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SOCY 1001, Class notes

by: Kaitlyn Nysather

SOCY 1001, Class notes SOCY 1001

Kaitlyn Nysather
CU Denver

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These are the notes for chapter 1 of Introduction to Sociology
Intro to Sociology
Class Notes
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This 8 page Class Notes was uploaded by Kaitlyn Nysather on Sunday August 7, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to SOCY 1001 at University of Colorado Denver taught by in Summer 2016. Since its upload, it has received 12 views. For similar materials see Intro to Sociology in Sociology at University of Colorado Denver.


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Date Created: 08/07/16
Chapter 1: Discover Sociology Why Study Sociology? A sociological perspective highlights the many ways that we both influence and are powerfully influenced by the social world around us: Society shapes us, and we, in turn, shape society. It also helps us see the social world through a variety of different lenses. There are many ways that sociologists might explain class differences, for instance, and why they persist. Each one may illuminate different aspects of the phenomenon, enabling us to assemble a fuller, more rigorous perspective on social life. In this sense, “the” sociological perspective is really a collection of sociological perspectives we can use as analytical tools. Why are the issues and questions posed by sociology incredibly compelling for us all to understand? One reason is that many social issues sociologists study—marriage, fertility, poverty, unemployment, consumption, discrimination, and many others—are related to one another in ways we may not immediately see. The sociological perspective helps us make connections between diverse social phenomena. When we understand these connections, we are better able to address social problems and to make (or vote for) policy choices that benefit society. While the relationships between sociological factors are complex and sometimes indirect, when sociology helps us fit them together, we gain a better picture of the issues confronting us all—as well as U.S. society and the larger world. Sociology • Sociology is the scientific study of human social relations, groups, and societies. • Addresses what the dimensions of the social world are, how they influence our behavior, and how we in turn shape and change them. Examples: racial segregation, marriage rates, graduation rates, wage gap. • Purpose of sociology is to understand and generate new knowledge about human behavior, social relations, and social institutions on a larger scale. • Is an academic discipline that takes a scientific approach, a way of learning about the world that combines logically constructed theory and systematic observation. • Sociologists use research methods, including surveys, interviews, observations, archival research, and so forth to yield data that can be tested, challenged, and revised. • As opposed to a natural science, sociology is one of the social sciences, which scientifically study human beings and the social worlds they consciously create and inhabit. • Adheres to the principle of social embeddedness: the idea that economic, political, and other forms of human behavior are fundamentally shaped by social relations. The Sociological Imagination • The sociological imagination is the ability to grasp the relationship between individual lives and the larger social forces that shape them. 1 o Relationship between private troubles and public issues. o Where biography and history intersect. o Examples: unhappy marriage/divorce rates, difficulty finding work /unemployment rate. • Sociologists often talk about social actions—individual and group behavior—in terms of agency and structure. The relationship between agency and structure: o Agency: the ability of individuals and groups to exercise free will and to make social change, whether on a small or large scale. o Structure: patterned social arrangements that have an effect on agency. § Structure may enable or constrain social action. o We all have the ability to make choices and exercise free will, but the structures that surround us impose obstacles or opportunities for us. The choices we make may be enabled or constrained by structure. o Reciprocal relationship: Structure affects agency; agency can change the dimensions of structure. o Example: socioeconomic class and attending college. Critical Thinking • Critical thinking is the ability to evaluate claims about truth by using reason and evidence. • We often accept things as “true” because they are familiar, feel right, or are consistent with our beliefs (conventional wisdom). Critical thinking recognizes poor arguments, rejects statements not supported by evidence, and questions our assumptions. • Six rules of critical thinking: o Be willing to ask any question, no matter how difficult. o Think logically and be clear. o Back up your arguments with evidence. o Think about the assumptions and biases (including your own) that underlie all studies. o Avoid anecdotal evidence. o Be willing to admit when you are wrong or uncertain about your results. The Development of Sociological Thinking • Sociology rooted in four interrelated historical developments that gave birth to the modern world. Emerged in part as a tool to enable