Sociology Review Questions
Introduction- The Millennials, Knowledge and Culture
1. Of all the different aspects to the “biography” of the Millennials entering universities in 2009,
what are the five or six most significant in terms of the influence they will have upon their
university learning experience? Do they apply to the class of 2015?
- Come from small, close families; they see their parents positively and seem to share their
values and worldview. Rely heavily on adults for direction, reassurance, and confirmation.
They have difficulty budgeting their time and have a sense of entitlement that makes it
difficult for them to be self-reflective and self-critical.
- Have had to wrestle with conflicting images of who they are and what is expected from
them. “you’re special”, but also told they must be inclusive and tolerant of everyone- no one
is special; everyone is essentially the same
- Faced constant pressure to succeed, both now and in the long term, but also to serve the
- First to grow up surrounded by digital media- cyberspace has always been there, and they
could turn to virtual reality when the real thing was too grim or difficult. I can “google” that.
Because of their immediate and direct access to so much information, they are politically
aware but less skeptical. They also constantly multi-task.
- The sense of individualism and of the power of the individual is extremely high. Not only
have they heard how much they are in control of their own destinies, but also the notion of
individual heroism in the post 9/11 period reinforced the belief that individual initiative
influence outcomes. Barack Obama “Yes, I can”
- Weaker sense of history. Encouraged to read more, but actually read less. We are always
multi-tasking and therefore tend to do most things superficially. Nike “Just do it”. To us
everything is in the past and we have grown up in a single superpower world without the
political tension of the past.
- Yes they still apply to the class of 2015.
2. Michael Wesch’s video presents the university experience from the perspective of his
students- what are the strengths of that video? What are its limitations? What is the
dominant message of the video? Do you agree with it? Why or why not? What, if anything,
has changed in the nature of the Millennials since Wesch’s 2007 production?
- Accurate portrayal of today’s students and how they are feeling disconnected and not
engaged. But hard to see clear message, at the end he has done a full circle and brought the
viewer back to the strengths and ideas of an erasable blackboard.
- Main point of the video is the disjunction between the way information is treated by the
educational establishment and the expectations of contemporary students.
- I completely agree because as a post-secondary Millennial I find that professors are
constantly asking us to slow-down and think the way they do using only slow, print media. I
am used to fast, small, repetitive bits of information and sometimes do not know how to
interpret complex messages and think critically about them.
- I don’t see that much has changed in the higher education system since 2007.
3. What did Marshall McLuhan mean by the phrase “the medium is the message”?
- Different media encourage and permit distinctive types of participation on the part of the
4. What is the distinction that McLuhan made between “hot” and “cold” media?
- Hot media is active, and construct the message it wants to project. Requires little effort by
the viewer. i.e., film - Cold media requires more effort because reader must interpret and construct the intended
message. i.e., written texts
5. Do you agree that eCulture centres on media that are “molten ice”? Why or why not?
- Yes I agree that it is molten ice, but I also agree that it is molten hot. It is always easy to
manipulate the information on the web and it doesn’t have constraints. But, it is also pre-
packaged and ready for instantaneous and passive consumption. The ways in which I
consume media tend to be more molten hot. As I search the web I am always processing lots
of little bits of information and in order to really remember that information I have to
process it repetitively.
6. Identify what you think are the three most important tensions that exist between the “old
school” and the “new school” approaches to knowledge. Can those tensions be resolved? If so
how and if not, why not?
- Contemporary instructors must recognize that today’s students live in a world of constant
- Need to recognize that our education can be supplemented by new technologies. These
systems of communication allow an instructor to provide audio-visual essays that stir
emotions and engage students.
- Both old and new school need to appreciate the benefits of knowledge from both. Old
provides a deeper understanding of the content, but new school considers print just ONE
type of information.
7. List two or three important points that a student should remember about mass culture.
- Critical theorists: believed mass culture steered away from owners of capital (mass
considered conformist, conventional, and collectively produced)
- Mass Society theorists: believed mass culture was a social consequence of modernity.
Relationships and conduct is shaped by development, production, transportation, and mass
8. Why did “everyday life” matter, as an analytical category, to Henri Lefebvre?
- Argues that capitalism has got so powerful that it has grown beyond organizing our
productive and social relations in society; it has sucked the meaning out of everyday life
- Took away the meaning and connection that life had outside of work
9. Why did “everyday life” matter, as an analytical category, to Dorothy Smith?
- Argued that the social reproduction of inequality could be seen in the normal interactions of
- Everyday life is a set of social relations that create and produce social inequalities
- Experiences of everyday life are important pieces of knowledge about our social world
The Millennials Continued; the Sociological Imagination
1. What are the “generic skills” that one should acquire in an undergraduate education and how
are they relevant upon graduation?
- Newall: at the core of liberal education is the duty of the teacher to impart and cultivate
those talents and excellences which would prepare a student to bear the obligations of
citizenship and to begin the exploration of the intellectual and spiritual life. Liberal
education speaks to human freedom and equality.
2. What are the three most important points related to Bloom’s argument about the importance
of a traditional, liberal education?
- Believes that higher education should answer the question: What is mankind?
