Sometimes some people can benefit from the ‘system’- the way things are- but very rarely do these beneficiaries control the system entirely!
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.
The Latin etymological root of the verb ‘to decide’ means to ‘cut off from possibility.’ Most of you would never, under any circumstance, smoke crack. However, most of what we do is not determined or sanctioned in this way by prior decisions! Our moral code, for instance, doesn’t tell us how to speak, how to greet others, which courses to take, whether to stand during a standing ovation, etc. Instead of just viewing human behavior as the cause of a consequence (which is perfectly valid), sociologists are also interested in figuring out what causes (or ‘influences’) those actions in the first place! We know, for instance, that people are more likely to drink alcohol if their friends drink alcohol, even though these social influences don’t determine people to drink (i.e. you can still exercise some free will).
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!
See pages 227-8 in your book!
See pages 227-8 in your book!
Adam Smith published his famous Wealth of Nations in 1776.
If we assume homogeneity of preferences (i.e. each individual has the same threshold dissatisfaction, say 30%), then about as many new moves are caused as the number of initial moves, displacements. We get significantly more sorting or segregation than any particular individual wanted! The amount of segregation goes up even more, however, if we assume heterogeneity, i.e. each person has a different movement rule.
When people are connected and interdependent, critical states can emerge. In these critical states, small changes can generate disproportionate (nonlinear) ‘domino effects’, ‘chain reactions’, social cascades, snowballing, etc.
Granovetter is perhaps most famous for his concept of the ‘small worlds’ such as in the popular game, 6 degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.
Granovetter is perhaps most famous for his concept of the ‘small worlds’ such as in the popular game, 6 degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon. We will cover this later in the semester!
It turns out that groups that are more cooperative can out-compete (and hence survive) better than those that do not. Group-level selection explains how altruistic behavior within groups may have evolved. Surprisingly, hostility towards outsiders can actually create more solidarity within the group.
Chaos theory goes from simple to complicated. It explains how a few simple relationships can generate really complicated patterns that are difficult to observe or detect. Complexity theory goes in the opposite direction: from complicated relationships to simple patterns. Complexity theory deals with ‘self-organization’, and can explain how millions of complicated organisms called people can generate simple patterns. Chaos theory is determinate, but complexity theory describes systems that are self-organizing (aka emergent) and therefore in principle indeterminate.
Chaos theory goes from simple to complicated. It explains how a few simple relationships can generate really complicated patterns that are difficult to observe or detect. Complexity theory goes in the opposite direction: from complicated relationships to simple patterns. Complexity theory deals with ‘self-organization’, and can explain how millions of complicated organisms called people can generate simple patterns.
Structural Explanations• What causes….– Traffic jams?– Unemployment?
Structural Explanations• What causes….– Mass famine/starvation?Starvation in East Africa, 2011
Structural Explanations• A structural explanation focuses on the overallsocial pattern or collective outcome: trafficjams, wars, poverty, etc.• Often, these collective outcomes are notintentional outcomes: they are not planned oreven desired.IntendedactionsUnintendedConsequencesof Actions
Structural Explanations• But this seems like a paradox: why dohunger, poverty, and war exist even whennobody wants hunger, poverty, and war?IntendedactionsUnintendedConsequencesof Actions
CEO and Worker PayCEOs pay as a multiple of the average workers pay, 1960-2007Source: Domhoff 2011
CEO and Worker Pay• CEO’s (Chief Executive Officers)make over 500 times more thanthe average American worker.• Ask yourself:1. Are CEO’s 500 times smarter thanthe average worker?2. Do they work 500 times morethan the average worker?
CEO and Worker Pay3. In addition, why the suddenchange? If they are 500times smarter than the restof us TODAY, then why wasthis not true 30 years ago?4. Can we explain this bysaying that the billionairesdesired to becomebillionaires, or wanted itmore than other people?
CEO and Worker PayWe can draw two conclusionsfrom this example:1. Reward is *NOT*proportional to Effort!2. We cannot explain these‘social facts’ (patterns)solely by looking atpeople’s intentions or as aconsequence of theirattributes in isolation.
