Class Notes (866,995)
CA (523,442)
UTM (24,491)
SOC (4,136)
SOC100H5 (972)


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Gregory Bird

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Soc+ Notes Chapter 1: A Sociological Compass sociology- the systematic study of human behaviour in social context Suicide: appears to be the supreme antisocial and non-social act nearly everyone is society condemns it typically committed in private, far from the publics intrusive glare comparatively rare in recent years people are likely to be interested in the aspects of the specific individuals' lives or state of mind that caused them to commit the act rather than the state of society and social relations that might encourage or inhibit such actions in general The Sociological Explanation of Suicide: Emilie Durkheim (one of the pioneers of sociology) demonstrated that suicide is more than just an individual act of desperation that results from psychological disorder, as was commonly believed. Durkheim found that suicide rates are strongly influenced by social forces. He first tried to prove that there was an correlation between rates of suicide and psychological disorder, but he soon found this was incorrect. Instead he discovered that slightly more women than men were in insane asylums and that four male suicides occurred for every female suicide. Also, Jews had the highest rate for psychological disorders of all the major religious groups in France, but they also had the lowest suicide rate. Finally, he discovered that psychological disorders occurred most frequently when a person reached maturity, but suicide rates increase steadily with advancing age. It was then clear that suicide rates and psychological disorders did not directly relate, and often appeared to relate inversely. Why? Durkheim argued that suicide rates varied as a result of differences in the degree of social solidarity in different categories of the population. Social solidarity: refers to (1) degree to which group members share beliefs and values, and (2) intensity and frequency of their interaction. According to Durkheim: if group members share beliefs and values --> more frequent and intense interaction results --> more social solidarity exists Also: if more social solidarity exists in a group --> more firmly anchored individuals result --> less likely to commit suicide Values: ideas about what is good and bad, right and wrong. Therefore, Durkheim expected that high-solidarity groups have lower suicide rates than low-solidarity groups. Support: married adults are half as likely as unmarried adults to commit suicide because marriage creates social ties and "moral cement that bind the individual to society". (6) Support: women are less likely to commit suicide than men are because women are more involved in "the intimate social relations of family life". (6) Support: jews are less likely to commit suicide than Christians are because "centuries of persecution have turned them into a group that is more defensive and tightly knit". (6) Support: seniors are more prone to commit suicide than the young and middle-aged because they are more likely "to live alone, to have lost a spouse, and to lack a job and a wide network of friends." (6) In general, Durkheim wrote, "suicide varies with the degree of integration of the social groups of which the individual forms a part" (6) Of course, this tells us nothing about why any particular individual may commit suicide because that is the province of psychology. It does tell us that an individuals likelihood of committing suicide decreases as the degree to which he or she is anchored in society increases. It tells us that something surprising and uniquely sociological about how and why the suicide rate varies across groups. Altruistic suicide: occurs in settings that exhibit very high levels of social solidarity and results from norms very highly governing behaviour. (example: Soldiers going to war knowing they are putting their lives on the line) Egoistic suicide: occurs in settings that exhibit very low levels of social solidarity and results from the poor integration of people into society because of weak social ties to others. (example: Someone who is unmarried and unemployed is more likely to commit suicide than someone married and employed) Anomic suicide: occurs in settings that exhibit very low levels of social solidarity and results from vaguely defined norms governing behaviour. (example: Rate of this suicide is likely to be high among people living in a society that lacks a widely shared moral code) Theory: a tentative explanation of some aspect of social life that states how and why certain facts are related. Note: Emile Durkheim was the first professor of sociology in France and is often considered to the the first modern sociologist. He argued that human behaviour is shaped by our "social facts," or the social context in which people are embedded. In his view, social facts define the constraints and opportunities within which people must act. Durkheim was also interested in the conditions that promote social order in "primitive" and modern societies. Suicide in Canada Today: In brief, shared moral principles and strong social ties have eroded since the early 1960s for Canada's youth. Support: attendance has halved in religious institutions to 25%, youth unemployment has risen, the divorce rate has increased sixfold, births outside marriage are more common, single-parents are more common and children are spending less time with their parent(s). This suggests that social solidarity is now lower than it was a few decades ago, especially for young people. "Less firmly rooted in society, and less likely to share moral standards, young people in Canada today are more likely than young people were a half century ago to take their own lives if they find themselves in a deep personal crisis". (7-8) Social structures: relatively stable patterns of social relations. Social structures such as social solidarity can affect your innermost thoughts and feelings, influence your actions, and this help to shape who you are. More than half a century ago (1959), C. Wright Mills invented the term sociological imagination and wrote a argument about it. (8) Sociological imagination: the quality of mind that enables one to see the connection between personal troubles and social structures. Mill argued that one of sociologies main tasks is to identify and explain the connection between people's personal troubles and the social structures in which people are embedded. To broaden our awareness involves recognizing that three levels of social structure surround and permeate us. They can be described as concentric circles radiating out from you. 1) Microstructures: are patterns of intimate social relations formed during face-to-face interaction. Families, friendship circles, and work association are all examples of microstructures. 