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SOCI 2070
Janice Newson

Soci2070 Section A 1 Lecture 8-Social Actors and Social Interaction Lecture 8: Social Actors and Social Interaction The Social Actor: 1. “Social actors” is the term we sociologists give to human beings as members of social worlds. 2. What it means in sociological terms for human beings to “do their thing.” (a) Sociologists don't accept “human nature” as an adequate account. (b) Sociologists challenge accounts based on innate human characteristics. (c) Sociologists emphasize that human beings are social beings. “Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.” Quote from Albert Einstein. 3. Sociologists understand human behaviour in terms of human beings connectedness to others. 4. Stephen Katz’ reading is based on the sociological idea that the self is social. Soci2070 Section A 2 Lecture 8-Social Actors and Social Interaction 5. “The self” is not another word for “human nature.” The self is not something we are born with. 6. Social selves are created through social interaction. ... "We must learn to interact our way into life." (Katz, p. 141 of Kit, second column.) 7. George Herbert Mead was a twentieth century social theorist who focused on how social selves are acquired. (a) a deeply social process beginning at birth; (b) The “social self” is fluid (c) “The social self” has more than one aspect. (d) We develop a “self” through a complex process, (e) As we mature, our self becomes embedded in complex webs of social relationships, from those closer at hand to those that extend well beyond our immediate social world. (f) Social maturity also helps us to develop sophisticated social capacities for living in these complex social worlds. 8. Wolfe argues that these social capacities are distinctive to human beings. (a) distinguish from other animlas/objects (b) can't use methods of natural sciences “Because the social sciences study human behaviour, their use of scientific procedures must reflect the characteristics of human subjects.” (pge. 177 of reading) (c) use methods that view social actors as meaning-makers, interpretive Soci2070 Section A 3 Lecture 8-Social Actors and Social Interaction “Humans can bend the instructions given to them in ways that the giver of instructions could not have anticipated… They can alter and shape the rules that govern them.” (This quote is not in the chapter by Wolfe in the kit reading but in the book by Wolfe from which the kit reading is taken) Examples: 9. Building better worlds ... "The laws that govern their (human beings) behaviour must include the possibility that they can change the laws that govern their behaviour. " p. 138 of the reading kit, left column, first full para) “The social sciences, in trying to understand the human difference, should …. look to the interpretive capacities of human beings which enable them to imagine alternative worlds”. (p. 169 of Wolfe, not in the reading kit) 10. Wolfe's warning ... “Good societies are those that enhance the capacity of humans to attribute meaning to the things about them: bad societies are those that do not.” (p. 139 of Kit) "Because we can interpret the world around us, we can build societies that enable us to search after the good." (p. 139 of Kit) Soci2070 Section A 4 Lecture 8-Social Actors and Social Interaction 11. WOLFE stands alongside Mills and Gadamer ..... “Weber says ... the world could be almost anything, it is infinite in its possibilities, but human beings ensure that it is always something and thus produce its stability by defining it and thus exercising control over it. So by defining a situation, an actor generates his or her own possibilities, and by so defining, that same actor is also ex
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