SOCC58H3 Lecture Notes - Sistine Madonna, The Sociological Imagination, Anomie
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SOCC33 - Outline
19 January Structure, system, and action
Readings: Mills, C. Wright. 2000  “The Promise”. In The Sociological
Imagination, pp. 3-24. New York: Oxford.
Bernardi, F., J.J. González, and M. Requena. 2007. “The
Sociology of Social Structure”. In Clifton D. Bryant, Dennis L. Peck
(coeditors in chief) 21st Century Sociology: A Reference Handbook, Vol.
1, pp. 162-170. Sage: Thousand Oaks.
Social structure, culture, and social interaction [“social action”?]
“Society’s fault, society made me do it”
Some say that it is the individual’s fault as to why they get into trouble but some may say that it
is society’s fault.
Sociology looks at aggregates—statistics, numbers, groups of numbers, shared similar
Symbolic Interactionist—micro level
These are patterned interactions because people usually do the same things on a daily basis
All of these have complex relationships
Sociologists are interested in explaining the behavior of humans in relation to others (social
A major assumptions—individuals actions are being influenced by the actions of others in a
group—this is very much so a structured component of society
Social interactions are shaped by culture and by social structure.
An example of social structure—the act of eating—what you eat is easily determined by what
others are eating around you, whom you regularly interact with
It might be useful to think of social structure as the way that social life is set up
Macro—nations, national, global (made up of nations), European nations—all these share certain
commonalities with one another
Meso—regions, communities, organizations, occupational groups
Micro—neighbourhoods, families, peer groups, classroom
Asking the question of social structure, determinism and human agency.
Structure determines our actions, seems to limit our roles as individuals.
Maybe our actions determine what kinds of social structure comes into being, or is it the opposite
Marx: ones social economic group determines their cultural consciusncess, determined by SES.
If you are a worker or a means of productuion? Those who were production, also had the means
of translating, or funneling down what their class interestes were to other classes below them.
This is the class persepective, example is Titanic.
The group that you are in, determines the opportunities that you have, your class is also
determined by your parents class. Higher chance of you to follow in the same footsteps of your
Mills: If one does not understand their SES, then they will accept that things are the way they are
Durkhiem would agree with marx, he says that social solidarity rather then conflict is what diets
our behavior, this is a more functionalist view. When society is well integrated with each other,
this is when you have a functioning society, but this is when we start to question the structre of
Structure drives culture.
Life Chances by Social Class
“a banking history of a nation which adduces only economic motives for explanatory purposes
is . . . just as unacceptable as an explanation of the Sistine Madonna as a consequence of the
socioeconomic basis of the culture of the epoch in which it was created” (Max Weber,
“Objectivity in Social Science and Social Policy', in The Methodology of the Social Sciences, p.
71. New York: Free Press. pp. 50-112).
This description suggest that weber is questioning the idea of the economic base or economic
structure, the way that society is organized, reflects the culture of the society. He suggests that
this is kind of questionable, we cannot just look at economic motives. It is not always economics
that drives social structure, but the value and beliefs also have a stand on social structure.
Religion, sign and symbols also drive social structure. Different beliefs brought capitalism into
Robert Merton’s anomie
For Merton, societies are characterized by two structural features:
i. a commonly defined set of goals for its members to try to achieve and
ii. a generally approved set of means to achieve those goals
“When social structure extols common symbols of success for all, and effectively restricts access
to legitimate modes for some segment of the population, deviance ensues on a large scale.” –
Anomie: social norms.