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University of Toronto St. George

Starting Points 1 Introducing Sociology Sociology: systematic study of behaviour or the study of society Society: Largest scale human group whose members interact with one another, share a common geographic territory and share common institutions -move social theorizing away from moral philosophy (ideas of blame, guilt, sin and wrongdoing) -common sense not enough, sociologists use research and studies -people rarely get what they deserve, status/money inherited, high class stay where they are and so do lower class Macrosociology: study of social institutions and large social group Microsociology: study of processes and patterns of personal interaction that take place within groups Sociological imagination: approach to sociology that situates the personal experiences of individuals within the societal context in which these experiences occur Social institution: on kind of social structure, people use institutions to achieve their goals Social role: expected pattern of interaction with others Functional Theory -views society as set of interconnected parts that work together to preserve the stability and efficiency of the whole Robert Merton- social institutions perform both manifest (easily recognized) and latent (hidden) functions -social problems = failure of institutions to fulfill their roles during periods of rapid change Emil Durkheim – Anomie (strain) condition during times of rapid change, when social norms are weak or in conflict with one another -best way to deal with social problems is to strengthen norms and slow pace of change Critical Theory (Karl Marx) -Focus on inequalities and unequal distribution of resources/power in society -view society a collection of varied groups that struggle with one another to dominate society and its institutions -reject functional theory; criticize their limited attention to power struggles Bourgeoisie: elite owners of production (upper class) Proletariat: working class -solution to social problems = abolishing social classes, private ownership of means of production and economic inequality Symbolic Interactionism -Focuses on small group interactions, how behaviours are defined or framed and how people learn to engage in everyday activities. -Labelling theory – any social problem is viewed as such simply because an influential group of people defines it so (e.g. marijuana vs cigarettes or alcohol) -Interested in consequences of people being labelled as deviants or criminals (stigma) Feminist Theories -focus on gendering and gendered inequality (sometimes considered branch of critical theory) -women forced to act out role that dominant (male) group have defined -feminist movement – mid 19th to early 20th century -different feminist theories have same goal (equality between sexes) but differ in ways to achieve goal -interested in gendering of experiences, victimization of women and intersectionality (interaction of gender with other victimizing social characteristics like class and race) Postmodern Theories -Interested in unmasking ideologies that protect the dominant social order -modernism holds view that science is key to improving social life -postmodernists deny this approach, argue that knowledge is situation specific, deny universal knowledge and focus on local or particular insights -postmodernists are fascinated by mass media and cultural production, as they frame and transmit conventional ideas about normality, gender class and science -Emile Durkheim – research on suicide rates and causes, concludes that suicide is inversely correlated with an individual’s degree of integration into society (less integrated = more suicide prone) Functions of Deviance and Conformity -all societies allow a margin of tolerable or invisible deviance to go unpunished -psychologists focus on individuals, sociologists look at societal causes of crime and deviance -social control theory: normal people have deviant impulses, but have “stake in conformity” and are afraid of punishment -rational choice theory: people are competing for desired social and economic resources, and are motivated to maximize their own welfare even if they have to break some rules -rise of corporate crime in recent years as a result of failure of government regulation, lack of corporate self regulation and lack of public awareness -crime and deviance are normal, found in all societies at all time periods, and serve important social functions Functions of Conflict -conflict increases social cohesion, cooperation and unity among people who share the same point of view -people mutually interdependent, conflict unavoidable Critical Theory -Believe conflict focuses attention on social problems and brings people together to solve them (LGBT, women’s movement, trade unionism, etc) -Dominant ideology justifies upper class’s power and authority, society does not rebel against class inequality because they are programmed to believe in values promoted by dominant ideology Conflicts over Power and Authority -power: the ability to get your own way or to force another person to do what you want -authority: power that is exercised in a legitimate