II. SOCIAL INFLUENCE ANDINDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY
Social Influence andIndividual Responsibility• In our culture we focus on what an individual doesas opposed to what is done to an individual.• We think individuals (at least adult humans) areself-determined. This is our common-sense notionof ‘personal responsibility.’ People areresponsible for their own actions and decisions inlife.
Influence and Responsibility• This point of view is not wrong, it is justlimited and one-sided.• Also, sociologists are not interested in morallyevaluating, punishing, or praising others- weare only interested in explaining andunderstanding.• Our past decisions obviously have a hugeimpact on our present circumstances, but wecannot explain what happens to any givenindividual without also looking at his/herrelations to other people- i.e. we have to alsolook at the larger social context.
Social Influence andIndividual ResponsibilityConsider two types of situations….1. Situations people do notcontrol: An individual can beinfluenced by circumstancesover which s/he has little controlor counter-influence;• People’s available actions anddecisions are always‘constrained’ or limited byavailable resources;• Examples: your native language,your religious and politicalbeliefs, your parent’s income,etc.Starvation in East Africa, 2011
Social Influence andIndividual Responsibility2. Situations people do (or ‘can’) control: Othertimes, we can directly attribute a person’scircumstance to an attribute of that person orto some action that person has taken.• Example: Smoking Crack
Social Influence andIndividual ResponsibilitySociologists, however, will still examine:a) the social influences or circumstances thatmade this behavior more or less likely.b) the social context in which some attributesbecome significant or meaningful, and othersnot.– “Sociologists think that much of people’sbehavior is a result of what other people do.”(McIntyre, p. 1)
Social Influence andIndividual Responsibility2. Situations people do (or ‘can’)control:• Individuals’ ideas and preferencesdetermine their actions, but what inturn influences or determines theirideas and preferences?– We are socialized to pay attention tohow others respond to situations.– Emotional responses and attitudes areoften contagious!– We tend to become most like thosewe spend the most time with and/orhave an affinity for…. (‘We becomelike those we like!’)Standing ovation
Social Influence andIndividual Responsibility2a. Social Circumstances• Most human behaviors are not ‘decisions’; ratherwe have varying degrees of susceptibility toinfluence from others.• Sociologists will examine those factors whichinfluence (or ‘cause’) the behavior itself.X(action)Y(consequence)X(action)Y(consequence)Z(circumstances)
Social Influence andIndividual Responsibility2b. The Social Context• Individuals do not determine the value of theirassets, nor do individuals determine how theirbehavior is interpreted by others.– some attributes are valued more highly in somecontexts or societies than in others. Individuals canadapt to these realities, but cannot control them.• Example: standards of beauty.
Social Influence andIndividual ResponsibilityConclusions• Sociology does not deny that individuals arepersonally responsible for theiractions, because we are not interested inexplaining an individual’s behavior!• Remember, sociologists are not concerned withthe circumstances of any particularindividual, but in how the circumstances of oneindividual relate to others, and in makinggeneralizations about individuals.• Remember: ‘Think Patterns, Not Individuals’ !
The Sociological Imagination• Sociology attempts to explain facts aboutgroups of people, and then to relate thesesocial facts to our individual lives.• The study of how our lives are influenced byour larger historical and social circumstancesis called the sociological imagination.
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 theother.• The ability to understand history and its relation tobiography is called the sociological imagination by C.Wright Mills.Man/Woman SocietyBiography HistorySelf WorldPersonal “Troubles ofmilieu”Public “Issues ofsocial structure”
“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 theliving.”Karl Marx(1818-1883)
IV. SELF-FULFILLING AND SELF-NEGATING PROPHECIES
What is Social REALITY?• Thomas theorem: "If people definesituations as real, they are real in theirconsequences“• To understand human inter-actions andrelations, sociologists have tounderstand both reality, and perceivedreality.W. I. Thomas1863 - 1947
• Social relations are often realbecause we act AS IF they are real.The social world concerns not onlythe material world, but themeanings we ascribe to thematerial objects, meanings whichare themselves non-physical andnon-material.Examples:1. Nations2. Money
Self-fulfilling and Self-negatingprophecies• Robert K. Merton also coined the terms– ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ and– ‘role model’• A self-fulfilling prophecy is something thatbecomes true because it is believed to betrue.– Example: bank run, placebos, psychicpredictions, etc…• A self-negating prophecy is a belief thatcauses its own falsehood. Explanation: it issomething that, once believed to be true orexpected to happen, cannot happen (orbecomes less likely to happen).Robert K. Merton(1910 – 2003)
The Power of Expectations• Pygmalion Effect (akaRosenthal effect): thegreater the expectationplaced upon people, thebetter they perform.– According to legend, Pygmalionwas the king of Cyprus who fellin love with a beautiful woman(Galatea) he sculpted out ofivory.
