SOC 232 Notes
• What is theory? Testable sets of ideas, usually. We do this to figure out what people are doing, defining the mundane,
looking at the everyday and seeing what’s “hidden” that we take for granted and that we do every day almost
unconsciously. And why? Why do we do what we do? Atheory is looking at persistent principles, looking at ideas
that are relevant from one context to another..
• Soc. Theory hasn’t really been around that long; it caught on around the 18 century when the ‘Enlightenment’
started, when people were moving away from mysticisthand starting to think it terms of reason, the mind, and
shedding light on past ideas and concepts. The 18 century was a turbulent time, many new schools of thought were
coming into the scene. We had Descartes (“I think therefore I know…”), Locke, etc. We think, so we have agency,
so we can shape the world. Hmm.
• Theory develops with the traditional to the modern and we needed to figure out the changes that came with the
Industrial Revolution. The world caught itself up in a big hurry; economy changed, travel changed, work went from
shop to factory, new classes had emerged, and so social order had also changed. Social theory didn’t emerge on its
own, it grew out of the context of the ‘new world’that arrived.
• Many readings in the early part of sociology were very white, European of whatever middle class… so we’re not
really writing from a ‘broad perspective’(we’ll still read from other voices then old white men). And also, the early
days of sociology are very ‘Western’, we don’t look too much at a variety of foreign writers – westerners knew ‘what
was what’(so to speak). Alot of theory seems to ‘rise’out of social disruption though, in response to explain growing
interests and changes. But science is not neat and empirical – perhaps it can be too lenient for social theory. “Olde”
theory still can sort of apply to today, they work as a good start and help us break into fundamentals. They are also
open to revision, a great start and a great place to lift off from: Think about how we have Marxism, and today we see
“Neo-Marxism”, or think how Karl Marx would even look at today’s society (despite having written in the 1800s).
Many early writers had written about slavery, feminism, and civil rights – how are we doing today? We’ve certainly
changed since they wrote
• “Reflexive Sociology” and Positivism! How do we know what we know and how do we test it? Medicine HAS to be
tested to make sure you don’t turn sicker or worse (penicillin was a happy accident). In sociology, we observe, we
theorize, and we report what we sense. Comte noted that the senses are important as well. Positivism is used with our
senses in scientific application, it accounts and look at probability.Do observers have a bias for what they`re
looking into? Absolutely, it’s hard not to be effected by what you’re studying, maybe seeing what you want to see or
being too “close” to a project that it might cause you to notice something ‘differently’. It happens. Eugenics was
about looking into brain sizes and making “the best people” (often singling out minorities from the “primo gene
pool”). It’s important to be reflexive, look at the world since you can’t separate it from yourself (try to minimize
over-kill with your bias though?)
• Epistemology: Ways of knowing. C Wright Mills says to use your ‘sociological imagination’– the link between
persons, society, and daily life. Just remember, society isn’t JUST you and your anecdotes (just because something
happens to a friend of yours, doesn’t mean the world suffers the same – there is a broader frame to examine the world
from that needs to be taken into account). Solutions also don’t happen with just one person, but usually the structure
needs to change: there needs to be hiring, job stimulus, educational standards, etc. You are your own agent, yet
pushed around by obstacles that you can’t always see and understand.
• This week! Lemert, Du Bois, Merton and good times. • “The Golden Moment” – post World War II, the Kennedy and King assassination happened in the 60s, free love,
Beatles. An interesting decade and the context for writing can matter! Despite some of the good times, theorists were
still ambivalent to what was going on. Why do we put up with bad deals in our daily life? Why do 1% of people earn
the most? Why do minorities get sh*t on? Why did the Cold War (the standoff between USA/Soviet) happen?
Marxism vs Capitalism, free market vs democracy, power and control. Marxism opened up many new trains of
thought, but it hasn’t really changed the world (yet?).
• Merton wrote in the 50s and was pushing a new wave of soc. thinking. He didn’t talk about exploitation, but in a
broad middle-ground about roles and role strain, social structure, anomie, etc. Alot of women and minorities wrote
on this – but with the way things were, they were sort of brushed off (womp womp).
