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Lecture

SOCA01H3 Lecture Notes - The Postmodern Condition, Conflict Theories, Intelligentsia


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOCA01H3
Professor
Sheldon Ungar

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Culture
- Is defined by sociologists as the sum of practices, languages, symbols, beliefs, values,
ideologies, and material objects that people create to deal with real-life problems.
o It enables people to adapt and thrive in their environments
- High Culture
o Is cultured consumed mostly by the upper class
o Distinguishes it from popular/mass culture
e.g. opera, ballet
- Mass/Popular Culture
o Is culture consumed by all classes
- Shared culture is socially transmitted
o society is composed of people who share culture
The Origins and Composition of Culture
- Human culture has 3 main tools for survival
1) Abstraction
o The ability to create general ideas or way of thinking
o It is unique to humans
o It allows us to classify and generalize our experiences symbols
o Symbols ideas that carry meaning language, formulas, signs
2) Cooperation
o Is is the capacity to create a complex social life by norms and values
E.g. families members cooperate to to raise children, and in the process,
they develop and apply norms and value about which child rearing
practices are appropriate and desirable
Animals have some kind of cooperation but is it more instinctual base
o Norms are generally accepted ways of doing things
o Values ideas of what is right or wrong
3) Production
o Unique to humans it is the capacity to make and use tools and improves our
ability to take what we want from nature.
o Material culture tangible tools and techniques that enables a task to be
completed
o Non-material culture non-tangible symbols, norms, etc…

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- How do these tools create different kinds of ideas, norms, and elements of material
culture?
o In medicine, theoretical ideas about the way our bodies work are evaluated using
norms about how to test theories experimentally.
Experimentation, in turn, results in the production of new medicines and
therapies part of material culture.
o In law, values (shared ideas about what is right and wrong) are embodied in a
legal code, consisting of norms defining illegal behavior and punishments for
breaking the law.
The application of the law requires the creation of courts and jails part
of material culture.
o Religious folklore traditional ideas about how the universe was created, the
meaning of life, and so forthis expressed in religious customs regarding how to
worship and how to treat fellow human beings.
Religious folklore and customs can give rise to material culture that
includes churches, their associated art and architecture, and so forth.
Sanctions, Taboos, Mores, Folkways
- People are rewarded/punished when they follow cultural guidelines/not.
- Sanctions
o Rewards (positive sanctions) and punishments (negative sanctions) aimed at
ensuring conformity
System of social control the sum of sanctions in society by means of
which conformity to cultural guidelines is ensured.
- Taboos among the strongest norms
o When someone violates a taboo causes revulsion in the community, and
punishment is severe
E.g. incest, rape, murder
- Core norms
o considered to be essential for survival of a community William Graham
Sumner
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o also called mores (Latin for ―customs‖) e.g. walk on street without any pants
o least important norms
called folkways evoke the least severe punishment e.g. walk on
street without a top
- Stable but vibrant societies are able to find a balance between social control and cultural
innovation.
Evolution of human behaviour
Culture Biology
- The ability of humans to create culture is built on a strong biological foundation
biology sets limits
- Sociobiologists claim that genes can play a part on how humans behave
- Charle’s Darwin evolution theory species that are best adapted to their environments
are more likely to survive longer and have offspring
Male Promiscuity, Female Fidelity, and Other Myths
- Universal trait they claim that men are more likely than women to want many sexual
partners
- Explanation why this behaviour? increases survival chances e.g. males produce
millions of sperm, women only one per month these are different strategies for
optimum survival
- These behaviour cannot be easily changed encoded in human genes
Problems with evolutionary biology
- Males tend to exaggerate number of sexual partners study shows no significant
correlation
- No verification that genes control behaviour (except for language)
- Environmental factors affect behaviour social interaction, nutrition, etc…
Language and the Sapir-Whorf Thesis
- language is a system of symbols strung together to communicate thought enables
humans to understandings, pass experience and knowledge from one generation to the
next, and make plans for the future language allows culture to develop (cultural
invention)
Is language innate or learned?
- Pinker language is instinct people have a sort of innate recipe or grammar for
combining words in patterned ways.
- Recently it was discovered that a mutation of a gene known as FOXP2 is associated with
SLI (Specific Language Impairment)
Social Roots of Language
- suggests that our biological potential must be unlocked by the social environment to be
fully realize
o Language must be learned
o Children with SLI fully recover with language therapy
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