• 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.
Map of Suicide Rates
Copyright © 2013 Nelson Education Ltd. Durkheim’s Theory of Suicide Copyright © 2013 Nelson Education Ltd.
Suicide in Canada Today
• Suicide among youth has increased substantially since the 1960s.
• Shared moral principles and strong social ties have eroded since the early
– Religious participation has decreased among youth.
– Unemployment is up especially for youth.
– Children are more often brought up in single- parent
families now than in the past.
Youth Suicide in Canada
• The level of social solidarity is now lower than it was just a few decades
ago. • Youth are less firmly rooted in society, and less likely to share moral
• Theory of social solidarity helps us understand that young people in
Canada today are more likely than they were half a century ago to take
their own lives if they happen to find themselves in a deep personal crisis.
Suicide Rates by Age and Sex, Canada, 2006
Copyright © 2013 Nelson Education Ltd.
Pikangikum First Nation Reserve 12
From Personal Troubles to Social Structures
Social structure: Relatively stable patterns of social relations.
Three levels of social structure:
i. Microstructures: patterns of intimate social relations formed during face-
ii. Macrostructures: patterns of social relations outside and above one’s
circle of intimates and acquaintances.
iii. Global structures: patterns of social relations outside and above the
national level. Sociological Imagination
• Sociological imagination: The ability to see the connection between
personal troubles and social structures.
• Developed by C. Wright Mills in 1959.
• The sociological imagination is a recent addition to the human repertoire.
• In ancient and medieval times the thinking about society was not
sociological, instead people:
– Believed that society was controlled by God and nature.
– Relied on speculation rather than evidence.
Origins of the Sociological Imagination
1.Scientific Revolution (circa 1550): Encouraged evidence-based
conclusions about society.
2.Democratic Revolution (circa 1750): Suggested people were responsible
for creating society; thus, human intervention was capable of solving
3.Industrial Revolution (circa 1780): Created a host of social problems;
attracted attention of social thinkers. Auguste Comte (1798–1857):
• Auguste Comte (1798–1857): Sought to understand the social world using
scientific method of research.
• Coined the term “sociology.”
• Wanted to place the study of society on
• Origins of sociology based on scientific methods of research and a vision
of the ideal society.
Herbert Spencer (1820–1903)
• Believed that he had discovered scientific laws governing the operation of
• Theorized that societies evolve in the same way as biological species do.
• Social inequalities were necessary in order for societies to evolve.
• Spencer’s ideas became known as “social Darwinism.”
Theory, Research, and Values
• There is tension between (i) belief in importance of science, and (ii) vision
of ideal society.
• Tension reflected in works of important early figures in sociology (Karl
Marx, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber) and continues today.
• Founders adopted scientific research methods in their work but they also
wanted to chart a better course for their societies. 19
• Theory: Tentative explanation of some aspect of social life that states how
and why certain facts are related.
• Sociological ideas are usually expressed in the form of theories.
• After sociologists formulate theories, they can conduct research.
• Research: Process of carefully observing social reality, often to “test” a
theory or assess its validity.
• Values: Ideas about what is good and bad, right and wrong.
• Values help sociologists formulate and favour certain theories over
Sociology’s Theoretical Traditions
1.Functionalism: How is social order supported by macrostructures?
2.Conflict Theory: How is social inequality maintained and challenged?
3.Symbolic Interactionism: How do people create meaning when they
communicate in microlevel settings? 4.Feminism: What are the social sources of patriarchy in both macro and
1.Stresses that human behaviour is governed by stable patterns of social
relations (“social structures”).
2.Shows how social structures can either maintain or undermine social
3.Suggests social structures are based mainly on shared values or
4.Argues that re-establishing equilibrium is the best way to solve most
• Durkheim’s theory of suicide is an early example of functionalism.
Functionalism in North America
• Talcott Parsons: Identified how various institutions must work to ensure
smooth operation of society as a whole.
• Robert Merton: Proposed that social structures may have different consequences for different groups of people.
• Some consequences may be disruptive or dysfunctional.
• Dysfunctional consequences: Effects of social structures that create social
• Some functions are manifest: visible and intended effects of social
structures, while others are latent: invisible and unintended effects of social
• Focuses on large, macrolevel structures.
• Shows how major patterns of inequality produce social stability in some
circumstances and social change in others.
• Stresses how members of privileged groups seek to maintain advantages,
while members of subordinate groups struggle to increase theirs.
• Elimination of privilege will lower the level of conflict and increase human
Karl Marx (1818–1883)
• Conflict theory originated in work of Marx.
• Central to Marx’s ideas was class conflict (struggle between classes to resist & overcome opposition of other classes).
• Marx believed that workers would ultimately become aware of their
exploitation which he called “class consciousness.”
• Form trade unions and labour parties, which would end private
ownership of property and bring about a “communist” society.
Max Weber (1864–1920)
• Noted growth of the service sector of economy where workers enjoyed a
higher status and income than workers in the manufacturing sector.
• Showed class conflict is not the only driving force of history.
• Argued politics and religion also are important sources of historical
Conflict Theory in North America
• C. Wright Mills laid foundations for modern conflict theory in the 1950s.
• Was not until 1960s—with its growing labour unrest—that conflict theory
took hold in North America. • Many s