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SOC101Y1 (470)
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Chapter 1

SOC101Y1 - New Society - Sixth Edition - Chapters 1, 2 & 3 Notes

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Adam Green

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SOCIOLOGY REVIEW (CHAPTERS 1, 2 & 3) SOCIOLOGY = the systematic study of human behaviour in social context; social causes are distinct from physical and emotional causes THE SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE ON SUICIDE: th  Canada’s suicide rate places 36 among the 74 countries that publish suicide statistics  People are likely to focus on the individual states of mind of suicide committers rather than on the state of society to understand why some would commit such an act  People usually do not think about the patterns of social relations that might encourage such actions in general  Sociology can reveal hidden social causes THE SOCIOLOGICAL EXPLANATION OF SUICIDE:  At the end of the 19 century, French sociologist Emile Durkheim demonstrated that suicide is more than just an individual act of desperation resulting from psychological disorder  Showed that suicide rates are strongly influenced by social forces  Made his case by examining the association between rates of suicide and rates of psychological disorder for different groups  He reasoned that if psychological disorders cause suicide, the rates of both would be high and low simultaneously; but his analysis of European government statistics, hospital records and other sources revealed nothing of the kind = CLEARLY SUICIDE RATES AND RATES OF PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDERS DID NOT VARY PROPPORTIONATELY  Durkheim argued that suicide rates vary because of differences in the degree of social solidarity (refers to the degree to which group members share beliefs and values and the intensity and frequency of their interaction) in different groups  Argued that as the level of social solidarity increases, the suicide rate declines and then beyond a certain point, it starts to rise; hence the u-shape in his graph  Suicides that occur in high solidarity settings are altruistic which means devotion to the interests of others; occurs when norms tightly govern behaviour so individual actions are often in the group interest; example: when soldiers knowingly give up their lives to protect members of the unit and kill themselves out of a deep sense of comradeship  Suicides that occur in low levels of social solidarity are egoistic or anomic  Egoistic suicide results from a lack of integration of the individual into society because of weak social ties to others; when people don’t belong  Anomic suicide occurs when norms governing behaviour are vaguely defined; example: when people live in a society that lacks a widely shared code of morality SUICIDE IN CANADA:  Men are about four times more likely than women are to commit suicide  In Canada today, suicide among people between 15 – 64 is more common, having increased substantially since the 1960s  Hence, suicide rates do not increase steadily with age  Durkheim’s theory of social solidarity helps one understand why suicide has risen quickly in Canada: o Church, synagogue, mosque and temple attendance is down for young people o Unemployment is up, especially for youth o The rate of divorce has increased and out-of-marriage births are more common; this suggests that youth enjoy less frequent and intimate social interaction with parents and less adult supervision  This shows that the level of social solidarity is lower for young people SOCIAL STRUCTURES = stable patterns of social relations TYPES OF SOCIAL STRUCTURES: 1. MIRCOSTRUCTURES - are patterns of intimate social relations - formed during face-to-face interaction - examples include families, friendship circles and work associations 2. MACROSTRUCTURES - Are patterns of social relations that lie outside and above you circle of interactions and acquaintances - Include class relations and patriarchy, the traditional system of economic and political inequality between women and men in societies 3. GLOBAL STRUCTURES - Examples include international organizations, patterns of worldwide travel and communications and the economic relations between countries - Are increasingly important as inexpensive travel and communication allow all parts of the world to become interconnected culturally, economically and politically SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION = the ability to see the connection between personal troubles and social structures; neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both; was born when three modern revolutions pushed people to think about society in an entirely new way ORIGINS OF THE SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION: 1. SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION - Began about 1550 - Encouraged the view that sound conclusions about the workings of society must be based on solid evidence, not just on speculation - Stressed that science is less a collection of ideas, and more on a method of inquiry - The core: using evidence to make a case for a particular point of view th - When sociology emerged as a distinct discipline in the 19 century, commitment to the scientific method was one firm pillar of the sociological imagination 2. DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION - Began about 1750 - Suggested that people are responsible for organizing society and that human intervention can therefore solve social problems - The old belief was that God and his intermediary, Nature, controlled human