way, by people we deem to have the right to exercise it -modernization is associated with rational authority rather than traditional Modern Critical Theories Marx – conflict arose from hierarchical relations of dominance and subordination (capitalists control means of production, workers form resistance groups i.e. unions) Weber – conflict arises from horizontal relations of difference and mistrust, groups compete to seize and protect their resources -conflict arises between groups with differing or opposing goals -media blame young, minorities or poor however conflict exists among people of all types and ages Stigma (Goffman) -people conform the society’s norm to avoid stigmatization (ridicule, condemnation) -in social interactions people try to present themselves as normal, and follow scripts for given situations -passing: the act of hiding discreditable facts of one’s identity, to appear as normal as possible (difficult with things such as race or physical disability) -covering: act of deflecting attention away from the stigma (sunglasses for blind man) Key Ideas of Symbolic Interactionism Social structures: enduring, predictable pattern of social relations among people in society, they control us so that we act in a certain way in a given situation despite personal differences and they change us so we behave differently in different situations despite our more or less fixed personalities, and they produce social change 1) humans act toward things on a basis of the meanings that things have for them 2) these meanins arise out of social interaction 3) social interaction results from a fitting together of individual lines of action Social constructionism -any idea is an invention of a particular culture or society, some ideas considered true and compelling, others are not -Herbert Mead – shared meanings make social interaction and cooperation possible -Erving Goffman – society is a theatre where people compose and perform social scripts together, people hide and protect their true identities -humans react not toe the physical objects or events but to the socially constructed meanings (rose = beautiful, cabbage = ugly) • •Starting Points 2 Material Settings - how pop, cities, and natural enviro continue to affect us as human beings living in societies Ways of Looking at Population Functionalism - the idea that pop issues might pose a serious problem for humanity was first put forward in 1798 by one of the founders of demography (study of human pops – their growth and decline thru births, deaths and migrations), Thomas Malthus – he was the first to ever take seriously the possibility that the Earth would eventually become “over-populated” - Malthus argued that while Earth’s available food increases additively (slower), pop increases exponentially (faster) - Malthus said that ‘checks’ or limits would keep pop growth in line with the food supply – positive checks prevent overpop by increasing the death rate preventative checks prevent overpop by limiting the number of live births (they include abortion, infanticide, sexual abstinence, condoms, etc) Malthus urged ppl to use these - says Nature will reassert societal equilibrium in its own way unless humans, thru preventive checks, take the initiative - carrying capacity – that is the number of people who can be supported by the available resources at a given level of technology - by 2100, the number of people on Earth will have to drop to one third the current level for the pop to survive in relative prosperity Critical Theory’s Approach to Malthus - claim that the problems poor countries face today result not from overpop but from an unfair and harmful distribution of the world’s wealth - poverty and inequality often cause problems that are similar to those caused by over pop and may also contribute to overpop - faced with a rapidly growing pop, many have come to advocate zero population growth (ZPG) as a temporary solution – occurs when births are exactly balanced by deaths (global strategy of survival) Ways of Looking at Urban Life Functionalism - view social problems in the city as resulting naturally from growth and specialization - also focus on tendencies of the city – size, variety, fluidity – that promote social dis-organization, weak social controls, consequent deviance and distress; from this perspective, social problems like crime are foreseeable consequences of urbanization - they do not contribute to quality of life but they illustrate the functional problem of finding a new social equilibrium in the context of rapid social change - Durkheim coined the term common conscience pre-industrial communities were mainly small, rural settlements in which members shared the same experiences and developed similar values, norms, and identity - the lives of these ppl interconnected in a tight homogeneous order, which he called mechanical solidarity - the new urban industrial society was based on interdependent relationships – linked together by organic solidarity, members of this new society were no longer self-sufficient Critical Theory - ask whose interests are served by the actions of the dominant groups in society and their ideologies - attribute urban problems