What is sociology?
The study of society, a concrete abstraction: not something you can observe but is real
(affects us all) i.e. everyone wears clothes – enforced by law
Humans are social animals
Driven/Compelled to be together. Reason why humans survived and are dominant
Makes us happy – being accepted/loved
o 90% live in urban areas – always with people (cell, tv)
A person and people are fundamentally different things
Person is rational thing with personality
People create expectations
o Culture is created as an emergent property
You can take 2 things (people) that are dangerous on their own and when
put together new thing (oxygen + hydrogen)
Not naturally created
These emergent properties have huge benefits... but also have a dark side
o With emergence of dif roles, less time spent on fundamental needs (farmer)
o Emerg of roles is not on individual level (class clown).
o Child labour in Pakistan (quarter of a billion under age of 15 work, 5 million under
age of 9)
o Economy = concrete abstraction (ex University good job)
How people create, reinforce and challenge society
How society affects individuals and people
Why are things the way they are (and not some other way?)
We simplify complicated things/make mental short cuts (use a car, how does it work?)
o In life, do specific things to achieve others (plan a trip)
What is “society”?
Concrete abstraction: nothing you can touch, taste or see.
Formal rules, laws, norms, expectations – Lives are strongly patterned
o Cannot co-exist if we went around doing whatever we wanted
1 1. Societies are the product of human interactions
a. Social structure produced through consensus (agreement, negotiation) i.e. roles of
b. Social structure creates conflict (legal system: protects us, but also property)
i. Wealthy vs. poor
c. Allan Johnson: “participate in something larger than ourselves”
2. While people create societies, societies are autonomous from any single person
a. “Self-perpetuating” – runs itself, in motion. With every new generation we create, no
reinventing, recreates itself (i.e. voting)
b. “Self enforcing: - mutual expectations reinforced by all of us (i.e. elevator)
c. “The world is full of choices but it‟s the things we don‟t choose that make us who
we are” – ex. ethnicity, gender. (woman lawyers, black people high end store)
d. Karl Marx: Individuals make their own choices but not freely – framed, structured
and manipulated by society
Sociology is the study of individuals and their behaviours in context of society and its forces.
o Presents freedom of choice vs. conflict from overcoming norms
Why are people attracted to the mirror image of themselves?
Seeing strange in the familiar – make things appear strange (# hrs in wk at school)
o Structures children, creates transition, learn how to behave in class... (obsequious)
Path from childhood adulthood
o Education system is a giant “sorter”: takes individuality and reduces it to # (A-D)
Creates “classes” of people
C. Wright Mills: Try seeing the world through new eyes.
o To learn the mechanics of the world, detach yourself. (Relationship, networks)
Macro sociology: looking at the “big social forces and institutions” (i.e politics, educational system)
Why do they exist? Social forces channel choices/choice path of society.
Compelled to be together, constantly in contact (i.e. elevator)
People behave in “patterned” ways, coordinate behaviour acc. to norm to create a sort of
“dance”, follow predetermined “scripts”/expectations (i.e. greetings on sidewalk)
Culture shock: when the norms are unknown, cannot adapt awkward.
How to study society:
1. Looking for patterns: social trends/patterns.
2. Asking “Why do these exist?” (i.e. race acc. to income – not about skills)
3. Asking “How do these exist?”: we play a role in it (i.e. name on resume|ethnicity)
4. Building theories – create a testable theory from observation
Nature vs. Nurture:
Human behaviour is determined by Influences in your life
Hot temper, competitiveness (pass down
Survival instinct – take care of yourself. behaviour through generations)
- Newgenics: creating a “perfect society”/perfect genes and then reproducing them
- Phrenology: measuring the aspects of person‟s head (bumps) – intelligent/not, crim/not?
Understanding Human Behaviour: Looking for Laws in all the Wrong Places
Look for patterns, tendencies and trends.
We are authors of our own destiny – change to get along and be part of “larger thing”
The exceptional nature of the human infant
Human babies, no instinct (no hardware, but software) – learners/blank slate
o Not instinct to have family/make friends
o Horses/Whales recognition of many things at birth, lots of instinct
Early in life – constantly regulate environment.
o Teach kid how to react, behave and expectations (acceptability, empathy)
Seeing beyond the self – others are important/legitimate
Recognition of abstractions – building blocks of personal identity
o Manners, listening to authority, label – name.
Construction of identity – beginning of what categories of gender mean
At issue – Gender socialisation
Parents teach children roles by color they wear and how they treat them (boys = rough)
Children observe patterns at home/outside families
“Pink/Blue Issue” – Dorothy, Cinderella, Alice, Snow White = blue (Virgin Mary)
o Statistics show that dif gender dif educational tracks
o Genderization: labelled a boy/girl? (ears pierce @ 3 yrs)
Sex vs. Gender
Sex – reproductive equipment, biological
Gender – learned over the course of life, variable/contingent. Hair, clothes, beh.
o Ex. 2/3 woman rather have a man as a boss: straight-talking vs. mood swings
How does gender socialisation happen?
o Language being told, observed roles
o Reward and sanction, peer reinforcement
Beyond the family – institutions, peer groups
Re socialisation – i.e. first year student university (learning the norms)
The impact of institutions
Reinforcement principle relates to our home life, either go hand in glove or is conflictual
o Reading pleasure at home good student
o Media - teaches stereotypes, norms, and controversy, capacity to deal with issues
The influence of peers
Affect lifestyle choices (smoking, university)
Standards, cues, feedback and Group formation/identity markers
o Core lesson: constant and everyday experience, what lets us get alongknow what
Emile Durkeim – one of founders of socio (how we get along)
o Metaphor to clock: small group of people (gears) make world (clock)
o Organic solidarity: cohesion comes from everyone doing dif things after become
dependent of everyone else
o Organic idea: broader grouping (Canada) = human body. Organ on own makes no
sense/cannot function, unless all at same time.
When one thing doesn‟t work wellwhole structure suffers
Three Paradigms within Sociology
1. Structural Functionalism: perspective that looks at function of structures
a. Ex. Why are some people spiritual? What does it do?
2. Symbolic Interactionism: social structure emerges out of interactions with another
a. Roles emerge out of the way we treat others (ex Family and children)
b. Interaction via symbols
3. Conflict theory (neo-Marxism): looks at the world channelling conflict
a. Treat rich/poor people differently – based on choices of the powerful
4 A “Structural Functional” View of Roles
Society is made up of roles that individuals assume – roles more important than individual
o “Framework” that allows society to function
The “Role Set”/Power of Roles Influencing Human Behaviour
Roles only make sense in relation to one another (prof without students?)
o Zimbardo Experiment: 24 “most stable” students – guards/prisoners.
Did actions they would