Socio 1010: Midterm Review
Social construction of reality
- a concept created by Berger and Luckmann (1966), who argued that human experience
(the way we understand reality) is shaped by the society in which we live, therefore our
own experience of reality can be changed
- Human beings cannot exist for long in isolation, in a world that is self-reflexive only.
Reality is species-specific. Each species has a different ‘reality’.
Proposition 1: Society is a Human Product
- Human beings are social beings.
- We are all born into a society that is itself a product of human activity
Proposition 2:All Human Activity is Habitualized
- Humans form social groups, and these groups learn to do certain actions in specific
ways. Once human activity is repeated many times it becomes a habit. When this happens
patterns of behavior become a norm and become institutionalized.
- Social institutions (ie; school) control our behavior through a variety of social control
mechanisms. There are social control mechanisms in place to make sure that students
conform to standards of behavior expected in specific social institutions.
The Social Imagination
- Defined by C. Wright Mills as an orientation adopted by a sociologist to recognize and
understand the connections between individual experience and larger social institutions
- Mills famously writes: “Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can
be understood without understanding both.”
- The sociological imagination helps us to distinguish between bad circumstances that an
individual might experience as a result of poor behavior or poor choices, and/or bad
circumstances that results from structural forces beyond the individual’s control
‘Reality’ and the Sociological Imagination
Objective Knowledge = knowledge that is to be free of bias
- What gets presented as ‘true knowledge’ ultimately depends on the researcher and the
social and cultural conditions in which the researcher is
- Our personal knowledge about life is always shaped by the beliefs and values that
emerge out of the social groups to which we belong
- Lifeworld German philosopher Edmund Husserl’s term for the entire communal system
of meaning that underlies everyday life
Example 1: Individualism
- For most Westerners, individualism serves as a kind of lens through which most other
beliefs are seen and evaluated
- Hobbes, Locke, and Machiavelli were the first writers to argue in favour of
- Taking a sociological perspective allows us to think in new ways about the everyday
beliefs and understandings that we use to make sense of our lives Example 2: Racial Prejudice
- During the late 19 century, when well over 90% of persons immigrating to Canada
were European, the Canadian government also promoted the immigration of a relatively
small # of Asian labourers to build the railways in BC
- MacDonald decided that Chinese immigrants would reside in BC only temporarily
- MacDonald said: “at any moment when Canada chooses, it can shut down the gate and
say, No more immigrants shall come here from China and then no more immigrants will
come, and those in the country at the time will rapidly disappear”
- Racist or prejudicial behaviours are reflections of deeply felt fears and biases created by
members of society against those identified as ‘others’
- Sociological perspective allows us to unmask prejudices
Example 3: Romantic Love
- One such belief is that romantic love is a natural and instinctual part of the human
- But in many societies, decisions about when and whom to marry are rarely left up to the
individuals to be wed, they often have little to no say in the matter (India, 90% marriages
- Marriage in India is considered by many far too important to be left up to the individual
- North American culture treats marriage and the family as existing in order to maximize
the needs of the individual.
- Falling in love and selecting a mate is considered normal development and is highly
valued, and is believed that free mate selection is fundamental to marriage satisfaction
There have been 2 movements concerning love: courtly love and romanticism
- The cultural ideal of courtly love in Western societies can be traced back to the 12th
- Medieval France
- Courage of a knight in his quest for moral heroism and for the love of his chosen lady
- It was a widely accepted belief that one could never love a marriage partner. Instead,
love was an intense, passionate relationship, a holy unity between one man and one
woman who never married and who rarely had any contact
- Late 18 century in Europe
- Emphasis on the feeling of love, as opposed to correct behavior
- Gave way to a new set of values during Victorian Era because a progressive devaluation
of the worth of women took place
- Women became the ‘weaker sex’ – nurturing, tender, mode for child bearing/rearing
- By about 1880, romantic love had become even more romantic; the common view of
love was that it was a strong magnet pulling together two people who were ‘just made for
- 87% of women born before 1890 were virgins at marriage, only 30% of those born after 1910 ‘waited until marriage’
- By 1920, dating, the main focus of the present-day NorthAmerican courtship system,
was in place
- The rise of dating has been attributed to a variety of cultural phenomena and events
including the recognition of adolescence as a distinct period in the life cycle, the rise of
mass culture, the emancipation of women, ownership of cars, motion picture industry,
and the decline of the community as a means of social control
- Instead of being a natural outcome of the human condition, the experience of romantic
love appears to be social constructed
Characteristics and Habits of a Critical Thinker
1. Independence of Mind – Acommitment and disposition favourable to autonomous
thinking (ie; thinking for oneself). We must learn to question what has been presented to
us as “the truth”
2. Intellectual Curiosity – the disposition to wonder about the world. Critical thinkers
must be curious about the world they live in and want to know more about that world.A
critical thinker must be willing to go beyond readily available information, and to seek
out other information that will support sustainable judgments.
