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FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIOLOGICAL THOUGHT
What is Sociology? • Comte (1798 -1857) – Knowledge of society • Browne (1992) – Developing a critical understanding of society; understanding social relations; understanding our social world • Scientific study of human behaviour in groups • Giddens (2001) – study of human social life, groups and societies
What is Sociology? Generally therefore Sociology is seen as the study of human behaviour in society. There is ongoing debate as to whether Sociology can be defined as a science – i. e. meeting the rigid requirements of science.
What is society? • Society is defined as one type of social organisation; • Society is a social organisation in which individuals interact with each other and in the process patterns of behaviour become acceptable and sustainable among them
What is society? • Society is a social system comprising interconnected and interrelated parts (sub systems) • Some suggest that society is a social organism similar to a biological organism in that there is a whole made up of different yet interconnected parts all working for the benefit of the whole.
What is society? • Linton, quoted in Chinoy (1954) – defined society as ‘any group of people who have worked together long enough to get themselves organised and think of themselves as a social unit with well-defined limits’.
What are beliefs? • Beliefs are systems of meaning around which culture is organised • Beliefs are practical • Statements that are held to be true • Beliefs motivate behaviour • Beliefs may integrate of divide societies
What are values? • Values are behaviours that the society considers valuable or important enough to hold dear • Talcott Parsons defined values as behaviours that society considers desirable and worthwhile; • Values influence the social conduct of members of society
What are norms? • Norms are behaviours that govern social action and which the majority of the members of society regards as proper, right and expected. • Norms lead to the standardisation of behaviour within any given society • Norms are an important form of social control
Norms • There are four types of norms: - Mores - Folkways - Taboos - Laws
What are mores? • Mores are norms that society considers vital for its survival; what is right and wrong, moral and immoral • Strongly sanctioned by society. Eg. Society insists on respect for human life. Therefore murder is harshly punished.
What are folkways? • Folkways are norms governing behaviour which the society considers acceptable but does not insist upon. Eg Using a spoon instead of a knife and fork at table; picking one’s nose in public • Folkways are relatively weak norms
What are taboos? • Taboos are behaviours that society finds revolting. Eg Incest;
What are laws? • Laws are norms that society considers sufficiently valuable that they are codified/formalised through the legislative process with specific formal sanctions/penalties to be imposed on those who break them. Eg Praedial larceny
What are social institutions? • Parsons: Social Institutions are ‘normative patterns which define what are felt to be proper, legitimate or expected modes of action of social relationships’ • Eg. Family, religion, education, economy, political subsystem, legal subsystem, mass media.
What is social structure? • Social structure refers to the framework of a society • The patterns around which society is organised
What is culture? • ‘The culture of a society is the way of life of its members; the collection of ideas and habits which they learn, share and transmit from generation to generation’ – Ralph Linton (1954)
What is culture? • ‘Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, art, belief, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities acquired by man as a member of society’ – Tylor (1954)
What is culture? • Culture is learnt • Culture is intangible • Culture is shared • Culture is transmitted through successive generations • Culture is symbolic • Culture changes over time and place
What is a sub culture? • A sub culture is the way of life of a segment of society that differs from that of the majority of the members of the society. • Sub cultures are a reality in any given society • Eg. The Rastafarians constitute a sub culture in Jamaican society. The seek to live in a manner that distinguishes them from the rest of the society. They have their own beliefs, values and norms.
What is socialisation? • Socialisation is the process by which the culture of a society are transmitted through to successive generations
The agents of socialisation? • The Agents of Socialisation are: - Family - Peer Group - School - Religion/Church - Mass Media
Types of socialisation? • Formal socialisation – deliberate • Informal socialisation – unconscious • Primary socialisation – the individual and primary relations – Family • Secondary socialisation - the individual and secondary relations – the school; peer group • Tertiary socialisation – the work force and tertiary education
Status • Status refers to the social honour/social respect accorded to an individual in society. Ascribed status – allocated at birth; has nothing to do with the individual per se Achieved status – allocated based on the performance/achievement of the individual
Roles • Roles are the behaviours, obligations and privileges associated with a status essentially defining the way an individual is expected to behave in given situations. • Father, mother, teacher, preacher are some of the roles in society
Roles • Role Conflict refers to situations where an individual having more than one status in society finds him/herself performing different roles. • Role Strain refers to situations where an individual comes under pressure because of the demands of different roles attached to one status
Groups • Groups are ‘two or more persons linked by ties of mutual dependence and by a set of norms prescribing expected ways of behaving toward each other’ Study Guide • Groups are individuals who share a sense of common identity and belonging
Types of Groups • Primary Group – ‘we’ - Family, close friends, peer group • Secondary Group – larger, anonymous, impersonal • In-Group – Members have strong sense of loyalty • Out-Group – A group to which one feels a sense of antagonism • Reference Group –used as a standard for comparison
Community • Community refers to a cluster of people – individuals, homes, places of work. • A set of primary and secondary groups responding to the basic needs of its members
Gemeinschaft (Community) • Ferdinand Tonnies defined Gemeinschaft as a society in which the majority of social relationships established are based on personal ties of friendship and kinship
Gesellschaft (Association) • Tonnies defined Gesellschaft as a society where the dominant social relationships are based on formal, impersonal and specialised
Sociology and Psychology • Psychology deals with the individual personality – how the mind is shaped and works. • It offers explanations of emotions, thoughts, beliefs and actions from the vantage point of the individual
Sociology and Political Science • Political science deals with the allocation of resources in society – who gets what; • Political science relates to the power relations in society; what kinds of power ; how it is distributed • Sociology investigates the relationship between political structure and social life/behaviour
Sociology and History • History focuses on individual contributions and causes of events within specific social context • Sociology seeks explanations for the way social life has changed through time
Sociology and Economics • Economics examines production, distribution, trade, consumption patterns and the social institutions that organise these in society • Addresses wealth creation; poverty • Sociology examines the impact of the economy on social behaviour in society
Sociology and Social Work • Social Work focuses on micro issues – how one individual relates to another; • Focuses on resolving social problems – behavioural change; social reform • Sociology provides the information – causes of behaviour – that is used by social workers
Sociology and Anthropology • Anthropology focuses on simpler societies; adopts a holistic view as opposed to sociology’s focus on social institutions
Sociology and Demography • Demography refers to the study of population; its movement; trends etc • Sociology utilises the data to determine the causes of the relationships established in the society
Sociological Imagination C Wright Mills coined the concept of the Sociological Imagination • Historical Sensibility – reviewing what has gone before; reviewing the changes in society through the ages
Sociological Imagination • Anthropological Insight – reviewing our perception of life today as being superior to what obtained before; • Realisation of the diversity of human behaviour
Sociological Imagination • Critical of the present – ‘be conscious of alternative futures that are potentially open to us’ •