Sociology is the SYSTEMATIC STUDY of human society
Social order, social disorders, social change
The heart of the discipline is the “sociological perspective”
How do the general categories we fit into shape our personal
How do social norms, values, and expectations guide our everyday
How do social forces affect the way we play out our lives?
Sociological perspective examines the relationship between personal
troubles and three levels of social structure:
1. Microstructures – patterns of relatively intimate social relations.
2. Macrostructures – overarching patterns of social relations that lie
outside and above one’s circle of intimates and acquaintances
3. Global structures – patterns of social relations that lie outside and
above the national level.
Sociological perspective helps us to:
Look at the world around us critically
Understand that our place in the world affects our daily experiences
Sociological perspective asserts:
Action is not completely voluntary!
Our social position always comes with prescribed behaviours,
obligations, and privileges – all of which amount to social constraints or
restrictions on free will.
Question: Does a little girl born into an aboriginal family living on a reserve have
the same chance of becoming Prime Minister as a little boy born to a wealthy
family living in an upper-class neighbourhood?
Looked at suicide rate in his society, and during his time there were
high rates of suicide. Wanted to explain why.
Demonstrated suicide rates were strongly influenced by social forces
Association between rates of suicide and rates of psychological
disorder did not vary directly
Suicide rates vary across groups
Social ties and integration – the degree one is anchored in society
affects suicide rates
C Wright Mills (1959) We need to move beyond individualistic explanations and focus on:
the interplay between biography, self, history, and the world.
One has a sociological imagination when s/he understands her/his own
experience by locating her/himself within her/his socio-historical period
and becoming aware of other individuals in the same circumstances.
History and Biography
What are the central concerns of youth today?
What influences these concerns?
How is the focus of these concerns different from previous
Changing milieu, changing focus
1930’s – working hard and survival
1950’s – marriage, stable careers, children
1970’s – political consciousness raising, questioning norms,
1990’s – lack of political involvement, consumerism and pop culture
From personal troubles to social structures:
When one person experiences poverty, it may be individual trouble. But
on closer look, if this individual is a single mother, and 1 in every 3 mothers is
living below the poverty line, then it is a problem connected………
Sociology – sociological imagination can help us better understand
ourselves as wee as others, our capabilities, and out limitations.
The sociological imagination is a skill that enables one to
Origins of sociological imagination:
Auguste Comte (1798 – 1857) – Sought to understand the social world
using scientific method of research
Coined the term sociology
Herbert Spencer (1820 – 1903) – made claim for discovering scientific
laws governing operation of society.
Scientific Revolution (circa 1550): Encouraged evidence-based conclustions
Democratic Revolution (circa 1750): suggested people were responsible for
creating society; thus, human intervention was capable of solving social
Industrial Revolution (circa 1780): Created……………. Day 2
Tentative explanations of some aspects of social life.
Theories state: “WHY and HOW certain effects are related?”
o E.g. Durkheim: Suicide – social solidarity
The process of systematically observing social reality.
Theories can be revised, modified or even rejected after research
Major Sociological Theories
Structural Functionalism (Durkheim)
Conflict Theory (Marx)
Symbolic Interactionism (Weber, Mead, Goffman)
Originates from Durkheim
A macro-level perspective
Human behavior is governed by relatively stable social structures
Think about “human body”
Society: A complex system whose parts work together to promote
“Each institution/social practice plays a function in the society”
The importance of stability Natural state of the society: Harmony-balance-equilibrium
Society is based on consensus
How would a structural functionalist explain social order?
How would they explain social disorder?
How would they explain social change?
Inequality and competition for scarce resources
Society is based on CONFLICT not consensus
Change – not consensus and stability
Power – suppressing other
Conflict – society’s natural state
Revolution – NOT evolution
o A group rise against oppression and revolts against the larger
How would conflict theorists explain social order?
How would they explain social disorder?
How would they explain social change?
Weber, Mead, Goffman
Micro level – interpersonal communication
Social life is possible only b/c people attach meanings to it
Individuals – Actors!
o Individuals interact with each other to create meaning thus, may
lead to disagreement
o Behaviour is based on the interpretation of symbols (i.e.