like homelessness to the workings of capitalism - believe cities suffer urban problems b/c no powerful group is interested in preventing this - the problem of cities is a problem of economic inequality - in many cities, well-off residents have fled the inner city to distant suburbs, suggesting a lack of interest in solving the urban problems facing poor ppl – in other cities, well-off stay in gated homes protected by electronic security Symbolic Interactionism - how ppl experience city life on an everyday basis - Simmel argues that cities are so inherently stimulating and quick-paced that to prevent sensory overload, inhabitants need to reduce their sensitivity to events and ppl around them - symbolic interactionists doubt that everyone in the same structural setting has the same experience - Gans focuses on how the meaning of city life varies among groups and subcultures (group of ppl who share some cultural traits of the larger society but who, as a group, also have their own distinctive values, beliefs, norms, etc) - urban subcultures allow ppl who are isolated w/in an impersonal city to form connections w/ others – ex: ethnic urban community Ways of Looking at the Environment Functionalism - cornucopia view of nature – view nature as a storehouse of resources that exist only for the use of humans - growth ethic – like materialism, celebrates the imagined ability of technology to easily solve all problems in the world, even those caused by technology itself - individualism – privileges personal goals and desires over collective interests, the driving force behind “tragedy of the commons” (used by Hardin to refer to the result of actions by many self-interested ppl that deplete a shared limited resources even if this effect was unintended) Critical Theory - when enviro problems arise, they hurt the poor more often and more severely than the rich - over 90% of disaster-related deaths occur among the poor pop of developing countries - developed nations experience 75% of disaster related economic damage - disasters result more from the spread of capitalism and the marginalization of the poor than from the effects of geophysical events Symbolic Interactionism - how the meanings and thought patterns learned in social interaction affect enviro probs and how they influence people’s perception of these problems - environmental geography = the study of the interaction btw/ humans and the surrounding natural world, focusing on the human impact on the environment and vice versa - companies realize the public awareness of their impact on the enviro and use strategy “greenwashing” (redesigning and repackaging products as enviro-friendly) playing to some consumers’ wish to solve the enviro problem by buying eco-friendly items Feminist Theory - ecofeminism = social movement that linked the exploitation of marginalized groups with the degradation of nature in Western cultural values - eco feminists unite around a central belief in the convergence between women and nature (term coined by d’Eaubonne to identify theoretical work on the potential for women to bring about an eco revolution) - it adopts a feminine way of engaging with environmental social problems that is said to be nurturing, cooperative, and communal - they believe domination over nature is analogous with the domination of women - believe the environment as a social problem is a feminist issue Classic Studies: Limits to Growth - by Meadows, Meadows, Randers, and Behrens - examines consequences of human pop growth for human survival - they created the World3 Model, a computerized method for studying the future of the world by simulating interlinked changes over a 100-yr imaginary history – goal to track how complex human systems have changed and will change over time - investigate 5 major trends of global concern: industrialization, pop growth, malnutrition, depletion of resources, and deteriorating environment - humanity has tendency to demand too much of Nature - Limits to Growth was not planned to make specif predictions about the future so much as to examine how exponential growth affects finite resources - estimated that if current economic and pop trend continue, within 100 yrs natural resources would either be exhausted or too expensive to buy - it is possible to change these patterns – cutbacks on spending, buying, and consuming are needed Why Demography? - pop size is important because: a large pop puts more pressure on the natural environment, is more likely to innovate, need systematic agriculture - as humanity grew in number, people changed from hunter gatherers to agriculturalists, to urban industrialists and post-industrialists – pop growth was both a cause and a consequence of these economic and geographic changes - large pops also invent new social/economic roles - within any set of social roles, the composition makes a difference – eg a dominantly male town is typical of a frontier town (mining or mill) - age also makes a difference - a healthy long-lived pop is likely to obtain a higher level of human capital (a skill set usually including education or job- related experiences, that enhances a worker’s value on the job) Population Trends Reveal a