192 REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE YEAR
The Millennials, Knowledge and Culture: Some Review Questions
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
Millennials are used to having someone to guide them and tell them what to do. They must learn to
take responsibility and do things for themselves. They have highly packed schedules and a sense of
entitlement; they are accustomed to instant access and gratification, and will need to learn patience
and proper time management to do well in their studies. They have a powerful sense of
individualism. They are told they are special and to be different, yet at the same time, they are told to
be inclusive of everyone. They have less historical awareness and fewer life experiences:
information is received in bits rather than the whole picture. Much of what the Milennials do is
superficial, with a “just do it” mindset, and they are not fully engaged. With this lifestyle, it is
challenging for the classes of 2014 and 2015 to adapt to post-secondary education.
Aspects of the biography of the Millennials include: Heavy reliance on adult direction,
needing assurance and confirmation Time management problems just do it Sense of
entitlement Contradictory value systems Powerful sense of individualism Less
historical awareness and fewer life-experiences Growing up in a world of eCultureThe most
significant aspects in terms of the influence they will have upon their university learning
experience is - growing up in a world with internet, the need for direction, time management
problems and sense of entitlement. Time management is a problem many students face in
university when balancing academics, social life and potentially a job. This needs to be done in an
organized manner which may have previously been taken care of by parental figures. These
parental figures, while still available for direction no longer have the same direct and immediate
impact on the Millennials life while in university, as many of them are far away from home.
While in university, the Millennials have to get rid of their sense of entitlement and learn the
value of earning their place. Learning from books and actually entering a library, instead of
relying on the internet, is necessary to get through University. This is the most vital change.
Millennials do not have the same patience to find proof within a book when they could easily find
a proof for something within seconds on the internet. The internet and advanced technology that
has accompanied it (cell phones, Ipods) have all further disengaged the Millenials from the world
around them. This undoubtedly applies to the class of 2014 and all other generations to follow.
Individually people may argue against this, but as a generation it is impossible to say that internet
and technological advancements have not shaped how we live and our experience in university.
1. 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 in 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
Michael Weschs video clearly presents and establishes the different information realities that
exist in two cultures - the print-based world versus the hyper-real, digitally- based world. He is able to present the Millennials main characteristics in an engaging video that is thought-
provoking. It enabled viewers to see the significant changes that were brought upon by
technology. Weschs main point in creating this video was to show the apparent disjunction
that exists between the way information is treated by the educational establishment and the
expectations of contemporary students. This video addresses the disengagement of students
with their own learning because of the way educational institutions teach and the advances in
technology. I agree with this sentiment to some extent, understanding how those born in the
boomer age dont understand the way to engage children of this age. But also I believe that as
students, privileged students, it is our own responsibility to stick to the choices we make- if
you decide to go to school, take responsibility of your own learning. Since that video of 2007,
it is rare to see chalkboards being used in lecture halls. Education systems have upgraded thie
use of technology to better engage Millennials- although we continue to develop more and
more into the e-culture.
1. What did Marshall McLuhen mean by the phrase “the medium is the message?”
What is the distinction that McLuhen made between “hot” and “cold” media? Do you
agree that E-Culture centres on media that are “molten ice?” Why or why not?
Marshall McLuhen is a technological determinist, with a research focus on communication.
He says that depending on the message you are trying to convey you will use a certain
medium. Depending on the medium you choose to use, certain messages are expressed. The
problem with this aphorism is that is can overemphasize the significance of the medium. Hot
media is when the medium itself conveys a message, and the viewer is passive. The message
shapes the viewer as a sensory receiver. Examples of hot media are film and television. Cold
media requires the receiver to fill in more blanks, as it provides less information.An example
of cold media is a comic strip. Molten ice media is a combination of hot and cold media,
where information is clearly presented, but able to be manipulated. E-Culture refers to an
electronic culture that is easily accessible, and constantly changing. Electronic culture, as
opposed to written culture, focuses on media that are molten ice because it is constantly in
this state of flux, and often merely needs to be skimmed to access the information it
1. Identify what you think are the three most important tensions that exist between
the “old school” and “new school” approaches to knowledge. Can those tensions be
resolved? If so how and if not, why not?
There are three important tensions that exist between the “old schools” and the “new schools”
approach to learning. The first is the fact that the students who are in the “new school” have been
taught to treat the printed text as simply one ancillary form of information. It is not our first form
of information. The old school believes that we must learn that there is much more to be gained
by devoting time to and enduring, static, printed page (p. 20). The second tension is that the “old
school” believes that we need to spend more solid undisturbed hours on our work without the
distraction of cellphones, Facebook, or Twitter. (p. 21). The other issue is that the “new school”
generation wants school to be fun. Mcluhan stated that, “Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn’t know anything about either”. The new school wants
more fun and entertainment within the education system which the old school does not seem to
accept or to agree with (p. 20). Personally I’m not sure if the tension can be resolved. Our
generation has been raised within the media and the era of the internet. I cannot see our
generation dropping the internet just for books.Another point is that our generation has grown up
multi-tasking which again I don’t think will change.
