Lecture 1 9/13/2012
Do we really need Sociology?
Common-sensical explanations of social life are usually
- untested and i.e. people believe that their personal situation is a norm in society
- marred by voluntiristic bias; a belief that people with good ideas, values, and morals will have a good
life. Not realistic in most cases i.e. people who've lead a "good" life won't necessarily live luxuriously
Sociological Knowledge is:
- Systematically tested in research i.e. finding and asking other people or making primary research
- Be aware that events are shaped not only be individual agency, but also by cultures and social
structures that cause, or even force, people to experience conditions they would rather avoid
i.e. social inequality, cultural inequality,
What is Sociology?
Sociology is a study of social relations, relations that are established among people in society
Neo-Liberalism - an economic doctrine that markets should be left alone by governments and be left to
the industries in pursuit of profit
Rational choice theory tells that every individual is able to calculate the cost and benefits of their own
Agency: Purposeful human action. (what we do or what we decide to do)
Social structure: a relatively stable network of social relations that enable and constrain individual
agency i.e. family relationship
Culture: Ideas (understanding, values, norms) about society. i.e. Gender, Religion, Music
By Earl Babbie
- "society has an existence of its own" not a sum of individuals, not an illusion
- Society creates itself, through the interaction of people within the society i.e. if people were cease to
exist so would society.
-Cultures vary over time and place
-Individual identity is product of Society
Social structure must satisfy survival requirements i.e. functionalism - the fulfilment of having children
-Institutions are inherently conservative (or they would not be functional: they enable unthinking
- multiple paradigms or fundamental models of reality are needed (society is highly complex; various
theoretical approaches direct attention to various aspects of society) Thomson; Binary thinking
The use of either/or propositions is termed Binary thinking. i.e. whenever you have two factions or
beliefs, and there is a divide between these two beliefs that is binary thinking. One o the most
important distinctions in contemporary social theory is between Structure and agency.
Structures refer to pre-existing arrangements that influence our behaviour, while agency refers to
choices individuals make.
Culture was added to this binary pair (duality) during the "cultural turn" of the 1980's.
Smile or Die
"Delusion is a mistake"
- big evidence; a financial meltdown
Willful ignorance Lecture 2 20/09/2012
Theoretical approaches to sociology
Monday, October 22nd 5-7pm - Details will be posted on Portal
No class on October 18th
Thomson and Naiman: Two levels of social structure
Sociologists analyse two levels of social structure that frame and influence human agency:
- Microstructures (patterns of intimate social relations formed during face-to-face interaction) i.e. family
members, school mates, teachers
- You get close and make an intimate relationship with these people
- Macrostructures (overarching patterns of social relations in whole societies) i.e. what kind of class do
different people belong to?
- Doing research on class structure in Canadian societies
- Once you belong to a class, you wouldn't know the people in same class as you are. Although you may
have common characteristics with people in your class.
- Large corporations, large religious groups also belong to macrostructures
- Other sociologists also consider mesostructures and global structures, social relations formed without
face to face interaction i.e. friends long distance, communicating through the internet
Charles Wright Mills (1959)
Sociological Imagination shows the connection between personal troubles and public issues. Social
problems can only be addressed if this connection is understood. i.e. people with employment
problems leads to family abuse. There are a number of ways to approach this problem one is to
investigate unemployment problems and find a resolution to it, which then prevents the family abuse.
Naiman: Personal troubles should be connected to issues of distal power. Basically if there is a
significant problem it has to be connected to microstructure. i.e. if many people are having a common
problem this makes it a public problem.
Elements of the sociological Approach
Theory: a tentative explanation of some aspect of social life stating how and why Specific facts are
connected. Theory helps in solving problems by creating an explanation and exploring the facts about
the particular problem. i.e. ch