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Benefits of Sociology (so many…so little time )

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Presentation on theme: "Benefits of Sociology (so many…so little time )"— Presentation transcript:

1 Benefits of Sociology (so many…so little time )
Use the “sociological perspective” to look at how society affects individuals… Use sociological research to question assumptions or common sense beliefs about the world around us! -social location is external to us and often beyond our control -examples of location: race, class, sex, sexual orientation, age, ability/disability

2 Troubles, Issues, and Social Location (more on Mills):
Personal Troubles: private problems from events in one’s own life Public Issues: Affect large groups of people and come from the structure (patterns of behavior and relationships) of society Mills was a rebel- didn’t like sociological research if it stayed in the “ivory tower” (explain this)- wanted sociology as a social reform and to stay practical, applied, to help people *point of the sociological imagination is to understand how what we experience as individuals is shaped by the world we live in, so how does this work? Sociological imagination involves 2 components- personal troubles and social issues *recall feeling of social location and social class (money, education, prestige) on your life chances in the monopoly game- what you did was not completely under your control! Explain above Give example: Is being poor only because you have not good a good enough work ethic? Because you’re lazy? is this an explanation you hear a lot? if just one person were poor maybe this would be the case, but groups are systematically more likely to be poor as well, especially people of color systematic, empirical sociological research how could we look at this? We can measure attitudes toward work, and not find a difference? BUT, if we look at factors like educational and job opportunities because of your social location (grew up in poor family, are a person of color, are a woman), find that there are systematic differences by race, sex, age, social class, etc. affecting our opportunities in the social structure False. Most people on welfare are children, the old, the sick, the mentally and physically handicapped or young mothers with few skills. Fewer than 2 percent meet the stereotype of an able-bodied man. SO, for instance, while may go to a college “to stay close to home” may also be influenced by the fact that, if you come from a family without many financial resources, you had no choice because you could not afford to pay for school and live on your own, especially with college increasingly expensive From Mills: “when wars happen, an insurance salesman becomes a rocket launcher, a store clerk becomes a radar man, a wife lives alone, a child grows up without a father…. Yet men do not usually define the troubles they endure in terms of historical change…the well being they enjoy, they do not usually impute to the big ups and downs of the society in which they live. Seldom aware of the intricate connection between the patterns of their own lives and the course of world history, ordinary men do not usually know what this connection means for the kind of men they are becoming and for the kinds of history-making in which they might take part. They do not possess the quality of mind essential to grasp the interplay of men and society, of biography and history, of self and world…what they need…is a quality of mind that will help them to see what is going on in the world and what may be happening within themselves. It is this quality…that may be called the sociological imagination”!!! ***poverty example transition to wealth inequality- think about this on global and national level!!!

3 More Explanation of C. Wright Mills’s Sociological Imagination…
Sociological imagination transforms personal problems (or troubles) into public issues Your social location (or place in society) has an effect on your life chances. The sociological imagination is your ability to see the societal patterns that influence individual and group life. “Mills believed that in order to understand our own life chances and those of others, we had to become aware of the broad social events and trends surrounding us.” (pg. 4) Personal trouble: things that occur within the chracter of an individual and within an individuals immediate reactions with other people Public issue: goes beyond the individual

4 More Examples of C. Wright Mills’s Sociological Imagination…
Often, people who are unemployed have assumed “something is wrong with me because I can’t get a job.” During the Depression of the 1930s when unemployment rose to 25%, people began to realize that “because the economy has collapsed, there are no jobs to be found.” Unemployment causes personal troubles (stress, depression, loss of identity), but the problem is deeper than one person’s experience. It must be understood by looking at the social structural conditions that influence people’s lives. USE THE WAR IN IRAQ as a current example of a social problem to use a sociological imagination with: War as personal because stress of leaving job, family, losing life Structural as political/gov issue, strain it places on families where parent gone and another has to go to work, strain on economy because need to fill jobs, strain on employers because pay employees while serving but no work done

5 A recent example Oprah’s video on educational inequality: personal troubles and social issues? “30 Days” and immigration reform as a personal trouble and a social issue

6 What happens when we use the sociological imagination?
We may feel uncertainty and new challenges when we question the world around us It can be scary to question common sense or what we’ve been taught

