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Introduction to Sociology SOCI16039G
Sheridan College
Winter 2016

Class Information
Instructor: Marlene Santin
Email: marlene.santin@sheridancollege.ca
Class: Tuesdays 8:00 am to 11:00 am
Location: J201 DAVIS

Sociological Theory
The Development of Sociology
Early Social Thinkers
Twentieth-Century Developments
Major Sociological Perspectives
The Sociological Approach
Group Work In class Activity #1

What is Theory?
Theory as a Series of Paradigm Shifts
Paradigm shifts are changes in the way we see the world.
We start to ask questions = Eureka moments!


Conflict theoryetc.

What is Sociological Theory?

Theories are tools of analysis, or lenses into certain aspects of

social reality.
Theories are attempts to explain events, forces, materials,
ideas, or behaviour in a comprehensive manner.
A theory may have explanatory power, predictive power, or both.
Sociological theory is usually thought of as a systematic set of
ideas and statements about the social world that aim to make
sense of the social world.
Have you ever wondered..why?
Crime is higher in certain geographical areas? Suicide rates are
higher in certain populations? Genocide happens? African
Americans have high self-confidence as compared to other
members of the population?

Sociology is a big-tent discipline
Broad spectrum of theoretical approaches.
Theory encompasses a body of writing dating back to the early

19th century that continues to inform the discipline.

Some theories and theorists are privileged over others.
Classical theory (1840 to 1920), when sociology emerged as a

discipline- distinguishing itself from philosophy.

Sociology has roots in philosophy- Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli,

Montesquieu, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Saint-Simon, Adam

Smith, Emmanuel Kant, Georg Hegel.

How Did Sociology Develop?

Sociological ideas such as how we get along, what we do,

and whom we select as our leaders have always existed.

Philosophers and religious authorities of ancient and medieval

societies made countless observations about human behaviour.

Observations often became the foundation for moral codes, but

were never tested.

Several of the early social philosophers predicted that a

systematic study of human behaviour would one day

Beginning in the nineteenth century, European theorists made

pioneering contributions to the development of a science of

human behaviour.

Sociology is Changing
Much theoretical work is intended to be revisionist (i.e., building

upon and correcting earlier theories).

Amending, redefining, challenging, embracing, and sometimes


Sociology is moving forward, ongoing with new

accomplishments both theoretically and especially


Neglected theorists because of racism and sexism (W.E.B

DuBois & Harriet Martineau)

Early Social Thinkers

Early 19th century France was chaotic (i.e. French

Revolution, Napoleons defeat)

Amid this chaos, philosophers considered how society

might be improved.
Auguste Comte credited with being the most influential of

these philosophers of the 19th century.

Theory and the systematic investigation of behaviour

could improve society.

Coined the term sociology and thought the systematic

study of social behaviour would eventually lead to more

rational human interactions.

Early Social Thinkers

figure 1-1
Early Social Thinkers

Emile Durkheim (1858 1917)

Born in the province of Lorraine, France in 1858.
Durkheims father was a chief Rabbi and was the last member of

an unbroken line of eight generations of father-son Rabbis.

Durkheim was destined to be the next Rabbi in the Durkheim

In his youth, while studying with a local teacher, Durkheim

converted to Catholicism and turned away from a Rabbinical

Attended the prestigious Ecole Normale Superieure - on his way

to becoming a French Intellectual Elite.

Earned a Doctorate at the University of Paris and began a

promising academic career.

Durkheims Sociology
Challenged political and intellectual ideas of the past.
Durkheim investigated the nature of social order, social

change, suicide, social methodology, the sociology of

education, the sociology of knowledge, the sociology of
morality and the sociology of religion.
Behaviour must be understood within a larger social context,
not just in individualistic terms.
Society was in a state of moral anarchy, disunity and
Sociology was a tool for diagnosing and analyzing social
problems or pathologies.
Using positivism to define, observe, compare and formulate
laws, could show how to develop a better society.

What is society?
Society refers to group or collective life or the groups influence

on the individual.
Properties of culture involving shared beliefs, values,

sentiments, and ways of thinking and understanding.

Durkheim used society to refer to a social organism

composed of a number of social parts and social organs.

When people interact to form society, collectively shared

beliefs, values, and norms develop or emerge.

These shared beliefs are collective representations.

Work and the Division of Labour

One of Durkheim's main interests was the consequences of

work in modern societies.

Modern society manifests all sorts of conflicts between self

seeking individuals.
Durkheim argued that employers try and gain as much profit for

themselves and have no concern for the well being of their

workers, who often organize into groups to attack the owners.
A growing division of labour resulted in industrial societies as

workers became much more specialized in their tasks led to


A State of Anomie
Durkheim referred to the state of disorganization where social norms

and rules exist in a weakened state, or do not exist at all as Anomie.

