SOC101Y1 Final notes

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26 Apr 2013
Chapter 1 - Introduction
- Sociology: Systematic study of human behaviour in social context
- Emerged during Industrial Revolution:
- Era of massive social transformation accompanied by new social problems
- Sociological perspective examines association between social events and social relations
- Classic 19th century example Durkheim’s analysis of suicide:
- Examined association between suicide rates and social relations Demonstrated that suicide rates are strongly influenced by
social forces
- demonstrated that suicide is more than just an individual act of desperation resulting from psychological disorder, as was
commonly believed at the time
- Durkheim’s theory of suicide:
- Social solidarity: Degree to which group member share beliefs and values, and intensity and frequency of interaction
- Demonstrated variation in social solidarity in different groups:
- Those weakly integrated into social groups are more likely to commit suicide
- As level of social solidarity increases, suicide rate declines
- Durkheim argued that as the level of social solidarity increases, the suicide rate declines; then, beyond a certain point, it starts to
rise. = Hence the U-shaped curve in the graph
- 3 types of suicide:
- Anomic suicide: Occurs in low social solidarity settings, where norms governing behaviour are vaguely defined
- Egoistic suicide: Results from lack of integration of individual into society because of weak social ties to others
- Altruistic suicide: Occurs in high social solidarity contexts, where norms tightly govern behaviour
- Implications of Durkheim’s analysis of suicide:
- Social forces exist as distinct level of reality that is:
- External to individuals
- Constrains individual behaviour
- Social structures: Relatively stable patterns of social relations
- Microstructures: Overarching patterns of intimate social relations formed during face-to-face interaction (e.g., families, friendships, work
- Macrostructures: Overarching patterns of social relations outside one’s circle of intimates and acquaintances (e.g., class relations,
bureaucratic organizations, power systems)
- Global structures: Patterns of social relations outside and above national level (e.g., United Nations, European Union, NAFTA region)*
- C. Wright Mills’ concept of sociological imagination: Ability to see connection between personal troubles and social structure
- One of sociologist’s main task: Identify and explain connection between people’s personal troubles and social structures in which people
are embedded
- Origins of the sociological imagination:
- Scientific Revolution (circa 1550): Encouraged evidence-based conclusions about society
- Democratic Revolution (circa 1750): Suggested people were responsible for creating society; thus, human intervention capable of
solving social problems
- Industrial Revolution (circa 1780): Created host of social problems; attracted attention of social thinkers
- Origins of sociology:
- Comte (1838): Coined term ―sociology‖
- Sought to understand social world using scientific method of research
- But also had vision of ideal society
- Values: Ideas about right and wrong, good and bad
- Inform what issues are considered important
- Help sociologists formulate and favour certain theories
- Theories: Tentative explanations of some aspect of social life that state how and why certain facts are related
- Research: Process of systematically observing reality in order to ―test‖ theories
- Main theoretical traditions in sociology:
- Functionalism
- Stresses human behaviour is governed by relatively stable patterns of interaction
- Focuses on how social structures either maintain or undermine social stability
- Argues social structures are based mainly on shared values
- Suggests re-establishing equilibrium as a solution to most social problems
- Conflict theory
- Focuses on large, macro-level structures (e.g., relations between or among classes)
- Shows how major patterns of inequality produce social stability in some circumstances and social
change in others
- Stresses how members of privileged groups seek to maintain advantages, while subordinate groups struggle to increase theirs
- Typically recommends eliminating privilege as means of reducing social conflict and increasing sum of human welfare
- symbolic interactionism
- Focuses on face-to-face interaction in micro-level social settings
- Emphasizes need for understanding subjective meanings that people attach to social
- Argues that people help create their social circumstances, not merely react to them
- Increases understanding and tolerance of difference by validating unpopular and unofficial
- feminist theory
- Focuses on various aspects of patriarchy: System of male domination in society
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- Suggests male domination and female subordination are determined by structures of power and social convention rather than
- Examines operation of patriarchy in both micro and macro social settings
- Recommends eliminating patterns of gender inequality
- Today’s social setting is characterized by:
- Postindustrialism: Technology-driven shift from manufacturing to service industries and attendant consequences of that shift for all of
- Globalization: Process by which formerly separate economies, states, and cultures become tied together; also characterized by people
becoming increasingly aware of their growing interdependence
- Sociological issues in the postindustrial era:
- Autonomy versus constraint: Individuals are more free to construct identities but are limited by new technologies (e.g., surveillance
- Prosperity versus inequality: Are new economic, political, and educational opportunities, yet persistence of economic and political
- Diversity versus uniformity: Increased tolerance of diversity amidst strong push for conformity in many spheres of life
Chapter 6 Social Stratification
- Social stratification: Refers to persistent patterns of social inequality in a society
- Is perpetuated by the way wealth, power, and prestige are distributed and passed on from one generation to the next
- Exists in all societies
- Status: Rank or position in a social hierarchy
- Statuses may be:
- Ascribed (assigned at birth), or
- Achieved (earned by performance)
- Types of stratification systems:
- Open stratification system: Stratification system in which merit rather than inheritance (ascribed characteristics) determines social rank
- Allows for social change
- Is reflected in a meritocracy: Positions are achieved, not ascribed
- Characterized by equal opportunity and high social mobility (movement up or down a social hierarchy)
- Closed stratification system: Stratification system in which inheritance rather than merit determines social rank
- Little social change possible
- Reflected in a caste system: Positions are ascribed, not achieved
- Characterized by little social mobility
- Class: Position in an economic hierarchy occupied by individuals or families with similar access to, or control over, material resources (e.g.,
working class, professional class)
- Class structure: Relatively permanent economic hierarchy comprising different social classes
- Socioeconomic status: Person’s general status within an economic hierarchy, based on income, education, and occupation
- Explanations of social stratification:
Marx on stratification
- Writings focus particularly on 19th century European world rapidly being changed by industrial capitalism
- Industrial Revolution: Tremendous increase in level of economic production and degree of inequality
- Key concepts in Marx’s theory:
- Mode of production: Overall system of economic activity (e.g., slavery, capitalism)
- mode of production comprises:
- Means of production: Technology, capital investments, raw materials used in production
- Social relations of production: Relationships between main classes involved in production
- Two major classes within industrial capitalism:
- The bourgeoisie: Owners of the means of production
- The proletariat: Workers who exchange their labour for a wages
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- Secondary class: The petite bourgeoisie: Independent owners/ producers (e.g., farmers) and small business owners*
- Exploitation of wage labourers was result of surplus value: When proceeds from sale of goods produced by wage-labourers far exceed cost of
wages, raw materials, etc.
