not exist in
a. I.E. Cardiovascular system has implications for the respiratory system.
The respiratory system has implications for the building of bone mass
Thinking about society, you want to remember that the goal of society to stay alive.
The society has different component parts such as economic and political systems,
which are organized towards achieving things to keep the society going
Ex. In order for a society to keep going, the society needs to adapt to an
environment and economic change. For example, Global Warming. The society has
to adapt to these changes or they will threaten their chance of survival.
Kant says to think of society as an organism, and functionalist sociologists
have done so ever since. Think of what a society needs to exist. Because the
component parts do act and react on other, you cannot remove a component part of
society to examine it.
Definition of functional indispensability
- All standardized forms and practices are assumed to be important.
When you look at a society, and when you find a form or a practice that repeats
itself over and over again, you assume that it’s important for society. You do not say
it might be important, you say it is important. If it’s long lasting, it must be
important for the society. That is the assumption you begin with, even if you end up
You look inside society, find something that is long lasting, and you assume that
it is important. You may find that it was important in the past, but is no longer
important today. You do not start with the assumption that it is no longer important,
however it may prove to be. The reason why something is important may change
As cultures change, we see the emergence of new standardized forms and
practices. Now you ask yourself why it is important:
Definition of Manifest Functions
- The function of the form or the practice, that is the reason why it is important, is
immediately honest. The reason why it is important is that it is obvious to everyone.
Because you know why it is important, when you change it, you can predict the
Definition of Latent Functions
- The idea that there may be reasons why the form/practice may be important that
is not immediately realized/apparent. Functionalist sociologists never rest with the
obvious reasons in society. They look for other reasons that are not immediately
apparent. - If the function remains latent, the other reasons why the form/practice is
important, and you change that practice, you will end up with unintended things
happening. If you change it, you will have unpredictable results.
Functional Importance of “Cow Love”
4 Latent Reasons Why Cow Love is so Im