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Chapter 1

SOC101Y1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: The Sociological Imagination, Altruistic Suicide, Scientific Revolution

Course Code
Robert Brym

of 6
New Society-Chapter 1
The sociological Explanation of Suicide
Emile Durkheim (1897-1951) demonstrated that suicide is more than an
individual act of desperation resulting from a psychological disorder
o Suicide rates are strongly influenced social forces
o Examined the association between suicide rates and rates of psychological
disorders in different groups
Reasoned the idea that psychological disorder causes suicide is
supported only if suicide rates tend to be high where rates of
psychological disorder are high
Research revealed nothing of the kind asylums, but 4 male
suicides for every 1 female suicide
Jews had more psychological disorders than the other main
religious groups in France, but the lowest suicide rate
Psychological disorder occurred most frequently when reached
maturity, but suicide rates increased with age
Therefore suicide rates and rates of psychological disorders vary
un proportionately
Argues: suicide rates vary because of differences in social solidarity in different
o The more group members share beliefs and values, and the more
frequently and intensely they interact, the more social solidarity there is in
the group
o The more people are anchored to their social world
o Therefore less likely to commit suicide
o Therefore suicide rates low when social solidarity high
Altruistic suicide: when norms tightly govern behaviour therefore individual
actions are in the groups interest
o Soldier sacrificing himself to save another
Egoistic suicide: lack of integration of the individual into society because weak
social ties to others
Anomic suicide: norms governing behaviour are vaguely defined
o When society lacks a widely shared moral code, higher anomic suicide
Suicide in Canada Today
Durkheim‟s theories hold up today
o Durkheim‟s France=Canada 2004 (sex suicide)
o Durkheim‟s France: higher rate of suicide of elderly.
Canada higher rate of suicide ages 15-16
Strong social ties and shared moral principles have eroded since the 1960s for
Canada‟s youth therefore higher rate of youth suicide
o Religious attendance lower for youth (less than 1/3)
o Unemployment up
o Rate of divorce has increased therefore kids brought up in single parent
o Therefore social solidarity lower for young people, meaning they are more
likely to commit suicide during a crisis
From Personal Ties to Social Structure
Patterns of social relations affect innermost thoughts and feelings, influence
actions and help shape who we are
Relatively stable patterns of social relations=social structures
o Three levels of social structure surround and penetrate us
Microstructure: patterns of intimate social relations. Face-to-
face interaction. Families, friends, work associates. More likely to
know the same people. Strength in „weak ties‟
Macrostructure: patterns of social relations that lie outside and
above circle of intimate friends. Class relations and patriarchy.
Traditional system of economic and political inequality between
men and women
Global structure: International organizations, patterns of
worldwide travel and communication, economic relations between
The Sociological Imagination
American sociologist. C. Wright Mills (1959) called the ability to see the
connection between personal troubles and social structures the sociological
o Born when three modern revolutions pushed people to think about society
in a new way
Scientific Revolution: began in 1550. Encouraged the view that
sound conclusions about the workings of society must be based on
solid evidence not just speculation
Democratic Revolution: began 1750. Suggests that people are
responsible for organizing society and human intervention can
solve social problems
Industrial Revolution: began 1780. Created new and serious
social problems that attracted the attention of social thinkers
Origins of the Sociological Imagination
Scientific Revolution
o Less a collection of ideas than a method of inquiry
o Core: use evidence to make a case for a particular point of view
o When sociology emerged as a distinct discipline in the 19th century,
commitment to the scientific method was one firm pillar of the
sociological imagination
Democratic Revolution
o Second pillar of the sociological imagination
o The realization that people control society and can change it
o American and French Revolution helped undermine the ideas of how the
world used to view the universe
o Democratic political upheaval showed that society could experience
massive change in a short period of time
o Proved people could replace unsatisfactory leaders
o PEOPLE control society not God
Industrial Revolution
o Third pillar
o England 1780
o Because of growth of industry, people moved to cities, worked long hours
in dangerous conditions
o Lost faith in religion
o Confronted faceless bureaucracies and reacted to the filth and
poverty of their existence by means of strike crime, revolution and
o Industrial Revolution presented social thinkers with pressing social
problems needing a solution
Origins of Sociology
Coined by French Social Thinker Auguste Comte 1838
o Tried to place the study of sociology on scientific foundations
o Wanted to understand the social world as it is
o Swept up in the Scientific Revolution
At its origin, sociological study was motivated by the scientific method and a
vision of the ideal society
Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber lived in the period from 1820-
Witnessed various phases of Europe‟s transition to industrial capitalism, wanted
to explain it
All committed to the scientific method of research/also wanted to char out a better
course for their societies