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SOC 101
Kathleen Bloom

Chapter 1: Understanding the sociological imagination What is Sociology? • Sociology is the systematic study of human groups and their interactions • Sociological perspective refers to the unique way in which sociologists see our world and can dissect the dynamic relationships between individuals and the larger social network in which we all live Charles Wright Mills • The social imagination o Developing an appreciation of how individual challenges are influenced by larger social forces • Personal troubles result from individual challenges • Social issues are caused by large social factors • The“trick” is in understanding how these personal troubles may indeed be due to larger social issues • Quality of mind refers to one’s ability to look beyond personal circumstance and into social context • The sociological imagination is the ability to understand the dynamic relationship between individual lives and the larger society Peter Berger • Seeing the general in the particular is the ability to look at seemingly unique events (particular) and then recognizing the larger (general) features involved • Think about what is familiar and see it as strange What makes you, you? • Agency refers to the idea that each of us has, to some extent, the ability to alter our socially constructed lives. • Structure is the network of relatively stable opportunities and constraints influencing our individual behaviours. Engaging your Sociological Imagination • Our perception of ourselves and others are the products of many factors for example: 1. Minority Status 2. Gender 3. Socioeconomic Status 4. Family structure 5. Urban-Rural Differences The historical development of sociology The scientific revolution (1650-1800) • Auguste Comte, considered the father of sociology • Law of 3 stages: o Theological stage: religious outlook that explains the world and human society as an expression of god’s will o Metaphysical stage: a period during which people began to question everything and challenge the teachings of the church, assumption that people could understand and explain their universe with their own insight and reflection o Positive stage: society would be guided by the rules of observation, experimentation and logic The political revolution (Renaissance to enlightenment) • Machiavelli – suggested that human behaviour is motivated by self-interest and an insatiable desire for material gain • Descartes – committed to the idea that human beings were able to understand their world through rational reflection • Locke – believed that ideas are not innate that people were born as blank slates and we increased our knowledge through science and experimentation • Rousseau – suggested that prior to organized society, human beings existed in a natural state whereby an individual’s desire was solitary and self-centred. As society developed, these early beings began to see the benefits of working together. The social contract is the acknowledgement that we can achieve more by working together than apart and while we lose some of our independence the benefits far outweigh the costs The industrial Revolution (around 1750) • The industrial revolution replaced agriculture as our main means of supporting ourselves • Changed virtually all aspects of life from family structures, how people made a living, people thoughts dream and aspirations • Introduced many social problems including child labour, poverty, malnourishment, and increased crime rates Positivism and Anti-positivism • Positivism is a theoretical approach that considers all understanding to be based on science 1. There exists an objective knowable reality 2. Singular explanation 3. Value-free • Anti-positivism is a theoretical approach that considers knowledge and understanding to be the result of human subjectivity o Rejects each of the positivist assumptions Quantitative versus Qualitative Sociology • Quantitative sociology o Tends to be positivist in nature o Measurable behaviour o E.g. Crime rates over time • Qualitative sociology o Anti-positivist in nature o Non-measureable subjective behaviours o E.g. Experiences of living in poverty Macro and Micro approaches • Macrosociology refers to attempting to understand society as a whole o Marx – suggested that all human relationships have power imbalances o Durkheim – believed that people wanted to work together for the collective benefit o Weber – believed that the social world is becoming increasingly rationalized, which meant that people are becoming more focused on selecting the most efficient means to accomplish any particular ends • Microsociology refers to attempting to understand individual or small group dynamics o Mead – believed in social interactionism: A perspective asserting that people and societies are defined and created through the interactions of people o Cooley – suggested that people define themselves partly by how others view them o Blumer – named social interactionism and continued to contribute to meads theory Sociology in Canada Four features which define Canadian sociology: Geography and regionalism • Ability to survive overtime • Role of regionalism Political economy • Clement – interest in the interactions of politics, government and the social and cultural constitution of markets, institutions and actors Canadianization movement • Influenced by American sociology Radical nature • Greater focus on macrosociology as well as feminist ideas Sociology in Global perspective • Looking beyond our own boundaries to consider the dynamic focuses of globalization • Globalization is a worldwide process involving the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services • Capitalism as a defining feature of the global economy • Connecting local realities to global collective consciousness Chapter 2: Sociology and its Classical Theoretical Foundations “Seeing” the World Theoretically • Theory is a statement that tries to explain how facts or events are related • Develop skills that are