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Lecture

SOC479H1 Lecture Notes - The Sociological Imagination, Talcott Parsons, Scientific Revolution


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC479H1
Professor
Dsousza

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SOCA01- Introduction to Sociology Notes
Chapter 1- A Sociological Compass
The Sociological Perspective
-suicide appears to be an antisocial and non-antisocial act
-it is condemned by nearly everyone
-typically committed in private
-rare
-likely focus on individual’s state of mind rather than state of society
The Sociological Explanation of Suicide:
Emile Durkheim: showed that suicide rates are strongly influenced by social forces
-examined association b/w rates of suicide and rates of psychological disorders for different groups
-reasoned that psychological disorders causes suicide when suicide rates are high w/ high psychological disorders,
and low w/ low psychological disorders
analysis did not reveal this
-found more women than men in insane asylums but more men committed suicide than females
-Jews had highest rate of psychological disorders but had lowest rates of suicide
-psychological disorders occurred at maturity but suicide rates increase w/ age
-this relationship varied inversely
-argued that suicide rates varied as a result of social solidarity in different categories of the population
-the more beliefs and values a group’s members share and the more frequently and intensely they
interact, the more social solidarity the group has
-therefore, the more social solidarity they have, the less likely they are to commit suicide
-thus, Durkheim expected high-solidarity groups to have lower suicide rates than low-solidarity group, but only up
to a certain point
-showed that married adults half as likely to commit suicide as unmarried adults
-marriage creates social ties that bind the individuals to society
-women are less likely to commit suicide b/c involved in more intimate social relations in family life
-Jews less likely than Christians b/c persecution turned them into a group that is more defensive and tightly knit
-elderly more prone than the young and middle aged b/c most likely to live alone, lost a partner, lack a job and
friends
-a person’s likelihood of committing suicide decreases w/ the degree to which he or she is anchored in society
-called suicide in high solidarity setting altruistic (ex. soldiers)
-suicide in low-solidarity settings is egotistic or anomic
-egotistic results from the poor integration of people into society b/c of weak social ties to others
-anomic occurs when vague norms govern behaviour
-likely to be high among people living in a society lacking a widely shared code of morality
Suicide in Canada Today:
-men are 4 times as likely as women are to commit suicide
-today, it is much more common among youth
-shared moral principles and strong social ties have eroded since the 1960s

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-decrease in church, synagogue, mosque, and temple attendance (particularly among young people)
-unemployment is up, again especially for the youth
-rate of divorce has increased six fold
-births outside of marriage are also more common
-suggests that they have less frequent and intimate social interaction w/ parents and less adult
supervision
-social solidarity is now lower than it was especially for young people
-less firmly rooted in society
-less likely to share moral standards
Suicide of the Innu of Labrador:
-Canadians w/ the highest suicide rate are the Aboriginal peoples
-5-6 times as high and for Innuit youth it’s 11 times as high
-the Innu of Labrador have the highest rate of suicide among the Aboriginal peoples
-they are the most suicide prone people in the world (13 times as high)
-the Innu’s traditional norms and values have been destroyed
-they have been prevented from participating in stable and meaningful patterns of social interaction
social solidarity is very low
-they relied on hunting and trapping for their livelihood
-government put pressure on them to give up their traditional ways of life an settle into communities
-laws, schools, and churches discouraged them from hunting, practicing their religion, and raising their
children traditionally
-teachers transmitted N.A. and European skills and culture
-most Innu wound up living on welfare
-lack of work and influence from their traditional culture
-became victims of family breakdown, sexual abuse, drunkenness, alcohol-related illnesses
-their movement to allow them to do their tradition hunting for up to 7 months a year led to dramatic
improvement
-however, government will still not allow them to regain their land
From Personal Troubles to Social Structures:
3 levels of social structure:
1. Microstructures
-people you know well are likely to know some of the same people
-people who are weakly connected (and who are weakly connected among themselves) are more likely to
know different groups of people
-give you more information about job possibilities
2. Macrostructures
-understanding the operation of macrostructures can be useful
-ex. married women who work full time (patriarchy)
-women have more responsibilities
-but when men and women share these domestic responsibilities equally they are happier w/
their marriage and less likely to divorce
-shows that other forces besides incompatible personalities often put stress on family
3. Global structures
-personal problems are connected to social structures and the micro, macro-, and global levels
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-social structural considerations broaden our understanding of the problem and suggest appropriate courses of
action
The Sociological Imagination:
-the ability to see the connection between personal troubles and social structures (C. Wright Mills)
-Mills emphasized difficulty of developing this quality of mind
Minority report:
-people believe 2 contradictory ideas w/ equal conviction
1. They believe they are free to do whatever they want
2. They believe the “system” or society is so big they are unable to do anything to change it
-neither is accurate
-social structures exert powerful control on our behaviour
-we are neither entirely free nor are we wholly predetermined
-changing social structures is possible
-require sociological imagination
Origins of the Sociological Imagination:
-sociological imagination was born due to 3 modern revolutions:
1. The Scientific Revolution
-using evidence to make a case for a particular point of view
-suggested that a science of society was possible
2. The Democratic Revolution
-suggested that people control society
-could help people find ways of overcoming social problems, improving the welfare of citizens and
effectively reaching given goals
-suggested that people could intervene to improve society
3. Industrial Revolution
-presented social thinkers w/ a host of pressing social problems crying out for a solution
Theory, Research, and Values
-Auguste Comte coined the term sociology
-conservative thinker and opposed to rapid change
-urged slow change and preservation of all that was traditional in social life
-never conducted research
Herbert Spencer:
-2nd founder of sociology
-did not conduct research as well
-believed he has discovered scientific laws governing the operation of society
-thought societies comprised interdependent parts
-included families, governments, and the economy
-suggested that societies evolve in the same way as biological species do
-survival of the fittest (evolved from barbaric to civilized)
-“social Darwinism”
-nowadays, few sociologists think that societies are biological systems
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