CHAPTER ONE: THE SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE
The sociological perspective focuses on the social contexts in which people live and how these contexts
come to influence their lives.
C. Wright Mills-
Sociological imagination: *a sociological vision- a way of looking at the world that allows links between
the apparently private individual problems and important social issues
* Provides a different way of looking at familiar worlds
-At the centre of this perspective is the question of how people are influenced by their society (group of
people with whom they share a culture/territory with)
How they are influenced is based on-
-Social location (where people are located in a particular society; occupation, income, age, etc.)
-External influences (people’s experiences become part of thinking/motivation)
*Must be able to understand the link between “personal troubles” and “public issues” arising from
changing view of social inequalities. Our social groups shape your ideas and desires
-The way you look at the world is a result of exposure to specific social groups and ignorance of
Levels of Analysis
Macrosociology focuses on the broad features of society
-Analyze such things as social class and patriarchy (in looking at homeless men, would stress
their position at the bottom of the social class system)
-Functional analysis, conflict theory, critical race theory
Microsociology emphasizes social interaction (face-to-face interaction and discourse analysis)
-In looking at homeless men would focus on rules for diving money/resources, their
relationships, language, etc.
-Symbolic interactionism, queer theory The Sciences
The natural sciences are the intellectual and academic disciplines designed to comprehend, explain, and
predict events in our natural environment. Divided into specialized fields according to subject matter.
-Each area of investigation examines a particular “slice” of nature
The social sciences examine human relationships. It attempts to understand the underlying relationships
of the human/social world, which are not immediately obvious.
-Unlike nature, humans create and re-create their second nature- the nature of their society
-Divided into divisions of political science, economics, anthropology, psychology and sociology
*Sociology is different from other social sciences because it does not focus on a single social institution
(political science and econ) and it stresses factors external to the individual to determine influences on
people (psychology is the opposite)
The goals of science: Explain why something happens, make generalizations (go beyond the individual
case), and make predictions by specifying future events
-Sociologists try to move beyond common sense, or ideas that prevail in society as generally accepted.
They want to understand social life by looking at what is really going on behind the scenes, despite some
peoples’ discomfort with what is found.
The Origins of Sociology
Emerged middle of the 19 century with use of scientific method to test ideas. Three factors combined
to lead to its development-
The Industrial Revolution (the move from agriculture to factory raised many value questions and lead to
a change that favoured reason over tradition),
Imperialism (wanted to understand the new contrasting cultures of Asia and Africa as well as N.A.),
and the success of the natural sciences (scientific method proved well, decided to apply to questions
about social world). Key Figures in Developing Sociology:
Auguste Comte (credited as founder) - positivism – based on experience alone; argued that human
understanding of the world was initially religious, then moved to a stage of abstract principles and finally
to positive (scientific) knowledge based on relations between observable phenomena. Interest in social
order and change apply positivism to real life
Karl Marx- class conflict – engine of human history. The bourgeoisie (capitalists) are locked in with the
proletariat (the exploited class)
Emile Durkheim-social integration & suicide – made sociology a separate academic discipline; looked at
how ind. behaviour is shaped by social forces (people who commit suicide have less social
integration/fewer social anchors); showed how to make social research practical. *anomie and three
types of suicide
Max Weber- religion & capitalism – termed the Protestant Ethic (the push on its people to work hard,
save money, and invest it) and the spirit of capitalism (the readiness to invest capital to make more
money). Also pushed for “value free” sociology – meaning objectivity in research is an important goal
Values in Social Research
Sociologists should not distort data to make it fit preconceived ideas or personal values.
-stress the need for replication
-some sociologists believe the proper role of sociology is to advance understanding, while others
believe there is a responsibility to explore harmful social arrangements in society
Weber and Verstehen
*Verstehen- to understand why people behave in certain ways we need to “grasp by insight” – pay
attention to subjective meanings (the ways in which people interpret their own behaviour)
Durkheim and Social Facts
social facts- patterns of behaviour that characterize a social group, community, or nation (i.e. June-
August most popular time of year for marriage in Canada, suicide higher among Native peoples) –
patterns that hold true year after year
Sexism in Early Sociology
The womens’ four K’s: church, cooking, children, and clothes
*Harriet Martineau- discovered Comte’s writings, advocated the abolishment of slavery, and wrote
extensive analyses of social life Sociology in Canada is the story of the “Two Solitudes”
Sociology in Quebec
Hubert Guindon was the first social scientist to identify the Quiet Revolution as state modernization,
that is, the expansion of the province’s health, education, and welfare bureaucracies. He was known for
being able to effectively communicate with both sides on a very divisive debate.