The three most important tensions that exist between the “old school” and “new school”
approaches to knowledge are that many of students of today (Millennial) entering
university seem dethatched and not fully engaged due to the fact that the idea of higher
education is forced upon them as the only answer to a superior opportunity at a job in the
future. (13)Another separation from “old school” and “new school” is that many “new
school” generations feel a sense of instant gratification and entitlement towards what they
desire and need out of life. (14) Lastly the use of technology has separated that of “old
school” thinkers and those of the newer generations. The millennial have always grown
up with the knowledge of the Internet and the use of technology. By being inherently
familiar with new technological developments have provided alternative strategies
towards success and learning. For example, the “old school” generation would prefer and
argue that the knowledge we gain from a book is far from comparable to that of a
electronic reading device or the immediacy of the internet. “New school” generations
lack the patience and consistency of that of the “old school” approach to gaining
knowledge. These tensions cannot be resolved because they conflict within the time
periods and influence each generation perceived throughout growing up. Importance’s
between the two approaches to knowledge will always remain separate and opposing
because they both value the opposite of the other. One is the patience and the labour
towards achieving what is desired, in comparison to the immediacy of gratification that
is related to the development of technology and the possibilities it has to offer to that of
the growing generations.
The Millennials (continued); The Sociological Imagination: Some Review Questions
1. What are the “generic skills” that one should acquire in an undergraduate
education and how are they relevant upon graduation?
Ageneric skill that one should acquire in an undergraduate education is an increased
ability to pay attention to detail in critical reflection.Away to achieve this is to interact
with print or hot media, causing one to stop/slow down/re-read, because it will allow
greater reflection and comprehension, than molten ice media.Another skill would be to
gain a sociological imagination, meaning being able to see the world as it really is compared to everyday stocks of knowledge. These skills are relevant upon
graduation because not only will they allow one to think critically, achieve a sociological
imagination, and pay attention to detail, but the refining of these abilities would be
beneficial when eventually bearing the obligations citizenship holds for them.
1. What are the three most important points related to Bloom’s argument about the
importance of a traditional, liberal education?
The three most important points related to Blooms argument about the importance of a
traditional, liberal education are:1) Post-secondary 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 centred to a liberal education.
3) The inner structure of universities, including their curricula, that have marginalized
the fundamental tenets of a liberal education.Taken from page 23 out of The Promise of
1. What does Arnold mean by the term “culture?” To what extent is his notion of
“culture” spreading to the masses feasible? On the basis of the material you have
covered in this chapter, what would a sociologist, using Mills’s conception of the
sociological imagination, emphasize in answering that question?
MatthewArnold, author of the essay Culture and Anarchy: As Essay in Political and
Social Criticism, defined culture as “the great help out of our present difficulties.”
Arnold continues this definition of culture by describing it as “the pursuit of our total
perfection by means of getting to know, on all the matters which most concern us, the
best which has been thought and said in the world.” Arnold believes that people can be
liberated from the trials, prejudices and petty actions of everyday life through knowledge
and human reason, and that individuals should strive for “harmonious perfection”, and let
a passion for sweetness and light prevail –Arnold believed that culture was a solution to
a troubled world. WhileArnold’s definition of culture is inspiring,Arnold provided us
with no real directions or set of actions to create this change, making it difficult to spread
his notion of “culture” to the masses. Arnold also acknowledged the issue of modern
societies having a strong focus on individualism – this mindset goes againstArnold’s
view of searching to perfect humanity. Additionally, spreading this notion of culture to
the masses is difficult in a material-oriented society, as there are many forces that work to
trivialize Arnold’s definition of culture. A sociologist with the understanding of Mills’
conception of the sociological imagination (“the intersection of personal biography with
the history of social structure”) discussing the implementation ofArnold’s idea of culture
would emphasize the importance of different social structures in different societies. Due
to varying elements of social structures and different ideals and values in different
societies, it may be difficult to find a universal perfection that would suit all individuals,
as different societies may have different versions of what “sweetness and light” entails.
However, Arnold’s notion of “culture” is inspiring to have the best ideals permeate
through the social whole to achieve human perfection.
REFERENCE: Textbook pages 24-27
1. Explain what is meant by “stocks of everyday knowledge,” “the natural attitude” and the “web-like nature” of social relationships. Who would you identify within the
web-like nature of your current existence?
The stocks of everyday knowledge refers to basic knowledge that we are already
aware of, it is knowledge that we acquire over time and bring with us to every new
situation. The natural attitude is the idea that the world revolves around us as an
individual based on the fact that we have senses for which we see the world through.
