SOCI 2510 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Structural Functionalism, Auguste Comte, Symbolic Interactionism

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10 Apr 2012
Chapter 1: Sociological Perspective
Sociology: the systematic study of human society
Sociological perspective: the special point of view of sociology that sees general patterns of
society in the lives of particular people
our individual life experiences are shaped by the society in which we live – as well as by the
general categories into which we fall
women in poor countries have less schooling and fewer economic opportunities. They are more
likely to remain in the home, and are less likely to use contraception
Durkheim explained the differences in terms of social integration: categories of people with
strong social ties had low suicide rates, and more individualistic categories of people had high
suicide rates
freedom weakens social ties and thereby increases the risk of suicide
the higher suicide rate among men is a result of their greater affluence and autonomy in Canada
everyone feels like an outsider (not being part of the dominant group) from time to time.
People with the greatest privileges tend to see individuals as responsible for their own lives.
Those at the margins of society, by contrast are quick to see how race, class, and gender can
create disadvantages.
Global perspective: the study of the larger world and our society's place in it
high-income countries: the nations with the highest overall standards of living. E.g Canada, USA,
Argentina, Chile, etc
produce most of the world's goods and services
people who live there own most of the planet's wealth
people are very well off, economically speaking as they were lucky to be born in a rich
region of the world
middle-income countries: the nations with a standard of living about average for the world as a
whole. E.g Eastern Europe, most of Asia, and central South America, etc
people are most likely to live in rural villages as in cities
on average, receive 6 to 8 years of schooling
most middle-income countries also have considerable social inequality within their
borders so that some are extremely rich (N. Africa vs S. Africa)
many more lack safe housing and adequate nutrition
low-income countries: the nations with a low standard of living, in which most people are poor.
E.g Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, etc
few people are very rich
majority struggle to get by with poor housing, unsafe water, too little food, and little
chance to improve their lives
Global Stratification:
1. Where we live shapes the lives we lead - e.g women living in rich and poor countries have
different size families
2. Societies throughout the world are increasingly interconnected – e.g email, internet, media,
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3. Many social problems we face in Canada are far more serious elsewhere – e.g poverty in Canada
vs poverty in Latin America, gender inequality in Canada vs in Afghanistan
4. Thinking globally helps us learn more about ourselves – e.g comparing life in various settings
also leads to unexpected lessons
Using Sociology benefits us in four ways:
1. The sociological perspective helps us assess the truth of “common sense
- e.g we all take many things for granted, but that does not make them true
2. The sociological perspective helps us see the opportunities and constraints in our lives
-e.g In the game of life, we have a say in how to play our cards, but it is society that
deals us the hand. The more we understand the game, the better players we will be.
3. The sociological perspective empowers us to be active participants in our society
-e.g the more we understand about how society works, the more active citizens we become
-it is the sociological perspective that turns a “personal problem” (such as being out of
work) into a “public issue” (a lack of jobs)
-as we come to see how society affects us, we may support society as it is, or we may set out
with others to change it.
4. The sociological perspective helps us live in a diverse world
-95% of people live lives very different from ours
-like people everywhere, we tend to define our own way of life as “right,” “natural,” and
-sociological perspectives encourage us to think critically about the relative strengths and
weaknesses of all ways of life, including our own
3 kinds of change were especially important in the development of sociology:
the rise of a factory-based industrial economy
the explosive growth of cities
the spread of new ideas about democracy and political rights
Canada's society believes in individual liberty and individual rights
huge factories, exploding cities, a new spirit of individualism- these changes combined to make
people aware of their surroundings
new discipline of sociology was born in England, France, and Germany, where these changes
were greatest
Auguste Comte coined the term sociology as a new way of looking at society in 1838
He saw sociology as the product of a three-stage historical development
1. During the earliest, the theological stage (from the beginning of human history to the end of the
European Middle Ages), people took a religious view that society expressed God's will
2. With the Renaissance in the fifteenth century, the theological approach gave way to a
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