1. Higher educations failure to defend and maintain a liberal education
2. Long term and immediate social pressures that deflect students away from engaging
with the questions that are central to a liberal education 3. Inner structure of universities, including their curricula, that have marginalized the
fundamental tenets of a liberal education.
3. What does Arnold mean by the term “culture”? To what extent is his notion of “culture”
spreading to the masses feasible? What would a sociologist, using Mill’s conception of the
sociological imagination, emphasize in answering that question?
- Culture is the pursuit of perfection: inspire people to seek greatness in themselves and a
better world in which we live. Not realistic, all people can not have ALL ideas. Sociologist
following Mills sociological imagination would emphasize that you would need to place his
personal biography (and those will all of the ideas) within the history of social structure and
see how society has always been broken down with ideas not being shared that freely.
4. Explain what is meant by “stocks of everyday knowledge”, “the natural attitude”, and the
“web-like nature” of social relationships
- Natural attitude is that people naturally (biologically/innately) see themselves, from their
own personal perspectives as individuals
- Everyday stocks of knowledge are what people learn from their everyday lives about
language, math, biology, etc.
- Web of social relations is that our experiences are integrated into a web of social
relationships, connections are modified as we act
5. Who would you identify within the web-like nature of you current existence?
- Network of informal social relationships and pressures: professors, university regulations,
- Formal social relationships: parents, siblings, friends
6. According to Mills, do ordinary men and women have a good grasp of the world around them?
Why does he make that claim?
- No, the average person sees the world from their own particular, limited perspective. They
do not usually connect his or her problems with larger social issues or within a broader
social context. He makes this claim because he believes we are bounded by our own private
7. What is the particular “quality of mind” he feels people need to have- describe that quality of
mind in a phrase.
- Sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the intersection of
the two within society.
8. What does Mills mean by the term “imagination”?
- Imagination involves creative mental processes and the active role of the mind; developing
an increasingly more comprehensive mental view of the relationship between an individual
and his or her social location.
9. In a sentence, what is sociology’s “task and promise”?
- the promise of sociology is grasping the intersection of personal biography with the history
of social structure
10. Describe the opening scene in Psycho and explain why it serves as an ideal vehicle to illustrate
the key features of Mills’s conception of the sociological imagination. Think of a recent movie
you’ve watched and describe it from the perspective of the sociological imagination.
- Moving from the broad wide angled picture of Pheonix, the viewer is brought directly into a
close, personal exchange between Marion and her lover Sam Loomis. Mills thinks you must
take into account that Marion and Sam are located in a particular society- during a specific
period- they live where and when a number of social forces shape their lives and everyone
else’s. 11. What is significant about the term “civil society” in terms of “society” as a term used in the
- Adam Ferguson: a civil society associated with the new commercial social order, the rise of
public opinion, representative government, civic freedoms, plurality, and civility. In these
terms, society came to depict a realm of contractual and voluntary relationships
independent of the state, which in turn became merely one area of social activity among
others. Society was increasingly conceptualized as a realm of diffuse voluntary associations,
in which individual self-interested action result in an equilibrium of unintended
12. Write out three or four words that will enable you to “define” sociology at this point in the
- Social inquiry
- Social relations
- Evidence-based social inquiry into the social world and informed by conceptual frameworks
and established methodological approaches
The Sociological Imagination
1. How many sets or types of questions does Mills suggest that good sociologists ask- to what do
1. What is the structure of this particular society as a whole?
- Structure = how webbed/woven together are the social relationships; what are the
- Fixed, permanent
2. Where does this society stand in human history?
- Mechanisms of change
- Meaning for humanity
- How is the particular feature of social relations affected by the historical period
3. What varieties of men and women prevail in this society in this period? What varieties are
coming to prevail?
- Human nature revealed in the conduct and character
2. Write three or four sentences that would explain to a friend why those types of questions are
important for sociological analysis.
- They help the reader begin to think in broader, sociological terms: grasping history and
biography and their intersection in society
3. Identify the main features of a “personal trouble of milieu” and use Sam as an example of
someone with personal trouble.
- Occur within the individual and within the range of his immediate relations with others; they
have to do with his self and with those limited areas of social life of which he is directly and
- Sam has debts and burdening financial obligations. His financial struggles undermine his
personal happiness and personal wishes and goals.
4. Identify the main features of an “issue of social structure” and use Marion as an example of
someone whose personal trouble is also an issue of social structure.
- Matters that extend beyond the local environments of the individual and his or her inner
life. Organization of many milieu into the institutions of an historical society as a whole; the
ways in which milieu overlap to form the larger structure. An issue is a public matter that
threatens an agreed upon value. - Marion feeling trapped between wanting sexual fulfillment and maintaining respectability is
NOT a public issue, but when a growing number of women feel trapped by the contradiction
that exists between respectability and sexual fulfillment, it becomes a broader public issue
5. Are the two completely separate? If not, what is their interrelationship?
- Personal troubles of milieu, social structure, and public issues
- All three are interrelated; intersection of personal biography and social structure
6. What is meant by the term “false consciousness”? Use Marion as an example of someone in a
state of false consciousness- what would be necessary for her to escape her state of false
consciousness and attain a sense of “true” consciousness?