The web like nature of social relationships is based on the connections we make with
others in everyday life. There is interconnectivity and some level of relationship tying
us to them. Currently, individuals that would be central to my web of social
relationships are my roommate, floor mates, family, the faculty and my circle of
Stocks of everyday knowledge- a vast reservoir of knowledge as early as pre-
birth which also draws on natural attitude
The natural attitude- how we individually perceive world from early on as we
Web-like nature of social relationships- the direct and indirect impact of
individuals on others that extend beyond the individual’s immediate life and
connect everyone in the world to various social networks
1. According to Mills, do ordinary men and women have a good grasp of the world
around them? Why does he make that claim?
Mills objective is to instil the sociological imagination into the consciousness of all thinking
NorthAmericans and he began his argument by noting that most people see the world from their
own particular, limited perspective. The average person does not usually connect his or her
problems with larger social issues or within a broader social context. Problems are seen from the
perspective of the personal, the private. page 36.
According to Mills, ordinary men and women do not have a good grasp of the world around
them. This is because they see the world from their own particular, limited perspective. The
average person does not usually connect his or her problems with larger social issues or within a
broader social context. Problems are seen from the perspective of the personal, the private. Mills
writes, “What ordinary men are directly aware of [and] what they try to do are bounded by the
private orbits in which they live; their visions and their powers are limited to the close-up scenes
of jobs, family, neighbourhood.” This perspective is restricting and misleading because people’s
lives are shaped by the broader social context within which they live. To understand their specific
situation genuinely, people require a larger, more encompassing perspective.
1. What is the particular “quality of mind” he feels people need to have – describe
that quality of mind in a phrase.
Mills identifies that the ‘quality of mind’people need to have is ‘the sociological
imagination’. He claims that that the sociological imagination is a quality of mind that
requires one to grasp the social context intellectually, to come to grips with it, and
apprehend the world critically in a manner that is much more complex then relying on
ones normal, taken-for-granted stocks of everyday knowledge.
The quality of mind refers to coming to logical conclusions with appropriate use if
information and reason. This quality of mind is also called the sociological imagination. Mills wrote 5 objectives to shape the way he thought people should
think, which are: to empower people, establish classical tradition as the dominant
approach to North American sociology, demonstrate the weaknesses of the
structional-functional perspective, and critique quantitative, survey-based
sociological research. Furthermore, Mills believed that this approach to thinking
should/cold be applied to everyone, not just sociologists.
1. What does Mills mean by the term “imagination?” In a sentence, what is
sociology’s “task and promise?”
By the term imagination, Mills means the relationship between personal relationships and
experiences and society as a whole. Sociology’s task and promise involves linking
personal problems to public issues. For example, one could feel like they are the only
people suffering from job loss while in reality, unemployment is a global concern,
making it no longer a personal burden.
Imagination means, is to look at one outlook to another. Sociological imagination
was to see the relationship of the lives of people and contrast that to the social
aspects. Sociology’s task and promise is to be able to understand the relations of
history and biography between the two inside society.
1. 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.
The opening scene of psycho starts with a panoramic shot of the Phoenix skyline. The shot
slowly narrows in on a bedroom where two people, Sam and Marion, are having a discussion.
Sam and Marion discuss how their lives seem like a constant series of traps that they have no
way of escaping. It is because of these traps that marion believes the two can never be together.
This is a great example of the key features of Mill's sociological imagination. The situation Marion
and Sam find themselves in tells us about the structure of their particular society, where the
society stands in human history, and what varieties of men and woman prevail in the society.
They feel constricted and that they cannot be together because of rules and customs of their society. They think it is their own fault for these traps but really it is just the structure of their
society. To solve their problems they have to look at how their personal biographies intersect with
history. They will realize that their traps are merely products of their society's place in human
history. Mill's main point in the sociological imagination is that you have to consider micro and
A movie I watched recently was Se7en. In Se7en, a serial killer goes about killing one person
who exhibits each of the "seven deadly sins". Two detectives try and figure out who he is and
stop him before he kills more victims. To look at this movie sociologically, you can say that the
reason for the killing is because of the structure of society, its place in human history, and the
varieties of people who prevail. The killer murders because he feels people who commit these
sins are not being punished because of the society they live in. Some of these people are even
prevailing in our society. The killer doesn't have a problem with the individual people, just the
structure of society and how the victims fit in.
C. Wright Mills defines sociological imagination as The vivid awareness of the
relationship between experience and the wider society. Building up on this, the movie
Psycho starts in the 1950s, on Friday, December 11 in Phoenix,Arizona. It shows us an
elevated view of Phoenix, allowing us to see the buildings and the cars passing on a one-
way street.After showing us the wider society, the camera zooms into the window of a
fifth floor apartment with a half-opened window and slightly raised blinds eventually
introducing us to the lovers Sam, who is seen standing beside the bed, wearing only dress
pants and Marion lying down on the bed in a white bra. From the beginning of their
conversation, it is easy to tell that Sam and Marion have a very controversial relationship
and both of them feel like they are trapped in the relationship. Both, Marion and Sam
have their own set of problems that seem to come in the way of their relationship.
