SOC 101 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: George Herbert Mead, Cogito Ergo Sum, Herbert Blumer

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16 Oct 2011
Chapter 1 Understanding the Sociological Imagination
Sociology the systematic study of human groups and their interactions
Charles Wright Mills
Failing to appreciate how individual challenges are influenced by larger social forces diminishes a person’s ability to
understand and resolve them;
Personal Troubles personal challenges that require individual solutions (such as failing a test)
Social Issues Challenges caused by larger social factors that require collective solutions (such as the whole
class failing a test)
Quality of Mind Mills’ term for the ability to view personal circumstance within social context (without this no
one would deal with social issues and issues would not be dealt with collectively); to improve quality of mind Mills’
suggest the sociological imagination
Sociological Imagination Mills’ term for the ability to perceive how dynamic social forces influence individual
lives; involves stepping out of yourself and looking at yourself from a new perspective and asking “Who am I and why do
I think the way I do?”; when people see their own histories in a social context they improve their quality of mind
Peter Berger (Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective)
Believed that seeing the general in the particular and the familiar as strange and looking at individual circumstances and
broadening them to see the larger social patterns was employing sociological perspective
Sociological perspective a view of society based on the dynamic relationships between individuals and the larger social
network in which we all live
Five factors that affect the way we perceive ourselves and others include; minority status, gender, socio-economic
status, family structure, urban-rural differences and to understand our own biases and investigate the social world is
using the sociological perspective.
Agency the assumption that individuals have the ability to alter their socially constructed lives
Ascribed Status attributes assigned at birth
Achieved Status attributes developed throughout life as a result of effort and skill
The Origins of Sociology
The Chinese philosopher K’ung fu-tzu (Confucius) and the ancient Greeks engaged in elaborate discussions and writings
about society in general and the role of the individual citizen in particular; the Sophists focused on the human being, in
contrast to the earlier tradition that concentrated on understanding the physical world; Socrates and Plato (The Republic
asked what social justice was and what characteristics of a just individual are) advocated the necessity of deeper
reflection on the human social condition; Ibn Khaldun is the first social philosopher working from the sociological
Three revolutionary events inspired the rise of sociology which in the scientific revolution, the political revolution and
the Industrial Revolution.
The Scientific Revolution
Auguste Comte (Law of Three Stages) coined the term sociology and is often considered the father of sociology,
believed that the scientific techniques could be applied to the social world as well.
The Theological Stage the longest period of human thinking characterized by a religious outlook that explains the
world and society as an expression of God’s will and views science as a means to discover God’s intentions
The Metaphysical Stage was a period during which people began to question everything and to challenge the power of
the teachings of the Church; people could understand and explain their universe through their own insight and
The Positive Stage the final stage which he believed that the world would be interpreted through a scientific lens
that society would be guided by the rules of observation, experimentation and logic
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Positivism a theoretical approach that considers all understanding to be based on science; quantitative sociology
Positivism has three primary assumptions;
1. There exists an objective and knowable reality (people can figure things out if the try and there shouldn’t be any
2. Since all sciences explore the same, singular reality, over time all sciences will become more alike (there is only one
correct explanation for the physical and social worlds)
3. There is no room in science for value judgments (no good or bad science)
Anti positivism a theoretical approach that considers knowledge and understanding to be the result of human
subjectivity; qualitative sociology
Anti-positivism challenges all three of the positivists’ assumptions;
1. The social world cannot be totally understood just using numbers and formulas and social value must be assigned to
2. All sciences will not merge since no single method can reach a complete understanding of our world and in fact the
sciences become more unique over time as scientists find new areas to research and understand more about the world
3. Science cannot be separated from our values and what is studied is a social expression
The Political Revolution
Niccolo Machiavelli (The Prince)
Nobility and power were not a birthright and that anyone could take power if and when the opportunity presented itself
Rene Descartes
Cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) human beings are able to understand their world through rational reflection
Thomas Hobbes people were driven by 2 primary passions; fear of death and the desire for power; long-term stability
can be achieved only when citizens join together and agree to forgo individual power for a collective