Language and gestures)
SI are interesting in:
o Symbolic interaction and interpretation that takes place.
o Culture and what defines culture
o Groups we belong to and the roles we play with those groups. QUESTIONS
How would symbolic interactionists explain social order?
o Order is based on shared meanings.
o Society/order exist with individuals
How would they explain social disorder?
o If individuals define society as being disordered, then it is
How would they explain social change?
o Inequality in education, work, domestic responsibilities, etc.
Focus: Patriarchy, male domination
Micro and macro levels
Harriet Martineau – 1 woman sociologist
Change: Gender equality.
Popular culture (or mass culture) – culture consumed by all classes
High culture – culture consumed mainly by upper classes (opera, ballet, etc)
Society – A large group of people in a particular geographic area who share a
Culture – is what the society holds in common (knowledge, belief, art, morals,
a) Material Culture
Artifacts of society
Houses, tools, computers
b) Non-material culture
Language, norms, values, beliefs
The culture of any society includes:
Which help to shape…
a) Values The ideals or the generally accepted standards of behavior
They help to define what is considered to be the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’
The are not ‘rules’, they help to shape the rules, which are the norms
More precise rules, which tell the members of a society what is correct,
and what is prohibited behavior
There are different types of norms. They differ by the reaction of the
group when violated. Some behaviours need to be more severely
sanctioned than others.
4 types of norms:
1. Folkways – least important norms that also evoke the least severe
2. Mores (pronounced MOR-ays) – Core norms that most people believe
are essential for survival of their group or their society.
3. Taboos – Are among the strongest norms. When taboo violated, it couses
revulsion in the community, and punishment is severe.
4. Laws – are formal rules made by the legislative bodies of a society to
regulate specific behaviours.
The punishment for breaking laws is usually clearly stated, written
down and enforced by the state
Q: Are all laws examples of norms that are mores?
Ideal vs Real
Ideal culture – what you believe should be the case.
Faithfulness in Marriage
Real Culture – How people really act.
Adultery 22% of males and 14% of females admit to committing adultery.
Common Characteristics of Human Culture
a) Culture is learned
b) Culture is transmitted
a. Symbols and language
c) Culture is shared
Ideal Values of Canadians
Citizen’s forum on Canada’s Future (1991)
Equality and fairness
Consultation and dialogue
Accommodation and tolerance
Support for diversity
Compassion and generosity
Cultural Universals: It is important to keep in mind though, that even within what we call
cultural universals, a great diversity exists.
o Eg. While almost all societies have a taboo against incests,
which family member are included in this taboo varies greatly
from culture to culture
Cultural Diversity within a society
Members are similar in terms of background, ethnicity, language, religion
Varied social characteristics – race, ethnicity, language, religion
The Two Faces of Culture
Cultural Diversity – As freedom
We are increasingly able to choose how culture influences us, b/c
there is more to choose from
Canada’s culture becoming increasingly diverse.
Immigrants make up 19.8 percent of population.
Tastes in music, food, clothes are more diverse.
Inter-racial marriage increasingly accepted.
At political level…
Multiculturalists say: People now free to piece together own cultural
interests, practices, identity, from a world of possibilities.
Political disunity, and results in more interethnic & interracial conflict.
Extreme cultural relativism (is in danger of encouraging respect for
cultural practices deemed abhorrent to most Canadians)
The Right Revolution:
Process by which socially excluded groups havae struggled to win
equal rights under the law and in practive
Began in second half of the 20 century
Through rights revolution, demogracy has been widened and
deepened (women’s rights, the rights of members of minority groups,
gay and lesbian rights, etc.)
Refers to the belief that one’s own cultural view is the only correct view
and that the cultural practices of others are somehow wrong or not
Superior – inferior cultures. Types of ethnocentrism:
Eurocentrism – Ideas of cultural superiority shaped by the experiences of white,
middle class males in Western Industrialized societies
Androcentrism – male centeredness, the bias of seeing things from a male
point of view.
Orientalism – E. Said
- google it….
Although biology sets broad human limits and potentials, its role in
determining specific human behaviours and social arrangements is
Development of culture – sum of shared ideas, practiced and material
objects that people create to adapt to….