The state of anomie occurs when people have lost their sense of

purpose or direction, often during a time of profound social change.

The anomic state of modern society has led to relatively unrestrained

citizenry, where people primarily look out for their own interests and
have a disregard for others.
Durkheim was concerned about the dangers that alienation,

loneliness, and isolation might pose for modern industrial societies.

People are so confused and unable to cope with the new social

environment that they may resort to taking their own lives.

Durkheims Study of Suicide

Durkheim (1897) looked into suicide data and developed a (predictive)

theory about the relationship between suicide and social factors.

He was primarily concerned suicide rates and how they varied from

country to country (France, England, and Denmark).

In 1869, he examined the populations of these nations to determine

their rates of suicide.

England had only 67 reported suicides per million inhabitants, France

had 135 per million, and Denmark had 277 per million.
The question then became, Why did Denmark have a comparatively

high rate of reported suicides?

Durkheim went much deeper into his investigation of suicide rates, and

the result was his landmark work, Suicide, published in 1897.

Video 1: Emile Durkheim Suicide Study

Emile Durkheim Suicide Study

Max Weber (1864-1920)

A German Sociologist and political economist who influenced

social theory, social research and the discipline of sociology

Born in 1864, in Erfurt, Saxony to Max Weber Sr., a wealthy and
prominent politician in the National Liberal Party in Germany.
In 1882, Weber left home to study jurisprudence at the

University of Berlin and became a member of the renowned

Verein Fur Sozialpolitik (Association for Social Policy) in 1888.
Eventually, he became a professor at various German

He is typically cited, with Durkheim and Marx as one of the three

principal architects of modern social science.

Webers Teachings
Weber taught his students that they should employ Verstehen -

the German word for understanding or insight, in their

intellectual work.
Social behaviour could not be analyzed by the kinds of objective

criteria we use to measure weight or temperature.

To fully comprehend behaviour, we must learn the subjective

meanings people attach to their actionshow they themselves

view and explain their behaviour.
Weber was a central figure in the establishment of

methodological antipositivism; presenting sociology as a nonempirical field.

He advocated that sociology is not merely concerned with causal

explanation, but with interpretation, or Verstehen.

Karl Marx (1818 1883)

Like Durkheim and Weber, he had a dual interest in abstract

philosophical issues and the concrete reality of everyday life.

Critical of existing institutions.
Thought that a conventional academic career was impossible.
Although he was born and educated in Germany, he spent

most of his life in exile.

Marx was an active revolutionist.
Accused of inciting rebellion and expelled from France,

Germany and Belgium.

In 1849, he took refuge in London, where he studied the

political economy.

Marx and Engels

In 1842, he met Friedrich Engels and formed a lifelong

friendship with him.

Between Marx and Engels, they could read more than 40

The Communist Manifesto was first published in February

1848 in London.
Written by Marx and Engels for the Communist League, an

organisation of German migr workers living in several

western European countries.
The masses of people who had no resources other than their

labour (the proletariat) should unite to fight the owners of the

means of production (the bourgeoisie) for the overthrow of
capitalist societies.

Society in the Time of Marx

Marx provided one of the most powerful sociological

explanations of social conflict.

He wrote during the development of an industrial Capitalist

society- the transition from feudalism to capitalism.

Marx explained most social phenomenon in terms of class

struggle and economic processes in the 19th century.

Conflict and struggle defined class relations under

He examined the industrial societies such as Germany,

England, and the United States and saw the factory as the
centre of conflict between the exploiters (the owners of the
means of production) and the exploited (the workers).

Video 2: Feudalism
An Explanation of Feudalism

A worker produces an object (e.g., fabric, shoes) that, despite

the investment of their personal labour, remains as the bosss

The object is turned into merchandise, or a commodity.
The boss is the possessor of wealth and commodities is

called the Bourgeoisie and the worker is the Proletariat.

The Bourgeoisie control the means of production and the

Proletariat works under the Bourgeoisie to create the

More important, however, is that the Bourgeoisie maintains

control over the use and exchange of those commodities.

Video 3: Marx on Capitalism

The Development of Classes

Marx talks about two economic classes (Bourgeoisie and

the Proletariat)
Membership in a class is defined by ones relationship to

the means of production.

The Bourgeoisie exploit the Proletariat and as a result

Marx believed that the Proletariat would rise up in a

revolutionary manner against the Bourgeoisie.

What is the Communist Manifesto? Workers of the world unite! You have

nothing to lose but your chains.

