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Tamra Grigsby

Culture and Society

Chapter Notes
Chapter 1- The Sociological Perspective
What is sociology?
The Sociological Perspective
The Significance of Diversity
The Development of Sociological Theory
Theoretical Frameworks in Sociology
Chapter Summary
Vignette: Imagine if you had been switched at birth. How different would your life
Our social location has a profound effect on our chances in life.
Sociology teaches us how society influences our lives, helps us explain the
consequences of different social arrangement.
Society is marked by both change and stability
-Societies continually evolve, creating the need for people to adapt to change will still
following generally established patterns of behavior.
What is Sociology?
SOCIOLOGY is the study of human behavior in society
All human behavior occurs in a societal context
Sociology is a scientific way of thinking about society and its influence on
human groups.
TOOLS OF SOCIOLOGISTSObservation, reasoning, logical analysis- coupled with a knowledge of the large body
of theoretical and analytical work done by previous sociologists and others.
the ability to see the societal patterns that influence individual and group life.
C. Wright Mills: defined the SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION, in his book The
Sociological Imagination (1959) as- the ability to see the societal patterns that
influence the individual as well as group of individuals.
He thought that in order to understand the experience of a given person or
group of people, one had to have knowledge of the social and historical
context in which people lived.
Beauty ideals, like other socially established beliefs, are produced in particular social
and historical contexts.
A distinction made by the sociological imagination is that between issues and
TROUBLES- privately felt problems

ISSUES- affect large numbers of people.

This distinction is the crux of the difference between individual experience and
SOCIAL STRUCTURE: organized pattern of social relationships and institutions that
together constitute society.
Issues shape the context within which troubles arise.
i.e.- Mills: unemployment
Sociology is EMPIRCAL: based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or
experience rather than just theory or pure logic
[Based on careful and systematic observation]
The empirical basis of sociology is what separates it from mere opinion
empirical observations must be gathered and recorded vigorously
sociologists are also obliged to reexamine their assumptions/conclusions continually
DEBUNKING- what Berger called the unmasking tendency of sociology
Sociologists look at the behind-the-scenes patterns and processes that shape
the behavior they observe in the social world
Debunking requires CRITICAL DISTANCE: being able to detach from the situation at
hand and view things with a critical mind
George Simmel suggests that the sociological perspective requires a combo of
nearness and distance [he was the one interested in strangers]
You can acquire critical distance through a willingness to question the forces
that shape social behavior
35% of Americans- non-white
DIVERSITY- broad concept: studying group differences, etc
gender/class/race/sexuality/age etc
The study of diversity also encompasses a global perspective
The Englightenment in 18th/19th century Europe, had an enormous influence on the
development of modern sociology.
SOCIOLOGY ORIGINATED FROM western Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Auguste Comte [French philosopher who coined the term sociology 1798-1857]
believed that just as science had discovered the laws of nature, sociology could
discover the laws of human social behavior and thus help solve societys problems.
Alexis De Tocqueville [a French citizen 1805-1859] travelled to US as observer
beginning in 1831.
felt that in the US the tyranny of the kings had been replaced by the tyranny of the
majority (referencing the ability of the majority to impose its will on everyone else
in a democracy
Also felt that despite the emphasis on individualism in American culture,
Americans had little independence of mind, making them self centered and
anxious about their social class position.
Harriet Martineau [British citizen 1802-1876] went to the US in 1834- work was
overlooked for years because she was a woman

Wrote Society in America 1837, and How to Observe Morals and Manners
Emile Durkheim [1858-1917 French] in France; fascinated by the public
degradation of Jews by non-Jews
Durkheim later wrote that public rituals have a special purpose in society, creating
social solidarity.
Also, society is external to individuals, yet its existence is internalized in peoples
minds. Durkheim conceived of society as an integrated whole- each part contributing
to the overall stability of the system: his work is the basis of FUNCTIONALISM
-Created the term SOCIAL FACTS to indicate things such as customs and social
values, which are external to an individual
societal facts, though they exist outside individuals, nonetheless pose
constraints on individual behavior.
Karl Marx [1818-1883 collaborator Friedrich Engels]
Society is systematic and structural and that class is a fundamental dimension of
society that shapes social behavior.
- Argued that capitalism is an economic system basedon the pursuit of profit
and the sanctity of private property
- Capitalism- a system of relationships among different classes
- In his view, profit, the goal of capitalist endeavors, is produced through the
exploitation of the working class.
Economic organization of society was the most important influence on what
humans think and how they behave.
- Marx considered all of society to be shaped by economic forces.
- Saw social change as arising from tensions inherent in a capitalist system
(He found that the beliefs of the common people tended to support the interests of
the capitalist system, not the interest of the workers themselves, because the
capitalist class controls not only the production of goods, but ideas.
Max Weber [1864-1929 greatly influenced by Marx and built on it]
Theorized that society had three basic dimensions: political, economic, and cultural.
- Weber thought sociologists should acknowledge the influence of values so
that ingrained beliefs might not interfere objectivity.
- VERSTEHEN refers to understanding social behavior from the point of view
of those engaged in it.
Early Euro and US sociologists conceived society as an organism, a system of
itnerralted functions and parts that work together to create a whole. This perspective
They saw society constantly evolving like an organism
Many were influenced by the Q many early sociologists asked (to what extent could
humans shape the evolution of society) by the work of British scholar Charles
SOCIAL DARWINISM was the application of evolutioin by survival of the fittest to

Social Darwinist used a laissez-faire approach to social change

Robert Park key founder of sociology- interested in urban problems
Jane Adams developed community service stuff for dispossessed people
Ida B. Wells-Barnett wrote about status of African-Americans
Macrosociology- theorists that strive to understand society as a whole: Durkheim,
Marx, Weber
Microsociology- research that studies individuals and group processes
of society is functional or contributes to the stability of the whole.
When one part of society is not working (parts: social institutions i.e.
the family, etc.) it affects all the other parts and creates social
Talcott Parsons- all parts of social system are interrelated, with
different parts of society having different basic functions
Robert Merton suggested that human behavior has both MANIFEST
and LATENT functions.
- MANIFEST FUNCTIONS are the stated and intended goals of social
(Critics of functionalism say that it understates the roles of power and
conflict in society, and that its too accepting of the status quo, and
disagree with explanation of inequality, that it is fair for higher classes to
earn more money because they are more functional in society
2. CONFLICT THEORY derived from the works of Carl Marx, the emphasis is on
social control, not consensus and conformity. groups and individuals
advance their own interests, struggling over control of societal resources
3. SYMBOLIC INTERACTION THEORY considers immediate interaction to be
where society exists.
a. Form of microsociology
b. Analyzes society by addressing the subjective meanings that people
impose on objects ( People behave on what they believe, not what is
necessarily true, so society is considered to be constructed through
human interpretation
Postmodernist think that images and text reveal the underlying ways that people
think and act.
Chapter 2: Culture and the Media
Defining Culture
The Elements of Culture
Cultural Diversity
The Mass Media and Popular Culture
Theoretical Perspectives on Culture and the Media
Cultural Change
Chapter Summary