Social Interaction: involves people communicating face to face or via computer
and acting and reacting in relation to other people.
is structured around statuses, roles and norms
Status: Refers to recognized social position an individual can occupy (each
person occupies many statuses)
Examples of the following, anyone?
o Ascribed status – gender, student, position at work.
o Achieved status –
Ascribed status: is an involuntary status
Achieved status: is a voluntary status
Status set: Entire ensemble of statuses occupied by an individual
Master status: A person’s overriding public identity, and the status that is most
influential in shaping that person’s life at a given time.
Whereas people occupy statuses, they perform roles.
Roles: “Sets of expected behaviours”
Expectations define the roles
Entire cluster of roles attached to a single status is called a role set
Role conflict: Occurs when two or more statuses held at the same time place
contradictory role demands on a person.
Role strain: Occurs when incompatible role demands are placed on a person in
a single status.
What shapes Social Interaction?
Norms, roles, and statuses are building blocks of all face-to-face
Whenever people communicate face to face, these building blocks
structure their interaction Norms, roles, and statuses turn social interaction into a durable social
How social structure is maintained is the most fundamental
sociological question that can be asked.
The Structure of Social Interaction
Social interaction requires norms, or generally accepted ways of doing
Norms may be prescriptive or proscriptive.
Prescriptive norms: Suggest what a person is expected to do while
performing a particular role.
Prodcriptive norms: suggest what a person is expected not to do
while performing a particular role.
Norms often change over time
o At one point in time, some norms are universal
o At other times, norms may differ from situation to situation and
from role to role.
A general pattern: Where different classes/statuses interact, people associate
laughter with class or status hierarchy.
Why is it that we feel embarrassed whe we cannot control our
emotions in public – laugh too much – or become frozen
Our culture offers us ‘scripts’ to follow, we learn how to cover emotions
– to pretend we are really happy, or funny
Emotions pervade all social interaction
Rather than being spontaneous and uncontrollable reactions to
external stimuli, …….
Emotional management: is a term that identifies that we obey ‘feeling rules’ so
we can respond appropriately to situations… is this wise?
Emotional labour: is emotion management that many people do as part of their
job and for which they are paid
feeling rules take different forms under different social conditions,
which vary historically
grief, anger, and disgust are neither universal nor constant but have
histories and deep sociological underpinnings in statuses, roles, and
Verbal and nonverbal communication: The Social Context of Language
Social interaction typically involves complex mix of verbal and
nonverbal messages (facial expressions, gestures, and body
Understanding of social and cultural context is necessary for making
sense of language because same words can mean different things in
Need for learning nuances of meaning…..
There are not any universally recognized facial… Sociologists commonly distinguish four zones that surround us; the size of these
zones varies from one society to the next.
visual indicators of the other people’s social position
Can help people define social situation but also can quickly degenerate
o Rigid views of how members of various groups act,
regardless of whether individual group members really
behave that way
Types of interaction
1. Domination: - occurs when nearly all power is concentrated in the
hands of people of similar status, whereas people of different status
enjoy almost no power
2. Cooperation – occurs when power is relatively equally distributed
among people of different statuses
3. Competition – occurs when power is unequally distributed, but
degree of inequality is less than in systems of social domination
From Small Processes to Big Structures
face to face interaction forms microstructures
sustained microlevel interaction often gives rise to higher-level
structures – mesostructures, such as networks, groups, and
Sociological theories focus on 6 aspects of social interaction:
1. The way people exchange valued resources (exchange)
2. The way they maximize gains and minimize losses (rational choice)
3. The way they interpret, negotiate, and modify norms, roles, and statuses
4. The way they manage the impressions they give to others (dramaturgy)
5. The way preexisting norms influence social interaction (ethno-
6. The way status hierarchies influence social interaction (conflict)
Social interaction involves people communicating face to face, acting
and reacting in relation to each other
Character of every social interaction depends of statuses, norms, and
roles. Humour, fear, anger, grief, disgust, love, jealousy, and other emotions
colour social interactions
Nonverbal means of communication, including facial expressions,
gestures, body language, and status cues, are as important as
language in social interaction
People interact mainly out of fear, envy, or trust
Sociological theories are useful in helping us understand
Socialization: is the process by which people..
Learn their culture- including norms, values, and roles.
