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Scientific study of the dynamic relationship between individual people and social systems and their influence on human behavior and social life.
Defined more by its perspective (sociological imagination) than a particular subject matter
Dominant paradigm in U.S. Explains social environment and individual behavior
solely in terms of individual motivations.
include statuses, roles & shared ideas (norms & values) that tie these statuses and roles together into relationships
These elements combine to form social structures, social institutions, and ultimately entire social systems
an epistemology of empiricism
Epistemology = how we know what we claim to know
Empiricism = knowledge through evidence gathered from senses
Ability to connect one’s personal experiences to society at large and greater historical forces.
Using our sociological imagination allows us to “make the familiar strange,” or to question habits or customs that seem “natural” to us.
Positivism – society can be understood by determining the logic or scientific laws governing human behavior
Argued that a scientific discipline of sociology could restore social harmony
Believed sociologists could answer fundamental moral questions (right and wrong).
founder of positivist sociology: scientific study of “social facts”
theory that division of labor influences social cohesion (connectedness)
Mechanical solidarity: social cohesion based on similarity of individuals (premodern)
Organic solidarity: social cohesion based on interdependence of individuals with different roles (modern)
All social patterns and relations stem from the economic system
False consciousness: workers misunderstand their position in the social / economic system
Strong influence on sociological theory (conflict theory)
Economic system is not the only influence on the social system
Ideas, values and other social institutions (like religion) perpetuate and create new social systems
Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
social patterns exist because of the useful functions they serve
social patterns exist because they serve those with power
social patterns maintained and changed by people interacting
is the idea that a change in one factor results in a corresponding change in another factor.
Starts with empirical observation and works towards a theory, is exploratory (qualitative)
a proposed relationship between two variables, typically based on theory and/or prior empirical research
a 3rd variable causes both the independent and the dependent variable
The extent to which an instrument measures what it is intended to measure
Likelihood of obtaining consistent results using the same measure
The extent to which we can claim that our findings inform us about a group larger than the one we studied.
Study based on observations of people in their own environment
can be loosely defined as a set of beliefs, traditions, and practices.
Fundamental component of every social system
People’s ideas about what is real and what is not real
System of beliefs, concepts and relationships
Abstract ideas about and rankings of what is good and desirable (and what is bad and undesirable) in a society
Differ across and within cultures
Cultural rules about behavior that are: (a) based on cultural values and (b) enforced with sanctions (rewards and/or punishments)
Link beliefs and values to social consequences Vary across cultures and over time Range from folkways to mores/laws to taboos
Folkways: casual, sanctions not severe
Mores: formal rules about behavior (laws)
Taboos: so deeply held that even thought of their violation is upsetting
is the process by which individuals internalize the values, beliefs, and norms of a given society and learn to function as a member of that society.
Charles Horton Cooley
theorized that the “self” emerges from our ability to assume the point of view of others and imagine how those others see us.
The key to socialization is taking on ROLES -- an active process.
learn the ability to see ourselves as others see us
this is achieved by “taking the role of the other”
Then develop a sense of the generalized other – concept of the total expectations of others in a variety of settings (even those we haven’t encountered before)
Eight Stages of Development
Idea that we progress successively through 8 stages across the life span and must resolve a basic conflict in each stage.
Merton’s Role Theory
Status – a recognizable social position Ascribed: Involuntary Achieved: Voluntary Master: Dominant
Roles – duties and behaviors expected of someone who holds a particular status
Role strain – incompatibility among roles that correspond to a single status
Role conflict – tension caused by competing demands between two or more roles for different statuses
Erving Goffman’s dramaturgical theory
views social life as a theatrical performance in which we are all actors on a stage with both front-stage personas (performed role) and back-stage personas (true self)
2 or more people
Have something in common
Have ongoing social relations
Form the building blocks for society and for most social interaction.
Key element in determining the form of social relations in a group is the size of the group.
is a social group of two people Intimate Mutual dependence Fragile
is a social group of three people Greater stability – 3rd is a mediator Alliances / coalitions Group has supra-individual power
Set of relations held together by ties between individuals.
any social network that is defined by a common purpose and has a boundary between its membership and the rest of the social world.
Formal (set of governing structures and rules) vs. informal
Social deviance is any transgression of socially established norms.
