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Chapter 1: Sociology: A Unique Way to View the World

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1 Chapter 1: Sociology: A Unique Way to View the World
Dr. Santos

2 What is the Social World
The social world is the totality of human-to-human relations & interactions that at any given time in history form a self-contained, self-suficient social system. Prior to a few centuries ago, humanity had a vast multiplicity of social worlds at any given time, some large (empires), others tiny (bands). The “Modern World” constitutes a single social world for all humanity: it took five or so centuries to construct.

3 Why is the social world important?
Humans are fundamentally social beings Aristotle (384 BC BC) Survival: shared expectations, social conventions & norms help create order and keep conflict to a minimum Though in the past, social worlds collided too Individuals and the social world mutually influence and make one another; e.g. language, trade, writing, work, science, faith. “No man is an island.” No individual meaning or purpose truly possible without reference to the whole social system. This has become true to all collectivities, like national states, cultural world regions, etc.


5 A comparison of the social sciences
The evolution of our modern structures of knowledge from previous unified systems: The great split between theology and philosophy in the 16th century, followed by Philosophy split into “science” and “humanities” and “social sciences,” and social sciences into “disciplines”: Cultural Anthropology Psychology Political Science Economics Sociology The current crisis of this set up is manfiested by the return of the various pre-modern theologically-driven “fundamentalisms” and the inabilities to encompass the truth, the good, and the beautiful

6 What is then “sociology”?
The scientific study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behavior Essentially—why and how people and groups interact with one another, are organized, and deal with conflict and change This must be approached historically, theoretically, and empirically: this presents formidable challenges

7 Sociologists study groups of all sizes in various time frames
Dyads Small groups Large groups & institutions Nations and continental cultural zones. The global society: the capitalist modern world system Time frames can be now, years, decades, centuries, or millennia Most, unfortunately, study only the present and near present, and usually within their own national state or compared to another. This is chronocentrism & parochialism

8 The underlying assumptions of sociology
People are social (cooperate, bond) People spend most of their lives in groups of one kind or another Interactions between people and groups are reciprocal and constant Conflict and change are inevitable All groups have certain organizing characteristics

9 Groups are characterized by:
Recurrent social patterns Ordered behavior Shared experiences among members Common understandings

10 Sociology vs. Common Sense
We all have reasonable assumptions (common sense ideas) based on logical deduction, past experiences, and stereotypes However, sociologists intentionally set up scientific studies to disprove common sense assumptions

11 True or False? Because of the rapid rise in divorce and unwed childbearing, more American children live in single parent households than ever before

12 FALSE Actually, roughly the same numbers live in single parent households today because more parents were widowed in the past

13 True or False? Most people on welfare don't want to work and looking for a handout

14 FALSE Most people remain on welfare for less than two years, using it to get through a crisis. And for those on the welfare rolls, most are children, elderly, sick or disabled, or single mothers with infant children. Less than 2% are "able-bodied" males- and many of them are looking for work. Only 1/3 of the poor are on welfare.

15 True or False? Most Roman Catholics oppose birth control

16 FALSE About 80% of U.S. Roman Catholics favor birth control.

17 True or False? The civil rights laws of the 1960's have considerably narrowed the gap between black and white family incomes in the United States

18 FALSE The ratio of black to white family income has consistently been around 55-60% since the 1960's. In fact, some reports indicate a widening of the gap. The processes of discrimination that produce and/or perpetuate such inequalities are apparently more subtle than those addressed by the laws.

19 True or False? The American Dream practically does not exist any more. It’s nearly impossible to climb much higher on the ladder of social status than your parents did.

20 TRUE Social mobility in the United States is very low for a variety of reasons. Since 1980, the rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer with even less opportunity for movement than before. Individuals like Oprah and Bill Gates, however, make us think this is common. And for immigrants, especially those that are unauthorized or undocumented, the going has gotten much tougher, though the American Dream remains a potent motivator to endure and resist persecution, exploitiation, and oppression, as in the past.

21 OTHER COMMON MYTHS There is very little sexism in the US anymore. This is not an issue that our generation needs to worry about. The world’s population is exploding everywhere. In a few years, we’ll be in the midst of a overpopulation crisis. Undocumented immigrants are a net economic drain on the receiving countries, and are responsible for increased unemployment, crime, and sickness. Americans are better informed than anybody else in the world due to its free press.

22 The sociological perspective
Personal experiences can be best understood by examining them in the broader social context E.g., Why do some individuals get punished more harshly for the same crimes than others do? What social factors might be related to issues like teenage pregnancy or marriage at a later age? Or divorce?

23 The sociological imagination
C. Wright Mills came up with it in 1959. A willingness to recognize the relationship between individual experiences (“private troubles”) and public issues & trends. Combine biography with history to reveal the meaning of all social transformations and give a proper perspective to all individual experiences.

24 Questions sociologists ask
Sociologists ask questions that can be located historically, measured objectively and tested repeatedly They do not study philosophical or moral issues per se They do not focus on moral judgments about social issues but on their various causes and effects. Applied sociologists perform research to help solve social problems in particular contexts

25 Why study sociology? Better understand social situations and diverse perspectives Be able to collect data and evaluate problems Understand the intended and unintended consequences of social policies Reveal the complexities of social life Learn more about ourselves and our biases Develop useful job skills

26 The social world model Social units—interconnected parts of the social world Social structure—people and groups that bring order to our lives and hold social units together Social institutions—provide the rules, roles, and relationships to direct and control human behavior All are interconnected

27 The social world model (con’t)
Social processes—the actions taken by people in social units Process of socialization—how we learn the social expectations for members of society Process of change—every social unit is continually changing The environment—the setting surrounding each social unit

28 Levels of analysis The social world can be studied from a variety of levels Micro-level (individuals and small groups) Importance: micro interactions form the basis of all social organizations Meso-level (intermediate sized units) Importance: helps explain the processes and institutions in a society

29 Levels of analysis (con’t)
Macro-level (focus on entire nations, global forces, and international trends) Importance: Helps understand how larger social forces shape everyday life Each level adds depth to a topic

30 Which level (micro, meso, or macro) would you use to examine each of the following questions?
How do couples divide housework responsibilities? Which factors determine the percentage of women in political power in a certain country? Does the size of the sports stadium matter for students who are choosing a college?

31 Answer: All three questions could be studies from each of the three levels
The three levels are not truly mutually exclusive!

32 Summary Sociologists use research methods to objectively study social interactions and organizations The sociological perspective and sociological imagination allow us to understand individual situations in the context of broader social forces All social units are held together by a social structure, which is connected to social institutions. These factors mutually influence one another in a linked system from the very small to the whole world - at least in the past couple of centuries. Social phenomena can be examined from multiple levels of analysis, each re-inforces the others and are not mutually exclusive.

33 Finally, where do sociologists work?


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