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Principles of sociology 1.docx

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University of Ottawa
Stephan Larose

Principles of sociology Lecture 1 - The sociological imagination: what is it, and why does it matter Sociology is the study of social interactions and how they relate to society. It is a binding tradition, an ongoing field. It is the systematic study of social interactions. Sociologists try to observe social patterns for example while everyone is unique things tends to happen differently to us depending on different characteristics of our lifestyles: race, gender, status… If you’re a woman, you pay more to get your hair cut than men. Sociologists also investigate and change commonly held assumptions, they like to debunk false perceptions. For example, how male nurses are seen as gay, it’s seen as a feminine perception because it doesn’t pay very well. The first thing sociologists would do is investigate this phenomenon. They would look at the pattern of social behaviour, how the assumptions are held and maintained and what they could do to change this. If you want to understand society you need to study sociology. The sociological imagination is the ability to make connections between what you are going through personally and other larger events going on in the world. Mills shows how society works in terms of our own personal life. It’s all about the connection. How our personal issues are all related to bigger things that are deemed public crises. Laroses obsession with coffee isn’t just about him and his cup of joe, his own thoughts about coffee arose in a social and cultural background. Coffee is not just an edible substance; it enables social relations to become closer. It is a social lubricant. Coffee is also a stimulant, and so is cocaine but cocaine is illegal. Coffee is a socially acceptable stimulant. Coffee is also socially available and in turn is available because of tons of people, extension of labour. There is more about a cup of coffee than just that; it involves a great amount of history and politics… Social patterns are guiding our own behaviour. We like to believe that we are in control, but we are shaped by social processes and it’s difficult for us to admit to it. When you believe something, you are not willing to question whatever that is. Berger describes that some people shouldn’t study sociology – those people are those who cannot let go of their assumptions and beliefs. Lecture 2 – the origins of sociology: social fact, social conflict, social action Sociology is of relatively recent origin. Only in 1838 did Comte invent a new way of looking at the world. It might be fair to say that as early that humans have lived, this has been around. Throughout history, philosophers have made observations of social interactions before sociology was invented. Plato thought that a society was a human construction. Aristotle (Platos student) believed that societies were the outgrowth of social institutions. Confucious theorized about role model and leaderships. Shakespeare made countless observations about human behaviours to the human condition. Montesquieu embodied social and cultural concerns. None of these philosophers approached society from a sociological point of view and to analyze it in systematic and a scientific manner. Sociology arose in the 19 century and developed in response to striking and dramatic transformations taking place at the time (france, Germany, England..) these transformations were caused by the French revolution which is an instance of political revolutions, the industrial revolution, urbanization and the scientific revolution. Sociology was made possible because of the scientific revolution. The industrial revolution was the process by which societies are transformed by agriculture and handmade products to manufacturing and related industries. Urbanization is made by an increase in population moving from rural areas to cities. Both processes lead to many new social problems that were unheard of. For example, you had anonymity, living in cities no one knew you. In the country side, entire families had labour at home and had everything they needed to survive. In the cities, wages were low and families including very young children had to work long hours in factories in terrible conditions. If you were injured in the workplace, you were not compensated for it. Children were sometimes chained to the machines so they wouldn’t run away – this is before child labour laws were put into place. All of this led to popular discontent in the workplace. Famous novels from the 19 century aided us in understanding what was going on during the revolution. It gave a very vivid description of the poverty and such. Changes in political and democratic revolutions were now inevitable. We see a clear shift in focus, no longer was it an obligation to remain loyal to their masters, people were more independent. They wanted individual freedom and rights. These revolutions occurred in many European countries th in the 19 century. The French revolution was the biggest of the political revolutions. Sociology was largely made possible by the French revolution. The French revolution was planned in coffee houses – impact of coffee. The capture of the bastille introduced a new principle into history about mass poverty. This was challenged by ppl whose suffering wasn’t inevitable. Ppl who challenged this were sent to get beheaded (40 000 ppl). Most of these ppl were aristocrats. It was the first time ever in history that a king and a queen were executed legally following trial – found guilty of being enemies of the revolution. It was the first time in human history that there was a social movement to change society. This is the context in which society developed. Early sociologists had difficulty adapting to the new social scene. Auguste comte coined the word sociology. This was ironic bc this wasn’t his first choice of term – he wanted to call it social physics. Adolfe kitler stole this