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Week 1 Notes

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by: Chris Fong

Week 1 Notes SOC 1

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Perspective and Objective
Intro to Sociology
Dr. Sigmond
Class Notes




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1 review
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"I'm really struggling in class and this study guide was freaking crucial. Really needed help, and Chris delivered. Shoutout Chris, I won't forget!"

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This 5 page Class Notes was uploaded by Chris Fong on Wednesday January 13, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to SOC 1 at a university taught by Dr. Sigmond in Fall 2015. Since its upload, it has received 43 views.


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Star Star Star Star Star

I'm really struggling in class and this study guide was freaking crucial. Really needed help, and Chris delivered. Shoutout Chris, I won't forget!



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Date Created: 01/13/16
Sociology: A ‘field of knowledge’ derived from the scientific  and systematic study of human society  ● Human societies are composed of social institutions, cultural systems, and social  groups ­ all of which are products of human interaction  ● Focus is on the “collectivity” ­ primacy (focus) of the group  ● As a “science the objective is to arrive at a verfiable explanation of human  behavior    Why do people do what they do?    Assumption: Human behavior conforms to same “cause and effect”  structure of physical reality    August Comte (1789 ­ 1857), French  Positivism: The social world ­ like the natural world ­ is governed by  universal laws, discoverable through observation and verification    Historical Context: France 18th and 19th Century  ● Political crises and social instability plagued French society throughout Comte’s  lifetime  ● French revolution (1789)  ● Napoleon I coup (1799)  ● Napoleon III coup (1851)    By the end of the 19th Century…  Scientists invented devices for scientific observation (Galileo), discovered biological  properties (Hooke), formulated laws of nature (Newton), harnessed electricity (Franklin),  and mapped periodic tables    Comte’s Objective: Discover the fundamental laws of  human organization with the scientific method  ● Society could then be organized on the basis of these laws (not on  religious beliefs or metaphysical abstractions)    Modernism: A repudiation of traditional beliefs and values  in favor of contemporary ones   ● Scientific rationalism, liberalism and progressive ideals  ● “The future can be better than the past”    What remains of the 19th Century sociological ambitions?    Very few sociologists seek ‘universal laws’ of human behavior ­ research today is far  more specialized. However, the belief that sociological knowledge can promote human  well­being persists.    Public Sociologies: Contradictions, Dilemmas, Possibilities  (Michael Buraway)  ● A tension between ‘science’ and ‘politics’ ­ objectivity vs. subjectivity    In 2003 the American sociological Association adapted an official member  resolution to oppose the Iraq war.    Majority opinion: “Foreign interventions create more problems than they solve.”  ● “Scientific sociologists have no business making moral or political  pronouncements”  ● “Taking a moral or political position is incompatible with scientific objectivity”    Buraway’s Response: “The ‘pure science’ position that research must be completely  insulated from politics is untenable since antipolitics (not participating) is the same as  being civically engaged.”    Max Weber: “Science as a Vocation” (1917)  Value Freedom​ : Sociologists should strive for value neutrality when  conducting research  ● There is no scientific ­natural or social­ research that is completely and entirely  divorced from the world of values      Our values intervene in at least two respects  1. Values influence what we study scientifically  2. Values influence the allocation of resources    Values ​ designate the relative importance, worth or usefulness of something    Weber: “We know of no scientifically demonstrable ideals” ­ no scientifically verifiable  values    Why study society?    Why do sociologists begin with sociological units of analysis ­ social institutions, cultural  systems, social groups, and social interaction ­ in order to arrive at explanations of  human behavior?    ‘We are greatly influenced by our social surroundings’  ● Individual thought and behavior is largely influenced by group membership  ● Meaning is NOT intrinsic; humans assign value to things  ● Group membership situates people within particular institutional and cultural  realities    E.G. Nationality, Class, Gender, Race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, occupation, age  ● A person’s membership composite ­ belonging to multiple groups ­ results in  exposure to general types of social influence    Sociological Assumptions  1. Individual lives are lived jointly ­ very rarely are life experiences had in isolation  2. Conformity Is a necessary condition of group membership ­ it requires adherence  to ‘rules’  3. Individuals are treated by others ­ in groups and out groups­ on the basis of their  social identity    “The Promise” ­ C. Wright Mills (1916­1962)  “What is the sociological imagination?”  ● Being able to see the POV of others  ● Its a ‘quality of mind’ ­ a type of consciousness  ● “It enables us to grasph history and biography and the relations between the two  within society  Lives are ‘lived out’ in societies ­ shaped by cultural and institutional forces    ‘Unemployment and Divorce’: We must look beyond ‘the private orbits of individuals’ to  locate the causes of these phenomena    Great Recession: Unemployment rate of 10% (2009)cannot be explained by ‘personality  traits’  E.G. Character, Work Ethic, Disposition, etc.  ● It requires an institutional (cultural) explanation    In our nation of 315 million, 40% of first marriages end in divorce:   ● Not a ‘private trouble’, it is a ‘public issue’    It requires an analysis of cultural and institutional factors ­ e.g. changes in expectations,  financial autonomy, occupational demands, divorce law    Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology: Chris Hunter and Kent McClelland    Functionalism: Emile Durkeim (1858­1917)  Functionalists conceive human society as a ‘social system’, which is composed of  interconnected, interrelated, and interdependent parts ­ each institution will perform a  function    Ex.  Social institution  Societal Function  Family  Reproduction and child care  Economic  Produce, exchange goods and services  Religious  Provide moral guidance and direction  Legal  Create and enforce laws  Political  Distribute power and govern citizenry    ‘Organic Analogy’    Social Institutions are to society what organs are to a physical body, each serves a vital  purpose  Healthy social instituions make for healthy societies ­ free of instability and disorder  (social instability is a ‘symptom’ of dysfunction)    “What function does a particular social institution serve in the maintenance of society?”  ● Something is functional if it contributes to the stability of a society, it is  ‘dysfunctional’ if it disrupts social stability    Durkeim argued that modern societies derive social stability from a  complex division of labor.  ● High degree of economic interdependence, which provides solidarity in culturally  diverse societies  Focus: Function, order, stability, consensus, equilibrium, maintenance, integration,  regulation    Karl Marx (1818­1883) Conflict Theory    Conflict theorists conceive of huan society as composed of individuals and  groups competing over scarce valued resources    “Who benefits from the way social institutions and cultural systems are structured?”    Capitalism is based on the exploitation of wage laborers who generate ‘surplus value’   ● Surplus value: The excess of value produced by the labor of workers over the  wages they are paid    Wealth is a social product ­ it is collectively created ­ yet is NOT equally distributed  ● Workers don’t equally share in the profits of their own labor    Labor theory of value: The value of any commodity is ultimately derived  from the labor used to create it    Group interest motivates behavior ­ The ruling class uses its power to  realize and preserve its own interests 


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