2) Macrostructures: are patterns of social relations that lie outside and above your circle of intimates and acquaintances. Religious institutions and social classes are examples or macrostructures. One important macrostructure is patriarchy: the traditional system of economic and political inequality between women and men in most societies. 3) Global structures: are the third level of social structure. International organizations, patterns of worldwide travel and communication, and economic relations among countries are examples of global structures. Global structures are increasingly important because inexpensive travel and communication allow all parts of the world to become interconnected culturally, economically, and politically. Personal problems are connected to social structures. At the micro, macro, and global levels. Whether the personal problem involves finding a job, keeping a marriage intact, or finding out a way to act justly to end world poverty, social structure considerations broaden our understanding of the problem and suggest appropriate courses of action. The Origin of the Sociological Imagination: The sociological imagination is only a few hundred years old. In ancient times, philosophers mentioned society, but their thinking was not sociological. They believed that God and nature controlled society and sketched blueprints for the ideal society, urging people to follow their lead. But unfortunately, they relied on speculation, rather than evidence, to reach conclusions about how the world worked. The sociological imagination was born when three modern revolutions pushed people to think about society in an entirely new way. The Scientific Revolution: The Scientific revolution began in about 1550. It encouraged the view that sound conclusions about the working of society must be based on evidence, not just speculation. People often link the Scientific Revolution to specific ideas, such as Copernicus's theory that the earth revolves around the sun. However, science is less a collection of ideas and a method of inquiry. Example: in 1609 Galileo pointed his newly invented telescope at the sky, made some careful observations, and showed that his observations fit Copernicus's theory. This is the core of the scientific method: using evidence to make a case for a particular point of view. By the mid-seventeenth century, some philosophers were calling for a science of society. When sociology, emerged as a distinct discipline in the nineteenth century, commitment to the scientific method was on firm pillar of the sociological imagination. The Democratic Revolution: The Democratic Revolution began in 1750. It suggested that people are responsible for organizing society and that human interaction can therefore solve special problems. Before the Democratic Revolution, most people thought otherwise. They believe that God ordained the social order. The American Revolution, and the French Revolution helped undermine that idea. These democratic political upheavals showed that society could experience massive change in a short period. They proved that people could replace unsatisfactory rulers. They suggested that people control society. The implications for social thought were profound, for if it was impossible to change society through human action, a science of society could play a big role. Much of the justification for sociology as a science arose out of the democratic revolutions that shook Europe and North America. The Industrial Revolution: The Industrial Revolution began about 1775. It creates a host of new and serious social problems that attracted the attention of social thinkers. As a result of the growth of the industry, masses of people moved from countryside to city, worked agonizingly long hours in crowded and dangerous mines and factories, lost faith in their religions, confronted faceless bureaucracies, and reacted to the filth and poverty of their existence by means of strikes, crime, revolutions, and wars. The Scientific Revolution suggested that a science of society was possible. The Democratic Revolution suggested that people could intervene to improve society. The Industrial Revolution now presented social thinkers with a host of pressing social problems crying out for solution. They responded by creating the sociological imagination. Auguste Comte and the Tension between Science and Values: Auguste Comte, French social thinker, coined the term sociology in 1838. Comte tried to place the study of society on scientific foundations. He said he wanted to understand the social world as it was, not as he or anyone else imagined it should be. Yet there was a tension in his work: although Comte was eager to adopt the scientific method in the study of society, he was a conservative thinker, motivated by strong opposition to rapid change in French society, as is evident in his writings. When he moved from his small hometown to Paris, he witnessd the democratic forces unleashed by the French Revolution. The rapid social change was destroying much of what he valued, especially respect for traditional authority. He therefore urged slow change and the preservation of all that was traditional in social life. To varying degrees, we see the same tension in the work of three giants in the early history of sociology: Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber. They witnessed various phases of Europe's wrenching transition to industrial capitalism. They wanted to explain the great transformation of Europe and suggest ways to improve people's lives. Like Comte, they were committed to the scientific method of research. Like many sociological ideas, they are prescriptions for combating social ills. Durkheim, Marx and Weber stood close to the origins of major theoretical traditions in sociology: functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism. Feminism has arisen in recent decades to correct some deficiencies in the three long-established traditions. These four traditions have been especially influential in the development of sociology. Sociological Theory and Theorists Functionalism: Emile Durkheim's theory of suicide is an early example of what sociologists now call functionalism. Functionalism: theory that human behaviour is governed by relatively stable social structures. It underlines how social structures maintain or undermine social stability. It emphasizes that social structures are based mainly on shared values or preferences. And it suggests that re- establishing equilibrium can best solve most social problems. Four features of functionalism: 1) Human behaviour is governed by stable patterns of social relations, or social structures. For example, Durkheim emphasized how patterns of social solidarity influence suicide rates. The social structures typically analyzed by functionalists are macrostructures. 