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Unformatted text preview: Thinking like a Sociologist Thinking like a Sociologist
DSOC 101 Introduction to Sociology January 23, 2008 Announcements Announcements
Blackboard (access code 2372) Request to change section? Online through Just the Facts. No section changes or course adds after Feb. Sections meet next week; attendance is required. If you are unable to attend section, contact the section TA. Bring your iClicker beginning week 3 2 8, 2008 What is Sociology?
Sociology: Scientific study of social behavior in human groups Focus on: How relationships influence people’s attitudes and behavior How societies develop and change 3 What is Society? What is Society? Sociologists have given different answers to this question, arguing that sociology is: The study of groups of individuals or individuals in groups The study of group or collective behavior The study of the interaction of individuals The study of social relationships In this class, our central focus will be on social relationships 4 Social Relationships Social Relationships Social relationships structure the patterns of interactions that take place between individuals Interactions are more dependent upon the social relationships involved and other situational factors, than the character or personality traits attributed to the individual Examples: Husband and wife, worker and boss, “the stranger,” working class and capitalist class, the “third wheel” 5 Fleshing out “society” Fleshing out “society” Social: taking others into account (whether the other(s) be a particular individual or the ‘generalized other’, present or not)
A ‘social act’: an act carried out with others in mind Example: conforming to a role or norm 6 Fleshing out “society” Fleshing out “society” Positions: individuals occupy different positions in society, which establish social relationships between individuals Generally hierarchically ranked: relationships of power Come with roles Come with different perspectives Determine the legitimate claims one can make
7 Fleshing out “society” Fleshing out “society” Example of the president The legitimate claims made by the president have to do with his position within a (legalrationalbureaucratic) social structure, rather than personal attributes Thus, Joe Somebody might call for the army to attack another country, but without holding the position of president (and gaining consent of congress), such claims are meaningless—and often laughable 8 Fleshing out “society” Fleshing out “society” Roles: the cultural expectations associated with a given position Examples Gender roles are the cultural expectations associated with the biological categories of male and female The roles of student & professor 9 Fleshing out “society” Fleshing out “society” Relationships: established by different positions within society Examples All humans, by their very nature, are social. No individuals exist apart from society (at least not without first being socialized) From birth, individuals enter into relationships, based on their relative position to others, that were not of their choosing Children & Parents, siblings and other blood relations, friends and acquaintances, student & teacher, employer & employee
10 Fleshing out “society” Fleshing out “society” Patterns of interaction between individuals: Structured by the social relationships established by the positions held by the participants (Also structured by history of previous interactions, biography, and the larger sociohistorical context) Individuals interact through the use of meaningful or significant symbols 11 Fleshing out “society” Fleshing out “society” Social structure: the relatively enduring patterns of social relationships that exist between positions in society Social institutions: patterned practices established to deal with ongoing situations Social structure is reproduced (and sometimes transformed) through social institutions Often have a physical basis: e.g., a university; but not always: e.g., a handshake Social institutions serve to socialize and integrate individuals into a society 12 Fleshing out “society” Fleshing out “society” Culture: can be thought of the socially transmitted “tools” that individuals employ when they interact with others Distinct from instinct or imitation Ideal component: knowledge, beliefs, norms, meanings, values, symbols, language Material component: statues, buildings, art Often, cultural objects are both material and ideal: e.g., a piece of art or a technology 13 Fleshing out “society” Fleshing out “society” Society: the social organization of individuals Consists of the social structure, culture, social institutions, and interactions of a group of geographically bounded individuals Cannot necessarily be identified with the ‘nation state’, but this often works as a shorthand (e.g., US society) 14 Socialization in action Socialization in action At a crowed amusement park (such as Disney World) thousands of people wait patiently in long lines for up to an hour for a 1 to 3 minute ride. They do this again and again all day long. Why? In a large, crowed sporting event (such as a Cornell hockey game), people move into the arena, sit, stand, cheer, jeer, and leave the event in a relatively orderly manner—within a minimum of antisocial behavior exhibited. Why?
In sociology, we focus on such patterned behavior and seek to answer the question “how is such order/organization possible?” When we look at exceptions, we do so to identify patterns in similar events across time and place. 15 Fleshing out “society” Fleshing out “society” Different levels of analysis Microlevel: e.g., interaction between individuals (Bush & Rumsfeld) Mesolevel: e.g., the study of an organization (the Pentagon or the White House) Macrolevel: e.g., the study of the interaction of organizations (the War in Iraq) This class will focus on all three levels 16 The Sociological Imagination The Sociological Imagination C. Wright Mills
19161962 17 The Sociological Imagination The Sociological Imagination C. Wright Mills coined the term C. “sociological imagination” to refer to “...the vivid awareness “...the of the relationship between private experience and the wider society.” wider C. Wright Mills
18 The Sociological Imagination C. Wright Mills describes sociological imagination as
the ability to view one’s society as an outsider would, without one’s limited experiences and cultural biases An awareness of the relationship between an individual and the wider society, and… 19 Mills’ vision of sociology Mills’ vision of sociology The task of sociology is to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society The sociological imagination is the ability to see the societal patterns that influence individuals, families, groups, and organizations. One can understand one’s own experiences in life (biography) through an awareness of these larger societal patterns (history) and the shared, common fate with those in similar circumstances
20 The Imagination of Mills The Imagination of Mills Mills distinguished between personal troubles of milieu and public issues of social structure.
Personal Troubles occur within the character and biography of the individual and their immediate environment; a seemingly private experience Public Issues transcend the local environment of the individual and are linked to the institutional and historical arrangements of social structure. 21 Personal Troubles and Public Issues Personal Troubles and Public Issues When, in a city of 100,000, only one man is unemployed, that is his personal trouble, and for its relief we properly look to the character of the man, his skills, and his immediate opportunities. But when in a nation of 50 million employees, 15 million men are unemployed, that is a [public] issue, and we may not hope to find its solution within the range of opportunities open to any one individual. C Wright Mills (1959) The Sociological Imagination, page 9 22 Developing a Sociological Developing a Sociological Imagination Look beyond the personal environment and question takeforgranted social structures. That is, one must be willing to question the structural arrangements that shape social behavior. When we possess a sociological imagination, we begin to see the causes and solutions to social problems not in terms of the individual, but in the structures in society. 23 A Look Ahead
– How did sociology develop? – In what ways does it differ from other social sciences? – Does it relate to other social sciences? – Who are the pioneers? – What are the three theoretical perspectives sociologists use?
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This note was uploaded on 02/10/2009 for the course DSOC 101 taught by Professor Hirshel during the Spring '08 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).
- Spring '08