people to understand dramatic changes taking place in modern societies. • Scientific Revolution: rise of modern natural and physical sciences, beginning in Europe in the 16th century, offered scholars a more advanced understanding of the physical 2 world. Contributed to the belief that science could also be applied to human affairs, thereby enabling people to improve society or even perfect it. o Auguste Comte (1798–1857) coined the term sociology to characterize a new “social physics,” the scientific study of society. • The Enlightenment: Eighteenth century philosophers Voltaire (1694–1778), Montesquieu (1689–1755), Diderot (1719–1784), Rousseau (1712–1778)) believed humankind could attain new heights by applying scientific understanding to human affairs. o Ideals such as equality, liberty, and fundamental human rights. o Belief that sociological understanding would create a more egalitarian, peaceful society, in which individuals would be free to realize their full potential. o Shared hope that a fairer and more just society would be achieved through the scientific understanding of society. • The Industrial Revolution: Traditional agricultural economies and the small-scale production of handicrafts in the home gave way to more efficient, profit-driven production. o Rapid social change, growing inequality, sociologists sought to gain a social scientific perspective on what was happening and how it had come about. o German theorist and revolutionary Karl Marx predicted that industrialization would make life increasingly intolerable for the masses, believed that private property ownership by the wealthy allowed for the exploitation of working people, and that its elimination, and revolution, would bring about a utopia of equality and genuine freedom for all. • Urbanization: Industrialization fostered the growth of cities, as people moved from rural fields to urban factories in search of work. o Early industrial cities characterized by pollution and dirt, crime, and crowded housing tenements. o In Europe, early sociologists lamented the passing of communal village life and its replacement by a savage and alienating urban existence. o Theorists worried about the potential breakdown of stabilizing beliefs and values in modern urban society. Nineteenth Century Founders • Auguste Comte (1798–1857), French social theorist, credited with founding modern sociology, naming it, and establishing it as the scientific study of social relationships. o Social statics: the way society is held together. o Social dynamics: the laws that govern social change. o Believed all societies go through 3 stages: § Theological: key ways of understanding the world framed in terms of superstition, imagination, and religion. § Metaphysical: explanations characterized by abstract speculation but framed by the basic belief that society is the product of natural rather than supernatural forces. § Positivist: knowledge based on scientific reasoning and facts, which are determined scientifically and allowed to speak for themselves. 3 • Harriet Martineau (1802–1876), English sociologist and writer, considered the first female sociologist. o Sought to identify basic laws that govern society. o For a society to evolve, it must ensure social justice for women and other oppressed groups. o Treated slavery and women’s experience in marriage as indicators of the limits of moral development of the United States. The United States would not achieve its full social potential while slavery and women’s inequality persisted. • Emile Durkheim (1858–1917), French sociologist, established the early subject matter of sociology, laid out rules for conducting research, and developed important theory of social change. o Social facts: qualities of groups that are external to individual members yet constrain their thinking and behavior. o The impact of modern society on social solidarity, the bonds that unite the members of a social group. o Mechanical solidarity: in traditional society bonds are based on similarity: shared language, customs and beliefs, and perform similar work tasks. § Collective conscience: common beliefs and values that bind a society together. o Organic solidarity: characterizes modern society where bonds are formed on mutual dependence on one another for safety, education, and the provision of food and other goods essential to survival. Based on similarity break down. § Anomie: a state of normlessness that occurs when people lose sight of the shared rules and values that give order and meaning to their lives. § Norms: accepted social behaviors and beliefs § Collective conscience: common beliefs and values that bind a society together • Karl Marx (1818–1883), German, economic and political thinker and sociologist. Ideas influenced the development of economics and political science as well as sociology and helped inspire communist revolutions. o Virtually all societies throughout history have been divided into economic classes, with one class prospering at the expense of others. o Class conflict: competition between social classes over the distribution of wealth, power, and other valued resources in society. o Condemned capitalism’s exploitation of working people, the proletarian class, by the ownership class, the bourgeoisie. o Ownership of the means of production, the sites and technology that produce the goods (and sometimes services) we need and use, would come to be concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. o Viewed capitalism as a transitional stage to a final stage in which economic classes and the unequal distribution of rewards and opportunities linked to class inequality would disappear and be replaced by a utopia of equality. o Believed social change would be revolutionary, not evolutionary, and would be the product of oppressed workers rising up against a capitalist system that exploited the many to benefit the few. • Max Weber (1864–1920), German sociologist. 