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Sociology – The Study of Social Structure

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1 Sociology – The Study of Social Structure
Why is it unique – always focuses on the social or group level

2 Social Sciences Sociology – studies human social behavior from a group perspective Anthropology – studies culture, beliefs, and material traits of groups in pre literate societies Psychology – mental and emotional processes Economics – production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services Political Science – organization, administration and history of governments History – past events in human societies

3 Why are patterns important
Social structure – is the patterned interaction of people in social relationships (This is what sociologists pay attention to) Sociologists assume that social relationships are not determined by the particular characteristics of the individuals involved Ex. Emile Durkheim used Bronze as an example of this Ex. Mob mentality – people doing things they normally would not Tragedy or Joy can change group behavior Ex. Aggie Bonfire collapsing


5 Why do People Conform? All groups encourage conformity
All members think, feel, and behave in similar ways Ex. Diet, dress, religion, attitudes toward family

6 The Sociological Imagination
People don’t make decisions in isolation Ex. Family size in America Sociological imagination helps us understand the effects of events on our daily lives With this understanding we are better prepared to make our own decisions rather than conform Sociological Imagination challenges conventional social wisdom Conventional wisdom – ideas people assume are true Ex. Newspaper article against welfare

7 Origins of Sociology Began in late 19th Century Europe after the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution

8 Auguste Comte (1798 – 1857) French
Recognized as the father of Sociology Believed scientific study of society was needed for societies to advance Coined the term Sociology Positivism – scientific observation to study social behavior Distinguished b/w social statics ( stability and order) and social dynamics (social change

9 Harriet Martieau (1802 – 1876) English
Middle class origins and became a writer as a source of personal income As a child she lost her much of her sense of taste, smell , and sound Best known for her translation of Comte’s book Positive Philosophy Wrote Society in America, which, established her as a pioneering feminist theorist She linked slavery to the oppression of women

10 Herbert Spencer (1820 – 1903) English
Compared Society to the human body to explain social stability Introduced the term Social Darwinism Evolutionary social change led to progress – provided people did not interfere Opposed social reform b/c it interfered with the selection process

11 Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) German Did not consider himself a sociologist
Believed that social scientists should try to change the world rather than study it Thought that all industrial societies would eventually have only 2 class (bourgeoisie and proletariat) Class conflict drove society Ultimately the proletariat would overthrow the bourgeoisie and a classless (communist) society would emerge

12 Emile Durkheim (1858 – 1917) French
1st to teach a university sociology course Pre-industrial societies were based on mechanical solidarity Widespread consensus of values and beliefs, strong social pressure to conform, and dependence on family and tradition Industrial societies were based on organic solidarity Social interdependency based on a web of highly specialized roles. These roles make people dependent on one another for goods and services Introduced the use of statistical techniques in his research on suicide Showed that human social behavior must be explained by social factors rather than psychological ones

13 Max Weber (1864 – 1920) German A university professor trained in law and economics Had a complete mental breakdown, but was able to recover do to some of his best work Wrote about the nature of power, religions of the world, the nature of social class, and the nature of bureaucracy Believed in the method verstehen Understanding the social behavior of others by putting yourself mentally in their place Identified rationalization as a key influence in the change from preindustrial to industrial society Ex. Agriculture being based in science rather than luck, or magic

14 Sociology in America Majority of all sociologists are from the U.S.
1892 – University of Chicago opened the 1st sociology department Was the leader until WWII After WWII departments at Harvard, Columbia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Stanford, and U.C. Berkeley emerged as leaders

15 Jane Addams (1860 – 1935) Co-founded the Hull House in Chicago’s slums, where people who needed refuge – immigrants, the sick, poor, or elderly could find help Had sociologist form University of Chicago visit to see first hand the exploitation of the lower class Active in women’s suffrage and peace movements Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 The only sociologist to win this prize

16 W.E.B DuBois (1868 – 1963) African American
Ph.D from Harvard in 1895 Experienced racial discrimination and segregation 1st hand Analyzed the sophisticated social structures of black communities 1st in Philly then later in many other places including other countries Active in the Pan African Movement

17 Theoretical Perspectives
A set of assumptions about an area of study believed true Competing, even conflicting theories usually exist at the same time (just like in physics and chemistry) 3 overarching theoretical perspectives Functionalism Conflict Theory Symbolic interactionism

18 Functionalism Emphasizes the contributions of each part of society
Sees all parts of society as an integrated whole A change to one will change the others Ex. Industrial revolution Assumes a trend to return to stability after some upheaval and will be similar to what it was Ex. Student protests in the 60’s


20 Functionalism cont. Believes most parts of society work to promote survival and well being, otherwise it would disappear Robert Merton (1996) Manifest functions – intended and recognized Latent functions – unintended and unrecognized Dysfunction – elements w/ negative consequences

21 Conflict Perspective Emphasizes conflict, competition, change, and constraint Opposite of functionalism Groups and societies compete as they attempt to preserve and promote their own special values and interests Those with the most power get the largest share of valuables Social change happens b/c a shift in power Ex. Woman’s rights


23 Symbolic Interactionism
Charles Horton Cooley & George Herbert Mead created symbolic interactionism Herbert Blumer coined the term symbolic interactionism and outlined 3 assumptions The meanings of symbols are learned by viewing others reactions to them Once the meaning of a symbol is learned we base behavior on them Symbols permit people to have internal conversations, thus allowing them to act the way others expect & the way they expect others to act Erving Goffman introduced dramaturgy Like actors people present themselves through dress, gestures and tone of voice Presentation of self or impression management


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