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SOC101Y1 (470)
Chapter 1

Chapter 1 – A Sociological Compass

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University of Toronto St. George
Arnd Jurgensen

Chapter 1 – A Sociological Compass The Study of Suicide Becoming rarer, only 11 suicides occur annually out of 100 000 Canadians →World average suicide rate is 16 We tend to focus on the individual’s state of mind, rather than the type of society they live in. Sociology can reveal the hidden social causes of an apparently non-social/anti- social phenomenon of suicide. Emile Durkheim at the end of the 19th century stated that suicide is more than just an individual act of desperation due to a psychological disorder. →He states that they are directly linked by social forces Durkheim first started by examining the association between rates of suicide and rates of psychological disorder from several different groups. The idea that psychological disorder causes suicide is supported, only if the suicide rate tends to be high where the psychological disorder is high, and where suicide rates are low if psychological disorder is low. However, Durkheim analyzed European government stats and hospital records which didn’t reveal or support the above… He discovered that slightly more women were in insane asylums, but that the ratio from male to female suicide was 4:1. Jewish members in France had the highest rate of psychological disorders, but actually had the lowest suicide rate. As a result, psychological disorder and suicide rates are not directly related, but almost… inversely. Durkheim argued that there are differences in social solidarity in different categories that cause suicide →These differences make members look foreign to each other, they have little to relate to in terms of values and beliefs and as a result they keep quiet and do not interact much with society, resulting in depression and eventually suicide →To prove this, he found out that married adults are half as likely to commit suicide as unmarried adults, because marriage creates social ties and a moral cement that binds the individual to society →Women are also seen as less likely to commit suicide because they are more closely tied to the familial social relations than men →Jewish are less likely to commit suicide than Christians because of the persecution they have received which has made the a more tightly-knit society →Seniors are more likely to commit suicide than teenagers because they are most likely live alone or to have lost a spouse, or do not work anymore and have a lack a wide network of friends Types of Suicide according to Durkheim Durkheim states that suicide rates decline, and then rise as social solidarity increases. Anomic suicide occurs when there is low social solidarity in a society with vague norms that govern behaviour. This is when the individual does not share the same code of morality as the society they belong in. Egoistic suicide also occurs when there is low social solidarity, however this occurs when there is anti-social behaviour between the individual and others when they have weak ties to others. For example, someone being unemployed and unmarried, rather than being employed and married. As social solidarity increases, the above suicide rates decrease until it reaches an all-time low, however after the mid-point of the curve… it starts to increase again as social solidarity actually increases as well. (Graph is on pg. 6) Altruistic suicide occurs when norms tightly govern behaviour. Soldiers who knowingly give up their lives to protect comrades commit altruistic suicide. Suicide in Canada Today The rate of suicide was low in Durkheim’s France, but it is higher in Canada today. →Durkheim’s theory of social solidarity will help explain this Consider the following: • Those who attend religious ceremonies are down whether it is in a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, etc. It used to be 50% of Canadians attending weekly in the 1960s, now it is 25% and 15% for those born after the 1960s • Unemployment is up, especially for youth it used to be 3% in the 1960s but is now up to 10% and was twice as high for those under 24 than for those above • Rate of divorce has increased six fold since the early 1960s, births outside marriages are also much more common resulting in more single-parent families In short, it shows that social solidarity is much lower than it was before, less firmly rooted in society and less likely to share moral standards, young people in contemporary society are more likely to commit suicide than those back in Durkheim’s days. The Sociological Imagination You live in society, but society also lives in you. Social Structures are what determine what you do and what you think, they influence your actions and shape who you are. C. Wright Mills (1959) called the ability to see the connection between personal troubles and social structures the sociological imagination. Origins of Sociological Imagination The Scientific Revolution Began around 1550 and encouraged the view that sound conclusions about the workings of society that must be based on evidence and not just mere speculation People link the Scientific Revolution to ideas like Copernicus’ theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun, this is also where the “scientific method” came into place, for example Galileo used his telescopic observations to prove Copernicus’ theory. The Democratic Revolution Began around 1750, suggesting that people are responsible for organizing society and that human intervention can solve problems. Prior to the Democratic Revolution, people mainly believed that God ordained the social order, the American Revolution and the French Revolution undermined the idea. The Democratic Revolution proved that people could replace unsatisfactory rulers and that people could control society. The Industrial Revolution Began about 1775 which created a whole new set of social problems that attracted the attention of social thinkers. Growth of industry, masses of people moved from the countryside to city, worked agonizingly long hours in crowded and dangerous mines and factories, and lost faith in their religions. Scientific Revolution suggested that a science of society was possible, while the Democratic Revolution suggested that people could intervene to improve society. →They created a social imagination Auguste Comte and the Tension between Science and Values French social thinker Auguste Comte (1798 – 1857) coined the term sociology. Tried to place the study of society on scientific foundations, as he said that he wanted to understand the social world as it was, not as he or anyone else imagined it should be. Comte adopted the scientific method in the study of society. Comte witnessed the democratic forces unleashed in the French Revolution, the early industrialization of society, and the rapid growth of cities. →As a result, he urged slow change and preservation of what was traditional in social life Durkheim, Marx, and Weber stood close to the origins of traditions in sociology: →Functionalism →Conflict Theory →Symbolic Interactionism A fourth theoretical tradition arose which was Feminism. Sociological Theory and The
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