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University of Toronto St. George

Questioning Sociology Notes Introduction What is Sociology? • a changing by systematic attempt to create, assemble or reassemble concepts to examine the assumptions that shape out social being at given moments in history C. Wright Mills - saw sociology as proving that space to create a uniquely sociological imagination • sociology develops this quality of mind by making imaginative leaps to connect the most intimate of personal troubles • the sociologic imagination - described as a 'quality of mind' that seeks to ' scheme lucid summations of what is going on in the world Karl Marx - developed a comprehensive critique of capitalist society based uptown the unequal relations individuals have to modes of production, labor, and property • provide a theory of how one of a kind ration way of thinking has radically transformed most areas of society creating distinctively modern political, economic, legal, cultural, and social institutions Aguguste Comte - coined the term 'sociology' • developed positivist sociology to derive absolute knowledge about how societies progress Emile Durkheim - focused his attention on understand both how individuals are shaped buy independent 'social facts' and how the structures of given societies are shaped by basic underlying factors such are the chaining divisions of labor in a group Herbert Spencer - interested in applying Darwinian evolutionary theory to society. and conned the phrase " survival of the fittest" to describe how individuals interact with each other in society Three Sociological Approaches • sociological imaginations are developed from theoretical traditions centered on how we interact with other subjects • sociological traditions are concerned with interpreting and explaining social relationships - they deal wit the meaning and actions that these relationships generate • Key figure in this approach - Max Weber - defines social relationships "situation where two or more persons are engaged in conduct where in each takes account of the behavior of the other in a meaningful way and is therefore oriented in these terms" • distinguishes between behavior and socially meaningful behavior (social action) • for weber sociology is concerned with social actions and relationships • Weber sociological imaginations focus on social actions, shared meaning, and relationships between subjects - they focus on inter-subjectively create demeaning that guide peoples actions • these approaches draw on theoretical triton that views subjects as malleable creators (agents) and creatures ( products, effects) of a given social history and context • the idea that persecutions of the self are a product of social interactions within a social historical context is associated with structuralism and post structuralism • structuralism - the idea that cultural products such as language and texts have an underlying structure aka provides a way of understanding objects in any given society as having a fundamental structure • takes various forms but clings to the idea that systematic enquiry can discover regular, reoccurring and ordered patters of social behavior • structuralists describe these patterns are social structures - which are thought to create individual human subjects • Post structuralists - agree that subjects (e.g. people) are created identities, but there challenge the view that social structures exist in any absolute way • for them subjects are always products of unpredictable and changing ( thus not regular) historical contexts • from this perspective any attempt to discover regular social patterns is not possible - any such claims are always beliefs, artificial impositions Foucault - rejects the idea of stable subject, but he emphasizes power relations as key to understanding how particular images of individuals are selves are created Imagining the Social • Emile Durkheim - obverses that society should be seen as an entity in and of itself, made up of social facts • for him sociology ought to explain society by focusing on its underlying social facts Critical Sociology • imaginations seek to understand the injustices of given context, with an underlying objective of finding effective ways of bringing about incremental or revolutionary social change Chapter 1 - Am I Free? • free individuals can only live according to their true nature when they live in free societies where formal power is held in check • individual freedom is taken to be the opposite of political power - it is thought to exist only where the states power is reigned in • Michel Foucault - challenges the main assumptions of modern liberal ideas • for him. Individuals are not born free, instead power relations create both individual and particular freedoms ascribed to them • from this view, who we are as individuals, our pleasure, desires, likes and freedoms are all produced by power Freedom and Responsibility • human beings are distinct because they have a free will and an ability to make ration decisions on how to live their lives - not completely controlled by basic instincts or the environment the are in • existential sociology - worked of the assumption that we re free to choose the social meaning that we it • focused attention on the social effects of individuals being condemned to freedom • closely related to ethnomethodological approach - analyzes the logic of methods that people use to create meaning in the ever changing social horizons in which they find themselves Power and Freedom • Thomas Hobbes - most clearly developed the image of power • accepts that individuals are born with absolute free, and re thus potentially able to do anything within this grasp • my freedoms are constrained when power is exercised where an over searching power can determine how we should act - so we are never really free in the presence of power over us Individuals and a Free society • Durkheim - doesn’t deny that where is a biological component to individuals • insists that sociology is concerned with the part of the individual that has to do with society • thinks people come to exist as individuals and more of a 'free' individual in modern societies • the type of society into which people are socialized largely decided whether they will live as free individuals or not • the type od society in then it determined by the ways in which labour is organized in a given context • argues that pre modern societies are held together by