Sociology study notes
Test #1 2011-10-19
New Society ch.1-3
Sociology as a Life or Death Issue ch.1-2
Online readings #1-2
Chapter 1 Introduction
- Sociology: the systematic study of human action in social context. Its
based on the idea that our relations with other people create opportunities
for us to think and act but also set limits on our thoughts and action.
- Sociology can help us to know ourselves, our capabilities and limitations.
- Social causes are distinct from physical and emotional causes;
understanding social causes can help clarify otherwise inexplicable
features of famine, marriage, and so forth.
- A phenomenon that at first glance appears to be solely the outcome of
breakdowns in individual functioning: suicide.
Social relations among people powerfully influence suicide rates.
- Sociological research has been motivated by a desire to improve the social
world. Sociology is not just a dry, academic exercise but a means of
charting a better course for society.
- As was the case a hundred years ago, sociologists today try to understand
social phenomena and suggest credible ways of improving their societies.
The Sociological Perspective
- Suicide appears to be the supremely antisocial and non-social.
- What usually interests us are the aspects of specific individuals lives that
caused them to become depressed or angry enough to do something as
awful as killing themselves.
- The worlds highest suicide rates are found in some countries of the former
Soviet Union and Hungary. The worlds lowest suicide rates are found in
two clusters, one in certain Caribbean island states, the other in parts of the
- Emile Durkeim demonstrated that suicide is more than just an individual
act of desperation resulting from psychological disorder, as was commonly believed at the time.
Suicide rates are strongly influenced by social forces.
Only if suicide rates tend to be high where rates of psychological disorder
are high, and low where rates of psychological disorder are low.
He discovered there were slightly more women than men in insane
Jews had the highest rate of psychological disorder among the major
religious groups in France.
Suicide rates, increased steadily with age. (psychological disorders
occurred most frequently when a person reached maturity.)
Suicide rates vary because of differences in the degree of social
solidarity in different groups.
-the more a groups members share beliefs and values, and the more
frequently and intensely they interact, the more social solidarity there is
in the group.
-the more social solidarity there is in a group, the more firmly anchored
individuals are to the social world, and the less likely they are to take
their own lives if adversity strikes.
-In the other words, groups with a high degree of solidarity to have
lower suicide rates then groups with a low degree of solidarity did.
- A groups level of Social Solidarity is determined by the
frequency with which its members interact and the degree to
which they share beliefs, values and morals.
-to support his argument, Durkeim showed that
1. married adults are half as likely as unmarried adults are to commit
2. women are less likely to commit suicide than men
3. Jews, are less likely to commit suicide than Christians are.
4. seniors are more prone than the young and the middle-aged are to
take their own lives in the face of misfortune.
-Durkeim wrote, Suicide varies with the degree of integration of the
social groups of which the individual forms a part.
-a persons likelihood of committing suicide decreases with the degree
to which he or she is anchored in society.
Suicide in Canada today
- It sheds light on the factors that account for variations in suicide rates here
and now. - Men are about 4 times more likely than women are to commit suicide.
- Youth suicide was extremely rare and suicide among working-age people
- Suicide rates do not increase steadily with age in Canada today.
(20-59>60-84 although 85-89 is the highest)
- theory of social solidarity helps us to understand why it has risen so quickly in
- Facts effecting suicide rate:
1. religious service
3. rate of divorce
- the level of social solidarity is now lower than it was just a few decades ago
for young people.
- Types of suicide:
Altruistic suicide occurs when norms tightly govern behaviours, so
individual actions are often in the group interest.
Egoistic suicide results from a lack of integration of the individual into
society because of weak social ties to others.
Anomic suicide occurs when norms governing behaviour are vaguely
- Patterns of social relations affect your innermost thoughts and feelings,
influence your actions, and thus help shape who you are. One such pattern
of social relations is the level of social solidarity characteristic of the various
groups to which you belong.
- Sociologists call relatively stable patterns of social relations social
Personal problems are connected to social structures at the micro, macro
and global levels. Three levels of social structure:
1. Microstructures are patterns of intimate social relations.
- family, friendship circles, work association,etc.
- formed during face-to face interaction.
- people you know well are likely to know many of the same people.
- people to whom you are weakly connected are more likely to know
different groups of people.
- you are more likely to find a job faster if you understand the strength
of weak ties in microstructural settings.
2. Macrostructures are patterns of social relations that lie outside and
above your circle of intimates and acquaintances.