4 o Analysis of how Protestantism fostered the rise of capitalism in Europe and insights into the emergence of modern bureaucracy. o Believed that an adequate explanation of the social world begins with the individual and takes into account the meaning of what people say and do. o To explain what people do, must use a method he termed Verstehen, or interpretive understanding. § Sought to explain social relationships by having the sociologist/observer imagine how the subjects being studied might have perceived and interpreted the situation. o Formal rationality: a context in which people’s pursuit of goals is increasingly shaped by rules, regulations, and larger social structures. § Bureaucracies, formal organizations characterized by written rules, hierarchical authority, and a paid staff, intended to promote organizational efficiency. § Epitomized formally rational systems, offered clear, knowable rules and regulations for the efficient pursuit of an end. § Feared the bureaucratization of modern society would also progressively strip people of their humanity and creativity. Early 20th-century U.S. Sociology • Robert Ezra Park (1864–1944), “Chicago School” sociologist. o Pioneered the study of urban sociology and race relations. o Chicago school focused on range of urban phenomena, especially “social ills” such as homelessness, crime, poverty, and segregation. o Champion of racial integration. • W.E.B. DuBois (1868–1963), Black sociologist and civil rights leader. o Condemned deep-seated, widespread racism of White society and racial segregation. o Developed ideas that were considered too radical to find broad acceptance in the sociological community. o African Americans experience double consciousness, inescapable, fundamental awareness of themselves both as Americans and as Blacks, never free of racial stigma. Physical traits such as skin color may shape people’s perceptions and interactions in significant and complex ways. • Robert Merton (1910–2003), American sociologist, theory of deviance, sociology of science, distinction between manifest and latent functions. o Emphasized development of theories in the “middle range”—midway between the grand theories of Weber, Marx, and Durkheim and quantitative studies of specific social problems. • C. Wright Mills (1916–1962), American sociologist o Sociological imagination: viewing seemingly personal issues through a sociological lens. o Power elite: A small group of wealthy businessmen, military leaders, and politicians make key decisions for the country in their own interests. 5 • Why So Few Founding Mothers? Women and minorities excluded from public life in Europe and North America. • Women and people of color systematically excluded from influential positions in the European universities where sociology originated. • Men who dominated the social sciences largely ignored early feminist writings. • Mary Wollstonecraft: wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women, arguing that scientific progress could not occur unless women were allowed to become men’s equals by means of universal education. • Flora Tristan: called for equal rights for women workers, “the last remaining slaves in France” in 1843. • Aline Valette: Socialism and Sexualism in 1893 • Jane Addams (1860–1935), wrote 11 books, hundreds of articles, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for dedication to social reform. Never received a degree or full-time position at University of Chicago. o Founder of Hull House, settlement house for the poor, sick, and aged that became a center for political activists and social reformers. o Pioneered the study of Chicago neighborhoods, shaping the research direction of the Chicago School. • SOCIOLOGY: ONE WAY OF LOOKING AT THE WORLD— OR MANY? Sociological theories: logical, rigorous frameworks for the interpretation of social life that make particular assumptions and ask particular questions about the social world. o Glasses metaphor o Use empirical data: knowledge gathered by researchers through scientific methods to support analytical conclusions • Macro-level paradigms: theories concerned with large-scale patterns and institutions. • Micro-level paradigms: theories concerned with social relations and interactions in specific, individual situations. Functionalist Paradigm • Structural functionalism (functionalism) seeks to explain social organization and change in terms of the functions performed by different social structures. • Characterizes society as made up of many interdependent parts: human body analogy. • Society composed different parts with variety of different functions, such as government, family, religion, education, media that contribute to functioning and equilibrium. • Primary question: What function does a particular institution, phenomenon, or social group serve for the maintenance of