2) Social structures maintain or undermine social stability. This is why functionalists are sometimes called structural functionalists; they analyze how the parts of society (structure) fit together and how much each part contributes to the stability of the whole (its function). For example, Durkheim argued that high social solidarity contributes to the maintenance of social order. 3) Social structures are based mainly on shared values. Thus, when Durkheim wrote about social solidarity, he sometimes meant the frequency and intensity of social interaction, but more often he thought of social solidarity as a kind of moral cement that binds people together. 4) Re-establishing equilibrium can best solve most social problems. For instance, Durkheim thought that social stability could be restored in late nineteenth-century Europe by creating new associations of empower employers and workers that would lower workers' expectations about what they should hope for in life. If more people could agree on wanting less, Durkheim wrote, social solidarity would rise, fewer strikes would occur, and suicide rates would drop. Functionalism was a conservative response to widespread social unrest. A more liberal or radical response would have been to argue that if people were expressing discontent because they were getting less out of life than they expected, discontent could be lowered by finding ways for them to get more out of life. Conflict Theory: Conflict Theory: Generally focuses on large, macro level structures, such as the relations among classes. It shows how major patterns of inequality in society produce social stability in some circumstances and social change in others. It stresses how members of privileged groups try to maintain their advantages while subordinate groups struggle to acquires advantages. And it typically leads to the suggestion that eliminating privileged will lower the level of conflict and increase the sum total of human welfare. Four features conflict theory: 1) Generally focuses on large, macro level structures, such as class relations or patterns of domination, submission, and struggle between people of high and low social standing. 2) Shows how major patterns of inequality in society produce social stability in some circumstances and social change in others. 3) Stresses how much member of privileged groups try to maintain their advantages while subordinate groups struggle to acquire advantages. From this point of view, social conditions at a given time are the expression of an ongoing power struggle between privileged and subordinate groups. 4) Typically leads to the suggestion that lessening privilege will lower the level of conflict and increase human welfare. Karl Marx invented the term conflict theory. Class conflict: the struggle between classes to resist and overcome opposition of other classes. Marx wrote, a large and growing class of poor workers opposes a small and shrinking class of wealthy owners. Class consciousness: awareness of belonging to the social class of which one is a member. According to Marx, eventually these organizations would try to put an end to private ownership of property and replace it with communist society, defined as a system in which everyone shares property and wealth according to their needs, and no private property exists. Note: Karl Marx was a revolutionary thinker who ideas affected not just the growth of sociology but also the course of world history. He held that major socio-historical changes are the result of conflict between societies main social classes. In his major work, Marx argued that capitalism would produce such misery and collective strength among workers that they would eventually take state power and create a classless society in which production would be based on human need rather than profit. Max Weber wrote his major works a generation after Marx. Weber was among the first to point out some flaws in Marx's argument. Weber noticed the rapid growth of the so called service sector of the economy, with its many non-manual (white collar) workers and professionals. He argued that these occupational groups would stabilize society because they enjoyed more prestige and income than manual (blue collar) workers in the manufacturing sector. Weber also showed that class conflict is not the only driving force of history. In his view, politics and religion are also important sources of historical change. Other writers pointed out that Marx did not appreciate how investment in technology would make it possible for workers to toil fewer hours under less oppressive conditions. Nor did Marx foresee that higher wages, better working conditions, and welfare-state benefits would pacify manual workers. Many particulars of Marx's theory were called onto question by Weber and there sociologists but nevertheless Marx's insights about the fundamental importance of conflict in social life are still highly influential in modern sociology. Note: Max Weber profoundly influenced the development of the discipline world-wide. Weber held that economic circumstances alone do not explain the rise of capitalism. Symbolic Interactionism: Contrary to Marx, Weber argued that favourable economic circumstances alone did not cause the early capitalist development. In addition, he said, certain religious beliefs encouraged robust capitalist growth. Protestant ethic: the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Protestant belief that religious doubts can be reduced, and a state of grace assured, if people work diligently and live ascetically. According to Weber, the Protestant work ethic had the unintended effect of increasing savings and investment and thus stimulating capitalist growth. Weber concluded that capitalism did not develop just because of operation of economic forces. Instead, it depended partly on the religious meaning individuals attached to their work. In much of his research, Weber emphasized the importance of empathetically understanding people's motives and the meaning they attach to things to gain a clear sense of the significance of their actions. The idea that subjective meaning and motives must be analyzed in any complete sociological analysis was only one of Weber's contributions to early sociological theory. Weber was also an important conflict theorist. At present, however, it is enough to note that his emphasis on subjective meanings found rich soil among sociologists in North America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Functionalist and confli
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