Caesar Lombroso (1911) “observed” physical characteristics of criminals
shifty eyes, receding hairline, red hair, strong jaws, wispy beards
Yet, non-criminals may have these same features
Not supported by evidence
Functionalist – Durkheim & Anomie
Collective Conscience – common set of norms and beliefs about how the world works.
Anomie: sense of aimlessness or despair that arises when life is not predictable & social regulation / control has broken down
Egoism: lack of social integration
Durkheim – Anomie and Egoism
Both egoism and anomie:
Occurs in periods of rapid social change
Collective conscience no longer regulates behavior
Lead to increased risk of suicide in particular and deviance in general
Modern World -> Egoism and Anomie -> Suicide
Other forms of suicide Fatalistic (too much regulation) Altruistic (too much integration)
Functionalist – Strain Theory (Robert Merton)
argues that anomie & deviance occur when a society does not give all its members equal means to achieve socially acceptable goals.
Broken Window Theory of Deviance (Philip Zimbardo)
Explains how social context and social cues impact the way individuals act
People who wouldn’t exhibit a certain behavior in one social context might do so in another context where the behavior seems more permissible
Stiffer penalties & increased prison terms should reduce crime.
dominance of men over women
Parsons’ Sex Role Theory
nuclear family and fixed gender roles perform functions necessary to small group functioning
Gendered division of labor tied to biology
a classification system of groups of people who share a set of characteristics—usually physical ones—and are said to share a common bloodline.
imposed, socially constructed, hierarchical, exclusive, and unequal
one’s ethnic quality or cultural affiliation; voluntary, self-defined, nonhierarchical, cultural,
and not so closely linked with power differences.
negative thoughts and feelings about an ethnic or racial group.
harmful or negative acts against people deemed inferior on the basis of their racial or ethnic category.
By definition, it is enacted against a minority group: group that, because of its distinct physical or cultural characteristics, has less access to power and important social resources than the dominant group
Integration: Assimilation & Pluralism
Assimilation (Anglo-conformity): Minority group takes on the values and norms of the dominant culture.
Assimilation (Melting Pot): Merging different cultures and outlooks together into a new combined culture.
Pluralism: All ethnic groups retain their independent and separate identities, yet share equally in the rights and powers of citizenship
is systematic inequalities among individuals and groups in society based on ranking with respect to class, status/prestige and/or power
Definition of the family is a social construction that varies across time and place and yet has both symbolic and legal importance.
Two or more people residing together and legally related by birth, marriage, or adoption
refers to familial networks that extend beyond the nuclear family and may extend
beyond the home.
1996 Defense of Marriage Act
no state is required to treat as a marriage a same-sex relationship considered a marriage in another state; the federal government defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman
process through which academic, social and cultural ideas and tools are developed.
The two main functions of schools are to educate students and to socialize them.
A system of beliefs and practices around sacred things, a set of shared “stories” that guide belief and action.
fear of confirming negative stereotypes
foundthatschool resources were less important than family background to student achievement, subsequent research has found that class size, private vs. public schools, and teacher effectiveness all play important roles
generalmovementawayfrom religiosity and spiritual belief and toward a rational, scientific orientation
Separation of church and state but many exceptions
Religious attendance and affiliation declining but not religious belief
High level of religiosity compared to other countries
presence of numerous distinct religious groups in one society combined with respect for and engagement across groups with each other
More than 280 denominations in the U.S.
Implications: religious marketplace church competition
social institution with a recognized set of procedures for implementing basic social goals such as the allocation of valued resources.
Example: U.S. government Cultural universal (all societies have them) Requires the use of power
Who Rules in the U.S.?- Two Theories
1. Power-Elite Idea that society is ruled by a small group of individuals
who share a common set of political and economic interests
Iron law of oligarchy – elite rule is inevitable, especially in large groups and complex organizations Elected officials succumb to them
2. Pluralism – idea that power is distributed among various interest groups and political parties so that no one group rules
Charismatic authority is based on the personal appeal of
an individual leader. (individual)
Traditional authority is based on appeals to the past or a long established way of doing things. (position)
Legal-rational authority is based on legal, impersonal rules that have been routinized and rationalized. (individual and position)
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