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Chapter 1

Sociology Chapter 1 notes.rtf

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York University
SOCI 1010
Amber Gazso

How Do We Understand Society? September 16 and 19, 2013 Outline: * 1. Reminder:Academic Integrity Tutorial * 2. What is Sociology * 3. Introducing Theory * 4. Classical Sociology * 5. Contemporary Sociological Thinking 1. Academic Integrity Tutorial * http://www.yorku.ca/tutorial/academic_integrity/ 2. What is Sociology * “the systematic study of social behaviour in human societies” (Tepperman et al., p. 3) * the study of human group life * a focus on how people and societies change 3. Introducing Theory * theory: general statement about how some parts of the social world fit together and how they work * An interpretation of reality * sociologists aim to understand the taken-for-granted nature of social life: why it is so often unthinkingly orderly, routine, and generally predictable The Sociological Imagination * C. Wright Mills: we must address social problems by linking an individual’s personal troubles with the way society is organized and structured * an individual’s private troubles are rooted in widespread public issues * The connection between our own lives – biography – and social change within society – history Structure and Agency * an important binary distinction in contemporary social theory is between structure and agency * Structures: pre-existing arrangements in society that influence our behaviour * E.g. the labour market, ‘the family,’democracy * Agency: choices individuals make. Relationships between choices, you never have absolute choice. The Beginning of Sociology * 19 century Enlightenment: society could be studied scientifically * Auguste Comte (1798–1857): coined the term ‘sociology’to capture an interest in discovering ‘natural’, social laws of human existence (positivism). The way of thinking is a paradigm. Science could be used in sociology -When observing people, first stage they believed in supernatural gods, then they believed in nature being replaced by one god, and finally in the third stage science would be used to understand the social world 4. Classical Sociology * Functionalism: to identify the basic functions that must be fulfilled in all societies Structural Theorysociety exists because there are different parts of society that perform different functions. * if something exists in society and persists over time –religion (why are we here what is our purpose) , for example, or sports, or even crime (agreement of what is good and what is bad) -- it must perform some necessary function over time which are important for the reproduction of society. Another example is the family: functions include intimacy, reproduction, etc. -Society exists in harmony and keeps reproducing over time all parts work together and society remains healthy Émile Durkheim (1858–1917): * studied religion: societies were held together by regular gatherings or events in which the tribe feasted and celebrated its community (the sacred) * studied suicide: when people were no longer united by a single code of right and wrong, Durkheim termed this anomie and thought it explained suicide * Studied the changing division of labour: the simplest societies were held together by mechanical solidarity * modern societies are held together and all parts and people function to maintain social life through organic solidarity. These were called simple societies. People had similar religion, similar education levels, similar jobs homogeneity * Conflict theory: class struggles (conflict) are the basis of social life * power and resistance * analyze struggles between those who have power and control scarce resources and those who do not -Organic solidarity, heterogeneity, interdependence of parts everyone is connected, eg. Labourer has to buy bread instead of making it themselves Karl Marx (1818-1883): * focused on material changes in society, how the basic necessities in social life were distributed unequally over time * explains changes in society through economic and social change * the transition to capitalism was marked by a surplus of goods that benefited elites or the bourgeousie * wage workers, the proletariat, were exploited by the bourgeousie * alienation is a characteristic of capitalism Karl Marx, cont’d -Social life is based on conflict -some groups have power, some do not. Oppressed people fight back and resist - struggle between people who have the resources vs thos
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