- Peoples social circumstances have prevented them from perceiving a particular injustice
even though someone in a different situation or using a different perspective would easily
see the injustice and repression; naïve and distorted representation of their lives
- True consciousness arises from use of the sociological imagination
7. Identify a few of Mills’ personal characteristics- why might they be relevant to first year
students in sociology?
- Robust, strongly independent iconoclast who thought of himself as largely self-made
- Upbringing contained no educational, economical, or cultural benefits
- Cut himself off from his family background and found himself alone
8. What are the key features of an intellectual craftsman?
1. Ability to integrate: work and life, biography and social structure
2. Active and on-going commitment to learning
3. Applying critical reason to empirically informed analysis
4. Commitment to public scrutiny and criticism
5. Keeping files and a journal
Karl Marx and the 1859 Preface
1. What are two or three aspects to Marx’s biography that surprise you? Why are they
- He was an underachiever in high school and was a normal student, who got in trouble for
drinking, in university
- He was blocked from an academic career
2. Why would one describe Marx’s work as a dialectical, unstable, whole? What is meant by that
description and why is it (or not) a good description?
- His work is extremely suggestive and stimulants thought and debate
- Marx is easily misrepresented as others try to make his work into a consistent whole
- Good description because he wanted to describe a complex and dynamic social formation,
3. What is meant by the term dialectic?
- Model of thought different from normal; linking micro and macro together into a unitary
whole; comprehensive analysis
- Change generated by an internal dynamic of contradiction, negation, and transcendence
4. Who was Friedrich Engels and why is he important to Marx’s work and the idea of Marxism?
- Devoted his life to destroying capitalism, but was a successful entrepreneur and industrialist
- Devoted to Marx and Marxism
- Lead international socialist movement
5. Why is the “Preface” to Marx’s Towards a Critique of Political Economy important to
- Represents an introduction to the guiding thread of Marx’s analyses of the political
economy of different social formations - Accurate consolidation of Marx’s main approach and it is unstable and incomplete
6. For Marx, production is fundamental to social life- what is the double significance for this
- Ontological condition of humankind
- Actual conditions of relations will shift with time and place
- We enter determinate, necessary, relations of production
- Totality of these relations of production shape the economic structure of society
7. What are the two elements that constitute “the mode of production”?
- Social relations = ownership and control of the forces of production (i.e., owner and
- Material forces = material elements involved in production (i.e., labour, machinery, raw
8. What is meant by “technological determinism” in connection with Marx’s 1859 Preface?
- Idea that machinery is the key to social change
9. What are the main features of the “economic determinist” argument that capitalism will
result in a revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist order?
- The economy, as a whole, drives history and social change
- Economy determines or shapes the types of contradictions (between the productive forces
and social relations of production) that will emerge and create, animate, or drive
10. Think for a moment about the integrated conception of base and superstructure presented at
the end of the chapter and the entry on Marxism and sociology. In what way do those
conceptions of Marx’s work complement or overlap with each other? In what way do they
- Marxists argue that capitalist societies are organized into classes defined by their unequal
rights and powers over the means of production and over the products of economic
- Social relations, comprised of real individuals, their activity, and the material conditions in
which they live, constitute the ‘economic structure’- the real basis of legal and political
superstructure and forms of social consciousness
o Being determines consciousness
11. Was Marx a sociologist, a political economist, or a polemical revolutionary?
- Both; critiqued and focused on political economy using the sociological imagination
Karl Marx and the Classical Tradition
1. In the “orthodox” reading of Marx’s theory of social change, how does change occur? Where is
the source of dynamism?
- Transformation of society occurs from changes within its material infrastructure
- The internal dynamic of the mode of production generates the social contradictions that
lead to revolutionary social change
- Motor of historical change is the tendency of the material productive forces to grow and
come into conflict with the social relations of production, ushering in an age of social
2. What are the constituent parts of the “forces of production”?
- Means (machinery and raw materials), the spaces of production (factories), and labour-
power (the workers)
3. What is the significance of recognizing “living labour-power” and “spaces of production” as
components of the forces of production? - Recognizes that there is a subjective (or human) element contained within the economic
base- the presence of labour-power means conscious workers
4. What is the role of “the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophical, in short, ideological
[superstructure]” in Marx’s theory of social change?
- Reflection of the infrastructure
5. How might that contrast with the ideas of early political economists?
- Early political economists suggested that social institutions greatly affect the economy
- Marx believed that superstructures arise from the economic structure of society
6. Put the key ideas from Marx’s 1859 Preface into a 7 point summary
- Dynamic tension between forces of production and social relations of production; material
productive forces contradict with the existing social relations of production
- Technological determinism = idea that machinery is the key to social change
- Economic determinism = course of history- source of the major tensions that create social
change- is reduced to the economy
o Economy determines the type of contradictions that will emerge, driving social
- Theory of overproduction:
1. Drive for profit puts pressure on capitalists to continually increase their productive
advantage over others
2. Drive leads to technological innovation, BUT replaces employees with machines
3. Unemployed are too poor to purchase goods
4. Number of consumers for surplus of commodities falls Problem #1 (profit goes down)
5. Unemployed will work for less, lowering wages
6. Employed are economically insecure, decreases consumer demands Problem #2
(profit goes down)
- Marx’s fundamental concerns in the preface: freedom from exploitation, greater equality in
the sharing of social resources, and the full expression of human potential; each requiring a
fundamental change in the structure of society
7. What is the relationship between Marx’s 1859 Preface and post WWII policies influencing the
economic development of the global south?