action; outlined in the ELIZABETHAN WORLD of UTRIUSQUE COSMI HISTORIA  - The American revolution and the French revolution helped undermine these old ideas; these democratic political upheavals showed that society could experience massive change in a short period - The new science could help people figure out ways of overcoming various social problems, improving welfare of citizens and finding the most effective way to reach given goals 3. INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION - Began about 1780 - Created a host of new and serious social problems that attracted the attention of many social thinkers - Began in England - Because of the growth of industry, masses of people moved from countryside to city, worked long hours, lost faith in their religions, confronted faceless bureaucracies and reacted to the fiflth and poverty of their existence by means of strikes, crime, revolution and war THE ORIGINS OF SOCIOLOGY:  The term “sociology” was coined by French social thinker Auguste Comte in 1838 who tried to place the study of society on scientific foundations  He wanted to test the validity of his ideas through careful observation of the real world rather than assuming that God or human nature determined the shape of society  He urged slow change and the preservation of much that was traditional in social life; and that is why sociological research was motivated by adherence to scientific methods of research and a vision of the ideal society  Sociological ideas are generally stated in the form of theories, tentative explanations of some aspect of social life that states how and why certain facts are related  Before sociologists can formulate a theory, they must decide which problems are important enough to study and how the parts of society fit together; these issues are shaped in large measures by sociologists’ values about what is right, wrong, good and bad  After theories are formulated, the sociologist can conduct research, the process of carefully observing social reality to assess the validity of a theory FUNCTIONALISM:  Stress that human behaviours are governed by relatively stable patterns of social relations or social structures  For macrostructures  Underlines how social structures maintain or undermine social stability  Theories emphasize that social structures are based mainly on shared values  Suggests that re-establishing equilibrium can best solve most social problems  Durkheim’s suicide theory is an example  Talcott Parsons was the foremost proponent of functionalism and best known for identifying how various institutions must work to ensure the smooth operation of society as a whole o When then family raises new generations, the military defends society against external threats, schools are able to teach students the skills and values they need to function as productive adult, and religions create a shared moral code, society is well integrated and in equilibrium  Robert Merton proposed that social structures may have different consequences for different groups of people; some are dysfunctional; some functions are manifest (visible and intended) and latent (invisible and uintended) CONFLICT THEORY:  Emphasizes the centrality of conflict in social life  Generally focuses on large, macrolevel structures such as relations between or among classes  Shows how major patterns of inequality in society produce social stability in some circumstances and social change in others  Stresses how members of privileged groups try to maintain their advantages while subordinate groups struggle to increase theirs; thus this point of view expresses the ongoing power struggle between the privileged and subordinate  Leads to the suggestion that eliminating privilege will lower the level of conflict and increase the sum total of human welfare  Originated in the work of Karl Marx who observed and was discontent by the Industrial Revolution and proposed an argument about the ways societies develop o Argued that owners of industry are eager to improve the way work is organized and to adopt new tools, mechanics and production methods o However, this caused capitalists to concentrate workers in larger and larger establishments, keeping wages low and invest as little as possible in improving working conditions o In time, the class of poor workers would come to oppose the wealthy owners, encourage the growth of trade unions and labour parties and this would eventually end private ownership of property, capitalism would die and be replaced with a system in which everything was shared  Max Weber argued that many members of occupational groups stabilize society because they enjoy higher status and income than do manual workers employed in the manufacturing sector o Said that class conflict is not the only driving force of history; politics and religion are also sources of historical changes o Protestants believed their religious doubts could be reduced and a state of grace of ensured if they worked diligently; Weber called this belief the Protestant ethic and believed that capitalism developed most robustly were the protestants ethic took hold SYMBOLIC INTERACTION:  Sociologists focus on the subjective side of social life  Focuses on face-to-face communication of interaction in microlevel social setting  Emphasizes that an adequate explanation of social behaviour requires understanding the subjective meanings people attach to their social circumstances  Stresses that people help to create their social circumstances and do not merely react to them  Stresses that underscoring subjective meanings people create in small social settings validate unpopular and unofficial