C hapter 5
I. Social Interaction and the Division of Labor
A. Core Concept 1: When sociologists study interactions, they seek to
understand the larger social forces that bring people together in
interaction and that shape the content and direction of that interaction.
1. Social interaction - an everyday event in which at least two people
communicate and respond through language and symbolic gestures to
affect one another’s behavior and thinking.
B. Core Concept 2: The division of labor is an important social force that
draws people into interaction with one another and shapes their
1. In The Division of Labor in Society ( 1964), Durkheim provides
a general framework for understanding the underlying forces of
2. Division of labor - work that is broken down into specialized tasks,
each performed by a different set of workers specifically trained to do
a. The workers do not have to live near each other.
b. The tasks are geographically dispersed.
c. The parts and materials needed to manufacture products come
from many locations around the world.
C. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, European governments vigorously
colonized much of Asia, Africa, and the Pacific, searching for natural
resources and for low-cost labor.
II. Solidarity: The Ties that Bind
A. Durkheim noted that as the division of labor becomes more specialized and as
the sources of materials for products become more geographically diverse, a
new kind of solidarity emerges.
1. Solidarit- the ties that bind people to one another in a society and
shape their interactions
a. Mechanical solidarity characterizes a social order based on a
common conscience or uniform thinking and behavior.
i. This similarity is derived from a simple division of labor and
the corresponding lack of specialization.
ii. A simple division of labor causes people to be more alike than
iii. This similarity gives rise to common experiences, skills, core
55 Social Interaction
beliefs, attitudes, and thoughts.
iv. The ties that bind individuals to one another are based
primarily on kinship, religion, and a shared way of life.
b. Organic Solidarity - Social order or system of social ties based on
interdependence and cooperation among people performing a wide
range of diverse and specialized tasks.
i. A complex division of labor increases differences among
ii. A decrease in common conscience
iii. The ties, based on specialization and interdependence, that bind
people to one another can be very strong.
III. Disruptions to the Division of Labor
A. Durkheim hypothesized that people become more vulnerable as the division of
labor becomes more complex and more specialized.
1. Events that break down individuals’ ability to meaningfully connect
with others through their labor include
a. ndustrial and commercial crises caused by plant closings,
massive layoffs, crop failures, technological revolutions, or war.
b. w orkers’ strikes.
c. ob specialization, insofar as workers are so isolated that few
people grasp the workings and consequences of the overall
d. forced division of labor, to the extent that occupations are filled
according to inherited traits (such as nationality, age, race or sex)
rather than ability.
e. inefficient management and development of workers’ talents and
abilities, so that work for them is nonexistent, irregular,
intermittent, or subject to high turnover.
2. Disruptions to the division of labor have plagued the Congo region
since at least 1883.
a. Disruptions established connections and interactions among
people, threw people that were unfamiliar with one another
together, and made them vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.
b. HIV’s origin must be placed in the context of European colonial
rule of Africa and the ways in which colonial practices shaped
interactions among outsiders and the hundreds of Congolese
3. biological event; it is a social event as well.
IV. Social Status
A. Core Concept 3: When analyzing any social interaction, or any human activity,
sociologists locate the social structure in which it is embedded.
1. Social structure - largely invisible system that coordinates human
interaction in broadly predictable ways.
2. Social structures encompass at least four interrelated components:
statuses, roles, groups, and institutions.
a. Social status: a human-created and defined position in society
i. Status set - all the statuses a person assumes
ii. Ascribed statuses - result from chance; that is, the individual
exerts no effort to obtain them
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iii. Achieved statuses - acquired through some combination of
personal choice, effort, and ability
iv. Ascribed statuses can play a role in determining achieved
v. Master status - one status in a status set that overshadows the
others such that it shapes every aspect of life and dominates