Relating this to Mills sociological imagination, which was, human beings need to be able
to relate personal and private problems to a broader or larger social issue because a
personal perspective is limited so it can often be misleading. Psycho begins with showing
us the broader context and then moves into Sam and Marions personal problems. The
broader context shows us when and where Sam and Marion are living, and where and
what social forces shape their and everyone elses lives, and decisions in that time period.
For the rest of the movie, the camera remains focused on Sam and Marions personal
relationship and problems, but in order for the relationship to be see from a sociological
perspective, according to Mills, we need to be able to see the macro version, as important
as the micro version is we need to be able to form a strong connection between the couple
and their surroundings.
Review Questions to Consider on the Sociological Imagination
1. How many sets or types of questions does Mills suggest that good sociologists ask
– to what do they refer?
Mills suggests that there are 3 types of questions that good sociologists should ask. They
refer to questions about the structure of society, the historical and changing dynamic of
social relations and human agents. They help us understand the Sociological Imagination
and they also help us grasp the relations between history and biography.
1. What is the structure of some particular society as a whole?
2. Where does this society stand in human history? 3. What kind of men and women prevail in this society?
The first set of questions that Mills suggest good sociologists should ask are based on the
structure of society.
1. What is the structure of society as a whole? How is it webbed or woven together? What
are its essential components?
a. Some essential components to understanding this question are; in order to succeed in life
you must attend post secondary school, whether that is university or college. Nowadays,
finding a job without any post secondary schooling is rather hard.
b. We have become an information society
We live in a world where we are continually encouraged to consume
Everyone is connected with each other which results in the loss of individualism
1. Where does the society stand in history?
a. This question focuses primarily on the critical awareness of the historical and changing
dynamics of social relations and relationships
How does any feature affect the historical period we are currently in or are moving
The development of humanity. For example increasing immigration and becoming more
2. What varieties of men and women prevail?
a. Sociologists must consider how social agents are formed, liberated and repressed with
their social relations and relationships
b. For example women who prevailed were women who had clearly defined roles within
society and their relationships at home
1. Write three or four sentences that would explain to a friend why those types of
questions are important for sociological analysis.
To examine the structure of society is important for sociological analysis because it
shows that social relationships have almost a structural reality to them; by looking at the
structure we can see how the dynamic of a society comes together. To look at society as
an ever changing whole is important when looking at history, a society in 19 centuryh
England is very different than that of 21 century England today. Or, one can look at how
history has influenced how the society has been shaped to become what it is today.
Finally, human agency is important for sociological analysis because it shows what
people are liberated and given power in comparison to the isolated and repressed. By
knowing the power of each social agent, one can see how a society is shaped and formed.
Mills was referred to as an intellectual craftsman. Mills has three questions that he
believes a good sociologist should ask. These questions pertain to the structure of society,
its location in history and what men and women prevail and are coming to prevail. These
questions are important for sociological analysis because they cover the basis that the
society is built upon and the future or current state of the society through and analysis of
culture. Sociologists can gain a further sense of the foundation of the society through asking these questions as they begin to understand how the society runs, when and why it
was established and the current and future accomplishments or successes of the society.
1. Identify the main features of a “personal trouble of milieu” and use Sam as an
example of someone with a personal trouble. Identify the main features of an “issue
of social structure” and use Sam as an example of someone whose personal trouble is
also an issue of social structure.Are the two completely separate? If not, what is their
Personal troubles of milieu explain that people tend to think that the problems they are having do
not pertain to anybody but themselves. People try to solve all of their problems because they are
the only person in charge of the solution. Personal troubles of milieu imply that “trouble is a
private matter” and they should stay that way. Sam’s personal trouble is that he is stuck in a
world where he owes a lot of money to different people and he is unable to make sufficient funds
to run his own life let alone provide for the woman he wishes to be with, which is a problem that
only he can find the solution to.
Issues of social structure imply that if an individual is having a problem it is not necessarily
their problem alone. It may be a problem with the environment and economic systems
organization, and many people may actually be going through the same troubles. It tries to state
that “an issue is a public matter”, contrasting “personal trouble of milieu”. Sam’s believes that
his issue is a personal trouble but in hindsight it is in fact an issue of social structure. Many
people at that time were unemployed and feeling overwhelmed with payments that they had to
make, as do many people today. This is an issue of social structure because there were not
enough well paying jobs to support all of the workers available to work.
Personal troubles of milieu and issues of social structure are interrelated as they contrast
each other in most situations. Many people think that they have a personal trouble but many
other members of society have either a similar or exact replica problem. Also personal troubles
of milieu state that you are the only one in charge of the solution, but if it is a problem with the
economy then it could possibly be a problem that would be impossible to solve on your own.
1. 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?