- Economic development started after WWII; as a consequence of the war, there was a need
to reconstruct the destroyed economies of Europe and Japan, and to supply financial
assistance to the newly freed colonial possessions of losing states
8. What is common among Marx, Walter Rostow, and Immanuel Wallerstein?
- Economic factors dominate ideological ones
- Stages of development from capitalism to socialism
Karl Marx and the Communist Manifesto
1. Within the Manifesto, what are the main features Marx attributes to the bourgeoisie as one of
the two main titans in the struggle for power?
- Bourgeoisie was a revolutionary class that radically transformed society as it rose to
dominance within the feudal order
- Entrepreneurial, capitalist class
2. What are some of the key images that Marx uses in the Manifesto that suggest it is an
insightful presentation of the dynamics of modernity?
3. Within the Manifesto, what are the main features Marx attributes to the proletariat as one of
the two main titans in the struggle for power?
- Unified, powerful, working class that grew in size and political power as its grievances rise
- Key to social revolution 4. Why did Marx think the proletariat would become a revolutionary force? To what extent was
that one of the social consequences of the dynamic of modernism?
- The dynamic of modernity “forged the weapons that bring death to itself; it has also called
into existence the men who are to yield those weapons- the modern working class- the
- Antagonist relationship of capital and wage labour that, in time, will see the increasing
consolidation of power within the working class
- Not only will the proletariat grow in strength, but the forces of right and justice will grow
5. Explain the significance of “class consciousness” for understanding the sociological theory
Marx sketched out in the Manifesto.
- Subjective element to social change
6. Put the key ideas from the Manifesto into a “Quick Facts about Manifesto” summary.
- Principle statement of how and why the revolutionary workers’ movement in Western
Europe would succeed in transforming society into a more egalitarian social formation
- History or societies is the history of class struggles; bourgeoisie rose with an advancing
- Time and space shrunk with the constant update of technology
- Contradictions within the mode of production
- Growing proletariat will ultimately overthrow the class that created it, the bourgeoisie
- Social change requires an objective/human component and a subjective component (class
7. Draw up a “Marx in a Summary Box”
- Market society overtaking feudal order
- Constant revolutionary change of the instruments of production
- Political economy
- Contradictions within the mode of production
- Capitalism socialism communism
- Social changes requires human (objective) and subjective components
- Class struggle (klassemkampf) is one of the major motive forces of history
- Social formations are dynamic, unstable, contradictory, dialectical wholes
Establishing Sociology as an Empirically-Based Science of Society
1. What are the key components to the Cartesian method?
2. What three social types did Montesquieu identify and on what basis did he make those
- Classified by how they are governed; each is characterized by a “nature”(who holds
sovereign power) and a “principle” (passion or spirit that animates those who govern)
- Despotic governments, monarchies, republics
3. What important dimensions of social control did Montesquieu identify?
- Empirical observation, holistic approach, spirit of society, linked nature of a society with its
4. What are Saint-Simon’s three main contributions to sociology?
- Science of society: Championed the development of an empirically based science of society
- Holistic conception: Uses the structure of medieval society as his reference point; medieval
society was comprised of different orders, which were arranged in a hierarchy that
eliminated class conflict (producers nobility spiritual elite)
- Stage theory: conception of society as an integrated, functional, evolving entity
5. What is the importance of the structure of medieval society for Saint-Simon’s thought? - Uses the structure of medieval society as his reference point
6. What are the three stages of history that Saint-Simon identified, what were their
characteristics, and why did he see the process as one of development?
- Theological, metaphysical, positivist
- Least complex starts first
7. What is meant by “positivism” and what are the most important characteristics of Comte’s
- System of knowledge based exclusively on the methodology of the natural sciences
(systematic, observationally-based knowledge)
- Rejects the notion of absolute truths, all findings and observations are relative
8. What are Comte’s three stages of history?
9. What was the relationship between social statics and social dynamics?
- Change happened through the progress of both; scientifically informed, ordered progress
Emile Durkheim and the Classical Tradition
1. What was Durkheim concerned about when he wrote The Division of Labour in Society and
how did the study move his sociological framework forward?
- The Division of Labour concentrates almost exclusively on the substantive problem of social
- Durkheim also uses it to introduce another of his major contributions to sociology: the
question of methodology in sociology.
- Method of positive science
- 2 Main Questions:
1) Why does the individual, while becoming more autonomous, depend more upon society?
2) How can he be at once more individual and more solidary?
2. What is the significance of the term conscience collective in Durkheim’s study The Division of
Labour in Society?
- Conscience collective exists separately from the consciousness of each individual, but comes
into existence through all individuals thinking, judging, and acting
- External; born into it
- Moral assessments and ‘what to do’
- Through it individual and society are brought together in social action
3. What two types of law did Durkheim use to serve as empirical indicators of the conscience
- Repressive law = response of the individuals in a society in which law dominates to anyone
who transgressed the ideals in the collective conscience
- Restitutive law = re-establishment of troubled relations to their normal state
4. What is meant by “organic solidarity” and “mechanical solidarity”? What is the relationship
between the two?
