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Published on April 14, 2008

Author: Mahugani

Source: authorstream.com

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Chapter 1 :  Chapter 1 Taking a New Look at a Familiar World What is sociology?:  What is sociology? Particularly in the US, we have a marked tendency to rely on individualistic explanations, attributing people’s achievements and failures to their personal qualities. Sociology teaches us to examine broader societal characteristics and trends, because these external factors often exert more influence on the circumstances of our day-to-day lives than our “internal” qualities. Slide3:  Think about “individual problems” such as break-up of relationship, loss of job, credit-card debt What are some of the possible individual causes of losing one’s job? If we now examine this phenomenon within a societal context, what are some other possible explanations? Contrasting fields: Biologists and psychologists focus on processes within the individual, while sociologists study what goes on among people as individuals, groups and societies.:  Contrasting fields: Biologists and psychologists focus on processes within the individual, while sociologists study what goes on among people as individuals, groups and societies. Biology – focuses on innate characteristics (genetics, bio-chemical explanations etc). Psychology – focuses on personal characteristics (the mind) Sociology – systematic study of human interaction within the larger society For example, how might research on alcohol-use differ between these three disciplines?:  For example, how might research on alcohol-use differ between these three disciplines? Biology: Psychology: Sociology: Slide6:  Everyday social life—our thoughts, actions, feelings, decisions, interactions, and so on—is the product of a complex interplay between societal forces and personal characteristics. To explain why people are the way they are or do the things they do, we must understand the interpersonal, historical, cultural, organizational, and global environments they inhabit. To understand either individuals or society, we must understand both (C. W. Mills, 1959). How would your life be different if you had been born 50 years ago? 100 years ago? C. Wright Mills (1916-1962): The Sociological Imagination:  C. Wright Mills (1916-1962): The Sociological Imagination The sociological imagination – the ability to see the impact of massive cultural and historical processes on our private lives. The sociological imagination allows us to recognize that the solutions to many of our most serious social problems lie not in changing the personal situations and characteristics of individual people but in changing the social institutions and roles available to them. Emile Durkheim (1858-1917):  Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) Classic sociological work entitled Suicide, published in 1897 Compared statistics and historical data across different groups What is this method of analysis called? If suicide is an “individual”-based act, rates would be fairly constant across time and place, however, this is not the case Several types of suicide::  Several types of suicide: Egoistic Altruistic Anomic Egoistic suicide:  Egoistic suicide Durkheim found that suicide rates were: Higher among widowed, divorced, or single people than among married people Higher among people without children than among parents Higher among Protestants than among Catholics Concluded that when ties to group, family, or community are weak, people may feel disconnected – lack social support Altruistic Suicide:  Altruistic Suicide When ties to one’s community are too strong, individuality may be overshadowed Examples may be found in “greedy” group sects In circumstances where community or family needs are considered far superior to needs of individual Anomic suicide:  Anomic suicide Conditions around which people organize their lives dramatically change (economic depressions, wars, famines etc.) May result in sense of hopelessness and despair Suicide rates among young African Americans:  Suicide rates among young African Americans Doubled in the second half of the 1990s Potential individual-based influences Growing sense of hopelessness Reluctance to open up about mental health issues Broader social factors More and more black families moving into middle class Increased pressure to succeed Black teenagers who commit suicide more likely to come from higher socioeconomic backgrounds Suicide rates among young African Americans:  Rate has dropped over last few years. Can you think of a sociological reason to account for this trend? Suicide rates among young African Americans Slide16:  Recall the guiding theme for text: Everyday social life—our thoughts, actions, feelings, decisions, interactions, and so on—is the product of a complex interplay between societal forces and personal characteristics. To explain why people are the way they are or do the things they do, we must understand the interpersonal, historical, cultural, organizational, and global environments they inhabit. To understand either individuals or society, we must understand both (C. W. Mills, 1959).

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