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Malcolm Mac Kinnon

SOCA01- Lecture 2 (09/17/09) SOCA01 – Lecture 2  Some people call sociologist’ jobs sociological engineering. Origins of Culture  Culture is social forces in action  It shapes what we think and do  Two types of usage 1. Popular everyday usage 2. Sociological usage of the term  Culture is the total way of life of a group of people, the way they think, behave, and their materialistic uses.  Materialistic: the tools, objects and materials that people use in various cultures (physical objects that are specific to that culture). In today’s society, that would be things such as pcs, ipods, etc.  Symbolic culture: ideas, values, beliefs, norms  Power of culture can be seen when we observe a team, group, family, classroom, nation, etc. We note that behaviour is patterned, orderly, and predictable; not haphazard and unpredictable.  E.g. lecture hall manners: listening, not talking, taking notes, etc. Culture shapes these beliefs of what to do, individuals have little to do this despite popular belief.  Culture is responsible for behavioural regularity.  It is the most powerful force that molds social forces and the mind. Culture is a Paradox: Freedom & Constraint  Paradox: culture has two contrasting faces- one gives you freedom and one constraints.  Culture and social forces constrain you from doing the forbidden.  It limits freedom, but also gives us freedom. How? Through:  Rationalization  Bureaucratization: growth of large organizations such as businesses and unions. Slide 6 (You can escape this by getting educated, becoming a professional, and opening your own business, so you are not under anyone.)  Consumerism  Culture increases:  Multiculturalism: can practise your own culture without prosecution  Postmodernism/Globalisation: breakdown of old ways of thinking and is replaced by relativistic thinking. The way people behave is broadened and widened, and tolerance is increased, so people go about doing their own thing.  Feral children: see things differently and act differently because they are deprived of cultural exposure, and it is culture that reaches us what to see and think.  Culture teaches you to see things from the standpoint of your culture. Social Interactionism (slide 7)  Don’t accept it like they did socialism Consumerism (slide 9)  Today, the idea “I am what I buy” is most prominent. SOCA01- Lecture 2 (09/17/09)  Although consumerism is a constraint, it does shape our wants, desires, etc. (paradox on its own!)  Advertising plays on people’s self worth (if you don’t have this specific product, you are old-fashioned and uncool)  Subcultures: smaller cultures within larger cultures  E.g. adolescent subculture: listen to certain music, have certain icons and role models, dress a certain way.  Adolescents are looking for a social identity, and this subculture gives them the subculture they are seeking.  For the most part though, consumerism is a constraint.  Capitalist society: everyone’s livelihood is dependent on everyone buying something.  In America, the government introduced the ‘Junk for Clunkers’ program → citizens would be paid $10,000 to ditch an old car in a junkyard and buy a new one. This was a ploy to encourage consumerism. From Counterculture to Subculture  Consumerism is a social control mechanism that prevents countercultures from becoming too large.  It does this by buying people off  Thus, it neutralizes counterculture  Often popular culture says: (slide 11)  McDonalds, movies, etc. = uncultured Sociologists do not agree  Opera, art gallery = cultured  Popular culture is spread by mass media  Consumed by all classes How do we get Culture?  Social scientists: knowledge people have morality, art, ideas people have  Culture tells you what to do and what not to do Culture must be Shared  If ideas are peculiar to an individual (or small group) we call that idiosyncratic; that CANNOT be called culture.  When people behave in ways that we do not recognize, they may be labelled as “emotionally disturbed.”  The cause? They have not learned the socially or culturally correct ways, and thus just act out of ignorance.  Mental disturbances can be attributed to this.  Sharing culture is critical, because it means that collective action is possible, and people can cooperate, because they share values, beliefs, and language.  Humans are a special species, as they are good at cooperation.  We can do this because we possess the tool of language which gives us the ability to communicate about sophisticated ideas. Culture must be Transmitted  It must be passed on from others (usually from older people to younger people) SOCA01- Lecture 2 (09/17/09)  However, modern societies are different than traditional societies in that often the youngsters can possess more knowledge than the elders (e.g. technological knowledge)  In traditional societies, elders had monopoly on knowledge, since it did not change rapidly at all. Today, this is all different mainly due to the fact that everything is changing so rapidly, and the youngsters are able to keep up. Culture as Perception  Culture shapes perception  We see the world through cultural spectacles. We see what and how it wants us to.  It has a big influence on our views and perspectives.  Culture gives people a window on the world  Selective perception: e.g. when a Torontonian looks at frozen water, he/she sees ICE, but when an Inuit (of Nunavut) sees frozen ice, he/she sees 200 different kinds of ice (such as pack ice, sea ice, etc.)  This level of discrimination is unique to Inuits, because their culture has it within it, but our culture does not deem this worthy of knowing. Therefore, the only way we can get this knowledge is by learning it through external means.  Culture tells us what to see and what not to see Culture is Arbitrary  As we are socialized, we lose touch with how arbitrary it is.  However, young kids have a grasp on this.  E.g. MacKinnon told a child he was fixing a broken object, and the child asked why you fix broken things, but MacKinnon had no explanation but: because that’s what you are supposed to do! (This is dictated
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