mechanical solidarity - necessary tasks are relatively simply structured, strictly regulated and sparsely divided through rules and customs • in such societies, individuals are not clearly identified apart from the roles they play • a member of a group is not identified beyond the social functions, duties and roles defined by customs, laws etc. • Durkheim argues that modern capitalism, with expanding populations and industrialized forms of production - produces a type of society in which labor is divvied in new and complex ways • this type of society is held together by an independence of function • he regards this as organic solidarity • members of this society are required to perform specialized labor tasks, and this makes them highly dependent upon one another for their survival • this mutual reliance on diverse labour functions makes it possible for modern societies to develop a 'cult of the individual' • this encourages members to regard themselves as individuals - as free beings who collectively make up society Alternative View of Individual Freedom • Foucault - freedom is never something static regardless of where it is found • "I am free" is uttered in a specific context • is not independant, outside or impervious to a given social history • all versions of freedom are born into a specific history • the term on the world freedom depends on the context in which it is used • freedom is not a universal concept with one meaning in different times and place - rather it is very much the product of different historical horizons Power Products • Marks and Engels - challenge the view that individual freedom is universal • freedom is not only located in history but also naturally free individuals • social relations at a given time in history crate the ide that we are individuals • power relations are exercised through techniques used by historically situated subjects as they relate to one another • such relations involve actions directed at shaping other actions through local clashes of will • power therefore is not repressive and constraining - it is a creative force that shapes actions through loecal interactive wrangling's • power does not do so much restrain, constrain and limit what individuals can do - it actually creates individuals • As products of power relations - the normal Individuals of modern society are also defined as free • such individuals were not free by nature; rather, liberal power relations created individuals who were 'obliged to be free' • modern power relations created rather limited images of free individuals • Foucault argues that at a deeper level, power and a more basic sense of freedom imply one another directly • power must involve a degree of resistant, which implies freedom • for power relations to exist, subjects much be free at least to resist Conclusion: Am I Free? • yes were are all born free but there may be social conditions that constrain us and stifle out natural freedom • Faucauldian viewpoint: yes in one sense I am free but I am free in a very limited way, I am not naturally free • I am a creation of power relations that have fashioned me as an individual in a particular society and the freedoms that are granted to me are neither universal nor natural • individual freedom is not outside of power but rather one of its products, as freedom is always relative to context and a free society embraces only finite possibilites of what it is to be free Chapter 10 - What Use is Social Theory? • Theory - the act of viewing, contemplating, considering and is usually involves some imaginative interpretation of data • Social Theory - a way of thinking about the human world • Harriet Martineau - defined social theory as the science of the discovery of social laws and therefore the eternal basis of wisdom for the development of human morality and peace • social theorist saw the theoretical X as an essential explanatory part of any practical Y What is Social Theory? • the conceptualization of society as an autonomous entity separate from its individual members • was seen as a vital contribution to social progress for western societies and as the means to bring primitive societies into the modern world under the benevolent guidance of western experts • theoretical thinking: involves some imaginative interpretation of data - which for social theorists is the raw material of everyday life • feminine - personal is the political - individual and person problem was reveled as a political, ideological, formulation of gender power relations that oppressed women for the benefit of men • outcome of feminist theorizing: radical rethinking of how power operates, how it structures gender relations and what constitutes the political What do Theorists Do? • social theorist explain and interpret seemingly person troubles to make sense of the social world and provide signposts as to how to affect change • classical social theorist, the critical public issues of modernity were capitalism, industrialization, urbanization, secularism, bureaucratization, excessive individualism and alienation • capitalism involves the objective, impersonal pursuit of wealth 'stripped of its religious and ethical meaning' and that this in turn produces 'specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart' Post Modern Theory • post modern perspective: all knowledge is contingent • social theory is still needed to convert personal troubles into public issues by helping to make sense of the abstractions of social power and how the various forces that appear so constraining are developed, maintained and might be resisted and changed Chapter 22 - How Social Is The Environment • humane are significantly altering, changing and in many cases damaging nature • environmental sociologists - try to understand the relationship between society and the environment and resolve the apparent paradox wherein human societies degrade the very environments that allow us to live • environmental sociology - intersects and overlaps with a number of fields, including philosophy, ecology, feminism, the sociology of social movements, theories of social order and conflict, development studies, geography, media studies and the sociology of scientific knowledge • concepts of environmental sociology can shed light on some on the causes of environmental problems as well as working to find ways of addressing them What Is The Environment? • environmental problems are outcome of
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