Bradford mvsu fall 2012 intro lecture 1 short
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  • Here are some definitions found in textbooks on sociology [You do not need to remember these!]:“Scientific study of ‘Society’” [But what is ‘society’?]“systematic study of human groups.”“scientific study of human groups”“scientific study of human behavior, social groups, and society”“systematic study of society and human behavior.”
  • In his book Defying Hitler, the German writer Sebastian Haffner recalls how he, an enemy of the Nazis, had been coerced into taking part in their activities. In the mid-1930s, when the Nazi army of intimidation, the brownshirts, marched through the streets, they beat anyone who failed to salute. Defiant in his own small way, Haffner often ducked into doorways. But when he and other students of law were ordered into an indoctrination camp, he found himself wearing a brown shirt and joining the very same marches."Resistance would have been another form of suicide," Haffner wrote, and the oppressed, unwittingly, became oppressor: When we came through villages, the people on either side of the road raised their arms to greet the flag, or disappeared quickly in some house entrance. They did this because they had learned that if they did not, we, that is I, would beat them up. It made not the slightest difference that I—and, no doubt others among us—ourselves fled into entryways to avoid these flags, when we were not marching behind them. Now we were the ones embodying an implicit threat of violence against all bystanders. They greeted the flag or disappeared.Source:Buchanan, Mark (2008-12-05). The Social Atom: Why the Rich Get Richer, Cheaters Get Caught, and Your Neighbor Usually Looks Like You (p. 2). Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
  • Christmas truce was a series of widespread unofficial ceasefires that took place along the Western Front around Christmas 1914, during the First World War. Through the week leading up to Christmas, parties of German and British soldiers began to exchange seasonal greetings and songs between their trenches; on occasion, the tension was reduced to the point that individuals would walk across to talk to their opposite numbers bearing gifts. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, many soldiers from both sides – as well as, to a lesser degree, from French units – independently ventured into "no man's land", where they mingled, exchanging food and souvenirs. As well as joint burial ceremonies, several meetings ended in carol-singing. Troops from both sides were also friendly enough to play games of football with one another.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_truceSee also Buchanan’s The Social Atom, and Jeremy Rifkin’s Empathic Civilization.
  • Here I am using these words interchangeably: ‘Interactions’ = ‘Influences’ = ‘relationships’ What do I mean by pattern? Basically its ordinary, everyday meaning, but to be more precise, a pattern is anything we observe more than once, i.e. which repeats; it is any observation that can be generalized to more than one example. To be able to see a pattern you have to use ‘abstraction’ (which from its Latin root means to ‘cut out’)- you have to select out the important aspects of some person, situation, relation (or whatever) and filter out what isn’t important. Basically, to see a pattern you have to be able to see commonalities among different things. There are all sorts of patterns, across space, across time, across individuals, across nations, across groups, etc. By ‘pattern’, I am also implying that in sociology we are by definition interested numbers larger than one.
  • There are many different ways of categorizing and thinking about human influence. Here are just a few categories we might use: Direct vs indirect (or ‘mediated’), Conscious vs unconscious, Intended vs Unintended, Reciprocated vs non-reciprocated (symmetrical or asymmetrical), Individual to group; group to individual, Familial vs non-familial, (or friendly vs indifferent or hostile), Micro (small groups) vs macro (larger) patterns and influences, Past, present, future… Can you think of any more?
  • Emile Durkheim said that individualism is (ironically) a social value. He described this focus on individualism as the ‘cult of the individual’.
  • In a standing ovation, people are more likely to stand when they see others stand. Once everyone is standing, it is an act of social defiance or resistance to stay seated. One ‘feels’ like one should stand. Our behavior is influenced and partly determined by watching the behavior of others.
  • As the name suggests, symbolic interactionists are primarily interested in human interaction at the micro-level (i.e. pertaining to a few individuals in small groups). Humans interact differently from other animals in that humans interact with one another through the use of symbolic language.
  • There are two levels here to evaluate: what is going on, and what people think is going on; the facts, and perceived facts; the world of physical, material objects and the world of meanings ascribed to these objects. The relation between these two levels is often complicated. For example, a sufficient sociological explanation would not only explain to people that what they believe to be true is in fact only partially true or false, but also, to explain what about the real world leads to their being deluded about it in the first place!

Bradford mvsu fall 2012 intro lecture 1 short Bradford mvsu fall 2012 intro lecture 1 short Presentation Transcript

  • Welcome toINTRODUCTION TO SOCIOLOGY (SOC 211) John Bradford, Ph.D.
  • I. What is Sociology?
  • What is Sociology?My favorite definitions: (these mean basically the same thing)1. The scientific study of inter-actions and relations among human beings2. The study of how people influence one another and the (intended and unintended) consequences of these influences.
  • What explains the rise of Nazism? "Resistance would have been another form of suicide.”
  • What causes violence and competition? Cooperation?• Why did the British and Germans stop shooting at each other during WWI? More importantly, why would they start fighting in the first place?!• The Christmas Truce of 1914 was a series of widespread unofficial ceasefires that took place along the Western Front around Christmas 1914, during the First World War.• British and German mingled, held meetings, joint burial ceremonies, sang carols, and even played games of soccer.