necessary to see the world from alternative perspectives • Each theory has both strengths and weaknesses • Each theorist offers unique insights into our social world Classical Sociology Theory (1600-1750) • Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) o People are responsible for creating their own social worlds o Natural state: how humans existed prior to the emergence of social structures o People are motivated by self interest and the pursuit of power • John Locke (1632-1794) o God was responsible for the emergence of society and government o Tabula rasa: people are born as blank slates o Right to self-preservation and to private property o Individual autonomy and freedom • Charles Montesquieu (1689 – 1755) o Proposed that humans never existed outside or without society and that humans were defined and created by society o Contributions include his appreciation for cultural diversity and comparative methodology • Jean – Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778) o The social contract: When an individual surrenders some of their freedoms and submit to the authority of the majority in order to protect their remaining rights o Still believed in the natural state before society o Theories questioned the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual The Enlightenment (1650-1799) • Challenged years of Christian teachings • Philosophes – philosophers who advocated critical thinking and practical knowledge built on the natural sciences The Birth of Sociology • Conservatives believed that society is not the product of individuals, rather an entity in itself. 1. Society exists on its own 2. Society produces the individual 3. Individuals simply fill positions 4. Smallest unit of social analysis is the family 5. Parts of society are interrelated and interdependent 6. Change is a threat 7. Social institutions are beneficial 8. Modern social changes create fear and anxiety 9. Emphasis on seemingly irrational factors 10. Return to social hierarchies and healthy competition Functionalism Social world is a dynamic system of interrelated and interdependent parts • Social structures exist to help people fulfill their wants and desires • Organic analogy: The belief that society is like an organism with interdependent and interrelated parts • Human society is similar to an organism, when it fails to work together the “system” will fail • Society must meet the needs of the majority • Dominant theoretical paradigm between the late 1920s and the early 1960s Functionalist Theorists Herbert Spencer • Survival of the fittest justifies why only the strong should survive • Societies evolve because they need to change in order to survive • Environmental pressures allow beneficial traits to be passed on to future generations • Social Darwinism draws upon Darwin’s idea of natural selection; • asserts societies evolve according to the same principles as biological organisms • Laissez-faire approach (opposes regulation of or interference with natural processes) Emile Durkheim • Founder of modern sociology • Human action originates in the collective rather than in the individual • Behaviour is driven by the collective conscience • Social facts - are general social features hat exist on their own and are independent of individual manifestations (ex. Laws, beliefs, customs, and morals) • Anomie – is a state of normlessness that results from the lack of clear goals and creates feelings of confusion that may ultimately result in higher suicide rates • Mechanic solidarity – describes early societies based on similarities and independence • Organic solidarity - describes later societies organized around interdependence and the increasing division of labor Talcott Parsons • Interested in explaining why people do what they do • Social action theory - is a framework which attempts to separate behaviors from actions to explain why people do what they do o Adaptation – the social system must be able to gather and distribute sufficient resources and adjust to changes in its environment o Goal attainment – the system needs to establish clear goals and priorities o Integration – the system needs to maintain solidarity while allowing the aspirations of subgroups o Latency – system needs to motivate individuals to release their frustrations in socially appropriate ways Robert Merton • Social structures have many functions • Manifest functions: the intended consequences of an action or social pattern • Latent functions: the unintended consequences of an action or social pattern Criticisms of functionalist approaches: • Inability to account for social change • Overemphasis on the extent to which harmony and stability actually exist in society Conflict Theory • Society is grounded upon inequality and competition • Power is the core of all social relationships; scarce and unequally divided among members of society • Social values and the dominant ideology are the vehicles by which the powerful promote their own interests at the expense of the weak • Rooted in the writings of Machiavelli, Hobbes and Rousseau • Rousseau argued that there are two types of inequality amongst people: o Natural or physical inequality: inequality based on physical differences established by nature (ex. Strength, intelligence) o Moral or political inequality: inequality based on human classification of valuable things Karl Marx • Dialectics: a way of seeing history and society as the result of oppositions, contradictions and tensions from which social change can emerge (Hegel) • Idealism: human mind and consciousness are more important in understanding the human condition than is the material world • Human consciousness and human interaction with the material world could change society • Relations of production based on power Base / Superstructure Dynamic relationship between the material and social elements of society • Base: the material and economic foundation for society, made up of the forces of production and the relations of production • Superstructure: All the things that society