The Power of Expectations• In the 1960s Robert Rosenthaland Lenore Jacobsonhypothesized that teacherexpectations influencedchildren’s performance.• Study: they randomly assigned 1out of 5 children to the‘spurter/bloomer’ group, buttold teachers these studentswere selected to the groupbased on test performances thatindicated future success.• Findings: the kids who wereexpected to ‘spurt’ made largerimprovements than nonspurters.
Self-negating Prophecies• In the case of financial markets, if oneperson figured out how to predict marketprices, then soon everyone else wouldadopt that strategy, making the strategyineffective. This is an example of self-negating prophecy.• Often observations do not influence actionswhich affect the aggregate outcomes. Inthis case, the observers are external oroutside observers who observe but havelittle impact on what they observe. Forexample, academics who can observepersistent inequality but have no power tochange it.NewAggregatePatternsParticipant-ObserversObservingpatternsActions thatchangepatternsAggregatePatternRemainsOutside-ObserversObservingpatternsActionshave noimpact
Emergent Properties• Methodological Individualism: the idea thatsociety can be explained entirely by theindividuals that make up society.• Emergence: when the whole is more than thesum of its parts. Emergent properties are thosenew (and surprising) properties of the whole thatare not possessed by the individuals.– Example: Water into Ice, Consciousness, etc.
Emergence and unintendedconsequences• The Invisible Hand: a famous andearly example of an unintendedcollective (macro) consequence ofindividual (micro) actions is AdamSmith’s idea of the ‘Invisible Hand’of capitalism, where everyone’sselfish desire to make a profit endsup making everyone better off.• The contrary is also often argued:competition may generate a ‘raceto the bottom.’Adam Smith
Emergence and unintendedconsequences• Neighborhood Sorting:Thomas Schelling (2005Nobel Prize winner) showedthat macro-level segregationwould arise from micro-leveltolerance, so long asindividuals prefer to liveadjacent to some neighborssimilar to them.Thomas Schelling
Emergence and unintendedconsequences• Imagine a city as a giant checkerboard, and suppose each piece wants30% of its neighbors to be the same kind.• A few, with more than 30% of its neighbors of a different kind, willmove.• Two effects of initial relocations:1. other checkers of the same color from old neighborhood will alsowant to move2. other checkers of different color in new neighborhood will want tomove
Cascades and ‘Tipping’ points• Diversity (differences betweenpeople) can lead to ‘Tipping’- theemergence of social cascades, akachain reactions or domino effects.• TIPPING = a small event or a fewsmall actions can cause a cascadeand large scale change• Example: There are 100 people inthe mall. How many of them haveto be running out of the mallbefore you run out of the mall also?(Assume you have no understandingof why they running!)
Cascades and ‘Tipping’ points• Diversity and Connectedness lead to ‘Tipping’• Consider two scenarios.– Scenario 1: Homogeneity. Everyone has the same threshold, ortipping point. Everyone will run out of the mall if they see 20 otherpeople run out of the mall. What happens? NOTHING! No one willleave unless 20 other people leave!– Scenario 2: Heterogeneity (Diversity). Everyone is numbered from 1to 100; their number is also the number of people they need to seerunning before they also run: their threshold. What happens? Firstperson leaves, then the second, then the third, etc. This generates achain reaction, aka a CASCADE!Person 0Begins to runPerson 1 runsonly if 1 otherperson runsPerson 2 runsonly if 2 otherpeople run3 4 5 6
Cascades and ‘Tipping’ points• Mark Granovetter devised this thresholdmodel initially to describe riots:– one person will definitely riot; anotherwill riot only if one other person riots; athird will riot only if two others riot; etc….– We are much more likely to riot ourselvesif we see others rioting.• His model explains:1. Why social changes can beabrupt, discontinuous, and sudden.2. Why they are so unpredictable. Oneperson in a chain can either cause orprevent a collective chain reaction, orsocial cascade.• Other examples: clapping, birthrates, dancing at parties, rates ofcrime, etc.