John Locke ideas are not innate and all knowledge is the result of experience; people were born as blank slates; to
increase knowledge one must gather more information about the material world through science
Jean-Jacques Rousseau prior to organized society, human beings existed in a natural state whereby an individual’s
desire was solitary and self-centred but as society develops people realize that they could achieve more by working
together (the social contract)
The Industrial Revolution
Changed virtually every aspect of life: family structure, how people made a living, people’s thoughts, dreams and
Values cultural assessments that identify something as right, desirable, and moral
Quantitative sociology the study of behaviours that can be measured (e.g. income levels)
Qualitative sociology the study of non-measurable, subjective behaviours (e.g. the effects of divorce)
Macrosociology the study of society as a whole (big picture first, individuals second) (tends to be deductive, sees
behaviour as predictable and is associated with European social theory)
Early theorists include;
Karl Marx Insight into the nature of human relationships, people are naturally competitive with each other because
they have unlimited wants but an unequal ability to fulfill them; all relationships have power imbalances to understand
how power permeates the ways people interact not only as individuals but also as entire classes
Emile Durkheim established sociology as a serious scientific endeavour; he believed that people wanted to work
together for collective benefit
Max Weber centered on how the social world is becoming increasingly rationalized over time (people are becoming
more focused on selecting the most efficient means to accomplish any particular end
Microsociology the study of individual or small-group dynamics within a larger society (individuals first, society
second)(tends to be inductive, sees behaviour as creative and is characteristically North American and contemporary)
Early theorists include;
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George Herbert Mead viewed the individual mind and self as rising out of the social process of communication;
Symbolic Interactionism a perspective asserting that people and societies are defined and created through the
interactions of individuals
Charles Horton Cooley suggested that people define themselves by how others view them; we become the person
that we believe others see to be us
Herbert Blumer meaning, language and thought led him to conclude that people create their sense of self within the
larger social world
Sociology in Canada
Four defining features which distinguish Canadian sociology from American are;
Canada’s Geography and Regionalism Quebec offers a unique linguistic and cultural influence (The Quiet Revolution
the influence of the Catholic Church minimized and replaced by provincial bureaucracy)
Focus on Political Economy
Political economy - the interactions of politics, government and governing, and the social and cultural
constitution of markets, institutions and actors
Harold Innis (The Fur Trade in Canada, The Cod Fisheries)- first Canadian sociologist to investigate Canada’s political
economy; Canadian society seems to be defined by the realization that Canada is not one of the world’s major economic
or social forces
Staples thesis Canadian development was based on exploitation of raw materials that were sent to European
countries to fuel their own industrial thirsts
Canadianization Movement many early Canadian sociologists were trained at the Chicago School of Sociology
Radical Nature of Canadian Sociology its greater focus on Macrosociology as well as feminist ideas and perspectives
Margrit Eichler simultaneous emergence of the Canadianization movement and the women`s movement led
to a politics of knowledge that proved helpful to both; she attempts to reverse the “politics of erasure” which she
argued has ignored the historical contributions made by female sociologists
Early Canadian Sociologists
Annie Maclean (Wage-Earning Women) first Canadian woman to receive a Ph.D in sociology, forerunner on the
subject of working women
Sir Herbert Brown Ames (The City below the Hill: A Sociological Study of a Portion of the City of Montreal, Canada)-
sociology which relied on various statistical analyses to document the living conditions people experienced
Carl Dawson first sociologist to be hired at McGill University; wrote an introductory sociology textbook
Aileen Ross her work has strong ties to gender roles
Helen Abell the founder of rural sociology in Canada, focused on farm families and the effects of modernization,
contributions by farm women and the decline of family farming
Kathleen Herman active supporter of women’s rights
John Porter (The Vertical Mosaic: An Analysis of Social Class and Power in Canada) investigation of equality in Canada
and the use of power by Canada’s bureaucratic, economic and political elites
Ruth Rittenhouse Morris focused on the attempt to abolish the penal system in favour of an alternative justice system
Global Perspective
Globalization a worldwide process involving the production, distribution, and consumption of technological, political,
economic and socio-cultural goods and services; also implies a realization of the primacy of capitalism as a defining
feature of the global economy
Marshall McLuhan
Global Village how electronic media collapse space and time and enable people everywhere to interact and
experience life on a global scale
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