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SOC103H1 (103)
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University of Toronto St. George

Chapter 1: Introducing Sociology 1.1: Chapter Outline • Sociology emerged 200 years ago in response to new social problems that arose from industrialization, urbanization and poetical revolution • Two social revolutions were especially important for the growth of sociology:  The industrialization revolution: It changed people’s lives by drawing them into harsh urban conditions and new kinds of exploitive, impersonal economic relationships.  The French Revolution: It overthrew the monarchy, convinced people through the Western world that new social and political arrangements were possible and should be developed • According to Max Weber: The present-day sociology is deeply connected with how we know what we know • Sociology: The systematic study of social behaviour, or the study of society • Sociology has always been oriented to solving problems – to finding better ways of living together • To blame is not explaining, and without explanation and understanding, there is no remedy • Social life is innately contradictory and paradoxical • Sociologists find that using ‘Common Sense’ to understand the world is usually not enough • ‘Common-sense knowledge’ is that uninspected package of beliefs, understandings, and propositions that people assume to be prudent and sound. This blind assumption often leads to incomplete and inaccurate explanations. • Sociologists use study and research to seek scientifically sound explanations. They avoid using psychological and psychiatric theories to explain social problems • The central goal of sociologists is to replace common-sense reasoning with scientific explanation 1.2 Ways of looking at Sociology • The two main macroanalytical approaches: functional theory and critical theory • Major microanalytical approach : Symbolic interactions 1.2.1 Functional Theory • Functional theory views society as a set of interconnected parts that work together to preserve the overall stability and efficiency of the whole • Robert Merton argued in his work Social Theory and Social Structure that social institutions perform both manifest and latent functions  Manifest functions are those that are intended and easily recognized  Latent functions are unintended and often hidden • Example by Emile Durkheim: the manifest function of crime is usually to benefit the lawbreakers. But Durkheim notes that crime is universal, so perhaps it serves a latent function for society: by mobilizing popular sentiment, it helps clarify the social boundaries for proper behaviour. • Functionalists also characteristically explain social problems by focusing on the failure of institutions to fulfill their roles during times of rapid change • Emile Durkheim introduced the term anomie, or normlesness, to reflect the condition typically in times of rapid social change, in which norms are weak or in conflict with one another. • From the functionalist perspective, the best way to deal with social problems is to strengthen social norms and slow the pace of social change 1.2.2 Critical Theory • Critical theory arises out of the basic division between society’s haves and have-nots • Always about the unequal distribution of power • Critical theories reject the functional explanations of social problems criticizing their limited attention to power struggles and special interests. Critical theory instead views society as a collection of varied groups that constantly struggle with each other to dominate society and its institutions • Karl Marx, unlike functionalists, attributed the social problems of the modern age not to industrialization and urbanization, but to capitalism, and exploitive economic system. • In any capitalist society, two broad groups will emerge:  The bourgeoisie: elite owners of the means of production  The proletariat: working class • Because of their powerlessness, member of the proletariat feel alienated from the processes and products of their work • Max Weber, later shifted the focus of critical theory away from classes to status groups 1.2.3 Symbolic Interaction • Symbolic interactions focus on the glue that holds people together in social relationships • Labelling theory: a major theory in the symbolic integrationist tradition rests on the premise that any given social problem is viewed as such simply because an influential group of people defines it so. Example: Marijuana ( Howard Becker) • Herbert Blumer proposes that social problems developed in stages that include social recognition, social legitimating, mobilization for action, and finally the development and implementation of an official plan 1.3 Feminist Theories • Many consider feminist theory to be branch of critical theory, since it focuses on relations of inequality and especially, on how gender-based inequality makes women’s lives different from men’s • To be a women in our society is often to act out a role that others, men, have defined • The common theme in the many types of feminism is the view that domination of women is not a result of biological determinism but is a result of socio-economic and ideological factors – what Weber called closure and usurpation • Most feminist research s a mixture of symbolic interactions and critical theory. A unique set of assumptions informs feminist research:  All personal life has political dimensions;  Both the public and private spheres of life are gendered  Women’s social experience routinely differs from men’s  Patriarchy – or male control  Because of routinely different experiences and differences in power, women and men view the world differently • First, feminist research pays the greatest attention to gendered influences on social life, or the gendering of experiences • A second interest is the problem of victimization 1.4 Postmodern Theories • Postmodernism may be considered a form of critical theory, though it is more than that • Modernism holds the view that through science we can discover the truth about reality, and there is only one truth per situation • Postmodenism, however, denies all of these assumptions and conclusions. Our knowledge is situation-specific – always limited to particular times, places, and social positions. To escape from knowledge constructed and imposed by others, then, one need to critique and deconstruct it • The postmodern movement, by denying universal knowledge and highlighting the value of local or particular insights, has an obvious attraction for counter-cultural movements and parties. It gain support from, movements for gender equality, racial equality, gay rights, anti-globalization, environmentalisms • The mass media are important because they are largely responsible for framing and transmitting conventional ideas about normality, gender, class and even science. They are, in large part, the propaganda machine that postmodenists are bound to attack • Michel Foucault`s analysis of prisons and imprisonment. For Foucault all of modern society is a prison • At the core of Foucault`s picture of modern disciplinary society are three primary techniques of control: hierarchical observation, normalizing judgment, and continual examination 1.5 Suicide • Emile Durkheim was born in a Jewish family in France. One of his famous work is Suicde • Durkheim`s approach in Suicide is based on what he calls ‘the sociological method’ which involves a systematic analysis of suicide statistics • Durkheim uses example of the Jewish community to illustrate the inadequacy of purely psychological explanation. • Durkheim groups suicide into three main types: 1. Egoistic suicide: is likely to occur when people fall out of the social groups they belong to, or when the groups’ bonds are weakened by excessive individualism. Example: Protestant fait is more individualistic than the Catholic, and will therefore be more likely to kill themselves than Catholics 2. Altruistic suicide: Suicide that is motivated by a sense of societal duty. It reflects to much social integration: they are motivated by the interest of greater good 3. Anomic suicide: Resulting from absence of social regulation and norms. In this case, people commit suicide because they suddenly confront the confusion and sitress of social uncertainty, requiring rapid adjustment. They kill themselves because they are in pain, and they are in pain because society isn’t telling them how to live • Durkheim’s general conclusion is that rates of suicide in any society correlate inversely with person’s degree of integration into domestic, religious, and political society 1.6 Modern Functionalism • The modern functionalist perspective on sociology emerged out of Durkheim’s work. Theorists such as Robert Merton and Talcott Parsons. Each part of society contributes to the whole and keeps it in equilibrium • Functionalists note that social institutions o
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