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Lecture 2

SOC101Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Cultural Relativism, Consumerism, Ethnocentrism

Course Code
Robert Brym

of 2
Sept 19 - Lecture 2
Ethnocentrism: involves judging another culture exclusively by the
standards of one’s own
Cultural relativism: the belief that all elements of all cultures
should be respected as equally valid
Cliterectomy: all procedures involving total removal of female
genital (girls 4-5) and some people believe it will enhance female
fertile. Female are unclean and masculine if they have a male gentile
(clitoris) and will likely be sexually active, and unlikely to remain
faithful in marriage. Infection shots, psychology damage, infertile, as
the result it is now consider violence against women.
Culture can restrains us but gives us tools for liberation:
1. Rationalization: the application of the most efficient means to
achieve given goals and the often unintended, negative
consequences of doing so.
Bureaucracy (Max Vebber): large impersonal organization
composed of clearly defined positions arranged in a hierarchy. It
has permanent, salaried stage of qualified experts and written
goals, rules and procedures. Staff members strive to achieve
goals more efficient.
2. Consumerism: lifestyle that defines one’s self in terms of the
goods one purchases (Ex. we dress to tell what our identities are
and what groups we belong to and don’t belong to)
We have desperately to be part of a group and not an outcast.
We don’t want to be excluded, our inclination is to conform.
High levels of consumerisms are environmentally damaging =
Theoretical Traditions in Sociology
Tradition / Focus / Main Question / Fashion Interpretation
1. Tradition: Functionalist
Focus: Values
How do the institutions of society contribute to social stability? /
Fashion exists to have social inequality. Fashion cycles help to
preserve the class system by allowing people of different rank to
evaluate and distinguish themselves.
After the 1960 fashion become more democratic – upper class
more likely to adopt lower class fashion = turned into conflict
2. Conflict / Inequality / How do privileged groups maintain advantages
and subordinate groups seek to increase theirs, often causing social
change in the process / Fashion cycles exist so the fashion industry
can earn profits, fashion distracts consumers from social problems
but the resulting equilibrium is precarious. Fashions are a means
when owners and companies make more money when they
encourage people to buy new clothes often.
1. Keeps consumers distracted from economic, political, and social
2. Make bigger profit
Colour Mafia: help change colour pallet “In 2 years these are going
to be the colours - makes sure the mass media all present the
same option each season
Influenced by styles, but fashion is made by consumers
3. Symbolic interactionist/ Meaning / How do individuals communicate
to make their social settings meaningful? / Because fashions are
meaningful, fashion cycles allow people to communicate their
identity, which is always in flux.
Clothing is the most important part of expressing gender and
4. Feminist / Patriarchy: male domination / Which social structures and
interaction processes maintain male dominance and female
subordination? / Fashion cycles often “imprison” women and diminish
them by turning them into sexual objects but they can also empower
Functionalism can help us understand / Conflict underline / Symbol
assist communication between population and culture / Feminist
1. Define culture sociologically
2. Understand the twin dangers of ethnocentrism and cultural relativism
in understanding culture sociologically
3. Appreciate the ways in which culture constrains people and frees
4. Analyze cultural phenomena from functionalist, conflict, symbolic
interactionist and feminist perspectives