Marxist thesis – false consciousness as material and institutional
processes in capitalist society are misleading to the proletariat, and to
other classes. The processes betray the true relations of forced between
classes, and the real state of affairs regarding the development of pre-
False consciousness is essentially a result of ideological control which the
proletariat either do not know they are under, or which they disregard with
a view to their own probability/possibility of upward mobility.
The sociologist can correctly note that Marion and Sam live in a state of
false consciousness – a truer consciousness arises through the use of the
False consciousness implies that a true consciousness exists, or could exist, but how do
we know for certain what is true and what is false? False consciousness exists in situations where issues concerning empirically identifiable events are partial because
people cannot accept reality.
Marion is an example of someone in a state of false consciousness because she
desperately desires respectability in a time where women took a back seat to men. Post
war, they were promised many things, however disappointed. Furthermore, she wanted
sexual fulfillment and to have a concrete relationship with Sam. However, this was
unrealistic because he was a struggling businessman with financial troubles and she was
just a secretary.Additionally, their relationship would be frowned upon for having a
premarital sexual relationship in that societal age.
To attain a “true” consciousness, Marion would have to realize these things in her life and
be critical of herself in order to move forward. If she had been critical of her personal
trouble within her social structure, it would have given her a different perspective, which
would have allowed her to deal with her problems more rationally.
1. Identify a few of Mills’personal characteristics – why might they be relevant to
first year students in sociology? What are the key features of an intellectual craftsman
The key features of an intellectual craftsman are an integration of work and life; the integration
of social structure and biography; being able to apply critical reasoning to an empirically
informed analysis; the dissemination of research, which opens one up to public scrutiny and
criticism. An additional trait intellectual craftsmanship is also keeping files and a journal
Karl Marx and the 1859 Preface: Review Questions to Consider
1. Why is the “Preface” to Marx’s Towards a Critique of Political Economy
important to sociological analysis?
This critique and is generally considered to be of secondary importance among Marx's
works. However, this is not the case for the Preface of the critique. The Preface consists
of the first reference to of one of Marx's main theories, which is the economic
interpretation of history. This is the concept that economic factors in a society, which
refers to the way people produce basic requirements for life, determine the kind of
politics and ideology a society will be able to have. This is important for sociological
analysis because it helps sociologists to see what the potential of a society is and how it
will be run.
1. For Marx, production is fundamental to social life – what is the double
significance of this claim?
Marx believed that production was fundamental to social life. In the Marxist theory of socialism, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles believed that the proletariats (the lower class)
should be in charge of the means of production. This would still allow for social classes
to exist, but would be to a lesser extent than if under capitalism. Marx argued that the
material productive forces (industry) that were created through capitalism were to assert a
“cooperative society since production had become a collective activity of the working
class to create commodities but with private ownership (the relations of production or
property relations). This conflict between collective effort in large factories and private
ownership would bring about a conscious desire in the working class to establish
collective ownership commensurate with the collective efforts their daily experience.” 1
These economic theories create the base for the mode of production and the economic
structure of society, which in turn lead to the determinate forms of consciousness. Marx
wrote that, “It is not the consciousness of [people] that determines their existence, but
their social existence that determines their consciousness." He strongly believed that each
individual was in charge of their own destiny, and only as a whole, could you change the
boundaries of society (through production).
Marx believed that the dynamics of capitalist production were important for sociologists
and political activists to grasp and that they were crucial to social change.Asociologist
can discover trends but different social forces can arise at any time and redirect social
1. What are the two elements that constitute “the mode of production?” What are
“the social relations of production” and what is their significance What are “the
material forces of production” and what is their significance?
The two elements that constitute the mode of production are the social relations of
production and the material forces of production. The social relations of production
encompass the ownership and control of the forces of production. The material forces of
production encompass the material elements that are involved in production. Both of
these elements are essential to society as factories cannot be run or managed without an
authoritative human in position or materials like machinery and raw materials that can be
compiled to make products. (Promise of Sociology: 89)
The two elements that constitute “ the mode of production” are the social relations of
production and the material forces of production. The social relationships of production
are the relations that occur between the owners of productions and the workers of
production. For example, in a feudal society the lords control the “forces of production”
(the land), and they sell them to serfs who in turn produce food and tools. The material
forces of production are the material elements of production. This includes technology,
factories, raw materials and physical workers.
The two elements that constitute “the mode of production” are the social relations of production and material forces of production. The social relations of production are
between the people with respect to ownership and access to the productive forces (legal
property relations). Their significance is that it involves the ownership and control of the
forces of production (Beamish, 89). The material forces of production consist of two
parts; the means of productions and the labour power which consists of the
bourgeoisie(owners) and proletariats(workers). Their significance is that the mode of
production of material forces according to Karl Marx conditions the social, political and
intellectual process of life overall (Beamish, 90).
Side note: The Bourgeoisies according to Marx will be overthrown by the Proletarians
because there are much more workers than owners. In addition, once the workers
unionize they can abolish the amount of power in that the owners withhold.
1. What are the two provisional conclusions that emerge from Marx’s presentation of
the base and superstructure model?