Functionalist Paradigm1. Consensus about values and normsmakes society possible2. Society is a whole made ofintegrated parts that work (i.e.function) together.– A change to one part of society willaffect all others.– All parts are interdependent.– Society is ‘more than the sum of itsparts.’3. Society seeks stability and tends toavoid conflict
Conflict Paradigm1. In every society, there are disagreements anddifferences (i.e. lack of consensus) about values andnorms2. Society is made up of subgroups (aka ‘classes’) thatare in ruthless competition for scarce resources3. Society is not harmonious: conflict is normal in asociety.– The conflict can be latent (i.e. conflict of interests) ormanifest (i.e. real conflict such as violence).
Symbolic Interactionist Paradigm• Also known as social constructionists1. How people act depends on howthey see and evaluate reality2. People learn from others how tosee and evaluate reality3. People constantly interpret themeaning of their own behaviorand the behavior of others4. Misunderstanding and conflictcomes from people not perceivingreality in the same way
Which paradigm is correct?• Society is like this cube: wecan see it from multipleperspectives!• The paradigms are just lensesthrough which we view society.
Ethnocentrism and RelativismEthnocentrism: the ‘process of judging other peoples andtheir customs and norms as inferior to one’s ownpeople, customs, and norms” (pg. 52). Ethnocentrism isnormal! Most societies exhibit some amount ofethnocentrism.Toward Own Group Toward OutsidersSee members as superior See outsiders as inferiorSee own values as universal andtrueSee outsiders’ values as falseSee own customs as original,reflecting ‘true’ human natureSee outsiders’ customs as ignorant,lacking in humanityCultural Relativism: ‘the belief that other people and their ways of doingthings can be understood only in terms of the context of these people’ (pg. 56).McIntyre argues that although ethnocentrism is common, it can get in the way ofunderstanding. To understand others, you have to see things from their point ofview.
Functions and Dysfunctions• “Function” simply means a purpose, intention;what something is used for.– Prefixes: ‘Dys’ vs ‘Dis’• Dys- Greek prefix meaning ‘defective’, ‘difficult’, or‘painful.’• Dis- Latin prefix meaning ‘apart’, ‘asunder’, or ‘deprivedof.’• Functional = positive; something works• Dysfunctional = negative consequences;something that doesn’t work.
Latent and Manifest Functions• “Manifest” = obvious, evident, apparent.• “Latent” = not manifest; hidden; concealed.– Like a latent disease; the hidden content of adream, etc.• Manifest function = intended or consciouspurpose (or consequences) of some action.– The reasons people give for why they do things.• Latent function =unintended, unconscious, or hiddenpurposes (consequences) of actions.– The ‘real reasons’ or purposes that people’sactions may have, as seen by outside observers(sociologists)Robert K. Merton(1910 – 2003)
Latent and Manifest Functions1. Rain Dance Ceremony– Manifest function:• ‘We dance to bring rain’– Latent function:• The ceremony is ‘really’ a way ofbuilding social solidarity throughritual participationRain Dance
Latent and Manifest Functions2. University Education– Manifest function:• Higher Learning, Education– Latent function:• Keep young adults out of the jobmarket• Conduct research that supportsthe ‘Military-Industrial-Complex’(Eisenhower)• …?University
Fundamental Indeterminacy• Chaotic systems are extremely sensitive to initial conditions, sothat tiny differences in the initial conditions of otherwiseidentical systems will generate huge differences between them.A butterfly creates massive tornados or hurricanes in another hemisphere. The idea isthat small and simple causes can generate complicated, non-proportional (i.e. ‘non-linear’) effects. Brain teaser: could a butterfly also cause disproportionate phenomenaof a different kind, such as political revolutions or economic or legal upheavals?
Fundamental Indeterminacy• Note: chaos theory as described in the book actually describesphenomena that are, in principle at least, determinate.Chaos, however, does make predicting events difficult in the realworld, simply because we can’t know all of the interactingcauses and initial conditions! Chaos theory is determinate.• In contrast, Complexity theory describes systems that are self-organizing (aka emergent) and therefore in principleindeterminate.
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