Role is behaviour expected of a person occupying a particular position in society
Social Isolation and the crystallization of self-identity
Consequences of children raised in social isolation:
Rarely develop normally
Are unable to form intimate social relationships with others
Acquire only basic language skills
Are disinterested in game
Formation of the self:
The self: consists of your ideas and attitudes about who you are
Formation of a sense of self begins in childhood and continues in adolescence
Crystallization of self identity during adolescence is just on episode in the lifelong
process of socialization
Theories of Childhood Socialization:
Suggested the following was important self development:
1) ID: Part of self that demands immediate gratification (self-image begins to
emerge as soon as id's demands denied)
2) Superego: Part of self that acts as repository of cultural standards (develops
because many lessons of self-control taught to children (e.g toilet training)
3)Ego: Psychological mechanism that balances conflicting needs of pleasure-
seeking id and restraining superego
Topographical Model of Personality
Everything we are aware of is stored in our conscious.
Unconscious: Part of self that contains repressed memories we are not normally
aware of (result of having to deny our id immediate gratification) Freud's Theory
Is often criticized for neglecting socialization after childhood
Main sociological contribution of Freud's theory-> the self emerges during early
social interaction and that early childhood experience exerts a lasting impact on
Cooley's Symbolic Interactionism
Cooley introduced idea of "looking-glass self".
When we interact with others, they gesture and react to us; this reaction allows
us to imagine how we appear to them
We then judge how others evaluate us
From these judgements, we develop a self-concept or set feelings and ideas
about "who we are"
Mead's Theory of the self
Mead proposed following concepts in self development:
The "I": Subjective and impulsive aspect of the self that is present from birth
The "Me": Objective component of the self that emerges as people communicate
symbolically and learn to take the role of the other.
Showed how children's moral reasoning---their ability to judge right from
wrong---- also passes through developmental stages:
1) "Pre-conventional" stage----> whether something gratifies their immediate
2)"Conventional" stage----> whether specific actions please their parents and
teachers and are consistent with cultural norms.
3)"Post-conventional" stage---> When a person develops capacity to think
abstractly and critically about moral principles.
Gilligan and Gender Differences
Argues social position affects socialization
Demonstrated sociological factors help explain differences in sense of self that boys and girls usually develop
Attributed differences in moral development of boys and girls to different cultural
standards parents and teachers pass on them.
Agents of Socialization
1) Families---> Most important agent of primary socialization, which is process of
mastering basic skills required to function in society during childhood
2) Schools---> Increasingly responsible for secondary socialization or
socialization outside the family after childhood
Conflict Theorist suggest schools impart hidden curriculum that teaches students
what will be expected of them in larger society.
3) Peer Groups
Peer groups help children and adolescents separate from their families and
develop independent sources of identity
Are especially influential over lifestyle issues, such as appearance, social
activites and dating
4) Mass Media: Have become increasingly important socializing agent in 21st
Fastest-growing mass medium is the internet
Tv viewing still consumes more of average Canadian's free time than any
other mass medium
Gender Roles, the Mass Media and the Feminist Approach to Socialization
Gender Roles: Widely Shared expectations about how males and females are
supposed to act
Feminist Sociologists claim masculinity and femininity are not innate; rather we
learn gender roles and partly through the mass media
Social construction of gender roles by the mass media evident in movies and
People do not passively accept messages about appropriate gender roles but
often interpret them in unique ways and sometimes resist them.
Adult Socialization through the LIfe Course
Although we form our basic personality and sense of identity early in life,
socialization continues in adulthood. Adult roles change as we mature
To help us learn a predictable new role, we typically engage in anticipatory
socialization, which involves taking on norms and behaviours of the role to
which we aspire.
Resocialization and Total Institutions
Resocialization: Takes place when powerful socializing agents deliberately
cause rapid change in peoples values, roles and self-conception.
Can occur in total institutions: Settings in which people are isolated from larger
society and under strict control and constant supervision of a specialized staff
(e.g asylums, prisons)
Transition of the individual from one group to another and ensures his or her
loyalty to the new group.
Adult Socialization and the Flexible Self
Peoples identities change faster, more often and more completely than they did
just a couple of decades ago.