- Organic solidarity = individuals depend on society because he depends on its parts
- Mechanical solidarity = individual is bound to society through a full belief system
5. How and why does Durkheim distinguish biological and psychological facts from social facts?
- The subject matter of sociology is distinct from biology because it deals with shared ideas
and patterns of conscious action as well as with social institutions and structures
- In comparison to psychology, sociology would instead be concerned with processes that are
external to the individual
- If all facts about people are counted as ‘social’ facts, sociology would have no subject matter
exclusively its own, and its domain would be confused with that of biology and psychology 6. Why does Durkheim use the example of children being educated (or socialized) into society-
what is the importance of the example with respect to a “social fact”?
- To demonstrate the point that the forces that impinge upon people and guide or constrain
their actions should be the focus of sociology.
- Through the process of socialization individuals are subjected to and influenced by external
social forces, and these create common and shared social behaviours.
- Social facts are group habits, generalized patterns of action, traditions, mores and even legal
codes that are communicated to individuals and socialized into them.
7. How is Peter Berger’s description of an individual standing at the centre of a series of
concentric circles relate to Durkheim’s notion of a “social fact”?
- Clarifies Durkheim’s notion that living in society means that one is faced with many forces
that constrain and coerce one’s thoughts and actions.
8. Why Durkheim’s study of suicide is considered important by sociologists?
- Durkheim examines what appears to be the most decisive, individual decision a person can
make- deliberate self-inflicted death- and demonstrates that a number of social factors
predispose some and protect others from making that very critical decision
9. What were the three categories of suicide Durkheim identified?
- Egoistic = sense of not belonging, detached from other members of the community, little
support or guidance
- Altruistic = sense of being overwhelmed by a group’s goals or beliefs, occurs in societies with
high integration, where individual needs are seen as less important
- Anomic = normal, dominant collective representations of society are broken or significantly
changed, leaving the individual with no guidelines to follow- people feel insecure and
10. What are four implications of Durkheim’s study of suicide?
1) Demonstrates power of sociology as a positive science to explain social behaviour
2) Establishes particular methodology- use of large-scale studies and data to examine IVDV
on the basis of many intervening variables
3) Suggests that society is great than the sum of its parts and has an existence independent of
the individuals who comprise it
4) Through the generation of particular collective representations, which arise from specific
social circumstances and change as those circumstances change, that people internalize
ways of seeing the world. Representations that guide and control people’s behaviour.
11. Put the key ideas to Durkheim’s sociology in a “quick facts” box
1) Durkheim is a pivotal figure in the development of an empirical approach to the study of
society, an approach that looks towards the natural sciences; basic principles and
2) Most important social fact- collective conscience
o Socialization = internalizing social facts
o Sui generis- society pre-exists individuals and the internalization of an externally
existing conscience collective- developed out of his analysis of the changing form of
solidarity within the ‘advanced societies’
o External, but it is through its internalization that an individual’s behaviour is shaped
o Formal and informal social controls
3) Carried forward the ideas and aspirations of Sainte Simon and Comte for the orderly
development of social change
o Conscience collective as a reference point for hope 12. In what ways are Marx’s and Durkheim’s approaches to the study of society similar? How do
13. Now consider whether or not it is true that Durkheim and Marx represent opposing
perspectives or have opposing theories of society; would you say they do or they do not?
What points would you make about each to support your answer?
Max Weber and the Classical Tradition
1. What do the terms “ideographic” and “nomothetic” mean; which is appropriate to the
methodology of the “Orthodox Marxists” and The Historical School respectively?
- Ideographic = unique nature of each event; nomothetic = law-like tendencies in social life
- Historical School: social analysis involves the collection of facts pertinent to any/all events in
social life; scholar concentrated on unique nature of each event and should NOT try to
2. Explain the significance of the notion that sociology is “a comprehensive science of social
action” for Weber’s work.
- Understand interpretively “the intended meaning” associated with an action; not just
quantitative data or description of the action; places action into socio-historical context
3. What do the terms “type concepts” and “pure types” mean? How are they relevant to
- Pure types (ideal types) = Hypothetical ideational types that serve as a mental model that
analysts can agree captures some essential features of a phenomenon
4. What are the four pure types of social action?
1) Goal-rational action = mentally calculated action aimed at achieving a particular goal
2) Value-rational action = rational action guided by a particular value or belief
3) Affective/emotional action = guided by desires or emotions (i.e. fear, hate, lust, love, etc.)