term and published a book a few weeks before auguste comte had a chance to publish his. Comte was deeply concerned about anarchy following the French revolution – he believed that it had weakened the social fabric. He was looking for a way to recreate order. Comte innovated in a crucial way on the achievements, he came to believe that using the methods used by natural scientists that he might discover the laws of society and human behaviour and use this new found knowledge to figure out how it works. Comte wanted to apply physics to society – wanted to use the same methods of physics. So it would be based on real evidence and not logical analysis like philosophers. This is what sets sociology apart from early social philosophy. Durkheim is the true founder of the discipline. He helped to make sociology to be an academic discipline. Brought it to university and created the first chair and the first academic sociological journal. He introduced statistical analysis to study sociology. He had resentment towards the French revolution – concerned with the impact of the rapid social changes brought by the political revolution and urbanization – social order and stability. Believed that society is more than simply the sum of its parts, has its own unique parts. Society transcends the individual because it does not depend on a single person. So, this means that as much as there is a physical and chemical and biological and psychological world, there is also a social world with social laws of its own. And this social world has its own autonomous existence that is not reducible to any other discipline. And this social world is made of social facts. These social facts are the collective practices that are taught such as roles, norms and social institutions. As a person, these roles existed before you were born but exert and influence on you to act a specific way depending on the role you play – these are social facts. Language is an example of a social fact, English existed before we were born and does not depend on any individual to exist but we depend on it to exist. Suicide as a social fact: what can be more personal than the decision to take one’s own life. Durkheim had studied unofficial records on suicide and discovered that for any given country, the suicide rate is stable over time and also that it differed widely among them. These two facts indicated that he was dealing with social facts. Looking at these countries, he noticed significant differences: the religions. Suicide rates were higher in protestant countries than catholic. But both religions seriously condemn suicide. For Protestants, they aren’t inclined for social cohesion; they are more interested in individualism. Durkheim explained these differences in terms of social integrations. The less isolated you are, the more integrated you are in a community and the less likely you are to take your own life (catholic). The lack of social integration is a social fact in and of itself. By Durkheim, any social fact must be explained by another social fact. To Durkheim, the social institutions were more important than a single individual. Karl Marx; has had the most profound impact on sociological development. It took less than 70 years to convert people to Marxism. Marx did not consider himself a sociologist, but his ideas consisted of profound sociology so much so that he is considered one of the founders. Marx took a different view than Comte and Durkheim; he stressed the importance for social conflict. He was a shit disturber, was not concerned of social disorder, he was however concerned of social alienation. He was the first intellectual ever to talk about child labour in Germany, France and England. He was a standing critic of capitalism. Fundamental to Marx philosophy is based on economic relationships. Based on his historical analysis of societies over time, he believed that those who own the means of productions are the dominant group in society. This created a conflict between the people who own the means and those who don’t – class conflict. Marx was stressing the difference between the bourgeoisie (owning class) and the proletariat (working class). He argued that it is in the working classes best interest to exploit the bourgeoisie. He had 2 steps to over throw the capitalists, first they had to establish a social society – seizing the state then establish a dictatorship – convince the bourgeoisie that they have to join the working class and if they didn’t then they would die. The second step was to establish communism – no more social classes. Lecture 3 Max Weber had a great impact on the development of sociology. He was also concerned with the fast development of societies. His central focus was on meaningful social action. Essentially we are talking about the motives that underlie human behaviour, and the ways in which the actions affect the social order from the ground up. He believed that an understanding of this requires an understanding of the point of view of social actors in small groups and how they made sense of their own behaviours. Contrary to Marx, Weber saw ideas giving rise to capitalism. He believed that a system of ideas is a central force. As sociology developed, it did not take on a unified shape, so different sociologist had their own idea of what sociology was, what it could do and how it could be applied. Sociology was not unified back then and it is still not unified today. We will now look at the theoretical perspectives in sociology. So what is a theory? It is a set of logically interrelated statements that attempts to describe, explain and predict social events. A conceptual overview of the way something works. In building theory, sociologist’s face many questions such as what should we study and how should we connect the facts? Theoretical perspectives are guided by many paradigms. The major classical paradigms or perspectives in sociology are functionalist, conflict, symbolic interactionist and the feminist perspectives. The
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