- Surplus value then turned into profits for owners (i.e., capitalists)
- Class conflict: Conflict between major classes within a mode of production
- Is driving force behind social change
- Eventually leads to evolution of new mode of production
- Envisioned capitalism being replaced with socialist mode of production (i.e., no private property with its attendant exploitation and inequality)
- Theorized workers would develop class-consciousness: Recognition by members of a class of their shared interest in opposition to members of
another class
- Would lead to revolutionary upheaval and eventually classes society based on collective ownership of means of
production (e.g., communism)
- Criticized for predictions not finding support in:
- Later capitalist societies, which were characterized by absence of widespread class conflict, growth of the middle class, and relative
decline in material inequality in 20th century Example: Western Europe and North America
- Later socialist systems of government, which were characterized by persistent inequality, and new hierarchy that controls political and
bureaucratic apparatus Example: Russia
Weber on stratification:
- Focused on determinants of power: Ability to impose one’s wishes on others
- Structural basis of power:
- Class (power derived from position in economic hierarchy)
- Status (power derived from culturally and socially defined position that person occupies in a group)
- Party (political power)
- Power depends on one’s location in these three structures
- He had the advantage of seeing the direction in which more mature industrial capitalism was taking European society; he saw more complexity in
social stratification system and recognized more classes than Marx
- Argued that, historically, the economic dimension of stratification tends to become dominant
- Gave primary emphasis in social stratification to economic underpinnings
- Claimed there was larger variety of class positions than found in Marx’s theory
- Emphasized life chances: Opportunities (or lack thereof) for higher standard of living and a better quality of life that are available to members of a
given class
- Class position is determined by “market situation”: the possession of goods, opportunities for income, level of education, and level of
technical skill.
- The four main classes: large property owners, small property owners, propertyless but highly educated employees, and propertyless
manual workers.
- Status groups (distinguished by differences in prestige) and parties (distinguished by differences in power) also stratify the social order, to
some degree independently of class.
- Class conflict may occur but classlessness is unlikely
Davis and Moore: Functional theory of stratification
- Inequality exists in all societies Must be necessary
- All societies have occupational roles that need to be filled, with some roles requiring more training than others (e.g., the more important roles)
- Greater rewards (e.g., money, prestige) necessary to encourage people to undertake extended training and fill these important roles
- Social inequality is therefore necessary and inevitable
- Theory does not account for the following:
- Huge income and wealth inequalities
- Gender differences in income even if same type of work undertaken
- Inherited wealth
- Arbitrariness of denoting most important roles (e.g., movie stars, nurses, daycare workers)
- Criticized as justification for large inequalities
Lenski: Technology and stratification systems
- Society’s technological base largely determines degree of inequality within it
- Owners of means of production need to rely on well-educated managerial and technical workers
- Reliance gives rise to workers’ demands for greater portion of the growing wealth in industrial society
- Employers give in to demands because they cannot produce wealth without these workers
- Envisioned movement towards more equal distribution of wealth
- Lenski’s theory resembled the functionalist theory of stratification both noted that better-educated and more highly skilled workers are paid more
- However, unlike the functionalist approach, Lenski’s theory clearly took power differences into account, emphasizing how the extent of
accumulation of wealth by elites, or the degree of material inequality, depends on the power and bargaining ability of middle-level workers
- Also, Lenski brought power and conflict back into his explanation of social inequality:
- He placed material inequalities resulting from one group’s domination of another at the centre of his model, thus coming closer to the approach
taken by Marx and Weber
Wright’s neo-Marxist theory of class:
- Recognized that as industrial capitalism matured, the middle class had grown and become more diverse
- Emphasized ―contradictory class locations‖: An occupational grouping with divided loyalties
- Also identified three classes of owners and nine classes of wage labourers (PICTURE ON TOP OF NEXT PAGE)
- Argued exploitation of one class by another can occur through:
- Control of property or means of production (as Marx insisted)
- Ownership of skill or credential assets, and
- Control of high positions within organizations
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