4) Traditional action = guided by the dictates of tradition
5. Did Weber believe that science could serve as the compass for ethical behaviour?
- No because of 3 value-rational limitations
1) Judgement of value (committing to only one value) cannot be supported by any other
judgement of value
o Not based on any absolute measure
o Too limited to be definitive
2) World is infinitely complex- can never be fully known
o Universal truths are not possible
3) Scientists pursue questions and study issues solely because of the contribution doing so
will make to a universally valid truth
6. What is the relationship between “authority” and “legitimacy”? Can authority ever be
- Authority = legitimate power; compliance is voluntary and based on belief in the right of the
authority to demand compliance
7. What is meant by “Charismatic Authority” and “Rational Legal Authority”? How do they
- Charismatic Authority = overrides any written rules; originates in a leader (i.e. will of the
o Qualities of those who possess, or are believed to possess, powers of leadership
either as virtue or exceptional personality or derived from some unusual inspiration
(i.e., magical, divine, or diabolical source), powers not possessed by the ordinary
person o Dynamic element of social change; charismatic leadership precipitates cultural
- Rational Legal Authority = form of legitimate domination, with domination being the
“probability that certain commands from a given source will be obeyed by a group of
o Rests upon a “belief in the legality of patterns of normative rules and the right of
those elevated to authority under such rules to issue commands”
8. Why does charismatic authority almost always become routinized? What happens if it is not
- Charismatic phenomena are unstable and temporary and can prolong their existence only
by becoming routinized- transformation into institutionalized structures
- Charismatic power creates an emotion-based communalization
- Stability requires a routine solution to succession which is achieved through
traditionalization, rationalization, or a combination (i.e., finding a successor)
Max Weber and the Classical Tradition (continued)
1. What is meant by the term versthende Soziologie and how is it relevant to Weber’s essay “The
Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”?
- Places understanding of social meanings as central to sociological approach
- Regards human actors as subjects with whom the researcher enters into dialogue
- Weber: understanding of meaningful action at the center of the rise of capitalism
2. Outline the main argument that Weber puts forth with respect to the importance of the
Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism (include John Calvin, “the elect”, the Puritans,
“calling/Beruf”, and “spontaneous enjoyment”
- Calvinism accepts the existing world of impoverishment and urges believers to lead a life
committed to stoic survival in the hope they are among the elect “go to heaven”
- Puritans developed this further; value system, a frame of mind, a set of meaningful actions
that Puritan believers can use to guide their daily actions and determine whether they are
among Gods elect; directs force against spontaneous enjoyment of life
- Links Protestantism and economic life through the notion of a “calling”
- The notion of pursuing a calling for the glory of god made the acquisition of capital
acceptable within Protestantism
3. Indicate the similarities, differences and ultimate incompatibility of Weber’s and Marx’s most
fundamental positions as sociologists
- Both believed in the role the economy played in social change
o M: Change in economics societal change
o W: Change in economics + change in ideology social change
- Two major differences:
1. Direction of history
o M: history is moving towards a particular outcome (communism)
o W: no universal direction of history; but did see trends that, if they continued,
would lead to societies that were increasingly bureaucratic, dominated by goal-
rational action and organized by the rule of law. However, social forces could arise
at any time and change the direction.
2. Role of meaning
o M: Focused more on modes of production
o W: Emphasizes significance of interpretive understanding and meaning construction
in social life
4. Weber Summary Box - Want sociology to be a comprehensive science; interpretive understanding
- Weber’s conception of social action is directly tied to meaning-action is social “when its
intended meaning takes account for the behaviour of others”
- Role that ideas- particular religious ideas and value systems- play in shaping social life
- Trends center on how particular forms of meaningful-action shape and contour the way
people understand, or interpret, the world in which they live
- Believes social sciences need to be studied differently than natural world
5. What are the key, defining features of “modernism”?
1. Modernism means updating and progressive change; on-going, recurring process
2. Forward movement inherent in modernism- tradition is replaced by modernizing
3. Largely associated with breaking from tradition
6. What are the key aspects of social change associated with the term “modernization”?
- Modernization was described as a general process of change, progress, and the updating of
things; grown out of modernism; now accentuates the industrialization of economies
around the world and the associated social impacts that such development has on societies
around the world
- Describes the process through which less developed parts of the world will come to be more
similar, if not identical, to the industrialized nations of Western Europe and North America
7. Who was Talcott Parsons and why would his work be seen as a continuation of the St. Simon,
Comte, and Durkheim tradition in sociology?
- Structural functionalist theory and Positivism techniques
- Parsons sought to give sociology a single encompassing theory that sociologists could use to
analyse all types of social action and the institutions and societies arising from them
- Societies operate like biological organisms to fulfill 4 system requirements (adaptation, goal-
attainment, integration, and pattern maintenance)
8. In what ways is Parsons’ work indebted to Weber?
9. Who was Robert Merton and why would his work be seen as a continuation of Parson’s work-
what does he contribute that builds on Parson’s work?
- Works within same scientific tradition as Parsons
- Theories of middle range: Empirical information gathered is sufficient to formulate qualified
theoretical generalizations; NOT the sweeping edifice Parson constructed
10. In what manner does Merton continue the work of Weber on the interrelationship of ideas
and social structure?
