Lecture 1

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Published on 25 Apr 2011
January 11
Lecture #1 – SOC102
Introduction to Sociology
What is social inequality?
-life is not a matter of chance, but rather a game of skill and cunning
osociology is dedicated to explaining how this social game” works and the reasons most
people face heavy odds
-social inequality means crime, sickness, addiction, violence and sometimes even war for society
as a whole
-the dictionary defines inequality as the quality of being unequal or uneven
-inequality is about hierarchical (i.e., better-worse) differences between any two people (or things),
A and B
-our personal experience also tells us there are many natural inequalities between people
owe know that simply by looking around us and talking to other people
othe question for sociologists is, how do these natural inequalities become social
inequalities, and with what results?
- finally, sociologists are interested in how people invent or construct (unnatural) inequalities
oconsider for example the staging or performance of inequalities in connection with
physical beauty
why do some societies reward beauty – especially in women – more highly than
they reward, say, intelligence?
flipped around, what are the unwelcome consequences of being plain looking?
-to explain the creation, performance, and preservation of social inequalities, we need to develop
some sociological concepts
-a number of social characteristicsfor example, class, gender, race, and agesignificantly affect
peoples well-being
osocial inequalities have various sources, including the economy, the state, religion and
popular culture
ointersectionality makes it hard to predict the effects of inequality simply adding together
individual disadvantages
-each type” of woman will have a different experience around discrimination in the workplace or
in respect to domestic violence, for example
-sociologist Gerhard Lenski also showed that status consistency matters
oconsistent: pretty and smart; lot of money and fame
oinconsistent: pretty and stupid, plain and smart, lots of money and no fame
*inconsistent people: more likely to be politically radical? (idea proposed, but not proven)
-status consistent has consequences for social action that we cannot predict from the so-called
dimensions of status alone
-intersectionality also means that people in disadvantages social conditions (e.g. women, racial
minorities, or poor people) may find it hard to share a common identity and band together for
political action
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ohowever, this complexity does not mean that everyones life is different and sociologists
cannot draw general conclusions or make general theories about inequality
-people hold strong, passionate and often angry or bitter views about inequality
obut is inequality a real problem in society or an imaginary one?
to do this we need to recognise that social problems have at least two aspects
objective elements
omeasurable signs of disadvantage
olikewise, we can measure the prevalence of inequality
obased on a philosophical premise, called positivism, that there is
a physical reality we can perceive with our senses
subjective elements
opeoples evaluations of objective conditions
othese moral or aesthetic judgements reflect peoples tastes and
values; and they are a social reality in their own right
oso, a second goal of sociology is to make and test theories about
peoples subjective beliefs and their social outcomes
-sociologists must take proper account of peoples thoughts and beliefs, as well as the objective
situation in which they find themselves
oboth types of reality lead people to take steps that change livesour own and others
often, social constriction of social problems means putting a problem on the
political agenda
a central feature in the social construction of social problems is called claims-
-by bringing together these objective and subjective elements, we can define inequality as a social
problem characterized by
oempirically measurable features that threaten the well-being of people in society; and
ostrongly-felt beliefs that inequality is a social problem that warrants collective remedial
-some would say problems only become social problems when claims-makers and moral
entrepreneurs succeed in drawing public attention to them
ohowever, some problems deserve our attention even if most people are ignoring them,
most of the time
oconsider the example of racism
Why might racism be a problem?
- first, racism may cause ethical problems
oinequalities and exclusions might also pose practical problems, such as income inequality,
poverty, crime and demoralization
-second, the lack of intergroup contact, due to exclusion and racism, may isolate non-white people
from mainstream Canadian society
-third, racism might produce secondary psychological effects like prejudice and even self-hate
oracism may even produce bad health conditions
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