The bourgeoning public sector in the 1960’s meant good paying jobs for the well-educated, French
speaking professionals; but language barriers prevented them from getting careers in the private sector
There are some sociologists still committed to some form of political independence, however many
today tackle more diverse issues
Sociology in English-Speaking Canada
Carl Dawson is credited with first introducing the discipline to an English speaking audience in Canada,
and sociology began academically at McGill University under Dawson’s leadership in 1922
The Canadianization Movement- government increase in Canadian knowledge of society because of a
lack of career opportunities for sociology PhD graduates
-Present day English-speaking sociologists focus on Canadian corporate structure and role in
globalization. The impact of feminist and postmodernist scholarship has led to their activist nature
Sociology in the U.S.
-in the beginning was central at University of Chicago, founded by Albion Small
Jane Addams fought tirelessly for social justice, opened Hull-House in Chicago’s slums for people in need
W.E.B. Du Bois writings (over 2000) preserve a picture of race relations during that period
During the post-World War II period greater emphasis was given to earning academic respect for
sociology, and the focus shifted from social reform to serving the interests of U.S. global capitalism
Merton- Sociologists need to develop middle-range theories- explanations that tie together many
research findings but avoid sweeping generalizations
-his theories contend that U.S. society’s emphasis on attaining material wealth encourages
crime Current American sociology not dominated by any theoretical orientation; some study various aspects of
social life and others focus on social change to bring about a vision of a more just society
*Theoretical Perspectives of Sociology
Applied and Clinical Sociology
Lazarsfeld and Reitz divided sociology into three phases:
1. Indistinguishable from social reform
2. Establish sociology as a respected field of knowledge
3. Merge sociological knowledge and practical work
Known as applied sociology
Basic sociology knowledge
Applied sociology change CHAPTER TWO: WHAT DO SOCIOLOGISTS DO?
Macro Level – broad matters (institutions, general relationships, etc.)
Micro Level – individualistic matters
Sociological research attempts to look beyond guesswork and common sense to find out what is really
The Six Research Methods
Surveys- must find a representative sample- best one is a random sample
-ask questions neutrally, establish rapport (trust)
Participant Observation (fieldwork)- researcher participates in their research setting, and then
observes & records what happens
-often provides significant theoretical insight
Qualitative Interview (structured conversation)- interview schedule where researcher views themselves
as a participant in a conversation
-take into account a researcher’s personal characteristics, as these can affect results
Secondary Analysis- researchers analyze data already collected by others. Can be an excellent source of
information, but cannot be sure of how systematically the original data was gathered.
-Data Liberation Initiative (DLI) provides low-cost access to Stats Canada data files and databases
to Canadian university faculty, staff, and students
Documents- examining diverse sources such as film, videos, photographs, books, newspapers, diaries,
bank records, police reports, etc.
-access of documents is a problem faced regularly by researchers
Unobtrusive Measures- observing the behaviour of people who do not know they are being studied, an
example would be installing infrared surveillance equipment into shopping carts to track what customer
paths are like through their store
Which Method to Use>
First- what is the purpose of the research? Some methods are better than others Second- consider resources and sources of funding
Third- consider access to subjects
Fourth-what method does the researcher have experience/training using?
The Hawthorne Effect = the change in behavior that occurs when people know they are being studied
Sociologists who have been trained in quantitative research methods (emphasize measurement,
numbers and stats) are likely to use structured questionnaires or surveys; while trained researchers in
qualitative research methods (observing, describing, and interpreting people’s behaviour) will likely
lean towards participant observation or qualitative interviews.
The Research Model
1. Select a topic.
2. Define the problem.
3. Review literature.
4. Formulate a hypothesis.
5. Choose a research method.
6. Collect data.
7. Analyze the results.
8. Share results.
Triangulation- a research strategy including the comparison if different data sources as well as the use
of different data-gathering techniques and methods to study a single phenomenon
-helps to counteract threats to validity
Research and Theory are both essential for sociology, and as such stimulate each other. Each on their
own is of little value CHAPTER THREE: CULTURE
Culture is the language, beliefs, values, norms, behaviours, and even material objects that are passed
from one generation to the next
Material culture is the physical aspects of a culture; its jewelry, art, buildings, clothing, etc.