- Merton examined the rise of scientific enterprise by locating it in the social contexts of
11. What are the key, defining features of “postmodernism”?
- Argued that modernism prevented many from recognizing the full complexity of the
societies in which they lived
- Frame of mind that seeks to dispose of the trinity of Enlightenment
- Knowledge changed in terms of status and nature
1. All knowledge is a form of disclosure
2. Knowledge = power
3. Producing the unknown
- Spirit that revels in playfulness and irony
- Attitude of mind
o Seek to make people aware that the assumptions, goals, and principles of
modernism are the result of the Enlightenment framework o Human history is shaped by grand narratives or specific meta-narratives; events are
no longer mutually exclusive as modernists thought (i.e., with a decrease in
colonialism there was an increase in globalization, with an increase in social
freedom in information age there was an increase in surveillance, scrutiny, and
suspension of basic human rights)
o Seek to establish view that all of human history has been shaped by particular
worldviews or discourses
- Maintain it is not desirable to seek overarching social theories
12. Explain how Picasso’s “Girl Before a Mirror” captures the essence of the postmodernist
- The intense imagery if filled with sexual symbolism- one moment is here captured from a
myriad of perspectives, views, and interpretive understandings through a technique that
abandons early modern art and scientific ways of knowing and seeing
13. What has the postmodernist perspective contributed to sociology?
- Stepping outside scientific worldview, postmodernism enabled them to focus upon the
different meta-narratives humans used to organized their daily lives, their understandings of
nature, and their interaction with the natural and social world
14. In what ways- or are there any- is the postmodernist perspective consistent with the classical
tradition in the work of Marx? Durkheim? Weber? Mills?
15. In what ways is the postmodernist perspective completely inconsistent with these thinkers?
1. Who was Friedrich Neitzsche, why is he important to this chapter and what did he lament
about European society during the end of the nineteenth century?
- Neitzsche was an iconoclastic social thinker whose work sheds important insight into
Classical Greek culture from a modernist vantage point.
- He said “humans are lazy and follow the herd instinct”; it has abandoned the desire from
freedom and action; Europeans have succumbed to “the greed of the money-makers”, “the
greed of the state”, and the superficial and ever-changing nature of popular taste
- Like Arnold, views culture as liberation
2. Identify and briefly explain the four sense of “culture” that Williams identifies, why is this
significant to a sociologist?
- Four sense? What does that mean?
- For Williams, culture came to mean a way of life, material, intellectual and spiritual?
- Culture is produced by people living in specific social circumstances who actively cultivate
things, people and ideas SOCIAL PRODUCT
3. What are the key similarities and differences between Leavis and Thompson’s concerns, on
the one hand, and Hoggart’s, on the other with respect to culture?
- Leavis and Thompson: argued the demise of English literary culture, saying it was
overwhelmed by mass, simple media (i.e., films, newspapers)
o Industrialized world that responded only to the superficial needs of the market
o Machine produced mass production
- Hoggart: profile of the working class and impact of mass circulation
o urban life had none of the past connections to the natural world
o assault of mass culture on working class sensibility
o question of freedom or of freedom’s limit
o fears that, without conscious intervention into the commercial dynamic that is
increasingly dominating culture, the substantial freedom provided by a complex, varied culture will be lost in the levelling down of the market as it appeals to the
greatest mass of consumers
o a society in which literature is becoming increasingly conventional loses its capacity
to inspire people to consider and explore the full potential of human life
4. Horkheimer and Adorno make a tie between culture and industry, and thus among mass
culture, mass production, and mass consumption, what are their central concerns and why do
- All industries are tightly interwoven economically; calculated differentiation of consumers
and their tastes, then “culture industry” churns out mass produced goods to suit consumer
goods, but there are “mechanically differentiated products” that “prove to be all alike in the
5. Why does Marcuse believe that the modern world has become one dimensional? What
concerns him about such one dimensionality?
- Examined post war world as a society without opposition
- In people questioned after cold war, they would see that the state of affairs actually benefits
some industrialized societies
- High culture becomes mass communication when it stops challenging the status quo
- Concerns about the decline of culture
6. What is the significance of “Now… this” for Neil Postman?
- ‘Age of Exposition’- a mode of thought, a method of learning, and a means of expression;
mindset typography facilities
- Their impact declined with the rise of “the Age of Show Business” history and politics
become entertainment, we’re less able to cope with complexity/uncertainty; news are
disconnected, random events (no reflection, context or depth)
- 2 ways culture can be shrivelled:
1) Culture becomes a prison (i.e., 1984)
2) State controls through pleasure and entertainment (happiness matters more than truth
and beauty- Huxley)
7. What does Neal Gabler mean by the “postrealists” and why are they significant to his overall
- Postrealists believed that glossing reality and even transforming it into a movie were
perfectly acceptable strategies if these made us happier
- 1998- entertainment conquers reality; entertainment-driven society is one in which the
standard of value is whether or not something can hold the public’s attention
- Thinkers become entertainers
- End of 20 century; debate shifted from high vs. mass culture to culture of reality vs. culture
8. Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four were written for popular consumption- in what
way do they undermine the critiques and fears that authors such as Leavis, Thompson,
Hoggart, Horheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse and Poster and Gabler express? In what ways do
those books reaffirm their concerns?
- Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man directly reflects some of Orwell’s central themes in
Nineteen Eighty-Four- peace is maintained by the constant threat of war, the threat of
atomic catastrophe is tempered by the production of more and more atomic bombs, and
the interests of particular individuals are purchased by mass publics as their own general
o Like Horheimer and Adorno, emphasized the loss of a culture of complexity o Poster and Gabler revisit many of the same themes- the decline of the “Age of
Typography” as the “Age of Television” came to dominate, and the end of the “Age
of Exposition” as the West entered the “Age of Show Business”; world of control
through banal entertainment
o Transforming reality into a glossy movie is preferable because it keeps people happy
9. What are the different taste cultures and taste publics that Gans identifies? Why is the
diversity of different taste cultures and taste publics relevant?
- Taste cultures consist of values and the cultural forms which express these values: music,
art, design, literature, drama, comedy, poetry, criticism, news, and the media in which these
are expressed- books, magazines, newspapers, records, films, and television programs,
paintings and sculpture, architecture, and, insofar as ordinary consumer goods also express
aesthetic values or functions, furnishings, clothes, appliances, and automobiles
- Taste cultures function to entertain, inform, and beautify life (high and low); they are lived
cultures, reflect values and standards
- Diverse societies have many different taste cultures
- Gans: lower taste cultures are important for society to meet the needs of various taste
10. In what ways does the modifier “high” narrow one’s thoughts about culture by taking
“culture” out of the context of history and a genuine understanding of how cultures are
- High culture emphasizes creativity, elevated bourgeoisie social status
- Must resist association of high being more meaningful
- High culture centres on masterpieces; but there is lots of Renaissance art that was discarded
and full appreciation of art takes time (short-term assessment are glossed over)
The Dialectics of Popular Culture; Bob Dylan
1. What are the main features of “consumer society”?
- Used to suggest that the society which we live in is a late variant of capitalism characterized
by the primacy of consumption over production
- Consumers = the norm
- Material culture has grown, differentiated, and is increasingly consumed via market-
mediated social relationships
- Produces consumers
2. What are the main features of The Consumers’ Republic described by Cohen? Are there
significant differences between her conception of The Consumers’ Republic and “consumer
society” more generally?
- “Faith in a mass consumption postwar economy came to mean much more than the ready
availability of goods to buy”; stood for an ideal of economic abundance and democratic
political freedom, both equitably distributed, that became almost a national civil religion
from the late 1950s into the 1970s. He dubbed this paradigm The Consumers’ Republic
- Provided the blueprint for American and Canadian economic, social, and political
maturation, as well as for export around the globe
3. What are the two levels of consumption identified by Ryan in his Concise Encyclopedia entry?
How do they apply to traditional folk music as something people consumed in the post-WWII
1) Individual consumption with its logic of emulation and competition for prestige and power
2) Collective consumption that corresponds to social needs (i.e., health care, education, etc.) 4. What were the ASCAP and the BMI and why was the emergence of the latter important for
the broadening of popular music?
- American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers found a way to collect royalties; by
1930s ASCAP controlled what music was played in musicals, radio, movies; by 1950 oligopoly
of publishers who preferred love themes with strong melodies (NOT jazz, blues, country,
o Homogenization of industry by interests of big businesses
- Broadcast Music Incorporated (1939)- rival licensing agency who signed a wider variety
5. Why did the emergence of 33½ and 45 rpm records help revolutionize the popular music
- In 1948, Columbia released a technological breakthrough- the 33 rpm, long-playing record.
Columbia offered to share the technology with its larger arch-rival RCA to establish a
common industry standard, but RCA refused the offer. RCA brought out its own alternative-
the 45 rpm with the large hole in the middle
- Phonographic 45 vinyl record was key to the development of rock for two reasons:
1) Jukeboxes helped build the taste culture
2) Unbreakable, easier to distribute, affordable for small record companies
6. How was television important in the growth of radio stations and the opening of niche market
- Increase in television decreased network radio budgets; DJs became the focal point, they
determined sound and personality of the station
7. What are three key contrasts that existed between the recoding and radio industries in 1948
vs 1958 and how did they facilitate the growth of rock music?
- Evening radio in 1948 was all the same and it was all live on major networks; by 1958
networks fought for TV, local radio emerged
- Record industry shifted away from compositions written by corporate ‘tune factory’ (well-
crafted songs like those who are already hits) songwriters to music written by or for an
emerging range of high-profile artists
8. When one says “folk music” what might they normally have in mind? Is folk a simple cultural
form or one of complexity- if the latter, in what ways?
- Folk music was non-commercial- it came from the heart, spoke to the soul, and nourished a
- Folk is actually a “moving” form of culture
- Folk is rooted partly in rural America, the spirit of human resistance found during the
Depression and the Dirty Thirties, the political leanings of Seeger and others, as well as the
impact of the folk sub-culture dislocated to NYC and that experience
9. Who was Woody Guthrie and why was he important to folk music and what is his real
significance in the work of Bob Dylan?
- Woody Guthrie: Oklahoma wheat belt; travelled across the U.S.A.; listening to music of the
people in 1930s/1940s; sided with labour and social justice
- Guthrie, Seeger, etc. was an informal standard for folk
o Acoustic, well-crafted lyrics focused on issues of conscience, and social relevance;
harmonies of care, hope, and the struggle for change
- Dylan found Guthrie to be the true voice of the American spirit (lonesome and lost in time);
10. Who was Pete Seeger and why is he a central figure in the American folk tradition? - Harvard drop-out 1938, instrum