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SOC exam notes.docx

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Robert Brym
Study Guide

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Chapter 1: Introduction
The sociological Explanation of Suicide
Emile Durkheim (1897-1951) demonstrated that suicide is more than an individual act of desperation resulting from a psychological disorder
o Suicide rates are strongly influenced social forces
o Examined the association between suicide rates and rates of psychological disorders in different groups
Reasoned the idea that psychological disorder causes suicide is supported only if suicide rates tend to be high where rates of psychological disorder are
Research revealed nothing of the kind asylums, but 4 male suicides for every 1 female suicide
Jews had more psychological disorders than the other main religious groups in France, but the lowest suicide rate
Psychological disorder occurred most frequently when reached maturity, but suicide rates increased with age
Therefore suicide rates and rates of psychological disorders vary un proportionately
Argues: suicide rates vary because of differences in social solidarity in different groups
o The more group members share beliefs and values, and the more frequently and intensely they interact, the more social solidarity there is in the group
o The more people are anchored to their social world
o Therefore less likely to commit suicide
o Therefore suicide rates low when social solidarity high
*Graph* suicide rates are lowest at intermediate levels of social solidarity and highest at both extremes
Altruistic suicide: when norms tightly govern behaviour therefore individual actions are in the groups interest
o Soldier sacrificing himself to save another
Egoistic suicide: lack of integration of the individual into society because weak social ties to others
Anomic suicide: norms governing behaviour are vaguely defined
o When society lacks a widely shared moral code, higher anomic suicide
Suicide in Canada Today
Durkheim‟s theories hold up today
o Durkheim‟s France=Canada 2004 (sex suicide)
o Durkheim‟s France: higher rate of suicide of elderly.
Canada higher rate of suicide ages 15-16
Strong social ties and shared moral principles have eroded since the 1960s for Canada‟s youth therefore higher rate of youth suicide
o Religious attendance lower for youth (less than 1/3)
o Unemployment up
o Rate of divorce has increased therefore kids brought up in single parent homes
o Therefore social solidarity lower for young people, meaning they are more likely to commit suicide during a crisis
From Personal Ties to Social Structure
Patterns of social relations affect innermost thoughts and feelings, influence actions and help shape who we are
Relatively stable patterns of social relations=social structures
o Three levels of social structure surround and penetrate us
Microstructure: patterns of intimate social relations. Face-to-face interaction. Families, friends, work associates. More likely to know the same
people. Strength in „weak ties‟

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Macrostructure: patterns of social relations that lie outside and above circle of intimate friends. Class relations and patriarchy. Traditional system of
economic and political inequality between men and women
Global structure: International organizations, patterns of worldwide travel and communication, economic relations between countries
The Sociological Imagination
American sociologist. C. Wright Mills (1959) called the ability to see the connection between personal troubles and social structures the sociological imagination
o Born when three modern revolutions pushed people to think about society in a new way
Scientific Revolution: began in 1550. Encouraged the view that sound conclusions about the workings of society must be based on solid evidence not
just speculation
Democratic Revolution: began 1750. Suggests that people are responsible for organizing society and human intervention can solve social problems
Industrial Revolution: began 1780. Created new and serious social problems that attracted the attention of social thinkers
Origins of the Sociological Imagination
Scientific Revolution
o Less a collection of ideas than a method of inquiry
o Core: use evidence to make a case for a particular point of view
o When sociology emerged as a distinct discipline in the 19th century, commitment to the scientific method was one firm pillar of the sociological imagination
Democratic Revolution
o Second pillar of the sociological imagination
o The realization that people control society and can change it
o American and French Revolution helped undermine the ideas of how the world used to view the universe
o Democratic political upheaval showed that society could experience massive change in a short period of time
o Proved people could replace unsatisfactory leaders
o PEOPLE control society not God
Industrial Revolution
o Third pillar
o England 1780
o Because of growth of industry, people moved to cities, worked long hours in dangerous conditions
o Lost faith in religion
o Confronted faceless bureaucracies and reacted to the filth and poverty of their existence by means of strike crime, revolution and war
o Industrial Revolution presented social thinkers with pressing social problems needing a solution
Origins of Sociology
Coined by French Social Thinker Auguste Comte 1838
o Tried to place the study of sociology on scientific foundations
o Wanted to understand the social world as it is
o Swept up in the Scientific Revolution
At its origin, sociological study was motivated by the scientific method and a vision of the ideal society
Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber lived in the period from 1820-1920
Witnessed various phases of Europe‟s transition to industrial capitalism, wanted to explain it
All committed to the scientific method of research/also wanted to char out a better course for their societies

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Theory, Research and Values
Sociological ideas are generally stated in the form of theories
o Tentative explanations of some aspect of social life that states how and why certain facts are related
After theories are formulated, sociologists can conduct research
o The process of carefully observing social reality to assess the validity of a theory
Before sociologists formulate a theory, they must decide which problems are important enough to study and how parts of society fit together
To recommend ways of improving some aspect of society, must have an opinion about what ideal society looks like
o Values are ideas about what is right and wrong
o Help sociologists formulate and favour certain theories
Incorporates 4 features
o Human behaviour is governed by stable patterns of social relations/social structures (macrostructures)
o Underlines how social structures maintain or undermine social stability
o Suggest re-establishing equilibrium will best solve social problems
Conservative approach
o Emphasize social structures are based on shared values
Talcott Parsons: best known for identifying how various institutions must work together to ensure the smooth operation of society as a whole
Merton: manifest and latent
o Manifest=intended purpose
o Latent=unintended purpose
Conflict Theory
Four features
o Focuses on large, macro level structures
o Shows how major patterns of inequality in society produce social stability in some cases and social change in others
o Stresses how members of privileged groups try to maintain their advantages while subordinate groups struggle to increase theirs
o Eliminating privilege will lower the level of conflict and increase the sum total of human welfare
Karl Marx: Industrial revolution, “class consciousness,” communism
Symbolic Interactionism
Four features
o Focuses on face-to-face communication (microlevel)
o Emphasizes that an adequate explanation of social behaviour requires understanding the subjective meanings people attach to their circumstances
o Stresses people help create their social circumstances and do not merely react to them
o Validate unpopular and unofficial view points
Max Weber: Protestant ethic
Feminist Theory
Focuses on various aspects of patriarchy
Holds that male domination is not determined by biological necessity but by social convention
Examines the operation of patriarchy in both micro and macro levels
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