Eitzen - Ch 1 Notes.docx

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University of California - Irvine
Chuck O' Connell

Ch 1 - The Sociological Perspective Sociology - the scholarly discipline concerned with the systematic study of social organizations attempts to understand the social forces that shape our lives, interests and personalities Personal level - causes and consequences of love, violence, identity, conformity, deviance… Societal level - poverty, racism, sexism, crime, etc. Global level - inequality, war, conflict resolution, immigration, etc. Individuals are by nature social beings Individuals are socially determined (products of their social environment) During infancy and childhood, shaped by parents Identity is socially bestowed - personalities shaped by how people receive us We are like puppets - dependent on and manipulated by social forces. Social determinism - the assumption that human behaviour is explained exclusively by social factors But the puppet metaphor doesn’t go that far. Society isn’t static and rigid; there are nonconformists and deviants Human beings shapeAND are shaped by society Groups are human-made. Implications: 1. Social forms created defy change 2. Social organizations are imperfect - there are winners and losers 3. Individuals can change society’s structure through collective action 4. Individuals are not passive; actively shape social life by adapting/negotiating/changing social structures (Human agency) Sociological imagination - the view that individual troubles are inextricably linked to social forces View social world from others’perspective Moving away from thinking in terms of individual; focusing on social/economic/historical circumstances (recognize societal patterns) Detachment from taken-for-granted assumptions, establishing critical distance Problems with the Sociological perspective Sociology is an uncomfortable discipline. Because why? Questions what people normally take for granted. Social world is human-made, not sacred Behaviour of subjects unpredictable; people can be persuaded by irrational factors Understanding social life requires a perspective of sociological questions and analysis Sociology questions all our social arrangements, making it uncomfortable. Historical development of Sociology Founder of sociology: Auguste Comte. Wanted a scientific approach to studying people without religious arguments. Emphasized positivism - knowledge based on observation, experimentation and comparison Emile Durkheim. Focused on Social facts - Durkheim's term referring to the forces outside individuals that constrain them in their behaviours. Also interested in social integration - what holds groups and society together (shared traditions, values ideology) Karl Marx: economic determinism. Concerned with gap between the powerless and the powerful. Saw how capitalism shaped society by maximizing profits and keeping the elite in power. The elite controlled the political system, religion and media; therefore, the working class had false consciousness - believing in ideas not in their best interests but the interests of the capitalist class). But working class could see contradictions and develop class consciousness (realizing th
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