SOSC 1340 – October 5, 2010
- “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me
o Dom Helder Camara (1909-1999), archbishop of Recife, Brazil
- We have an economic system that is supposed to provide the daily bread
o At the same time there are those who do not have any food at all – the poor
o The system is failing what is claims to do
Lecture Outline – First
- What is society? We need to construct a concept of our object of analysis
- 2 social scientific readings
- Tonnies: Gemeinschaft and Gesselschaft
o context rise of market society
- C.Wright Mills: sociological imagination, social structure and public issues
o Social structure, history and individuals
o Formulating ‘personal troubles of the milieu’ as ‘public issues of social structure’
- We need concepts, objects, ideas, theories
- Social issues form the concepts of the essays we right
- Ferdinand Tönnies (1865-1936)
o Sympathized with Hamburg dock strikers in 1896 – Prussian gov’t considered him a
social democrat and denied him full professorship until 1913
o Co-founder of German Society of Sociology
o Removed from post due to his criticism of the Nazis
On one hand he is a communist
o Published G and G
o Helped to create discipline of sociology
- What is the argument?
o What is ‘society’ and how can ‘society’ be ‘known’?
o Society is best understood in terms of the relation between two parts that make up wht
o Gemeinschaft – ‘community’, the level of society where ties are informal and
cooperative, most often associated with kinship (blood relations) ties
o Gesellschaft – ‘society’, the level of society where ties are formal and based on
individual self-interest, where there is a complex and impersonal division of labour
Discuss the different level so societies where ties are formal
Formal world of everything
- What is society?
o Why is this distinction useful?
o First, distinguishing two components of society allows us to be more precise about what
is it that we are analyzing” not a ‘simple whole’ o How do individuals relate to society?
Individual as a means to serve the ends of social group (gemei – preserves
Social group as a means to serve private, individual ends (gessell – promotes
o Individuals working with gemein they are working within the community
o Second, Tönnies exposes a level of society, the community, in potential opposition to
another level, the formal world of work and “public life”
o Whats good for ‘Gesellscahft” may not be good for the other (and vice versa)
o Pursuit of individual interest antagonistic to community
o Tönnies says “we go out into Geseell as if into a foreign land” (18)
o We go out from the world of the familiar and assumed to the formal structured world
o Tonnies also makes the distinction between gemein as ‘old’, rural, and of the common
people and gesell as ‘new’, urban and of science and state
o Gemein is a living organism whereas gesell is a mechanical aggregate and artifact
o How ‘big’ is your ‘gemein’? Just your family? Religious group? Class group? What other
o How is conflict ‘managed’ within gemein? Gesell? Class, gender and ethnic conflict?
o This ‘new’ way of looking at society coincides with the development of the ‘impersonal
o In the 19 century, a ‘revolutionary’ change in the structure of society
Gemeinschaft about association
Gesellschat about dissociation
o Think about how traditional societies solve the economic problem (simple division of
o How does the market solve it? (VERY complex)
o Tonnies also discusses how the study of society requires a science – sociology
o But science as a method has difficulty with the living world – it is complex and changing
o Science prefers the ‘dead’ and manageable study of \parts\
o Sociology studies people in their relationships and the connections between living
o But imagination and science together can successfully understand society
- C.Wright Mills (1916-1962)
o An American sociology who was very influential int he student movements of the 1960’s
o He is famous for the ideal of the ‘sociological imagination’
- What is the promise?
o The promise is the ‘fruit’ of the sociological imagination
o The SI is “that quality of mind” that is essential to grasping the “the interplay of man and
o Why do we need it so badly?
Rapid change and social transformation: how can we understand it?
‘uncertainty’ or moral basis of evaluation: whats wrong with whats going on? Need creative solutions to the dangers facing humanity today: how can we get
from ‘what is’ to ‘what ought to be’?
- The ‘Trap’ of our private lives
o We are ‘trapped’ in the private orbits of our jobs, school, family and neighbourhoods
o What kinds of anxieties do you experience?
o What underlies sense of being trapped?
“seemingly impersonal changes in the very structure of continent-wide
o You cant understand your own personal troubles or the history of a society without
o How can these personal troubles be “translated” into social issues? Unemployment,
war, marriage and urbanization (mega-cities)
- The sociological imagination
o Enables the possessor “to take into account how individuals, in the welter of their daily
experience, often become falsely conscious of their social positions”
o Individual has to contextualize self within their own historical period
o Grasping the relation between history and biography the task and promise of SI: self
o For Mills then the important questions for sociology are around how we act in larger
o The individual, while important, is not the measure of society
o This contradicts the dominant economic viewpoint – social order the result of the
rational choices of individuals (methodological individualism)
o Individuals/social milieu organized into the “institutions of an hi