Theorizing Fort Mac – Making Sense of Social Change – Morality or Money?
What is the relationship between the “material” world and the social world?
The idea is if you have a successful economy, you have a successful society.
Economy can cause social problems (rapid social change – Fort Mac)
Society built on social facts
- External coercive requirements of how to behave and think
- Crystallized as institutions
Our behaviour is not our own – our behaviour is a result of powerful external influences
(Durkheim called social facts) Similar to the force constantly exerted on people by the
atmosphere – we’re unaware of it in our day to day life.
If we want to keep the two parent family, we’ll discourage other forms of family – saying they
are less successful and whatnot. To discourage women from having children out of wedlock– The
idea that we do what we’re told and if we break away from that, there will be consequences
Humans need membership and community – we provide institutions for that
A social fact is something you yourself cannot transform. If you need $50, but only have a $5
there is nothing you can do to make that $5 worth $50 – but a bank can restate what that $5 is
worth so it could be worth $50 or $0.05
Social Currents: unorganized intangible power
Proof: statistics as measure of collective mind
Looks at prison rates, employment rates, and infectious disease rates – “This IS a fact” Humans
must be married – look at these numbers, thus, this is a fact.
Durkheim does not look at what is good for humans on an individual scale, but for humanity as a
Karl Marx: Class Conflict not Collective Conscience
Capitalism restructured social world into classes
Social impacts: alienation
If anomie (Durkheim) is the loss of norms – we don’t know who we are and have no sense of
community (we need to be forced into these things to be “well”. Marx argues that capitalism
forces people apart and alienates people for its own best interest.
- Loss of solidarity
Capitalist society materially driven not morally created
- Profit over humanity
Capitalism is the idea of maximizing profit and minimizing cost which concerns Marx – it is not a
naturally occurring phenomenon but it is intentional by those in power.
Values (not just pursuit of profit) drove social change towards capitalism
- Protestant work ethic
Pure scientific study of society not possible
- Value free of idealism
Diverse economic and social systems – why?
If you look globally, capitalism isn’t just a “one off” that was replicated – it’s different is different
parts of the world – it’s inconsistent. The Protestant work ethic (work hard and get rewarded by
God after death) brought capitalism – if people were good capitalists they would become good
Protestants. Does capitalism create this or does religion? Durkheim was all about science, but Contemporary Sociologies
Society worthy of scientific study through systematic observation
- Predict, control, manipulate social conditions
Society as an organism that adapts to external/internal threats
- Equilibrium achieve through institutional responses
We can study moments of profound trauma – what happened after 9/11? What happened after
the Montreal massacre? Some would say 9/11 is a good thing because it brought the country
together, but others could argue that it brought out a lack of trust and religious wars. Often the
trauma on the surface begins to bring positive results. WWII – Nuremburg trials – the United
We have to be able to step back from trauma and say “this was an outcome of that”.
The SARS outbreak – shifts in policy – hand washing and anti-bacterial policies. Having hand
sanitizer in your purse became a social norm. You could be fined for spitting in a public place –
spit carries germs and we want to reduce the spread of such. Sick people check at airports – “Do
you have a cough? Have you had a fever?”
HIV’s affect – you cannot get into the US without having a test for HIV – all pregnant mothers
are tested – gay men had not been able to donate blood.
Both the situation and its impact – even much later on in time is of interest.
The response of a healthy society is to create institutions to contain or correct the threat.
Contemporary Marxist Approaches
Society is based on inequality and conflict
- Consensus and cohesion are not natural states
Ideas are used to reproduce conflict and inequalities
- Naturalize inferiority or dangerousness
- E.g. sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia
Our natural state is not harmony, but is based on scarcity – there is never enough to go around
so you should fight to get what you need. This creates homelessness, destitution, lowers birth
rates, and decreases life expectancy. Why haven’t we fixed this? This order of inequality has
become globalized and entrenched.
In an advanced society we don’t have machine guns, or fascist regime – we give up 35% of our
pay check and work in poor conditions without saying anything because we don’t want to lose
our jobs. This reproduces these conditions
We hear “We need to put Ontario first, we can’t support foreign workers, etc” as a way of
convincing us that the cause of this is immigration being too high as opposed to building more
housing and whatnot to create a safer society
You don’t feel controlled – you have to go to class, go to work, do your readings – but you’ve
chosen your courses, your clothing and your partner. How much is framed in such a way that you
have very little control over your life? We’ve been told “you’re the master of your destiny” … but
Why can we hear homophobic