SOC103H1 Chapter Notes -Altruistic Suicide, Herbert Blumer, Symbolic Interactionism

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15 Apr 2012

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Sociology: the systemic study of social behaviour, or the study of society
Society: the largest-scale human group, whose members interact with one another, share a common geographic
territory, and share common institutions
Macrosociology: the study of social institutions (ex. Roman Catholic Church or marriage) and large social groups (ex.
Ethnic minorities or college students)
Microsociology: the study of the processes and patterns of personal interaction that takes place among people within
Sociological imagination: an approach to sociology that situates the personal experiences of individuals within the
societal context in which these experiences occur
Social institution: one kind of social structure, made up of a number or relationships. People use institutions to
achieve their intended goals, as students use schools, or patients use hospitals
Role: the expected pattern of interaction with others
Interaction: the processes by which, and manner in which, social actors-people trying to meet each other's
expectations-relate to each other, especially in face-to-face encounters
Expectation: a shared idea about how people should carry out the duties attached to a particular status
Status: a socially defined position that delineates people's rights and responsibilities
Social structure: any enduring, predictable patterns of social relations among people in society; the subject matter of
sociology. All social structures control us, change us, resist the efforts of individuals to bring about social change and
produce social change
Negotiation: the ways in which people try to make sense of one another, and make sense to one another ex)
bargaining, making arrangements, compromising etc
macroanalytical approaches: structural functional theory and critical theory
microanalytical approaches: symbolic interactionism, feminist theory, postmodern theory
views society as a set of interconnected parts that work together to preserve the overall stability and efficiency
of the whole
Robert Merton's Social Theory and Social Structure
- social institutions perform both manifest and latent functions
- Manifest functions are those that are intended and easily recognized ex) education for learning
- Latent functions are unintended and often hidden ex) education as a 'babysitter'
Durkheim: crime is universal so it perhaps serve as latent function as well
- term 'anomie' or 'normlessness'-> social norms are weak or in conflict with one another
every social institution has a 'purpose'
functional theory helps us understand why changes in one part of society brings about changes in other parts
sudden cultural shifts disrupt traditional values and common ways of doing things
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for functional theorists, the best way to deal with social problems is to strengthen social norms and slow the
pace of social change
'haves' and 'have-nots'
unequal distribution of power
about domination of one group by another
views society as collection of varied groups especially social classes that constantly struggle with each other to
dominate society and its institutions
Karl Marx
- social problem arise from capitalism, an exploitive economic system
- bourgeoisie; owners of the means of production
- proletariat; working class
Marxist solution to social problems-> abolishing the bourgeoisie
Marx Weber later shifted the focus of critical theory from classes to status groups
focuses on small-group interactions
focuses on the 'glue' that holds people together in social relationships; the shared meanings, definitions, and
interpretations of interacting individuals
Labelling theory
- any given social problem is viewed as such simply because an influential group of people define it so
- Becker's 'moral entrepreneurs'- people who make a point of changing other people's thoughts and actions
make it one
Herbert Blumer: social problems develop in stages that include:
- social recognition, social legitimating, mobilization for action, development and implementation of an official
plan (ex. War on drugs)
symbolic interactionists are interested in the processes of interaction by which people make and use symbols to
construct a society, every single day
domination of women is not a result of biological determinism but is a result of socio-economic and
ideological factors
- Weber's closure and usurpation
feminist theories focus on:
1. the gendering of experiences
2. problem of victimization
3. intersectionality
interested in unmasking ideologies that protect the dominant social order
Modernism argues that through science we can discover 'the truth' about reality, and there is only one 'truth' per
situation. Also, it should be possible to change improve society through social engineering, using discovered
'truths' or natural laws about the social order
Postmodernism argues that rationality is neither sure nor clear and that our knowledge is situation-specific-
always limited to particular times, places, and social positions. These and other factors shape the way people
construct their unique views of knowledge
concept of objectivity; postmodernism denies on objectivity and rejects claims based on purported objectivity
reality is fragmentary
- any claim that there is a single knowable and known truth, or that any one account is 'the truth' is false and
mass media and cultural production-> largely responsible for framing and transmitting conventional ideas
about normality, gender, class, and even science
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