values and aspires to once its material needs are met (ex. Religion, politics, law) • Forces of production: the physical and intellectual resources a society has with which to make a living • Relations of production: The relationship between workers and owners Marx (cont’d) • Proletariat (the workers) and bourgeoisie (rich owners) • Alienation: the process by which workers are disconnected from what they produce • Exploitation: the difference between what workers are paid and the wealth they create for the owners • Ideology: set of beliefs and values that support and justify the ruling class of society • Dominant ideology maintains the position of the ruling elite • False consciousness: belief in and support of the system that oppresses you • Class consciousness: recognition of domination and oppression and the collective action that occurs to address it Criticisms of the conflict theory • Diminishes he many areas of our lives where we experience an uncoerced consensus about things we feel are important • Fails to acknowledge that much struggle today is not a personal desire for power, but friendly competition • Believe strongly in being actively involved in advocating for those who lack social power • Insistence on the primary and driving role of economics and materialist interpretations of social life • It focuses too much on the macro level of issues and fails to investigate individual motivations and reactions to tension and conflicts in people’s lives Symbolic Interactionism • Micro versus macro approach (very different from other theories) • Highlight the ways in which meanings are created, constructed, mediated and changed by members of a group or society • Thomas theorem: Assertion that what people define as real are real in their consequences (ex. Prisons vs. rehabilitation facility) • Symbolic interactionism has seven fundamental principles: 1. Humans have capacity for thought unlike other animals 2. Human thinking is shaped by social interaction 3. In social settings, people learn meanings and symbols that allow them to exercise their distinctively human capacity for thought 4. Meanings and symbols enable people to carry on uniquely human actions and interactions 5. People are able to change meanings and symbols that they use given their interpretation of various social situations 6. People are able to make these modifications in part because they have the unique ability to interact with themselves 7. The culmination of patterns of action and interaction make up groups and societies Max Weber • Verstehen: a deep understanding and interpretation of subjective social meanings Georg Simmel • Society is the summation of human experience and its patterned interactions • Formal sociology: Simmel’s theory that argues that different human interactions, once isolated from their content, can be similar in form George Herbert Mead • Mind, Self and society (1934), the social organization is not an organic individual but a social group of individual organisms • Human mind results from the individuals ability to respond and engage with the environment Charles H. Cooley • Sympathetic introspection: putting yourself into someone else’s shoes • Looking-glass self: we develop our self image through the cues we receive from others • Self-fulfilling prophecy: A prediction that, once made, causes the outcome to occur Critiquing Symbolic Interactionism • Fails to acknowledge how difficult it is to change long-established social arrangements • Doesn’t account for the importance of social structure and institutions in defining the world we live in Chapter 3: Modern social theories What Are Modern Social Theories? • Should not be thought of as completely separate from classical theories • Draw on each other’s work in their formulations • Theme of power runs through modern theories • Western Marxism • Feminist theories • Post-structionism • Queer theory • Post-colonial theory • Anti-racist theory Western Marxism Antonio Gramsci • Diverged from Marx in his analysis of how the ruling class ruled • Domination; physical and violent coercion • Hegemony, ideological control and manipulation o Society’s dominant ideas reflect the interests of the ruling class o Involves consent • Superstructure divided into the state and civil society • Prevailing consciousness internalized by population and becomes common sense Feminist Theories • Feminists differ in their explanations of women’s oppression and the nature of gender and in their ideas about women’s emancipation • Core concern for gender oppression • Women and men should be equals • Men have social power and thus an interest in maintaining their social privilege over women Dorothy smith (a second wave feminist) Sociology for women The everyday world as problematic • begins in the “actualities” of peoples lives and addresses problems of how we are influenced by “extra local” relations • “Actual” where people live and were their reality is constituted through discourse • Extra-local social relations: Relations that extend beyond the local, immediate setting • Discourse: social organized activity among people • Everyday world contains different experiences and thus sees it as the starting point of inquiry • Standpoint preserves the presence of the subject as an active and experiencing person Ruling Relations • They are the abstract, conceptual, and extra-locally organized relations of state, professions, corporations, academic discourses, mass media and so on, which work to coordinate, from outside the local sites of our bodies, what people do • Essentially the socially-organized exercise of power that shapes people’s actions and their lives Complex Relations, Multiple Sites • Idea that the world is structured by complex and extended social relations that are, at base, connections between people • The social is the sum of complex relationships among people at multiple sites • By looking at the social at any point, we can see something different, but since the complex is sh
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