Factors contributing to growing flexibility of the self are:
Globalization (frees people to combine elements of culture from wide variety
of geographical settings)
Growing ability to fashion new bodies from old (due to technological
New forms of social interaction: exchanging text, images, and sound via e-mail,
Virtual Communties: Associations
Problems of Childhood and Adolescent Socialization Today
Several developments in past 40 years have changed socialization patterns of
Canadian youth, including the following:
Declining adult supervision and guidance
Increasing media influence
Declining extracurricular activities and increasing adult responsibilities
Result: Many teenagers today are too busy with homework, household chores
and part time jobs
Change: raises possibility of childhood and adolescence disappearing
Conclusion Social interaction is necessary to unleash human abilities
Socializing influence of the family is decreasing while influence of the school,
peer groups and mass media is increasing.
Are witnessing a growing flexibility of the self
Various social changes are transforming character of childhood and adolescence
EXAM 2 – DECEMBER 5
CHAPTERS: 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 FROM TEXTBOOK
FROM READER (TUTORIALS) HURRICANE KATRINA,
Refers to way in which society is organized in layers or strata
o (Society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy)
o Pyramid shaped – Few ppl at top, lots at bottom
How are Canadians stratified?
Stratification involves 4 basic principles:
1) It is a trait of society
It is not based on individual effort or merit
2) It persists over generations
Parents pass their social position onto their children
3) It is universal, but variable
Social stratification is found in all societies, but the dimensions of
stratification vary across cultures/societies
4) It involves both inequality and beliefs about inequality
Provides more opportunities for some than others, but is define this
process as fair and equitable.
Ascription-based stratification system: allocation of rank depends
on characteristics a person is born with
Achievement-based stratification system: allocation of rank
depends on a person’s accomplishments
Social mobility: Refers to movement up or down the stratification
Status inconsistency: the degree of consistency in a person’s social
standing across various dimensions of social inequality.
Class vs. Caste
a) CASTE SYSTEM – social stratification is based on ascriptions or birth. A
pure caste system is CLOSED
b) CLASS SYSTEM – social stratification is based on both birth and
individual achievements/merit. These systems are more OPEN MERITOCRACY – social stratification is based entirely on personal
merit – or the job that one does and how well one does it.
Income inequality in Canada
MATERIALISM - ….
Despite the advantages of living in Canada, things might be better…
Despite working harder and longer, families’ incomes have not
Almost half of all income is held by 20% of individuals and families
Canada is highly stratified.
Income, Wealth and Power
MARKET INCOME – wages or salaries from work and earnings from investments
and private pensions.
WEALTH – Total value of money and other assets. Mix of family fortune,
business acumen, and opportunism typically key determinants of wealth
Wealth inequality is increasing in Canada – but not as much as in the
United States, which surpasses all other highly industrialized countries.
The richest 5% of Canadian families have wealth valued at over
The poorest 5% of Canadian fimilies have a negative wealth at -$5,700
that is they actually live in debt
The wealthiest 5% of familites in Canada control over 40% of the total
Social Classes in Canada
Upper Class ($135,000+)
(5%) - Upper-uppers (1%)
- Lower-uppers (working rich)
(35%) - Upper-middles ($90-135,000)
- Average-middles ($55-90,000)
(40%) - ($25-55,000) – little wealth
(20%) - minimal income, no wealth
The bottom 10% of the population has no assets and considerable
The top 10% own 58.2% of the nation’s wealth
HEALTH: health is closely related to social standing. Children born into poorer
families are more likely to die from disease, neglect, accidents or violence during
their first year of life than children born into wealth families. Richer children are
also predicted to live longer. Video – Neoliberalism as water balloon
Myths about the poor
MYTH #1 – People are poor because they do not want to work
overlooks the working poor and those who are unable to work because
of disability or inadequate child-care provisions in Canada
MYTH #2 – Overwhelming majority of poor people are immigrants
Only recent immigrants experience poverty rates significantly higher
than the Canadian-born
MYTH #3 – The welfare rolls are crammed with young people who ought to be
earning a living.
only a small minority of welfare recipients are under age 20
MYTH #4 – Most poor people are trapped in poverty
Most people try to move out of difficult circumstances, and most
succeed, at least for a time.
Poverty in Canada
Relative Poverty: Deprivation in relation to average standard of living.