society? • Assumption: Any existing institution or phenomenon serves a function; if it served no function, it would evolve out of existence. • Emile Durkheim: The function of deviance or society’s labeling of some acts as deviant is to remind people what is “normal.” When a society punishes deviant behavior, it reaffirms people’s beliefs in what is right and good. 6 • Talcott Parsons: Traditional gender roles for men and women contribute to stability. Socialization produces instrumental or rational and work-oriented males and expressive or sensitive, nurturing, and emotional females. o Roles are complementary and positively functional, leading men and women to inhabit different spheres of the social world. o Complementary rather than competing roles contribute to solidarity in a marriage by reducing competition between husband and wife • Robert Merton: Social institution or phenomenon can have both positive functions and problematic dysfunctions. o Manifest functions: obvious and intended functions of a given phenomenon or institution. o Latent functions: functions that are not recognized or expected. o Example: manifest and latent functions of war. • Conservative approach, tends to accept rather than question the status quo. • Weakness: failure to recognize inequalities in the distribution of power and resources and how those affect social relationships. Social Conflict Paradigm • Social conflict paradigm (conflict theory) seeks to explain social organization and change in terms of the conflict built into social relationships. • Rooted in ideas about class and power put forth by Karl Marx. • Primary question: Who benefits from the way social institutions and relationships are structured? Who loses? • Focuses on what divides people rather than what unites them. • Group interests drive relationships. Each group in society (example: social class, gender, ethnic/racial group) will act in its own interests. • Assumption: Interests are not shared and may be irreconcilable, and only some groups have the power and resources to realize their interests. Because of this, conflict is inevitable. • Karl Marx: Capitalist class has an interest in maximizing productivity and profit and minimizing costs. Working class has an interest in earning more and working less. • Role of control of culture and rise of technology in class domination. • Feminist theory reflects a conflict-oriented perspective, though focus shifts from social class to gender power and conflict as well as racial implications. • Example: crime and deviance. Behaviors labeled criminal or deviant are defined by the most dominant groups in society. Example: Petty theft versus white-collar crime. • Weakness: overlooks the forces of stability, equilibrium, and consensus in society. Symbolic Interactionist Paradigm • Symbolic interactionism argues that both the individual self and society as a whole are the result of social interactions based on language and other symbols. • Approach originated with George Herbert Mead (1863–1931). • Term coined by Herbert Blumer (1900–1987). 7 • People acquire their sense of who they are only through interaction with others and through symbols, representations of things that are not immediately present to our senses, such as words, gestures, and images. • Example: crime and deviance. Focus on the ways in which people label one another as deviant, why the label sticks, and meanings underlying such a label. • Weakness: draws our attention to important micro-level processes in society but may miss the larger structural context of those processes. Principal Themes of Sociology • Power and Inequality: the ways in which the unequal distribution of social, economic, and political power and resources shape opportunities, obstacles, and relationships. o Who has power, the ability to mobilize resources and achieve goals despite the resistance of others. o Variables that influence the uneven distribution of power. o How some groups use power to create advantages for themselves and disadvantages for others o How disadvantaged groups mobilize to challenge power. o Inequality: differences in wealth, power, opportunity and other valued resources. § Negative effects on local and national economies. o Example: economic inequality • Globalization and Global Diversity: the societal changes occurring as a result of globalization and the rising social diversity of modern societies. o Globalization: the process by which people all over the planet become increasingly interconnected economically, politically, culturally, and environmentally. o Variable manifestations, functions, and consequences of globalization on areas such as the economy, culture, and the environment. o Social diversity: the social and cultural mixture of different groups in society and the societal recognition of difference as significant. o Ethnocentric: judging other cultures by the standards of one’s own culture. o Example: the global consumer • Technology and Society: the powerful impact of technological change and the global expansion of digital societies. o Technology refers to the practical application of knowledge to transform natural resources for human use. o The information revolution, post-industrial economies based more heavily on the production of knowledge than on the production of goods. Example: explosive growth of the Internet 8


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