Society’s History - population composition = differences and similarities in age and gender - population pyramid = graphic depiction of the age-sex composition of a population - cohort = set of people with a common origin or starting point (birth cohort is a set of ppl born in the same year or set of years) - if a pop pyramid reveals a decrease in both males and females of all ages, this most likely indicates an epidemic, such as the plague, known as the Black Death during the Middle Ages - a war manifests on the pyramid as a sudden disproportion of men to women - disproportion in number of men to women can also indicate gendercide (term introduced by Mary Anne Warren) also known as femicide - when men are born into such cultures, they encounter a shortage of available brides - “solutions” used for this problem include bride kidnapping, mail-order brides and trafficking of women - the inspection of pop pyramids can give us an insight into historical events World Population - large increase in pop over last 3 centuries - world pop was largely unchanging for most of human history until the 18th century – it began to increase as the quality of life improved thru better sanitation and more access to food - demographer Ansley Coale divided human history into 2 parts; first part covers the beginning of humanity’s existence over a million yrs ago (Stone Age) to around 1750 CE – this period characterized by slow pop growth with # of ppl born and # of ppl dying being equal - from 1750-present, pop growing exponentially - human pop reached its first billion in 1804 and each successive billion has arrived more quickly than the previous one; 1927 (2), 1961 (3), 1674 (4), 1987 (5), 1999 (6) - the world pop today is not growing as quickly as it was during the last century – due to worldwide fertility decline that took hold in the past few decades - key mechanism is childbearing: women around the world are having fewer babies - globally, fertility is projected to decrease from 2.56 kids per woman to 2.02, 40 yrs from now - the proportion of humanity living in less-developed countries today has expanded to over 80% - most of them living in China and India with over a billion living in each – together they make up 37% of total world pop - many of the countries with the lowest fertility will experience the highest pop increase in the next few decades – China is a prime example - in Canada, a continued decline in fertility and continued aging of the baby boomers means that a large part of the Canadian pop will soon be elderly – will have the largest, oldest pop of elderly ppl in all of human history Classic Studies: Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity - in pre-modern societies, ppl saw natural disasters as God-made or supernatural in origin - Risk Society published by sociologist Ulrich Beck to emphasize that in this era of advanced modernity, societies are dominated by presence of man-made risks - reflexive modernization = the shift in thought btw/ the modern and postmodern eras on the social role of technology - according to Beck, risk is a systematic way of dealing with hazards and insecurities induced and introduced by modernization - today, many purposely ignore the findings of science, criticize their imperfections, or call them into question based on traditional beliefs – the notion that science can do no harm and only good no longer enjoys universal assent - ex. of a risk society – Chernobyl in Ukraine - he says such risks are inevitable - risk society must be a cautious careful and even fearful society – risk is both an individual and social responsibility The Natural Environment - today we are very aware of the environment – due to rise of the enviro movement - by natural environment, we mean all of those natural processes that affect us as animals having survival needs similar to those of other animals – ex the processes that affect the fertility of the land; availability of soil nutrients, water, etc - humans compete with other species for survival and for the most part we have an advantage over these species; we have tools, domesticated animals, etc - to survive in the natural enviro and develop the tools we need for protection against other species, we need to harvest and process natural resources (water, minerals, plants, and petroleum) - we rely on water not only for drinking, washing, and cleaning, but also for economic survival – water is used in manufacturing, mining, agriculture, energy production, etc - the water available to humanity is not equally distributed – currently, 2.3 bill ppl live in areas that lack an adequate water supply, and by 2050, 3.5 bill ppl will be in this situation - most natural resources we need are non-renewable – our preventative strategy is recycling, invent alternatives (like nuclear energy), find alternatives (like wind power), find another planet to inhabit, or look for new resources in currently inaccessible places (like under the sea) - we must also reduce the rate at which we use these resources but this is only a temp fix Location, Location, Location - where ppl live influences the location of enviro problems and costs of importing needed resources – relates to