The two provisional conclusions of Marx's presentation of the base and superstructure
model are outlined on page 89-90 of Beamish's book, The Promise of Sociology; "First,
the mode of production is the key to understanding all social relations, including the
'social, political, and intellectual processes of life overall' that constitute the super
structure. The second conclusion is a corollary of the first. It is not consciousness or ideas
that determine of shape social life; on the contrary, social life (living within a society)
Karl Marx and the 1859 Preface: Review Questions to Consider
1. In the “orthodox” reading of Marx’s theory of social change, how does change
occur? Where is the source of dynamism?
Marx argues that the forces of production would continually develop and come into
conflict with the social relations of production, ultimately creating revolutionary
change. In orthodox readings, social change is connected to either “technological
determinism” or “economic determinism.” The technological determinist argument
states that machinery is the key to social change; social change occurs simultaneously
with technological advancement. The economic determinist argument, on the other
hand, states that it is not machinery or technology that drives history and social
change but the economy as a whole. The economy determines or shapes the types of
contradictions that will emerge and create, animate, or drive revolutionary change.
Social change, whether driven by technology or by the economy, relies on the
existence of class conflict; opposition between the capitalists (the bourgeoisie) and
the working class.
1. What are the constituent parts of the “forces of production?”
The forces of production facilitate, encourage and require production for profit. 1. What is the significance of recognizing “living labour-power” and “spaces of
production” as components of the forces of production?
Living labour power is the ability of a human to do work and something that Marx
considered the sole source of surplus value. Spaces of production is a place where
products are made such as factories, a category that falls under the material forces of
production. Marx concludes that when one breaks down the material forces of
production into subcategories including spaces, labour power must serve the double
function of being part of the production process as well as the social part of
production, showing a certain reliable relationship between the two. (The Promise of
1. What is the role of “the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophical, in
short, ideological [superstructure]” in Marx’s theory of social change?
The "Ideological Superstructure" In Marx's theory of social change is displayed through a
relationship between the structure of society and the Ideologies. The Ideological
superstructure is initially a result of the way society is structured. Marx and Engels
argued "Humans distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce
their means of subsistence...Insofar as they produce their subsistence, they produce their
material lives themselves" (Marx and Engels, 1939:6-7) (Ciatation from textbook). They
argue that social life is a result of our means of production, in that once our necessities
are provided, religion, politics, etc. can then exist. They describe this relationship as "The
social relations of production." They also argue that as the 'Ideological Superstructure'
changes, it will change the relationship with production, changing the 'Mode of
Production.' This overall concept is illustrated as follows:Superstructure:-social, political,
and intellectual processes of life overall---------------^^-------------------Base:-Mode of
production:Social relations of production;Material forces of production.
Marx's superstructure is made up of legal, political, religious, artistic, and
philosophical aspects. All these parts of society in the superstructure are
determined by the base, which is the economic structure and the mode of
production. The base determines the superstructure, but the superstructure will
try and control the base and keep life stable. Instead of a result of a dynamic,
changing base, the superstructure will eventually become a restriction or chain holding back the development of the base. At this time, the workers that make
up the base will have to lead revolutions against the aristocrats and bourgeoisie
of the superstructure in order to bring about social change. The role of the
superstructure is to act as a fetter for development and change in society, until
people from the base level rise up in revolution or revolt and change things
1. Put the key ideas from Marx’s 1859 Preface into a “Quick Facts about the 1859
Preface” summary chart or box – what 7 points should go in that summary tabulation?
What nuances or subtleties are lost in your “1859 Preface in a box”?
Karl Marx and the Communist Manifesto: Review Questions to Consider
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?
Marx says that the bourgeoisie was a revolutionary class that radically transformed
society s it rose to dominance from within the feudal order (p. 110).According to Marx,
the most important change that the bourgeoisie accomplished was transforming the feudal
society into a market-based one. He claims that they are very strong but they had
produced a class that would grow not only to oppose it but to over throw it (p.115).
1. 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?”
1. 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?
The proletariat is the revolutionary force , that Marx believes, will change the world (p.
98). Marx states that: “The proletariat, the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot
stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole super incumbent strata of official society
being sprung into the air” (p. 115)
1. 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 proletariat would become a revolutionary force because this part of the population
was only going to increase in number and strength. With the help of technological
advances, machinery would further separate the proletariat (working class) and the
bourgeoisie (middle class) as time went by, and these low-paid workers would come
together to power over them by forming trade unions and participating in riots. In
other words, instead of enduring the unfairness alone, the working class would share
grievances and become politicized and take action.
It is the dynamic of modernity that created the working class. Originally, this
proletariat was created to abolish feudalism. “The weapons with which the bourgeoisie
felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself” (page 113
in the text).
1. Explain the significance of “class consciousness” for understanding the
sociological theory Marx sketched out in the Manifesto.
