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Intro to Sociology (Reading).docx

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Robert Brym

Introduction to Sociology (Reading) Chapter 1 – Introduction Sociology  Systematic study of human behavior in social context The Sociological Perspective  Examines connections between social events and social relations  (Example. Durkheim’s analysis of suicide) -The analysis showed connections between suicide rates and social relations - Suicide rates are strongly influenced by social forces* Suicide Rates  Highest Suicide Rates -Soviet Union (Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia)  Lowest Suicide Rates -Caribbean (Antigua, Haiti, Jamaica, St. kitts) - Arab (Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Syria) Durkheim’s Findings  Likely to commit suicide (Men, Christians, Un-married, seniors)  Unlikely to commit suicide (Women, Jews, Married, middle-aged) Durkheim’s Theory of Suicide  Social Solidarity: The degree to which group members share beliefs, values and intensify frequency of interaction -As level of social solidarity increases, suicide rates decline -However beyond a certain point, rate begins to rise again*  Three Types of Suicide… 1. Anomic Suicide: Occurs in low social solidarity settings, where norms governing behaviors are vaguely defined 2. Egoistic Suicide: Results from lack of integration of individual into society because of weak social ties to others 3. Altruistic Suicide: Occurs in high social solidarity contexts, where norms tightly govern behavior* Social Structures I. Microstructures: Patterns of social relations formed during face- to-face interaction (e.g. family, friendship, work association) II. Macrostructures: Patterns of social relations formed outside one’s circle of intimates and acquaintances (e.g. class relations, bureaucratic organizations, power systems) III. Global Structures: Patterns of social relations outside and above national level (e.g. United Nations, European Union, NAFTA region) Origins of the Sociological Imagination  Scientific Revolution: Encouraged evidence-based conclusions about society  Democratic Revolution: Suggested people were responsible for creating society; thus, human intervention was capable of solving social problems  Industrial Revolution: Created host of social problems; attracted attention of social thinkers* Main Theoretical Traditions in Sociology 1. Functionalism - Stresses human behavior is governed by stable patterns of interaction - Focuses on how social structures either maintain or undermine social stability - Argues social structures are based mainly on shared values - Suggests re-establishing equilibrium as a solution to most social problems 2. Conflict Theory - Focuses on large macro-level structures - Shows how major patterns of inequality produce social stability in some circumstances and social change in others - Stresses how members of privileged groups seek to maintain advantages, while subordinate groups struggle to increase theirs - Typically recommends eliminating privilege as means of reducing social conflict and increasing sum of human welfare* 3. Symbolic Interaction - Focuses on face-to-face interaction in micro-level settings - Emphasizes need for understanding subjective meanings that people attach to social circumstances - Argues that people help create their social circumstances, not merely react to them - Increases understanding and tolerance of difference by validating unpopular and unofficial viewpoints* 4. Feminist Theory - Focuses on various aspects on patriarchy: male domination in society - Suggests male domination and female subordination are determined by structures of power and social convention rather than biology - Examines operation of patriarchy in both micro and macro social settings - Recommends eliminating patterns of gender inequality* Today’s Social Setting  Post-industrialism: Technology driven shift from manufacturing to service industries and linked consequences of that shift for all of society  Globalization: Process by which formerly separate economies, states and cultures become tied together; also characterized by people becoming increasingly aware of their interdependence Sociological Issues in the Post-Industrial Era  Autonomy vs. Constraint: Individuals are more free to construct identities but are limited by new technologies (e.g. surveillance technology)  Prosperity vs. Inequality: New economic, political and educational opportunities, yet persistence of economic and political inequality  Diversity vs. Uniformity: Increased tolerance of diversity among strong push for conformity in many spheres of life Chapter 2 – Culture  Culture – Ideas, practices, and material objects that people create to overcome real-life obstacles  Society – people interacting socially and sharing culture, usually in a defined area  Ethnocentrism- Judging another culture based on your own  Cultural Relativism- The belief that all cultures should be respected as equally valid  Rationalization- Is the application of the most efficient means of achieving given goals and the often unintended, negative consequences of doing so  Bureaucracy- A large organization made up of many positions arranged in a hierarchy Consumerism  Is a lifestyle that involves defining one’s self in terms of the goods one purchases -Consumerism – defines who you are, by what you buy  Negative Consumerism… -By encouraging people to shop until they drop, this will result in more debt and ultimately makes people work more than necessary, which causes stress & depression Origins of Culture 1) Abstraction: Capacity to create ideas or ways of thinking that allow us to classify experience and generalize from it 2) Cooperation- Human capacity to create complex social life by establishing norms 3) Production- Human capacity to make and use tools, and thereby improve our ability to take what we want from nature  Postmodernism- is characterized by an eclectic mixing of cultural elements, the erosion of authority, and the decline of consensus around core values Social Interaction  Social Interaction: Communicating with other people, acting and reacting with other people  Role- A set of expected behaviors  Norm- A generally accepted way of doing things  Emotion Management: involves people obeying and responding appropriately to the situations in which they find themselves  Emotion Labor: Carefully manage their own emotions while trying to render their clientele happy or orderly Social Interaction involves trade in attention…  1 variant: Exchange Theory - All social relationships require a give and take  2nd variant: Rational Choice Theory - Interacting people always try to maximize benefits and minimize costs  Symbolic Interaction: people act in ways that is not “fair” or “just” even if it does not maximize gain  Role Distancing: giving the impression of just “going through the motions” but lacking serious commitment to a role  Ethnomethodology: the study of the methods ordinary people use, often unconsciously, to make sense of what other people
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