human geography (study of the location of human enterprises/characters) - historically, ppl live near bodies of water and mountains - combinations of climate, location, and terrain provide a wide variety of human experiences, natural resources, and inter-species competitions – influences the kinds of social and cultural life that develop within a region Buildings and Cityscapes - buildings and cityscapes provide a human-made enviro that interacts w/ and intervenes in the relation btw/ humans and the natural enviro - thru history, cities have always been centres of commerce and administration, locations of trade and gov – therefore the historical rise of cities coincided w/ the rise of markets & states - growth of cities is only possible when surplus food was available in rural areas (cities could not come into being until the development of settled agriculture and systematic farming techniques - cities have often been richer & more powerful than farming areas, and have also developed more varied, cosmopolitan, and civilized social practices - recurring political conflicts over immigration, abortion, capital punishment, decriminalization of weed, and gay marriage have all centred on this urban-rural dividing line Urbanization - according to the Pop Reference Bureeau, 2008 was a landmark yr – it marked the first time ever that the world’s pop was divided equally between urban and rural areas - in 1950, less than 30% of the world’s ppl lived in urban areas - there is continued distinctiveness of rural and urban life, esp in developing nations – these tend to have only a few, massively populated urban areas that act as magnets for the rest of the national pop - eg India is known for its megacities (geographic locale with a large concentrated pop, sometimes defined as exceeding 5 mill ppl) including Mumbai and Delhi - by 2050, the % in urban areas is expected to rise to 70% - around the world, ppl use diff definitions of urban and rural – ex in Peru, an urban area may contain 100 ppl whereas in Japan, an urban area contains over 50,000 ppl - other factors besides size enter into these varying definitions, like pop density, economic activity, presence of gov authority and policies - most of today’s urban growth is occurring in towns, villages, and cities w/ 500,000 citizens or less, not in megacities of 10mill or more - only 37% of all the world’s urban dwellers live in cities with more than 1mill ppl and only 8% live in megacities -in the next few decades, most of the world’s pop will live in these smaller cities, esp. in developing nations where rate of urbanization is accelerating as in Latin America, Asia, Africa - by 2050, Africa’s urban pop is expected to triple, and in N America, 90% of the pop is expected to live in or near cities - the entire reach or catchment area of a city is called the Greater Metropolitan Area – the urban, semi-ruban, and suburban areas within an hour’s drive of downtown - bedroom suburb = a residential area near a large city that provides housing and services for ppl who commute each day into the downtown urban area – the rise of these was made possible by the building of high-speed roads for automobiles, and tracks for trains/subways Built Environments - cities develop not only through the spread of commerce and transit but also thru new technology, for cities are humanly constructed ways of living together and separating ourselves from the natural environment – leads to new innovations - ex. tall buildings; demand elevators, stairs, heating/cooling systems, phones/faxes, etc - technological innovation in the past few centuries has largely been driven by the needs associated with living and working in a vertical urban environment - the build environment has put a huge pressure on the natural environment - N. Americans use a disproportionate share of the world’s energy & resources - our quality of life relies on the built environment we have created thru technological ingenuity Manuel Castells - an empirical sociologist - he advocates the “disposable theory” - during the 1970s, Castell focused on urban social movements and the changing post-industrial urban life - in the 80s, he examined the relationship btw/ info and communications technology and economics, and the role of info networks in the emergence of the global economy - in The Information Age, he argues that social movements and other means by which people create meaning for themselves are distinct from the dominant economic and social organizations of networks - his Marxist urban sociology shows how, in the post-industrial city, social movements can bring about radical transformation, esp. in areas where political entities control such matters as public trans. and housing, areas of ‘collective consumption’ - early on, Castells questioned what urban soc was really about, and whether the term urban had become obsolete – hinting at the need for a synthesis of research on human settlements of varying size (ie cities, suburbs, etc) and perhaps non-locational communities in cyberspace - Johnson uses Castells’ typology of identities to examine racial dynamics within labour unions, and h
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