1. Put the key ideas from the Manifesto into a “Quick Facts about Manifesto”
summary chart or box – what 5 to 7 points should go in that summary tabulation?
What nuances or subtleties are lost in your “Manifesto in a box”?
Quick Facts about Manifesto
1. It is high time that “Communists should …meet this nursery tale of the spectre of
Communism with a manifesto of the party itself.”
2. The rise of the bourgeoisie as a class and the implications this has for life in the emerging
3. The bourgeoisie, was a revolutionary class radically transformed society as it rose to
dominance from within the feudal order.
4. The constant revolutionary change of the “instruments of production, and thereby the
relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society.
5. Concentration, centralization, and increasingly rationalized production characterized this
6. The key features of feudal production were its heavy reliance on tradition and its
Points are lost in the “Manifesto” in a box
1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
2. Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for
3. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in he hands of the state.
1. Draw up “Marx in a Summary Box” in which you list the key points that are
important for sociology.
Key points that are important for sociology are: Social change occurs because of class
struggles The economic infrastructure of society shapes power relationships that
constitute social relationships and formationsThe intersection of the history of the social
structure with the biography of social classes as a critical aspect of Marx’s position Marx focused on an early industrializing period of capitalism Poor conditions can lead to a
rebellion Asocial change can highly benefit those that were previously suffering and
decided to rebel Marx believed that workers would develop a revolutionary
consciousness, when combined with desire for change lead to actions for change
Establishing Sociology as an Empirically-Based Science of Society: Review
1. What are the key components to the Cartesian method?
Descartes Discourse on Method - eliminated knowledge based on prejudice, tradition, or
religious precept radical doubt- Descartes comes up with 4 rules1. accept nothing; reject
prejudice2. divide questions into simplest parts3. begin with most simple move to more
complex4. review thoroughly- most associated with Descartes how he thought the mind
should perceive to gain real knowledge- from metaphysics to observation was a radical
creates systematic experiment of knowledge- challenge every truth - critique and
criticism central to scholarship and knowledge
1. What three social types did Montesquieu identify and on what basis did he make
1. What important dimension of social control did Montesquieu identify?
"Law, in Montesquieu's analysis, is the only way of controlling people's conduct -
which makes Montesquieu among the first to focus upon mechanisms of social
control other than the power of a centralized state or government." (page 130)
1. What are Saint-Simon’s three main contributions to sociology? What is the
importance of the structure of medieval society for Saint-Simon’s thought?
Saint-Simon developed an empirically based science of society. It “…(R)einforced the
break from metaphysical and speculative social thought and affirmed the use of an
empirical, scientifically inspired approach to the study of society” (Beamish, 132).
Saint- Simon believed that the “medieval society was comprised of different orders,
which were arranged in an important, functional hierarchy that eliminated all class
conflict. At the base, there were the producers (the feudal serfs) who were coordinated
by a ruling, or temporal, elite (the nobility), and the entire society was integrated by the
spiritual elite” (Beamish, 132).
Saint- Simon created the concept of “society as an integrated, functional, evolving entity”
(Beamish, 132) through the structure of medieval society.
The structure of medieval society as based around three orders – the spiritual elite, the
governing elite (or temporal elite), and the productive classes. These orders became
Saint-Simon’s reference point for all his future work, and became the “template for Saint-
Simon’s conception of both social structure and the evolutionary development of
societies through history” (Beamish, 132). 1. What were the three stages of history that Saint-Simon identified; what were their
characteristics; and why did he see the process as one of development?
1. What is meant by “positivism” and what are the most important characteristics of
Comte’s positivist position?
1. What were Comte’s three stages of history?
A law that each of our leading conceptions, or each branch of our
knowledge, pass successively through 3 different theoretical conditions.
These conditions being:
1. the Theological, or fictitious;
2. metaphysical or abstract stage
3. positive stage
The three stages are considered a result of thinking development and
accumulation of philosophical achievements.
1. What was the relationship between social statics and social dynamics?
The relationship between the two is that they both refer to an individual being shaped
by a group or being in a social realm. One can simply change or adapt a behaviour
simply by being placed in another social setting.
Emile Durkheim and the Classical Tradition: Review Questions to Consider.
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?
When Durkheim wrote The Division of Labour in Society he was concerned with questioning
social order and the “study of the organization of advanced societies”. The way he planned to
question social order was to take into account conscience collective, also known as conscience
and consciousness. His first question he wanted to analyze was the relationship between
individuals and society as a whole To do this, Durkheim focused mainly on the empirical and
observational study, but he decided this wasn’t enough and wanted to find a way that societies are
scientific and he was determined to prove that they are. This began Durkheim into a different
turn of establishing sociology as its own science, which caused him to find a repressive law and a
restitutive law meaning “avenging a community morality” and “return things as they were”
respectively. Arepressive law implied that the society had a mechanical solidarity and a
restitutive law implied that the society had an organic solidarity. Durkheim’s study moved him
forwards into many different directions initially going from a broad topic of studying the
organization of advanced societies to classifying society into different types and classifying
sociology as a science.