7 So…where do social problems come from???
WE “socially construct” social problems, which means that we define conditions as harmful and in need of change Who are “we”? Do “we” all consider the same issues to be “social problems” Sounds like where do babies come from… Social problems are socially constructed- we name them, we define them, we categorize them as “problems” or deviant, or somehow outside the norm *anyone want to take a guess at something that is socially constructed? *two examples of social construction and how the “we” can affect the construction across time and place Are there biologically distinct racial groups? 2) NO- 94% of the difference is within, only 6% is between (DRAW THIS OUT ON THE BOARD) *race as a social construction: change from Irish and threat as workers they posed after potato famine to blacks, but before that defined many white ethnic groups as “savage” same as native americans and blacks, until time could use phenotypical differences to But who is the we? Some, like Zinn, would say that the “we” is most often those in power- so, for instance, in the past, slavery was not considered a problem to landowners in the south, BUT slave revolts were *gender as a social construct: are there two genders? Just male and female? *now rights and social mobilization for intersexed (formerly hermaphrodite)- again, who is the “we”- mainstream society still often see as embarrassment and only now exposing the fact that many people mutilated at birth because subject to surgery to “correct” genitals because in the past, having “ambiguous genitalia” like an enlarged clitoris was see as the “problem” and corrected without asking, but now the “problem” is the forced “mutilation” as adults who had been surgically altered complain against the medical establishment and argue for intersexed rights ALSO, see textbook love this example: not necessarily those things that cause the greatest injury in terms of objective deaths that we define as social problems- for instance driving cars not a problem but they kill more than school shootings or homicide that is a problem- here an issue of intent but, interestingly enough, things change over time- for instance, now driving with cell phone cause accidents so considered a social problem and now in chicago is headset only cell phone driving use

8 Then what? Claims making: the process of convincing the public that an issue should be a social problem. Claims change over time and change depending on who is making them… Social movements form Social movements are the organized work of people together to shape understanding of the social problem and bring about change CELL Phones; convince driving while on the phone is a problem CHANGE DEPENDING ON WHO IS MAKING THEM: during time of slavery, owners saw slave revolts as the problem while abolitionists and slaves saw slavery as the problem So, again, look at example of intersexed- change from problem being born that way (medical establishment) to problem being operated on without consent and grow up as adult feeling like in wrong body (intersexed social movements) SO, here can seriously see that SO, see social movement form for intersexed rights that emerge after claim making, coalesce as group begins to rally, formalize as organizations form, and decline (perhaps) with some form of resolution, etc.

9 Important things about “social problems”:
Social Problems are… the result of the organization of society not caused by bad people socially constructed!!! defined differently by different people changing over time subjective, not just objective sometimes solved!!! interdependent 1): remember the sociological imagination- people are affected by the way that we have arranged things in society- the US has a “culture of individualism” what does that mean? who is responsible for their success or failure in US society? do we think this is different for some people than others, or do we all have the same chance? -we don’t all have the same chance- social class, gender, race, etc. limit or constrain or improve our chances What sociologists call “the myth of the meritocracy” -that everything we do is the result of merit and not also the opportunities we have as a result of our position in society FIRST ASSIGNMENT: EXPLAIN THE CULTURE OF INDIVIDUALISM/MYTH OF THE MERITOCRACY, EXPLAIN THE SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION, EXPLAIN HOW SOMETHING THAT YOU MIGHT BEFORE HAVE THOUGHT OF AS THE FAULT OF AN INDIVIDUAL, COULD BE CONSIDERED A SOCIAL PROBLEM? So, for instance, is the homeless person you pass homeless just because of laziness? Or could it also be that person’s life as a result of social strains like income problems of color of their skin might have limited their options -this is NOT to say that we do not all have “human agency” or the ability to affect change in our lives, it just means that we cannot ignore the effect of the larger social issues either STATS: less 2% of them are able bodied men 2) Crime rates are affected by the economy and see that if the job market and economy improves, drug use can decline 3) What does this mean again? 4) We don’t all agree with defining some things as “problems” and we don’t all agree with the way that they are responded to- think of our examples of race relations over time and slavery as well as intersexed rights 5) As we talked about 6) not just objective problem, but what we subjectively see as a problem: *great example of this is the one from the book- try to do new info., but this is good *school violence kills a handful each year but define it as a social problem, while cars kill a year and not see that as a social problem- speaks to the difference between the “objective” or facts behind a situation and “subjective” or feelings, values, emotions that rule *school violence violates our commonly held mores or values about children, etc. 7) sometimes…but risk here is in seeing them as solved but really still there, but people think solved -racism and racial inequality: we’ll talk about this more later 8) Social problems are related to each other: for instance, if less racism in society and within social institutions like schools, might have greater success of minority students, and hence less crime and dropout rates and drug use *tell Tony’s story *poverty and drug use *global studies of labor practices: joblessness in US and sweatshops abroad (Walmart video)

10 To test what we’ve learned:
Write down your answers to the following questions: Which of the following would be true regarding “public issues” and “personal problems” as C.Wright Mills explained these terms A public issue affects only particular families A personal trouble affects all people in the nation at the same time A public issue is a matter of public debate and collective solutions are sought Personal troubles never overlap with public issues Sociologists believe that social problems are caused less by personal failings than by the Deviance of the powerful Whims of political leaders Bad people in society Operation of society itself

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