Exploring Sociology Chapter 1 Notes Covers everything in chapter 1 of the textbook

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16 Oct 2011

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Understanding the Sociological Imagination
Sociology: the systematic study of human groups and their interactions
Sociological Perspective: a view of society based on the dynamic relationships between
individuals and the larger social network in which we all live
Even mundane choices like what to wear or where to eat have rich social significance and reveal
a great deal about what sociologists find about human behaviour.
Charles Wright Mills and the Sociological Imagination
C.W. Mills suggested that people who do not, or cannot recognize the social origins and
character of their problems may be unable to respond to the problems effectively.
To some extend everything is a personal trouble. But there are outside forces of social issues that
also alter every occurrence. (Failing an exam is due to lack of studying be person, but unfair
marking scheme or wrongful teaching is a social effect that would affect the grade too)
Personal Trouble: personal challenges that require individual solutions
Social Issues: challenges caused by larger social factors that require collective solutions
Mills says many personal troubles never become social issues because people rarely equate what
is happening to them with the larger social worlds.
Quality of Mind: Mills’ term for the ability to view personal circumstance within a social context
(nothing to do with education or intelligence level)
Example: What if everyone failed the exam and just stuffed it in their bags without saying
anything? Everyone would deal with their failure on their own and a possible social issue
would never be addressed.
A trouble is never realized as an actual social issue
How did everyone else do?
What could I have done better?
How could I have studied more effectively?
What have I learned from this experience?
Mills argue that if people were to see themselves in a more social context, they will see all
shades of grey rather than a black and white world: seeing the general in the particular and
seeing the strange in the familiar (Peter Berger).
Sociological Imagination: C.W. Mills’ term for the ability to perceive how dynamic social forces
influence individual lives
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Seeing the General in the Particular
Being able to recognize the larger (or general) features involved in seemingly unique events or
circumstances. (Homeless person on street there are many more you do not see)
Seeing the Strange in the Familiar
Example: studying for exam and think about why do people get graded and is an A-student
smarter than a C-student or just they work harder?
What Makes You, You? Engaging the Sociological Imagination
Agency: the assumption that individuals have the ability to alter their socially constructed lives
Although we are all individuals, we are also the culmination of many social forces.
5 Influential Social Factors
Minority Status:
o People of visible minority groups, physical disability, mental disability, lesbian, gay and
bisexual face various forms of discrimination
o White, no disability, healthy, heterosexual and able-bodied get advantages
o Second class person, avoid eye contact or attract stares if you are in disadvantage group
o These social experiences influence a person’s growth?
o Patriarchal system of rule by the father and men in the political and economic resources
of society strange
Socio-Economic Status (SES)
o Combination of variables to position or score people on criteria such as income,
education, occupation and area of residence advantages vs. Disadvantages
Ascribed status: attributes (advantages and disadvantages) assigned at birth e.g. gender,
secondary education chance, material pleasures
Achieved status: attributes developed throughout life as a result of effort and skill e.g. school
grades, landed a good job, accepted into good university
o People’s beginnings influence what they become, majority of those born poor remain
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Family Structure:
o Loving parents with adequate income more often than not raise productive and well-
adjusted children
o Regardless of child’s age, higher income tends to be related to better physical,
social/emotional, cognitive and behavioural well-being
Urban-Rural Differences
o Do kids that grew up in cities differ from farm kids?
o Privilege plays a role in everything we do and defines the person we become
The Origins of Sociology
Confucius and ancient Greeks engaged in elaborate discussions and writing about society and the
role of the individual citizen. 400 BCE, a group of educators called Sophists (first paid teachers)
educated the rich on how to live well and be happy also first to focus on human being.
Socrates and Plato advocated deep reflection on human social condition. Plato’s “The Republic”
asks what social justice is and what characteristic of a just individual are.
After the Greeks, Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, Muslim philosopher and scientist Al Farabi,
Italian theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas, British playwright William Shakespeare and English
philosopher John Locke all explored role of the individual in society.
Ibn Khaldun is the first social philosopher working from the sociological perspective, but it was
until 1838 that the term sociology was coined by Auguste Comte (father of sociology).
Three Revolutions: The Rise of Sociology
The Scientific Revolution
Emergence of the Renaissance in 14th-17th century, insights by thinkers gained accepted despite
Church’s resistance and facilitated the pace of social change. Auguste Comte believed hard
science (physics, chemistry etc) should be used to explain the social world too. He was known
for his Law of Three Stages or advance of mind to create 3 different societies:
1. Theological Stage:
longest period of human thinking beginning with earliest human ancestors and
ending during Middle Ages
human society is God’s will and science is a mean to discover his intentions
(spiritual or supernatural beings)
Early people thought of the Sun God and Moon God rather than solar system
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