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Define society and explain what sociologists view as a society

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2 Define society and explain what sociologists view as a society
Unit 1: Towards an introduction to the study of society: The awakening of the sociological imagination 1 Objectives: Define society and explain what sociologists view as a society Explain and be able to use a sociological perspective Explain the sociological imagination

3 A couple of images of last week…





8 Society: Society = a group of people who shape their lives in aggregated and patterned ways that distinguish their group from other groups

9 What does society look like?
The study of society Society as an object itself (sui generis) if society is an object, than it can be examined closely and analyzed like any other subject (sounds simple isn’t it? We divide it in pieces and explore each piece carefully) A sociologist does to society, what a biologist does to a living organism, or a geologist does to a rock: Society becomes something scientifically weighted, measured and dissected Can you see society? Really see it? If you can, can yiu describe it? What does it look like? Sound like, taste like or feel like? These are difficult questions to answer

10 A geologist studying a rock:

11 Is Society a concrete object after all?
But, wait…as we begin to dissect this object, we discover that it’s made up of countless other components Of things like: culture, working class, ethnicity These things appear to be sui generis (objects on their own) as well: more phenomena to examine by themselves, hmmm, but wait…. And these components can be broken down even further into seemly endless bits and pieces It gets confusing: daunting, almost impossible to imagine we could analyze something so big, with so many parts, the shapes and boundaries are so fluid

12 Society looks like this painting by Kandinsky:

13 Or more like this: Relationships between individuals in a society (social networks)

14 What can we see? If we can’t see the whole of society, what can we see? We can see people living their lives, interacting with each other, working, playing, eating, dancing, flirting, lying, fighting, grieving, driving in their cars, ending their lives by own choice, partying, getting married, divorcing, stealing, loosing their minds…..etc There are limitless observable phenomena for us to analyze sociologically In fact they are all happening around us right now, every moment of every life Scoping social phenomena

15 E. g. Addiction to alcohol
E.g. Addiction to alcohol?: Mad Men and alcoholism [Sociology of Mad Men] As a sociologist you start wondering what happened in episode 3?

16 And the ladies in ‘mad men’:

17 This is what society looks like:
People actively and collectively shape their lives, organizing their social interactions and relationships to produce a real meaningful world: and they do this in patterned ways that (we as) social scientists can analyze. We are curious to analyze the social processes that everyone experiences and how those social processes create the larger society of which we are all a part of


19 E.g. The sociology of partying and its possible secondary effects 
First shy, drink alcohol, dance, dance, kiss, kiss some more, with the guy, ‘what’s his name again?’ and yeah, let’s go his place… The sun shines, headache, OH NO! a one night stand, with this guy? (Tierra traga me)

20 E.g. the sociology of first loves /
You can not eat nor think clearly, or do anything else, you just think about that person, you want to be with that person, you want to do everything for them, you don’t care if they don’t appreciate it, don’t care if it all comes from one way, if it hurts, if she doesn’t call, you want to lose yourself in their eyes, literally lose yourself… This is the One, I KNOW IT! (not! Or not always! Or to be specific, 95% of the time this is not the one)

21 Discussion: Justin Bieber as a serious sociological phenomena…
Why is Justin Bieber a sociological phenomena? What can we study about this phenomena? How can we study this?

22 Sociology of fame/Sociology of celebrities?
Why is Kim Kardashian popular? Why is Lady Gaga interesting? Why do we follow every step celebrities make? Role model Social constructions Money/Lifestyle Identification processes “gender“ issues Sexualizing Symbol? Moral of story?

23 Is sociology a science? Natural science is the study of the physical features of nature and the ways in which they interact and change Social science is the study of the social features of humans and the ways they interact and change

24 Positioning sociology among other sciences:
economics psychology geography Communication studies Anthropology History Political science Sociology overlaps with other social sciences, but much of the territory it covers is unique

25 How the different disciplines in social sciences see each other:
Even in social sciences itself the disciplines have their own differences and prejudices against each other…

26  Sociology = the systematic or scientific study of human society and social behavior, from large scale institutions and mass culture to small groups and individual interactions The sociology of The Sopranos would deal with family, mafia, loyalty, the experience of crime, morality, immigration, integration etc.

