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Chapter 1

Chapter 1 - Sociology Perspective, Theory, and Method.docx

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Sociology 100C-002 Tiffane Mak Society: The Basics (Fifth Canadian Edition) – Macionis, et. Chapter 1 – Sociology: Perspective, Theory, and  Method The Sociological Perspective Sociology  • Sociology – the systematic study of human behaviour in social context o Studies human society o Studies how people relate to each other o Studies social institutions (family, politics, etc.) • Focus is on the group over the individual Sociological perspective  • Perspective – a “way of seeing” something • Sociological perspective – a particular way of approaching phenomena • It maintains objectivity, not influenced by one’s values • Assumes that “official” explanations are incomplete or self-serving • A conscious effort to go beyond the obvious and question what is accepted as true or common General in particular • Peter Berger (1963) – sociology shows general patterns in the behaviour of particular people • Society acts differently on various age, income, ethnicity • Shapes up into “kinds” of people • Factors such as sex, gender, age, race, education, social class guide our selection of a partner Individuality in social context • We live in a individualistic society, but society shapes what we think and do o Eg. Women and child-bearing in different parts of the world (pg. 3) o Society we live in affects our choices in food, clothing, music, schooling, jobs, etc. • Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) – one of sociology’s pioneers o Research showed that society affects even intensely personal action as suicide o People with strong social ties, females, poor, married, Jews, Catholics = low suicide rates; individualistic people, wealthy, males, unmarried, Protestants = high suicide rates  Differences explained in terms of social integration o Men are more than 3x as likely as women to take their own lives Strange in the familiar (transformation of consciousness) • Giving up the idea that human behaviour is simply a matter of what people decide to do • Believing that “things are not what they seem” • Discovering something beyond common sense and knowledge • Understanding that society shapes our decisions Sociological Imagination • Marginality (Afro-American, Aboriginal) o Greater people’s social marginality, the better ability to use the sociological perspective o Eg. African-American growing up in US – importance of race shaping people’s lives o Women, aboriginals, gays and lesbians, disabled people, the very old are aware of social patterns that others rarely think about • Crisis (Great Depression) o Periods of change or crisis make everyone feel a little off balance o Sociologist C. Wright Mills (1959) – illustrated this idea using the Great Depression of the 1930s, the unemployed saw social forces at work in their lives • To become better at using the sociological perspective, we must step back from our familiar routines and look at our lives with a new curiosity The Importance of a Global Perspective Global perspective – the study of the larger world and our society’s place in it High-income countries – nations with the highest overall standards of living • 69 nations – Canada, US, Western Europe, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Japan, New Zealand Australia • Generate most of the world’s goods and services, and wealth Middle-income countries – nations with a standard of living about average for the world as a whole • 101 nations – Eastern Europe, South Africa and some other African nations, Latin America, Asia Low-income countries – nations with a low standard of living in which most people are poor • 43 nations – most in Africa, few in Asia Importance of Global Perspective – Make comparisons between Canada & other nations: 1. Where we live shapes our lives – how countries differ 2. Societies throughout the world are increasingly interconnected – technology, immigration, trade 3. Many social problems that we face in Canada are far more serious elsewhere – poverty, gender inequality 4. Thinking globally helps us learn more about ourselves Applying the Sociological Perspective • Public policy (laws and regulations) guide how people in communities live and work (healthcare, education, juvenile justice, divorce law, and social welfare) • Personal Growth – more active and expanded awareness, think more critically 1. Helps us assess the truth of “common” sense. Whether common beliefs are really true and to the extent that they are not, why so widely held 2. Helps us see the opportunities and constraints in our lives. Learn more about the world around us so that we can pursue our goals more effectively 3. Empowers us to be active participants in our society. More effective citizens, decide to support society as it is or set out with other to change it 4. Helps us live in a diverse world. Think critically about the strength and weaknesses of all ways of life, including our own. • Careers in sociology – researchers, professors, clinical sociologists o “Sociology Advantage” for people working in criminal justice, health care, etc The Origin of Sociology th th • 18 -19 centuries, changes in Europe made people think more about society, their place in it