Nonmaterial culture is its ways of thinking - beliefs, values and other world assumptions, as
well as common patterns of behaviour (i.e. language, gestures)
Also referred to as symbolic culture, because the symbols of a culture are one of the
central components of its nonmaterial customs.
-There is nothing “natural” or “right” about any material or nonmaterial culture, all are simply
arbitrary traditions that the people of the culture have accustomed to.
1. Penetrates deep into our thinking and affects the way we see the world
2. Provides implicit instructions for various situations –a fundamental basis for decision making
3. Provides a “moral imperative”; people learn ideas of right and wrong
Components of Symbolic Culture
A symbol is anything people attach meaning to and then use to communicate; and includes gestures,
language, values, norms, sanctions, folkways, and mores.
Gestures - the use of one’s body to communicate a message without using words
-meanings can change completely from culture to culture; therefore can facilitate
communication but may also lead to misunderstandings, embarrassment or worse.
-expressions of anger, pouting, fear and sadness are actually built into our biology and so are
among the very few completely universal gestures
Language – a system of symbols that can be organized in an infinite number of ways for the purpose of
communicating abstract thought -Allows human experience to be cumulative – cultures can develop by freeing people to move beyond
their own experiences
-Allows people to arrive at a shared understanding in the present – extends our time horizons forward
and lets us plan for the future by analyzing the past
-Allows shared, goal-directed behaviour – enables people to establish a purpose for doing things
-suggests that our language determines our consciousness, and therefore our perceptions of
-we learn not only words, but a certain way of thinking and perceiving
-language also allows us to expand our connections beyond our immediate groups so our
individual biological and social needs are met by greater networks of people
Values, Sanctions and Norms
Values- ideas of what is desirable in life
Sanctions are positive or negative reactions to the ways people follow norms
-positive sanctions refer to an expression of approval
-negative sanction denotes disapproval for breaking a norm
Folkways and Mores
Norms that are not strictly enforced are called folkways. We expect people to follow them but don’t
make a big deal if they don’t.
However other norms that are more essential to our core values and thus insist on conformity are called
mores (ex. A person who steals, rapes or kills is breaking a more)
*One group’s folkways may be another’s mores
Cultural Capital refers to a set of habits and disposition possessed by middle and upper class children
that give them advantages over the working class children, because these traits comprise resources
capable of generating “profits” Cultural Differences
A subculture is a group of people whose experiences have led them to a distinctive way of looking at life
-ex. Ethnic groups, occupational groups
*When a groups’ values and norms are in opposition to the dominant culture they are called a
counterculture. These subcultures don’t necessarily have to promote negative values, but may instead
encourage over-conformity to some of society’s mainstream values
Ethnocentrism- the tendency to use our own groups as the standard for judging others
-promotes group loyalty; but promotes discrimination
-ex. Many Canadians may see bullfighting as wrong because our culture has no history
of the activity
To counter our tendency, we practice cultural relativism; trying to understand a culture on its own
This allows us to refocus our cultural lens and therefore appreciate other ways of life rather than simply
asserting “our way is right”
Values in Canadian Society
Canada is a pluralistic society – made up of many different religious, racial, ethnic and interest groups
Allan Gregg coined the term “hedonist-individualist” to describe the generally accepted attitude of
modern Quebec teens – eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.
-this represented a break from the traditional values of agriculturalism and clericalism to a new
postmodern value for Quebecers.
Native People in Canada- Indian Act of 1879 creates isolation of native people from mainstream
Canadian society by putting them on reserves, where they are given few opportunities for meaningful
Value Clusters - sets of values that have come together to form a larger whole Emerging Value Clusters
Leisure (more time off, vacation pay)
Self-fulfillment (trend of self-help books)
Physical fitness (new subculture, great emphasis on being attractive)
Youth (advertising promotes youthful values)
-A fifth cluster has recently established itself on a global scale- concern for the environment (we now
recognize our dependence on natural resources
Cultural universals- culture traits found everywhere
-nonexistent, some human activities are universal however for almost all aspects of culture
there are differences everywhere
Animal culture- learned, shared behaviour among animals
-animals do not have language but do communicate
Technology in the Global Village
-the sociological significance of technology is that the type of technology a gro