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Lecture 9

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SOCI 2070
Janice Newson

Lecture 9 Soci 2070 A 1 Social action and social institutions Lecture 9 OUTLINE: Social Action and Social Institutions - Antedates - Social actor: always social, always in connection with others. Social actors are interpretive, have interpretive capacities. We don’t all see the world the same way that act on some kind of drive or instinct and do the same thing all the time. Human beings are more able, have the capacity because they have consciousness to interpret the world, because we don’t see the world the same way. - Sociologists call human beings social actors - Now we are going to look how those social actors through interaction create a social world; a family (the notion of a family and how it works), a society - What does it mean for action to be social? What makes their activity social? The primary social idea we’re building on is from Weber, who gave us a social definition of action that we are using that accommodates all of the ideas we have been discussing so far. - Human actors are oriented to others. It means we take in to account what the other is meaning from their action - In lecture, prof went up to two students and stuck out her hand and the students knew to shake her hand. Then she went to a third and stuck her hand up and high fived the third student. - Language, sign language, gestures, body language; very informative and represent to outside actors meaning of the individual - Weber: social action is action that is oriented to other. And the aspect to other. We try to establish meaning that the other actor is. As a server, we need to read the gestures and body languages of strangers to understand how to react to them Lecture 9 Soci 2070 A 2 Social action and social institutions - If we involve others in our action than it is social action. Is all human action social? Weber says that there are human actions that aren’t social, that are a reflex for example. Ex: when you may receive a threat and you turn and run. You’re understanding that threat and figuring out the threat of the social action and telling yourself to run. - May when C Wright Mills wrote about the happy robot, he’s writing about people who act without a thought, they are reacting to what is around them subconsciously - Weber wants us to understand the aspect of human behavior that makes us social is the process involving others that makes us social. He grants there could be imitation. We are interested in human action that is orientated to other social action. - We could be oriented in social action even when we’re alone. Ex: female alone in her apartment hits a chair and says “oops”. Sneezing when you’re alone and saying excuse me. - Our action takes into account the response of others and how others will understand what we’re doing. We not only want our behavior to be understandable to another person, but we are constantly reading other people’s behavior to know how we should act. It’s a foundational idea of what social action is. We will be developing this idea further throughout this course - Part I: MAX WEBER AND SOCIAL ACTION 1. Human actions become social when they are “oriented” to other. “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 Lecture 9 Soci 2070 A 3 Social action and social institutions possibilities, and by so defining, that same actor is also exercising control and creating and reproducing the social conditions of control in interaction with other actors.” (From Chris Jenks “Active Passive” in Core Sociological Concepts (1998) p. 268) - He’s doing theoretical thinking. Trying to set out what is the subject matter of sociology, what is social action, how can we establish social action from other things? Part II: SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS: BERGER AND LUCKMAN What is a social institution? Any pattern of social interaction that becomes stabilized and routinized. The work place is an example of an institution. A handshake. When action becomes a recurring social practice, it is on its way to becoming a social practice and social institution. More examples consist of Religious rituals, schools, marriage, gender as a social institution (gender represents a set of ideas and relationships between people that define people as male or female, or in-between). - For us to understand institutions we need to understand the meanings we attach to it. What is the meaning to the actors who participate in it that is all part of the social institution? - Us in a social world understand social action; when you haven’t seen a loved one or friend in a long time, you hug. When you are meeting a business partner, you shake hands. It is understand ritual behavior. 1. From previous lecture, “social interaction” is the means through which we, as social actors, create, maintain and change social orders. 2. A simple definition of social institution is: any pattern of social interaction that becomes stabilized and routinized over time. Lecture 9 Soci 2070 A 4 Social action and social institutions 3. B and L provide an origin story - Important ideas not in the article - In the early part of the book B and L wrote, we create/construct the social world through social interaction. B and L say there are 3 moments (NOT stages) to social construction. They say moments because they don’t want us to look at it as a linear process, something that happens over time. It is 3 moments, 2 distinct things, that are social construction: o externalization, o objectification, and o internalization. Think of it as a circle, not a line. It is constantly going on. This is how the world is made. It is a process that also changes things. a) Externalization: refers to the moment in which the interactions between social actors are expressed externally through language and gesture. Now it is “out there”, not inside the two actors but out there through their language and gestures I. The dyad (pair, two actors interacting with each other) in their interaction there is no social world, it is a trial and error process. We have all done this when travelling to an unknown location and we need to ask a question. We use words ad sounds to communicate with another person. This is the action they are talking about. II. In the article, the relationship B and L are talking about is a couple, two actors that emerged into a couple, husband and wife. Prof changed it to mother and child. But yet we don’t have the defined category yet, we just have 2 actors acting in a trial and error phase; A and B. A figures out when he does X (blinking one eye), the other actor, B, stretches her lips out over her teeth in an upward direction as her reaction, Y. Every time actor A does X, actor B does Y. This Lecture 9 Soci 2070 A 5 Social action and social institutions is what B and L called typification, something is being typified. X happens and is followed by Y. A begins to learn when I do X, I will get the other to do Y. And also, Y learns this vise versa. Then B and L, this typification pattern, works like trial and error. “If I do this, then they will do this”. Over time these actions acquire a rhythm. Each actor makes an assumption about another. The stretching of the lips is the reaction to the blinking of my eye, they begin to make assumptions. Notion of Weber involved in the other; his idea of social action, taking account of what the other does, has an influence on my understanding of what is going on. As things continue, these discreet actions (blink, stretching of lips), emerge into what Berger calls a repetition of actions. III. If we are thinking of a child with mother, developing this communication pattern, they are not just communicating between winks and smiles. Other things are going on too; understandings are beginning to emerge. These two actors get a sense of the role they have vise a ve each other. The sense of child in relation to parent and sense of parent in relation to child. Each one begins to play their role; child acquires behavior of what is desired of a good child, cute child, etc. Mother becomes the one who feeds, nurtures, clothes, gives pleasure and happiness to the child, and approval in many ways. IV. Berger says out of this complicated role-playing, there is an understanding of mutual actions and roles, reciprocal relationships. The child learns the child role, what is means to be a child, how I’m suppose to act, what pleases mother, how to be fed. The child also learns the mother’s role, the matching role because that’s what makes it a dependable system. One actors actions are anchored in the actions of the other. Over time this mutual understanding that if I do my role it is Lecture 9 Soci 2070 A 6 Social action and social institutions expected that you will do your role. Kids saying “youre not being a good mother”, it’s having this idea in your own mind of knowing what a good role is. This mutual understanding becomes habitualized/ routinized. - When a parent is inconsistent in their role playing it creates conflict in the role playing of the child as they become unaware of what their actions are to be. - The relationship between two people is being manifested, there is language, names, and different roles, and understandings of how to behavior in your roles  this information is out there. It becomes externalized. First stage of externalization. Important because it makes it possible for us to predict what others do so it makes it possible for us to rely on what we’re supposed to do. - Approaching a line up with another person; we rely on our roles, gestures and body language, to line up accordingly with understanding and no chaos as who is to get on the bus first. The patterns of interaction and roles we take into being habit, allow us to complete our daily lives smoothly and without chaos. - Makes it possible for us to rely on routines, walk
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