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Canada (158,278)
Sociology (1,471)
SOC100H5 (498)
Chapter 1

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Nathan Innocente

Sociology the systematic study of human behaviour in social context He explained that social causes are distinct from physical and emotional causes Sociologists have explained fashion cycles in four ways1Functionalismis one of the four main types of explanation in sociology In their most basic form all functionalist explanations hold that social phenomena persist if they contribute to social stabilityand die off if they dont From the functionalist viewpoint fashion trends come and go because they enable social inequality to persist If they didnt have this purpose we wouldnt have fashion cyclesfashion performs an important social function By allowing people of different rank to distinguish themselves from one another it helps to preserve the ordered layering of society into classes A social classis a position people occupy in a hierarchy that is shaped by economic criteria including wealth and incomeUpper classes are nearly as likely to adopt lowerclass fashion trends that can originate just about anywhere Functionalism no longer provides a satisfying explanation of fashion cycles2Some sociologists turned to conflict theory for an alternative explanation of the fashion world A theory is a conjecture about the way observed facts are related Conflict theory highlights the tensions underlying existing social arrangements and the capacity of those tensions to burst into the open and cause social change Conflict theorists therefore believe that fashion helps to maintain a precarious social equilibrium that could be disrupted by the underlying tensions between consumers and big players in fashionrelated industries Owners do introduce new styles frequently to make more money They have for example created the Color Marketing Group known to insiders as the Color Mafia a committee that meets regularly to help change the national palette of colour preferences for consumer products3Symbolic Interactionism a sociological school of thought that examines how various aspects of social life including fashion convey meaning and thereby assist or impede communication thinking of clothes as symbolsor ideas that carry meaning Clothing allows us to communicate with others by telling them who we are and allowing us to learn who they are Clothes help us express our shifting identities4Feminism Gender ones sense of being masculine or feminine as conventionally defined by Western societiesis a central part of everyones identity It is also the main focus of sociological feminism Traditional feminists think fashion is an aspect of patriarchythe system of male domination of women They note that fashion is mainly a female preoccupation that it takes a lot of time and money to choose buy and clean clothes and that fashionable clothing is often impractical and uncomfortable sometimes even unhealthy They conclude that fashion imprisons women In addition its focus on youth slenderness and eroticism diminishes women by turning them into sexual objectsIn sum functionalism helps us understand how fashion cycles operated until the 1960s Conflict theory helps us see the class tensions underlying the apparently stable social arrangements of the fashion industry Symbolic interactionism explains how fashion assists communication and the drawing of boundaries between different population categories Feminism explores the ambiguities of gender identity that underlie the rise of new fashion trends Although each type of sociological explanation clarifies a different aspect of fashion all four allow us to probe beneath a takenforgranted part of our world and learn something new and surprising about it That is the promise of the four main types of sociological explanationSociologists call stable patterns of social relations social structures He called the ability to see the connection between personal troubles and social structures the sociological imaginationMills 1959
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