  • What is Sociology?• Sociology is interested in the PATTERNS that people generate as they interact, influence, and relate to one another.• In short: THINK PATTERNS, NOT PEOPLE! (at least not individual people)
  • II. Individual and Society
  • Individual and Society• How do sociologists view the relationship between the individual and society?• We are always influencing and being influenced by others… ‘Society’, orIndividual Other Individuals
  • Individual and Society• Individualist bias: the focus on individuality also explains our tendency to think that our own situations and circumstances are entirely a result of our own behavior.
  • Individual and Society• In this class, we will emphasize that SOCIETY AND THE INDIVIDUAL ARE INSEPARABLE, like two sides of the same coin.
  • “Men make their own history,but they do not make it as theyplease; they do not make itunder self-selectedcircumstances, but undercircumstances existing already,given and transmitted from thepast. The tradition of all deadgenerations weighs like anightmare on the brains of the (1818-1883)living.” Karl Marx
  • The Sociological Imagination“Neither the life of an individualnor the history of a society canbe understood withoutunderstanding both.” C. Wright Mills (1916-1962)
  • The Sociological Imagination• To understand one side, you have to understand the other. Man/Woman Society Biography History Self World Personal “Troubles of Public “Issues of milieu” social structure”• The ability to understand history and its relation to biography is called the sociological imagination by C. Wright Mills.
  • III. Social Influence andPersonal Responsibility
  • Influence and Responsibility• We tend to think that because individuals have free will, whatever happens to an individual is exclusively the responsibility of that individual. In our culture we focus on what an individual does as opposed to what is done to an individual.• We think individuals (at least adult humans) are self- determined. This is our common-sense notion of ‘personal responsibility.’ People are responsible for their own actions and decisions in life.
  • Influence and Responsibility• Basically, we tend to believe that you get what you earn.• Sociologists do NOT deny this perspective, but find it limited for our purposes.• We aren’t in the business of giving advice (even if its very good advice).
  • The influence of social context• Individuals are often influenced by circumstances over which s/he has little control• Examples: your native language, your religious and political beliefs, your parent’s income, etc. Starvation in East Africa, 2011
  • The influence of social context• Sometimes, interacting individuals create collective circumstances that everyone is Traffic jam subjected to, but no one intends!• Example: traffic jams Unintended Consequences Intended actions of Actions
  • The influence of social context• Some attributes are valued more highly in some contexts or societies than in others. Individuals can adapt to these realities, but cannot control them.• Example: standards of beauty.
  • Social context and decision-making• Most human behaviors are not ‘decisions’; rather we have varying degrees of susceptibility to influence from others.• People are responsible for their own actions and decisions in life, but sociologists will still examine those factors that make some decisions and actions more likely than others.• Example: Smoking Crack
  • Social context and decision-makingExample: Standing Ovations.• We are socialized to pay attention to how others respond to situations.• Our decision to stand is often not based on how we personally feel, but what other people are doing.
  • The Influence of Language• “Languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what they may convey.”- Roman Jakobson (linguist) – It’s possible to express any idea in any language, but different languages oblige or force us to pay more attention to some things than others.
  • The Influence of LanguageExamples:1. English requires me to specify when I met my neighbor in the past, present or future. But Chinese does not oblige its speakers to specify the exact time, or to distinguish between past or present or future actions!
  • The Influence of LanguageExamples:2. The Matses in the Amazon havethe most elaborate grammar of allknown languages:• It has 3 separate past tenses, distinguishing between the Matsés people recent past (up to a month), distant past (a month to 50 years), and remote past (over 50 years).
  • The Influence of Language• It also has strict rules for determining “evidentiality”- There are separate verbal forms depending on whether you are reporting Direct experience, Something inferred, Conjecture, or Hearsay. Matsés people• If you ask a Matses man how is wife is doing, he might respond daed ikosh “two there. Were [directly experienced recently]” !!
  • IV. Three Major Sociological Perspectives
  • I. Functionalist Theory1. Consensus about values and norms makes society possible2. Society is a whole made of integrated parts that work (i.e. function) together. – A change to one part of society will affect all others. – All parts are interdependent. – Society is ‘more than the sum of its parts.’3. Society seeks stability and tends to avoid conflict
  • II. Conflict Theory1. In every society, there are disagreements and differences (i.e. lack of consensus) about values and norms2. Society is made up of subgroups (aka ‘classes’) that are in ruthless competition for scarce resources3. Society is not harmonious: conflict is normal in a society. – The conflict can be latent (i.e. conflict of interests) or manifest (i.e. real conflict such as violence).
  • III. Symbolic Interactionism• Focuses on how people interpret and ascribe meaning to other peoples behavior and the larger world.• Emphasizes people’s perceptions of reality.• Micro-sociology: Focuses on small encounters
  • What is Social REALITY?• Thomas theorem: "If people define situations as real, they are real in their consequences“• To understand human inter-actions and relations, sociologists have to understand both reality, and perceived reality. W. I. Thomas 1863 - 1947
  • Which theory is correct?• Society is like this cube: we can see it from multiple perspectives!• The paradigms are just lenses through which we view society.