• Berger and Luckmann! They looked at society, institutions, and reality. Why do we do what we do? There’s too
much to know, so we focus on certain aspects (a mechanic knows cars but he doesn’t know gardening – we’ll rely on
another professional to tell us that). We can’t make it through our lives that well in this complicated world without
being somewhat interdependent. But we’ve constructed this social world, we’ve made it meaningful and
consequential and we all buy into it without really questioning it – it’s just the way things are. How does this happen
and how do we get into these “habits” and institutions? We follow HABITUALIZED ROUTINES:Adurable set(s) of
regular social relations that have some sort of structuring effect on the social world. Meaning? Look at how we need
family. Some people need church. It’s a damn good thing (and required by law) that kids go to school. We need
governments, we need markets, we need structures – they shape our lives, they shape us. They’re somewhat made up
though, how they’re handled and how they work in time and in different places seems to change, after all. Point is:
How do we get them? Institutionalization happens when there is reciprocity, a “back and forthing” of habits, action
and reactions, talking and listening. Institutions have a history that can control what you do, a shared history of
reciprocity that makes things easier is durable and sticks around. If we see that an appointed body of officials can
make a durable society (ie; government), then we’ll keep having them as the foundation for how a place/country is
run. Vague example. We don’t have much leeway in institutions, otherwise we run the risk of being deviants (look at
the people who get ‘homeschooled’… again, not the best example, but homeschooled kids are “weird”; or we can
look at j-walking, it’s easy to put blame on them and maybe even hope they get hit by a car because they weren’t
listening to the rules of the road; or seeing a teacher wear a Hawaiian shirt – it doesn’t really happen and it’s not
“proper”). These institutions and norms stick around, their ideas are reified and build up and become more embodied
and engrained in what we know about our world. We just know a professor won’t come to class in a tank top and
short-shorts. We know what’s “right” and it’s uncomfortable for us when this order of things “breaks” and lose that
pattern. Institutions become naturalized, object-like, and become social facts, not tied to any one person, but just out
there and existing. If we understand how it’s made, then maaaybe we can change it. The “car culture” was pushed
automobiles companies since they established tracks in the 1940s; what would that change in how we see them?
If we had to explain and justify our “social world”, then we have to ask “why is it this way?” Why was “this” decided
to be the best way to do things? We have simultaneously both naturally and arbitrarily found the “best” way of
making the world work, or at least to the point in how things function now.
• Robert Merton &Anomie! Dirkheim actually originally coined the term “anomie”, he thought about the industrial
revolution and saw how things were really shaken up. We see deviance, conflicts, and dissatisfaction. So Merton… If
Berger and Luckmann saw that deviants happen, then what causes us to deviate if we are ever-building to an
improved world where such order matters (and where it really doesn’t help yourself to BE deviant)? He looks at how
culture gives you goals (short/long term ones; a good job, nice kids, good house, good education), and culture has a
sort of “way” for how it gets done; you go to school, work part time till you get a “job-job”, then you flirt, propose,
get married, etc. Things don’t typically deviate for most people; but it is harder for others to manage. There is a
dissociation sometimes between the goals a culture dictates and the means to achieve them. We emphasize these
goals, but not always how to reach them (and there isn’t really a ‘stopping point’when enough is enough and we’re
satisfied). Money is so damn valued too, it’s a priority, life is about “getting rich” and our culture dictates how
important that is (celebrity status often has more clout than say being a “firefighter” who saves lives). Of course, far
be it to recommend to people to “aim low” in shooting for their dreams; and we still prescribe to living out our lives,
there’s pressure to conform. Merton saw deviance less as biological and more but more as a simple “adaptation” to
social structures. The position you occupy dictates what you do; the poorest are often the most deviant due to the power structures a society usually places that emphasizes MONNEH ($). Deviance: When canngels of verticle
mobility limit us, people act deviant when they can’t make it up that “social ladder”. Our social world tells us one
think, but provides little back to us to work with. Many people explain this in luck, fortune and mysticism (or the
“ovarian lottery”) and it’s what keeps us from really criticizing the social structures that do it to us. …was this
repetitive? Or was it just me typing a lot… No, it was repetitive. SORRY.