27 Socius Logos [study of society]
Another more pragmatic definition by Becker (1986): sociology is the study of “people doing things together” Above definition reminds us of the fact that neither society nor the individual exists in isolation but each is dependent on the intertwined with the other… Humans are social beings : Not only for survival, but importantly because our very sense of self derives from our membership in society (E.g. family, neighborhoods, etc.)

28 Awakening the sociological imagination
To illuminate the connection between the individual and society

29 Micro and Macro sociology
The different sociological perspectives are like the photographers' lenses, allowing different ways of looking at a common subject (Newman, 2000): Sociologist can take: a Micro sociological lens: zoom lens a Macro sociological lens:wide-angle lens or any number of perspectives located on the continuum between the two

30 Macro and Micro perspectives:
The micro perspective assumes that society’s larger structures are shaped through individual interactions; while, The macro perspective assumes that society’s larger structures shape those individual interactions Think of these perspectives as being on a continuum


32 Levels of analysis: micro- and macro sociology:
society culture Social institutions (economics, politics, education, mass media, religion) Social inequality (class, gender, ethnicity) Groups Roles Socialization Interaction self Sociology covers a wide range of topics at different levels of analysis

33 Sociology’s own ‘rebel with a cause’

34 Sociological Imagination (1)
One quality of mind that all the great social analysts need to possess in order to study social phenomena The ability to understand “ the intersection between biography and history” The interplay between the self and the world A quality of the mind that allows us to understand the relationship between our particular situation in life and what is happening at a social level C. Wright Mills ( )

35 Sociological imagination (2)
The sociological imagination requires that we search for the link between the micro and macro levels of analysis Mill’s characterization of sociology as the intersection between biography and history reminds us that the process works in both directions: While larger social forces influence individual lives, there are many ways in which our individual lives can affect society as well

36 Sociology and Common Sense?
Our theories and opinions typically come from ‘common sense’ , every day knowledge and experiences. These can be biased and incidental  This is not the sociological imagination! The commonsense knowledge, while sometimes accurate, is not always reliable, because it rests on commonly held beliefs rather or assumptions than on systematic analysis of facts. Doing sociology is a radical undertaking: it requires from us a willingness to suspend our own pre-conceptions, assumptions and beliefs about the way things are 

37 Example of the awakening of the sociological imagination:

38 How to think like a sociologist 
Never assume anything Get ready to be wrong Ask even more questions Make the everyday strange Embrace life’s complexities

39 Ways to stimulate the sociological imagination:
Try to create in ourselves a sense of what anthropologists call Culture Shock This term was coined in Anthropology to describe the experience of visiting an exotic foreign country. The first encounters with the local natives and their way of life can seem so strange to us that they produce a kind of disorientation and doubt about our ability to make sense of things. Putting all judgments aside for the moment This state of mind is very useful  At this point: when we completely lack an understanding of our surroundings we start truly perceiving what is in front of our eyes

40 Culture shock What about the Tourists that come for the first time to Aruba, would they experience a similar culture shock? In the TV show Lost, six of the characters return from a deserted island to discover that ordinary experiences that they previously took for granted seem strikingly different or unfamiliar Or my favorite analogy for the awakening of the sociological imagination that started with an unbelievable culture shock: Alice in Wonderland

41 Assignment: An experiment in “Doing nothing”
Practice the opposite of the expert’s mind which is so filled with facts, projections, assumptions, opinions and explanations that it can’t learn anything new  You need a Beginners mind: approaching the world without preconceptions in order to see things in a new way…DISCOVERY  Make the assignment Analyzing everyday life: for the next session on Monday (August 22nd) We will then test your ability to apply a beginner’s mind

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