o Industrial economy – mills, factories, change in system of production o Growth of cities – “enclosure movement”, social problems (pollution, crime, homelessness), new impersonal social world o Political change – Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Adam Smith; shift in focus from people’s moral duties to God and king to pursuit of self-interest, personal liberty, individual rights o France, Germany, England – where these changes were greatest • Auguste Comte (1798-1857) coined “sociology” in 1838, from 3 stages of historical development o Theological stage – beginning of human history to end of European Middle Ages about 130 CE, society expressed God’s will o Metaphysical stage – society as a natural rather than supernatural phenomenon, Thomas Hobbes – society reflected the failings of selfish human nature o Scientific stage – Copernicus, Galileo, Newton o Positivism – scientific approach to knowledge based on ‘positive’ facts as opposed to mere speculation. Comte believed that society operates according to certain laws, and using science, people could come to understand the laws of physical world and society Sociological theory Theory – a statement of how and why specific facts are related through research • Eg. low social interaction leads to higher risk of suicide Theoretical approach – basic image of society that guides thinking and research Structural Functional Approach • Framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability • Social structure – any relatively stable pattern of social behaviour found in social institutions • Social functions – consequences of a social pattern for the operation of society as a whole • Auguste Comte (need to keep society unified when traditions broke down), Emile Durkheim (based his work on this approach), Herbert Spencer (compared society to the human body –structure [skeleton, organs] + function) • Robert K. Merton – pointed out that any social structure probably has may functions o Manifest functions – recognized and intended consequences of any social pattern o Latent functions – unrecognized and unintended consequences of any social pattern • Social dysfunction – any social pattern that may disrupt the operation of society, undesirable o Eg. Rising flow of immigrants, increasing inequality of income Social­Conflict Approach  • Society as an arena of inequality that generates conflict and change • Factors such as class, race, ethnicity, gender, age are linked to inequality in terms of money, power, education, social prestige • Focuses on how any social pattern benefits some people while hurting others • Relations between dominant group and minority groups o Look at ongoing conflict between dominant and disadvantaged categories (rich/poor, white/minorities, men/women) o People on top try to protect their privileges, disadvantaged gain more for themselves • “tracking” – channeling of young people into particular types of training o (Structural-functional) beneficial, providing schooling that fits students’ abilities vs. (Conflict analysis) less talent, social background o Social standing of one generation is passed on to the next • Use this approach to understand society, reduce inequality • Karl Marx – “philosophers – interpreted the world, but the point is to change it” Feminism and the Gender­Conflict Approach • Point of view that focuses on inequality and conflict between women and men • Closely linked to feminism – support of social equality for women and men • Aware that in society, men are placed in positions of power over women (work, home, media) • Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) – first woman sociologist o Concerned about position of women in society, fought for changes in education • Nellie McClung (1873-1951) – Canadian, pioneer for women’s rights, supporter of suffrage for women, advocate for Prohibition, compulsory education, equal representation in political realm o Famous Five – 1927, petitioned, women included in “person” in BC N. American Act The Race­Conflict Approach • Point of view that focuses on inequality and conflict between people of different racial and ethnic categories • William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1963) – first doctorate awarded to a person of colour o Numerous social problems from educational inequality and political system, denied right to vote, to terrorist practice of lynching • Daniel Grafton Hill (1923-2003) – understanding race in Canada, writings on Black history and human rights The Symbolic­Interaction Approach • Macro-level orientation – broad focus on social structures that shape society as a whole • Micro-level orientation – close-up focus on social interaction in specific situations • Symbolic-interaction approach – framework for building theory that sees society as the product of the everyday interactions of individuals o Society is nothing more than the shared reality that people construct as they interact with one another o Interaction take place through symbols, language, communication o Meaning attached to them are fluid, ambiguous and contextually bound  Eg. “I hate you” because of something they did in context o Society is complex, ever-changing mosaic of subjective meaning • We create “reality”, define surroundings,
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