• South Park – Token! Token is named after the “token black guy” trope; but the show subverts this by making him and
his family rich (unlike the more “average” black family that fares less well). The kids on the show also make fun of
him for being rich – not black.
• Du Bois! He was the first black graduate to earn a PhD from Harvard! He looked at race, structure, poverty, and
reconstructing theAmerican south (because it’s all weird and racist and strange). Like Merton, he talks about the
wedge between the white and black workers; in the 1870s. He noticed that both races were being exploited by the
Capitalist system, and while they should both revolt, black peoples were still treated as “others”; their status
SHOULD have been equal, but on mere basis of skin colour (and new privileges) were still ostracised. Blacks wanted
the status of whites, yet they were resented and had to step lightly around them at fear of being criticized further.
Functionalism promotes solidarity!
• Manifest Functions: The objective and most “apparent” functions, We’ve got laws that put criminals and jail because
our society doesn’t like crime. Yet the non-manifest, the Latest Function puts people so that normal society can stay
united and together (we understand societal values, we understand a desire for peace and safety). Knowing Latin used
to be a requirement to get into Yale – it was seen as a sign of intellect and academic pursuit into an old and pretty
language (Manifest). However, this also meant that very few could afford lessons or went to the fancy private school
where it was taught, where the parents have money, and therefore, where rich Yale kids go to create rich workers
(Latent). Latent = unrecognized effects. School = educationAND less workers out in the job market. HMM.
• Today: About the self, social self, dimensions, the Ego…Boo.
• William James was all over the place since in his time there really wasn’t psychology or sociology and the
boundaries and fields of it we have today. He was a pragmatist (kept it real, there’s a lot of common sense approach
to thing that’s reasonable and practical). There was the self and the selves; a man’s sum is all that he can call his.
Clothes, wife, house, work, reputation; sketching out the “self” that constitutes us can be better observed. There is no
There is the Material: Body, family, stuff that we consider ours
There is the Social: Which is recognition from friends, being dis/honoured, being in/famous
There is the Spiritual: Tough to describe. The physical sensation when you’re aware about what you’re doing (it’s
iffy and underdeveloped)
Then there is Ego: Gut feelings, the non-thinking part.
Who you are, your self, are wrapped in what you do, who you relate to, and the institutions you’re a part of. Why do
we have universities? Because _____. How do we feel as uni students? Because _____. Reasons. An internal
dialogue where we unify it all, but it’s dynamic, changing, and being remade so we can on working on that dialogue.
Anyways, he said to think about the social stuff, not the metaphysical (yaay), let’s be realistic and talk about real
• Du Bois! The veil, the double-consciousness. Afamous writer for coloured-folk. He tries to convey equal cultures
and contributions – a great this to be writing this for his time. People would shout that blacks need to be civilized!
But many were writers and poets trying to be recognized but rarely would because of their colour. Du Bois talks
about his time in school where he gave a white girl a Valentines Card thingy, but she refuses him out-right. This was
when he realized there was a black and white difference - he didn’t try to pull apart the veil, he wore it. “Why did
God make me a stranger/outcast in my own house?” Why was there a “white wall” for the “sons of night”? (Du Bois had quite the way with words). Black people can’t scale this wall and they can’t break through it. Being born with a
“veil”, he was gifted with a “second sight”, it lets him see himself in another light – his “twoness” (as anAmerican +
Negro). He didn’t want to “bleach the soul”, he wanted the opportunities but to keep his culture. Canada and UTM
are multi-cultural today; yet while many whites don’t have to negotiate the black world, blacks have to live in a white
man’s world. And this is the veil. People with privilege tend not to know they have it; and many people (even the
old, disliked blacks by old white American racist idiots) love their country, but why won’t its values or ideologies
show love back? And even when the country does, why don’t the people? EARTH IS SCREWED UP, THAT’S
WHY FOR LIKE 9999% of PROBLEMS MMMKAY
• Charolette Perkins Gillman! Born in 1860,