viewpoints, increasing our understanding and tolerance of people who may be different from us  Understanding the intention or motive of the actor is critical to understanding the meaning of a social action and explaining it FEMINIST THEORY:  Harriet Martineau is often called the first woman sociologist o Translated Comte into English o Undertook critical studies of slavery and factory laws o Wrote about gender inequality and was a leading advocate of voting rights and higher education for women  Theory had little impact on sociology until the mid-1960s, when the rise of modern women’s movement drew attention to many remaining inequalities between men and women  Focuses on various aspects of patriarchy, the system of male domination in society; patriarchy is at least as important as class inequality in determining a person’s opportunities in life and perhaps more so  Holds that male domination and female subordination are determined not by biological necessity but by structures of power and social convention; women are subordinate to men only because men enjoy more legal, economic, political and cultural rights  Examines the operation of patriarchy in both micro and macro settings  Contends that existing patterns of gender inequality can and should be changed for the benefit of all members of society THE MAIN THEORETICAL TRADITIONS IN SOCIOLOGY: Paradigm Main Level of Main Focus Main Question Image of Ideal Analysis Society Functionalism Marco Values How do the A state of equilibrium institution of society contribute to social stability? Conflict theory Marco Class inequality How do privileged The elimination of groups seek to privilege maintain their advantages and subordinate groups seek to increase theirs, often causing social change in the process? Symbolic Micro Meaning How do individuals Respect for the interactionism communicate so as validity of minority to make their social views settings meaningful? Feminism Micro and Macro patriarchy Which social The elimination of structures and gender inequality interaction processes maintain male dominance and female subordination? POSTINDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION:  refers to the technology-driven shift from manufacturing to service industries and the consequences of that shift for virtually all human activities  rapid increases in the volume of international trade, travel and communication have broken down the isolation and independence of most countries and people  contributing to globalization is the growth of many institutions that bind companies and cultures together  the unresolved social issues that confront us in the era of postindustrialism and globalization: 1. autonomy vs. constraint  people are freer to construct their own identities  but people are only free within certain limits; ex: surveillance cameras cause us to modify behaviour 2. prosperity vs. inequality  postindustrialism opens up new economic, political and educational opportunities  but economic and political inequality persists between women and men, aboriginals and Canadians, rich and poor, etc.. 3. diversity vs. uniformity  society is more tolerant of diversity; immigration policies no longer stipulate racial, ethnic or religious criteria; cities are more socially heterogeneous; thousands of radio stations, TV channels, books, magazines, websites, etc…  but there is a strong push to conformity; may be threatening the survival of distinct national cultures CULTURE = all the socially transmitted ideas, practices and material objects that people create to deal with real-life problems SOCIETY = involves people interacting socially and sharing culture, usually in a defined geographical area ORIGINS OF CULTURE:  Humans thousands of years ago had disadvantages of living in harsh natural environments, having had poor physical endowments, having been slow runners and weak fights BUT they survived and prospered because their brains enabled them to create cultural survival kits: (3 tools) o ABSTRACTION = the capacity to create ideas or ways of thinking; symbols are one important type of idea; symbols allow us to classify experience and generalize from it; the ability to abstract enables humans to learn and transmit knowledge in a way no other animal can o COOPERATION = the capacity to create a complex social life by establishing norms o PRODUCTION = involves devising and involving tools and techniques that improve the ability to take what we want from nature; known as material culture; people are usually rewarded when they follow cultural guidelines and are punished when they do not – this is done via sanctions of social control ETHNOCENTRISM = judging another culture exclusively by the standards of our own; misleads many Western observers TWO FACES OF CULTURE: 1. RATIONALIZATION - Is the application of the most efficient means to achieve given goals and the unintended, negative consequences of doing so - Bureaucracies exemplify the rationalization process, composed of unelected officials and discourage officeholders from considering what the goals of their organization ought to be; thus constraining freedom 2. CONSUMERISM - The lifestyle that involves defining ourselves in terms of the goods we purchase - Consumerism impoverishes the self and society by drawing resources and attention away from pressing social issues and encouraging environmentally dangerous levels of consumption CULTURE AS A FREEDOM: A. CULTURAL DIVERSIFICATION AND GLOBALIZATION - Some critics argue that our immigration and multiculturalist policies weaken Canada’s social fabric and that multiculturalism encourages immigran
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