3. Intellectual Courage – the willingness to evaluate all ideas, beliefs, or viewpoints
fairly, and the courage to take a position. Often critical thinkers must go against taken-
for-granted opinions.A critical thinker must have the courage to be fair-minded and
4. Intellectual Humility – awareness of the limits of one’s knowledge.Acritical thinker
directs his or her analytical mind toward self-evaluation in an attempt to understand, and
control, his or her own biases, predispositions, and ‘triggers to irrationality’
5. Intellectual Empathy – being conscious of the need to put oneself in the place of others
in order to understand them.
6. Intellectual Perseverance - The willingness to pursue intellectual insights and truths in
spite of difficulties, obstacles, and frustrations.
7. Reflexive Disposition – awareness that one’s own approach is fallible.
Example 1 – Corporate Crime
Corporate Crime: any conduct of a corporation, or of its representatives/employees acting
on the corporation’s behalf, that is a criminal, civil, or administrative violation.
- Corporate crimes can range from polluting the environment to committing financial
fraud, engaging in price fixing, creating hazardous working conditions, or producing and
selling unsafe products
- Critical sociological thinkers believe they have evidence that the criminal justice system is far from blind to social class differences, treating upper- and middle-class offenders
more leniently than it does those who hold less powerful positions in society.
- There is a need for changes in legislation and government policy dealing with corporate
Example 2 – Aboriginal People and Criminal Justice
Overrepresentation: a situation that occurs when a disproportionately large number of
people of a particular class or ethnicity is included in a group that is meant to represent
the larger population.
- Once incarcerated,Aboriginal offenders are more likely than non-Aboriginal offenders
to serve a higher portion of their sentences before being paroled.
- ‘Disadvantaged’ factors (including low levels of income, employment, and education,
high mobility, and single-parenting) and ‘vulnerability factors’ (age distribution
proportion of the population) were different forAboriginal people than for non-
- Asignificant portion of the high crime rate amongAboriginal peoples can be explained
by the characteristics of the urban neighborhood where they live.
Example 3 – Who Goes to University and Why?
- Students from lower income families have been shown to be less likely to attend
university than students from more well to do families.
- 84% of the gap between youth from the highest and lowest income quartiles was
accounted for by these factors:
• Reading obtained at age 15
• School marks reported at age 15
• Parent influences
• Quality of high school
- First, differences in academic performance across the income distribution could
themselves be the result of differences in family income. (ie; tutors, etc)
- We should shift our focus to the question of why students from lower-income families
as a group, and not as individuals – tend to perform more poorly on standardized and
scholastic tests than do students from higher income families.
Example 4 – Canadian Multiculturalism in Crisis?
- There was a girl in Toronto who got murdered by her father and brother, for not wearing
her hijab. Represents the oppression of Muslim women in the West. Makes her murder an
exemplar of the difference between Western behavior (held to be civilized, modern and
secular) and Muslim behavior, characterized as pre-modern and governed by outdated
values rooted in religious fundamentalism.
- The question of how Muslim women are treated has become the measure of ‘this
- The media framed her death as a question of cultural violence, choosing to focus
especially on her lack of freedom to adopt “normal” Western dress codes and behavior. - When men who are not Muslim kill their daughters or wives, it is not blamed on their
cultures or religion, but on their rage and aggression
- Burawoy’s view, is that the four divisions of the sociological field should be brought
together, and each should allow the other the necessary space to develop.
- The category “women” for example, is a ‘public’- a group that is studied by sociologists
and that uses sociologists as collaborators in order to advance their interests.
Quantitative Research – an approach in which the researchers collects data that can be
quantified and expressed in terms of numbers, percentages, or rates and can be put into
Qualitative Research – an approach in which the researcher collects data that are rich in
description and not easily measured using statistics
Inductive vs Deductive Theory
- When a theory guides the research – when data are collected and analyzed in order to
answer the questions raised by an existing theory – then the theory is said to be
- When the theory is not formulated until after the data have been collected and analyzed
– in other words, once the researchers have drawn generalized inferences from the results
of their research – then the theory is inductive. (QUALITATIVE)