1. What is the significance of the term conscience collective in Durkheim’s study
The Division of Labour in Society? What two types of law did Durkheim use to serve as empirical indicators of the conscience collective?
The conscience collective described by Durkheim is complex. The conscience collective
is the social substratum, or section, of the legal system.According to Durkheim, different
types of law are indicative of different types of social consciousness and different types
of solidarity (p.144). Durkheim also explains that the conscience collective is not
something that we are very aware of, it is not very obvious but yet it exists. This entity
exists separately from the conscience of each individual, yet it comes into existence
through all individuals thinking, judging and acting. It is there before they are born into a
society and it will endure after the individual is gone. The other important point he makes
is that it is through the conscience collective that the individual and society are actually
brought together in social action (p.145). The two laws Durkheim used to serve as
empirical indicators of the conscience collective are: the repressive law and the restitutive
law (p.130). The repressive law is a highly intense response in the part of the individual
in a society in which this form of law dominates to anyone who disagrees or refutes the
ideals that are part of the conscience collective (p.145). this law is present in societies
that are referred to “mechanical solidarity”. Mechanical solidarity is classified is a term
Durkheim uses to emphasize that the individual is bound almost directly to society
through a conscience collective that provides a single, powerful, total belief system
(p.146). The other law he talks about is the restitutive law. This law does not involve the
suffering of the individual but is more about the “return of things to the way they were”
and the reestablishment of troubled relations back to their normal state. Restitutive law is
only possible in societies with advanced division of labour (p.146).
1. What is meant by “organic solidarity” and “mechanical solidarity?” What is the
relationship between the two?
1. How and why does Durkheim distinguish biological and psychological facts from
Biology vs. sociology
Sociology deals with shared ideas, patterns of conscious action and social institutions
and structures, which are not the same as biological structures and their functions.
Psychology vs. sociology
Psychology is concerned with thought processes internal to the individual, whereas
sociology is concerned with processes external to the individual.
1. 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”?
1. 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”?
Berger argues that every one of us is located “at the centre of a number of concentric
circles, each one representing a system of social control”. This image helps clarify Durkheim’s notion that living in society means that one is faced with “many forces that
constrain and coerce” one’s thoughts and actions. Durkheim’s notion of a social facts are
group habits, generalized patterns of action, traditions, and are internalized by the
socialized individual and determine behaviour.According to Durkheim, people’s actions
are shaped or influenced by their social location, and, even when they resist all social
constraints, they are, nonetheless, implicated in the dynamics of social control. This
informal dimension of social control is fundamentally important to Durkheim’s
1. Why is Durkheim’s study of suicide considered important by sociologists?
The study of suicide is considered important by sociologists because it takes a very
individualistic decision and demonstrates it as a sociological concept since it
demonstrates social factors that predispose some and protect others from making this
critical decision (Beamish 2010: 157).
The study of suicide is considered important by sociologists because it takes a
very individualistic decision and demonstrates it as a sociological concept since
it demonstrates social factors that predispose some and protect others from
making this critical decision (Beamish 2010: 157).
1. What were the three categories of suicide Durkheim identified? What are four
implications of Durkheim’s study of suicide?
The three categories of Durkheim's suicide are egoistic suicide (the role of religion in
integration), altruistic suicide (strong sense of integration), and anomic suicide (loss of
normality). Four implications of Durkheim's study of suicide are:
• a new science to explain and predict
• exerts a social or societal control
• new methodology – large data sets linking independent and dependent variables
• pivotal in development of an empirical, natural science oriented approach to the
study of society
1. Put the key ideas to Durkheim’s sociology in a “Quick Facts about Durkheim”
summary chart or box; what 5 to 7 points should go in that summary tabulation?
1. In what ways are Marx’s and Durkheim’s approaches to the study of society
similar? How do they differ?
Marx and Durkheim held that that are grand narratives of progress, which came out of the
Enlightenment promise that through reason, mastery and progress, we can understand and
master the world. Both sociologists studied society from a macro perspective, and
analyzed the transformation from an agrarian culture to an industrialized one. Marx and
Durkheim observed the way institutions function together, and while Durkheim considered it to be an efficient system, Marx thought it would lead to tension and conflict.
Unlike Marx, one of Durkheims missions in life was to establish sociology as a scientific
discipline. Durkheim strived to establish sociology as an empirical, observational based
science and separate sociology from all individualist theories such as economics, politics,
and philosophy. He held that all individuals and institutions within a society had a
functional purpose, and that every person within a society worked with a similar goal in
mind. Thus, Durkheim was labeled a structural functionalist. Marx said that
understanding the economy was the most fundamental thing to sociological study. The
key focuses of Marxs study were upon political economy, class formation, class conflict
and the dynamic of history. He introduced conflict theory, which says that there is always