Chapter 1 - Introduction to Sociology
The sociological explanation Suicide
Emile Durkheim, pioneers of the discipline, demonstrated that suicide is more than just
an individual act of desperation resulting from psychological disorder, as was commonly
believed. Suicide rates, he showed, are strongly influenced by social forces. Social Solidarity - According to Durkheim, the more a group’s members share beliefs
and values, the more frequently and intensely they interact, the more social solidarity a
group exhibits. In turn, the more social social solidarity the group exhibits, the more
firmly anchored individuals are to the social world and the less likely they are to take
their own lives if adversity strikes.
Durkheim expected groups with a high degree of solidarity to have a lower suicide than
groups with a low degree of solidarity.
Durkheim showed that married adults are half as likely as unmarried adults articulate
suicide. This is because marriage usually creates social ties and sort of moral cement
that bind the individual to society. He argued that women are less likely to commit
suicide than men are.
Women are generally more involved in intimate social relations of family life.
Jews, Durkheim wrote, are less likely commit suicide than Christians are because
centuries of persecution have turned them into a group that is more defensive and
tightly knit. Seniors are more prone than the young to take their own lives in the face of
misfortune because they’re most likely to live alone or have lost a spouse and have lost
a job and a wide network of friends.
Durkheim wrote, “suicide varies with the degree of integration of the social groups of
which the individual forms a part.”
Suicide in Canada today
Shared moral principles and strong social ties eroded since the early 1960s for
Canada’s youth, Consider these facts:
- churches synagogues mosques and temple attendance is down particularly for young
- Youth unemployment is up.
- Rate of divorce has increased since the early 1960s, children grow up in single-parent
families suggesting that they enjoy less frequent intimate social interaction with parents
and less adult supervision.
- An increasingly large proportion of lesbians gays bisexuals and transsexuals emerged
out of the closet. Sexual minorities and Canadian schools are prone to being bullied
and socially excluded resulting in a high proportion of suicides.
Level of social swear solidarity is now lower than it was just a few decades ago for
young people. Less firmly rooted in society and less likely to share moral standards,
young people in Canada are more likely than they were a century ago to take their lives
if they find themselves in the midst of a personal places. From personal troubles to social structures
Patterns of social relations affect your innermost thoughts and feelings influence your
actions and help shape who you are. Pattern of social relations is the level of social
solidarity that characterizes the various groups to which you belong.
Sociologist called relatively stable patterns of social relations social structures. The main
task of sociologist is to identify and explain the connection between people’s personal
trouble in the social structures it with people are embedded.
This work is harder than it seems as in everyday life we usually see things mainly for
own point of view. Our experiences are unique to us and social structures may seem
remote and impersonal.
Microstructures or patterns of intimate social relations and are formed during face-to-
face interactions such as family friendships and work associations.
Macrostructures are patterns of social relations the lie outside and above your circle of
intimates and acquaintances. They include class relations and patriarchy, the traditional
system of economic and political inequality between women and men in most societies..
Global structures the international organizations patterns of worldwide travel and
communication and economic relations between countries are examples of global
Global structures are increasingly important as inexpensive travel and communication
allow all parts of the world become interconnected culturally economically and politically.
The sociological imagination
C. Wright Mills called the ability to see the connection between personal troubled and
social structures is the sociological imagination.
In ancient and medieval times some philosophers wrote about society. They’re thinking
was not sociological as they believed God and nature controlled society.
The scientific revolution in 1550 encourage the view that sound conclusions about the
workings of society must be based on solid evidence not just speculation.
The democratic revolution in 1750 suggested that people are responsible for organizing
society and that human intervention can therefore solve social problems. The industrial revolution in 1780 created a host of new and serious social problems that
attracted the attention of many social thinkers.
Origins of sociological imagination
The scientific revolution
Sciences is less a collection of ideas than a method of inquiry.
In 1609 Galileo pointed his newly invented telescope at the heavens and made some
observations and showed that it observations fit Copernicus theory.
The core of the scientific method of using evidence to make a case for your particular
point of view.
were calling for a science
The democratic revolution
The realization of people control
society can change it. God
ordained the social order for
most Europeans hundred years ago. The symbolism in this figure is clear as God and his intermediary, Nature, control human
The hierarchy includes the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms, elements, heavenly
objects, angels and more.
The American Revolution the French Revolution helped undermine these ideas.
Democratic political upheaval show that society could experience massive change in a
short period. People could replace unsatisfactory rulers.
They suggested that people control society.
Change society by human intervention can help people figure out ways of overcoming
various social problems, improving welfare of citizens and finding the most effective way
to reach goals.
The industrial revolution
It began in England about 1780, the growth of industry, masses of people moving from
countryside to city worked Long hours in crowded and dangerous mines and factories,
lost faith in their religions, confronted faceless bureaucracies and reacted to the filth and
poverty of their existence by means of strikes, crime, revolution and war.
The origins of sociology
Sociology was coined by the French social thinker Auguste Comte.
He was inspired by the ideas of Galileo,Copernicus and Newton.
He wanted to test the validity of these ideas through careful observation of the real world
rather than assuming that God or human nature determine the shape of society. Sociological research was motivated by the adherence to scientific methods of research
and a vision of the ideal society.
Marx, Durkheim and Weber witnessed various phases of Europe’s wrenching transition
to industrial capitalism and wanted to understand and explain it.
Theory research and values
Theory is a tentative explanation of some aspect of social life. It states how and why
certain facts are related.
After a serious formulated the sociologist conducts research. Research is a process of
carefully observing social reality to assess the validity of the theory.
Values are ideas about what is right and wrong / good and bad.
Values help sociologist formulate and favor certain theories over others.
Durkheim Marx and Weber initiated three of the major theoretical traditions in sociology:
functionalism, conflict theory and symbolic interactionism....and feminism.
Durkheim’s theory of suicide is an early example of a functionalist theory.
Functionalist theories incorporate four features:
1. Stress that human behavior is governed by relatively stable patterns of social
relations or social structures.
2. Functionalism underlines how social structures maintain or undermined social
3. Functionalist theories emphasize that social structures are based mainly on shared
4. Functionalism suggests that reestablishing an equilibrium can best solve most social
Robert Merton, propose a social structures may have different consequences for
different categories of people.
He noted that some of those consequences might be destructive or dysfunctional.
Merton said that some functions are manifest - visible and intended - and others are
latent - invisible and unintended.
Conflict theory Emphasizes the centrality of conflict and social life.
Conflict theory incor