WHAT IS SOCIOLOGY? (FIRST UNIT)
Sociology is the systematic study of human action in social context. Our relations with
those around us create opportunities to think and act. But, limits us from our thoughts
Ontology-what is real?
Epistemology- how do we know what we know?
Birth of Sociology
Scientific Revolution (16th century) - theories needed to be substantiated by evidence
Democratic Revolution (18th century) - human action can change society
Industrial Revolution (19th century) - give the sociologist their subject matter
Seeing the general in the particular. Sociologists identify general patterns in the
behaviour of particular individuals. General categories which we happen to fall into
shape our particular life experiences.
Acknowledges that each individual is unique, society acts differently on various
categories of people (children vs. adults, men versus women etc.)
Example through considering causes of Suicide:
-often regarded as antisocial and non-social act
-hidden social causes of suicide
Emile Durkheim's Contribution (functionalist): end of 19th century demonstrated suicide
rates were strongly influenced by social forces. Examined association between rates of
suicide and rates of psychological disorder for different groups
Durkheim argued suicide rates varied as result of differences in degree of social solidarity in
different categories of the population. Social solidarity refers to:
-the degree to which group members share beliefs and values; and the intensity and
frequency of their interaction
Mechanical vs Organic forms of social solidarity
The sociological perspective stresses the social contexts in which people live and how
these contexts influence their lives. At the core of this perspective is the sociological
imagination, a term coined by C. Wright Mills (1959).
The sociological imagination is a sociological vision—a way of looking at the world that
allows links between the apparently private problems of the individual and important
social issues. Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be
understood without understanding both.
At the centre of the sociological perspective is the question of how people are influenced by
their society—the group of people with whom they share a culture and territory.
To find out why people do what they do, sociologists look at social location, or where people are
located in a particular society. Sociologists consider occupation, income, education, gender,
age, ethnicity, family, mass media and others Why Sociology?
Must learn to be a critical thinker who can deal with ambiguity
Both a researcher who is skilled enough to choose wisely among many research designs and
Become a theoretician capable of devising convincing explanations for research
Compass: Did you know that?
Lenses: Had you thought it like this?
Snowflake: We are unique.
Uses causal and probabilistic reasoning, tradition and authority provide us with starting
points but should not be the end.
Errors in Inquiry
-Inaccurate Observations, Overgeneralization, Selective Observation, Illogical
Characteristics of a critical thinker
-independence of mind (able to think for oneself)
-intellectual curiosity (disposition to wonder about the world) and courage (willingness to
evaluate all ideas, beliefs, viewpoints etc. and reflexive disposition (aware you are not
-intellectual humility (awareness of one's knowledge)
-intellectual empathy (conscious need to put oneself in others shoes to understand)
SOCIOLOGICAL RESEARCH is undertaken by describing, understanding and
improving the social world we live in.
Data (empirical facts) Theory (tentative explanation of observed regularity)
CONFLICT THEORY AND KARL MARX
-class conflict was central to his theory (struggle between classes to resist and
-he beleived workers would, become aware of the exploitation (develop class
-or form a trade union and labour party, which would end private ownership of property
(bring out communist society)
CONFLICT THEORY AND MAX WEBER
-noticed growth of the service sector of economy (manual workers and professionals)
and showed that class conflict is not the only driving force of history. argued politics and
religion as important sources of historical change.
AFFINITY (Affinity in terms of sociology, refers to "kinship of spirit", interest and
other interpersonal commonalities.) VS DOGMATISIM (the tendency to lay down
principles as incontrovertibly true, without consideration of evidence or the opinions of
DIALECTS OF SOCIAL REASEARCH
Idiographic explaining one case in great detail
Nomothetic explaining a set of cases using a handful of factors
Inductive Thinking moves from particular observations to the general
Deductive Thinking moves from the general to a specific MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE Two events are mutually exclusive if they cannot occur at
the same time.
Culture refers to the knowledge, language, values, customs, and material objects that
are passed from person to person and from one generation to the next in a human
group or society
While a society is made up of people, a culture is made up of ideas, behaviors, and
Material culture refers to the physical creations that members of a society make, use,
and share. Everything from zippers to our homes and satellites in space
Nonmaterial culture consists of the abstract human creations of society that influence
people’s behavior. Language, beliefs, values, rules of behaviors, family patterns, and
Language provides the categories through which social reality is understood
Does not simply describe reality, but also influences our perception of reality.
Lawyers, politicians, marketers = all involve in shaping reality to fit their needs
Components of culture, symbols, language, values and norms.
Ethnocentrism: Tendency for person to judge other cultures exclusively by standards
of their own culture
Danger: hierarchy of cultures, prejudice & discrimination
Cultural Relativism: Judging cultural practices and beliefs exclusively in the cultural
context in which they appear
Globalization: The process by which formerly separate economies, states, and cultures
are tied together and people become aware of their growing interdependence
One of most important roots of globalization is expansion of international trade and
Cultural homogenizatiis an aspect of cultural globalization, listed as one of its main
characteristics, and refers to the reduction in cultural diversity through the popularization
and diffusion of a wide array of cultural symbols — not only physical objects but
customs, ideas and values.
Dominant Culture is the culture of the most powerful group in society. It is
the cultural form that receives most support from major institutions and
constitutes the major belief system
Popular Culture comprises the beliefs, practices, and objects mass-
produced and mass distributed, such as popular music and films, mass-
marketed books and magazines, large-circulation newspaper and
increasingly the Internet (71h of media per week) Consumerism: Tendency to define ourselves in terms of goods we purchase (e.g., we
are what we wear, drive, etc.)
Two Faces of Culture
Culture as constraining influence which limits certain amount of our choices
Culture as enabling influence which increases our choices
• Cultures change in response to changed conditions in the society
• Culture changes through cul