Introduces the Marxian idea of history as a class struggle and looks at

the conditions and development of various strata (i.e., classes) of society.

The development of each of these classes in history gave rise to the next

step in an inevitable historical process resulting in the rise of the working

The Manifesto, says that all the surplus that goes to the capitalist as

profits is in reality the "property" of the working class who created that
The working class needed to overthrow the existing class system.
Does communism work? Did Marx envision the communist system as it is


Communism in the Contemporary World

Over 150 years since the publication of the Communist

Manifesto and many of its predictions have proven incorrect.

Marx misunderstood which class would ultimately subsume

all the others.

He was under the impression that labourers must ultimately

take over the means of production and destroy the capitalist

Marx's influence on contemporary thinking has been

dramatichis writings inspired those who were later to lead

communist revolutions in Russia, China, Cuba, Vietnam.
Video 4: Why Cuban cab drivers earn more than doctors

Theoretical Developments in Sociology

Sociology today builds on the firm foundation developed

by Durkheim, Weber, and Marx.

Sociologists from throughout the world have advanced

sociological theory and research.

New insights have helped them to better understand the

workings of society.
Some of the most exciting developments in sociology are

taking place outside of the traditional Eurocentric

(meaning centred on European thought) framework.

Twentieth-Century Sociologists

Time Period

Background & Sociological Approach


1864 1929

Herbert Mead

1863 1931


1910 2003



American and a founder of Symbolic Interactionism.

Significant sources of information about the world comes through
human interaction with others.
Looking glass self," how people appear to others, is an essential
component of the development of self-image.
Smaller unitsintimate, face-to-face groups, such as families, gangs,
and friendship networks
Founder of Symbolic Interactionism
Focused on human interactions within one-to-one situations and
small groups.
Developed a model of the process by which the self emerges.
Functionalism (how each part of society contributes to the stability of
the whole society).
Theory of deviant behaviour.
Emphasized middle-range theories (as Durkheim and Weber did).
French sociologist, anthropologist and philosopher.
Theory connected with empirical research grounded in everyday life
Cultural, social, and symbolic capital reveal power relations in social
People not defined only by social class, but by every single kind of
capital he or she can articulate through social relations.

Middle-Range Approaches
Robert Merton emphasized that sociology should strive to

bring together the macro-level and micro-level

approaches to the study of society.
Macrosociology concentrates on large-scale phenomena
or entire civilizations.
Example: Durkheim's cross-cultural study of suicide.
Grand theories are too far removed from social behaviour
to account for what actually occurs in society.
Microsociology stresses study of small groups and often
uses experimental study in laboratories.
Example: Studies of how a teacher's expectations can
affect a student's academic performance.

Capital included not just material goods, but cultural and social assets.
The value of social networks, which Bourdieu showed could be used

to produce or reproduce inequality.

Cultural capital refers to noneconomic goods, such as family

background and education, which are reflected in a knowledge of

language and the arts.
Refers to the kind of education that is valued by the socially elite.
Social capital refers to the collective benefit of social networks, which

are built on reciprocal trust.

The importance of family and friendship networks in providing people

with an opportunity to advance.

Bourdieu's work extends the insights of early social thinkers such as

Marx and Weber

Major Sociological Perspectives

Sociologists view society in different ways.
Social theory helps researchers explain social

Four perspectives are the most widely used by

Theoretical debates: which theory works best (i.e. Micro

versus micro sociology or middle-range).

Functionalist Perspective
The functional approach was developed from the 1930s

through the 1960s in the United States.

Emphasizes the way that the parts of a society are

structured to maintain its stability.

Similar to other sociological approaches, but with a

particular emphasis on function, interdependence,

consensus, equilibrium and evolutionary change.
The focus is macro-sociological, with institutions and

structures existing in the society as a whole.

The different parts of each society contribute positively to

the operation or functioning of the system as a whole.

Example: Social Inequality

One example of functionalism is the idea of social

Functionalists generally argue that a certain degree of

inequality is functional for society as a whole, and that

society could not operate without social inequality.
Rewards in the form of income, status, prestige, or

power must be provided in order to induce people to carry

out the work required of them and to get them to occupy
roles that are required by society.
Durkheim argued that social inequalities should represent

natural inequalities, and if this occurs, the division of

labour performs well.

Functionalism in India
Hindus prohibit against the slaughtering of cows.
Cattle browse Indian street markets, helping themselves to oranges

and mangoes while people bargain for the little food they can afford.
Cow worship is highly functional in Indian society.
According to economists, agronomists, and social scientists cows

perform two essential tasks: plowing the fields and producing milk.
If eating their meat were permitted, hungry families might be tempted

to slaughter their cows for immediate consumption, leaving

themselves without a means of cultivation.
Cows also produce dung, which doubles as a fertilizer and a fuel for

If eating beef were socially acceptable, higher-status Indians would

no doubt bid up its price, placing it beyond the reach of the hungriest.

