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Chapter 1

Chapter 1 Socio 1010

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York University
SOCI 1010
Deborah Brock

Chapter 1: The Sociological Perspective Core sociological knowledge base  a set of fundamental concepts, skills, and topics that enables sociologists to think differently about the world -Many sociologists believe that what members of a society experience (and they way they are interpreted and understood), those experiences are socially constructed Sociologists rely on 3 inter-connected skill sets:  Complex and critical thinking skills  Research skills  Theorizing skills -One of the core concepts that male up the sociological perspective is the social construction of reality. Social construction of reality  a concept created by Berger and Luckmann (1966), who argued that human experience (the way we understand reality) is shaped by the society in which we live, therefore our own experience of reality can be changed -The social construction of reality is shown through the example of a frog. There is a large difference between the world a frog ‘sees’ and what a human ‘sees’. A frog can visually distinguish:  Light from dark  Up from down (ie; horizon)  Small, dark objects that move  Larger objects that cast shadows -Unlike humans, a frog doesn’t see details. It would starve to death if flies that were not moving surrounded it. A frog flees his enemies by jumping towards areas of darkness. -Human beings are NOT like frogs because we cannot exist for long in isolation, in a world that is self- reflexive only. Reality is species-specific. Each species has a different ‘reality’. Proposition 1: Society is a Human Product -Human beings are social beings. -We are all born into a society that is itself a product of human activity Proposition 2: All Human Activity is Habitualized -Humans form social groups, and these groups learn to do certain actions in specific ways. Once human activity is repeated many times it becomes a habit. When this happens patterns of behavior become a norm and become institutionalized. -Social institutions (ie; school) control our behavior through a variety of social control mechanisms. There are social control mechanisms in place to make sure that students conform to standards of behavior expected in specific social institutions. The Social Imagination -Defined by C. Wright Mills as an orientation adopted by a sociologist to recognize and understand the connections between individual experience and larger social institutions -Mills famously writes: “Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.” -The sociological imagination helps us to distinguish between bad circumstances that an individual might experience as a result of poor behavior or poor choices, and/or bad circumstances that results from structural forces beyond the individual’s control ‘Reality’ and the Sociological Imagination Objective Knowledge  knowledge that is to be free of bias -An object can be interpreted through a wide range of value systems -What gets presented as ‘true knowledge’ ultimately depends on the researcher and the social and cultural conditions in which the researcher is -Our personal knowledge about life is always shaped by the beliefs and values that emerge out of the social groups to which we belong -Dilthey tells us, our minds can understand only what they have created Lifeworld  German philosopher Edmund Husserl’s term for the entire communal system of meaning that underlies everyday life Applying A Sociological Perspective: 3 Examples -The sociological perspective upholds the proposition that human interaction is socially based -It supports critical thinking about our own lives and the society we live in, as well as about other societies distinct from our own. Example 1: Individualism -For most Westerners, individualism serves as a kind of lens through which most other beliefs are seen and evaluated -Hobbes, Locke, and Machiavelli were among the first Western writers to argue in favour of individualism -Taking a sociological perspective allows us to think in new ways about the everyday beliefs and understandings that we use to make sense of our lives Example 2: Racial Prejudice th -During the late 19 century, when well over 90% of persons immigrating to Canada were European, the Canadian government also promoted the immigration of a relatively small # of Asian labourers -The decision to bring Chinese workers to build the railways in BC was made by PM John A MacDonald -MacDonald decided that Chinese immigrants would reside in BC only temporarily -MacDonald said: “at any moment when Canada chooses, it can shut down the gate and say, No more immigrants shall come here from China and then no more immigrants will come, and those in the country at the time will rapidly disappear” -Racist or prejudicial behaviours are reflections of deeply felt fears and biases created by members of society against those identified as ‘others’ -Using a sociological perspective allows us to unmask prejudices Example 3: Romantic Love -One such belief is that romantic love is a natural and instinctual part of the human makeup -But in many societies, decisions about when and whom to marry are rarely left up to the individuals to be wed, they often have little to no say in the matter (India, 90% marriages are arrange
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