Manifest and Latent Functions

One of Robert Merton's major contributions to the improvement of

functional analysis is his distinction between manifest and latent functions.

Manifest functions of institutions are open, stated, conscious functions.

They involve the intended, recognized consequences of an aspect of

society (e.g. Catholic church supports the institution of marriage by
refusing to recognize divorce).
Latent functions are unconscious or unintended functions and may

reflect hidden purposes of an institution (e.g., Universities/colleges serving

as a meeting ground for people seeking marital partners).
Merton further clarifies that unintended consequences (i.e. Latent

functions) can be seen as having three sorts of functions:

(1) Functional (beneficial)
(2) Dysfunctional (harmful, disruptive, decreases stability)
(3) Non-functional (irrelevant)

A dysfunction refers to an element or a process of society

that may actually disrupt a social system or lead to a

decrease in stability.
The evaluation of a dysfunction depends on a person's
own values.
What are some examples of dysfunction?
For example, high schools create a youth culture, often
composed of cliques and outsiders.

Conflict Perspective
Conflict theory is any social theory that emphasizes the

importance of conflict over consensus in understanding

society (e.g., Marxism is a conflict theory).
Assumes that social behaviour is best understood in terms

of conflict or tension between competing groups.

Conflict and change need not be violent (e.g., labour

negotiations, gender relations, party politics).

Social institutions and practices persist because powerful

groups have the ability to maintain control over them.

Conflict theorists borrowed from Marxs idea of class

struggle and Webers discussion of forms of power and

authority to criticize functionalism.

The Marxist View

History proceeds through a series of stages, each of which exploits a class of

people: ancient society exploited slaves; the estate system of feudalism

exploited serfs; modern capitalist society exploits the working class.
Ultimately, through a socialist revolution led by the proletariat, human society

will move toward the final stage of development: a classless communist

society, or community of free individuals.
Viewed struggle as inevitable, given the exploitation of workers under

Conflict is a normal and desirable aspect of social change.
Society's institutionsincluding the family, government, religion, education,

and the mediamaintains the privileges of some groups and keep others in a
subservient position.
How do societys institutions maintain the privileges of some groups?

Feminist Perspectives
Attempts to explain, understand, and change the ways in

which gender socially organizes our public and private

lives in such a way as to produce inequality between men
and women.
Feminist perspectives can be macro or micro.
Provide frameworks within which gender inequality can be

We will examine different types of feminist theories (e.g.,

Liberal, Marxist, Socialist, Radical, Transnational).

Symbolic Interactionist Perspective

Micro-sociological analysis of social life
Whereas functionalist and conflict theorists both analyze large-

scale society-wide patterns of behaviour, the symbolic

interactionist perspective generalizes about everyday forms of
social interaction in order to understand society as a whole.
Focuses on how individual human interactions create a universe

of symbols that human minds share, thereby creating a society.

De-emphasizes social rules, social structure, and institutions,

focusing instead on how small scale social interactions create a

Daily life is constantly changing because people's social

relationships, actions, material world, and symbols are constantly

being reconstructed.

Social Constructionism
Human beings are born into a pre-existing society and through

socialization and shared cultural patterns of behavior they keep

doing what they have learned to do.
Institutions have some control over human behavior.
Socialization plays a role in our internalization of institutional

norms for conduct and it is through this process that socially

acquired ways of doing things develop what seems to be an
existence of its own.
Our subjective reality is created by internalization of norms.
For example, we constantly construct and reconstruct the

meanings of what it is to be masculine and feminine, gay and

straight, married and single, as well as other aspects of our
daily lives.

Social Construction of Reality

Back to Individuals




Society as a
Human product:
Actors create
social world

Society as
objective reality:
social institutions
and structures like

The actor as a social

product: internalizes
norms and values and
accepts them as givens.

e.g., Child is born

into a family who
is Catholic

e.g., Child goes to

Catholic church
and school

e.g., Child becomes an

adult who abstains from
pre-marital sex

What are some examples of the social construction of reality?

Why Does Theory Matter?

Theory helps us to explain what is going on in the world

around us.
Sociological research and approaches tend to draw on

one or more theoretical frameworks.

Whatever their theoretical perspective or research

techniques, sociologists recognize that social behaviour

must be viewed in a global context.

In-class Assignment #1
Murder rates in El Salvador: Murder capital of the world
Video 5: Waging War: Gangs of El Salvador