Chapter 4 (L. Xu)

Estimated Reading Time 00:06:08

Notes by Lance Xu

SOC103: Chapter 4 Culture

-culture: Our uniquely human environment. It includes all of the objects, artifacts, institutions, organizations, ideas and beliefs that make up the social environment of human life

-cultural differences more distinct in rural areas than urban

organizational culture: the way an organization has learned to deal with its environment; it includes norms and values that are subculturally distinct to the organization

-human behaviour not genetic or inborn, changes due to environment, experiences and over different generations

-cultural universals: athletic sports/competitions, bodily adornment, cooking, dancing, funeral ceremonies, gift giving, and language.

-even cultural universals vary greatly, only real universal is culture itself

Functionalism (Durkheim)

-culture integrative role in society, organizes behaviour

-look to culture to explain consensus and stability

-civic culture (culture of participating in social and political life by citizens) crucial for survival of democracy

-culture creates stability and solidarity, arises out of social structure

-importance of education has emerged in modern society because to function correctly, it needs highly educated individuals

Critical Theory (Marx)

-focus on group differences in power and belief

-one group approves and another opposes certain behaviours causing conflict (ex recreational drug use)

-“general” values often work to benefit some people at expense of others

-material/economic relationships (social classes) shape culture

-view culture as part of conflictual nature of society and view it as helping powerful social groups to maintain their dominance

Symbolic Interactionism

-dramaturgical perspective, see culture through a microsociological lens

-culture arises out of face to face use of symbols, values and norms during everyday interaction

-culture also shows itself in the decisions we make in choosing to communicate or not, what we say or don’t say, and what we keep secret and what we reveal

-instead of controlling them (as in functionalism and critical theories approaches), culture is changed by participating individuals

Cultural studies perspective

looked at how subcultural groups lay claim to elements of the dominant culture and redined them through alternative meanings or ideas and thus shaped their own cultures outside the dominant environment

-argues that culture is shaped by dominant groups, but unlike critical theorists, they maintain that divisions are not just economic but also based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and geography

-dominant groups encode information in cultural products such as mass media

Production of cultural perspective

-origin of culture in material culture (the physical and technological aspects of people’s lives, including all the physical objects that members of a culture create and use)

-focuses on the production of culture rather than the effects of culture

non material culture: people’s values, beliefs, philosophies, conventions and ideologies, the aspects of a culture that do not have a physical existence

Language – A key cultural realm

-symbolic interactionists interested in how people work out patterns of action/communication

-functionalists interested in the ways different subgroups develop their own language to express unique concerns

-feminist sociologists interested in way which culture, through language, shapes our perception of reality (use of masculine words like chairman, policeman etc, illustrates gender inequality, discourages women from filling these roles)

-language is means by which achievements of generations are passed on to the next, like tools of memory

-different languages provide people with different tolls to organize and interpret reality, making cultural assimiliation difficult

-globalization could lead to loss of indigenous languages and cultures, creating a universal culture

Protestant ethic and Spirit of capitalism (Max Weber)

­-protestant ethic encouraged people to develop enterprises and engage in trade, resulting in the development of capitalism in the West

-Both arose in same place at same time, 16th to 17th century Europe

-Protestant religion viewed worldly concerns such as wealth, profit through investing money as acceptable and righteous

-however rise of capitalism also due to rise of international commerce, invention of mechanized production and development of European nation states

-therefore the theory is incomplete, as the protestant religion is only one of many factors leading to the rise of capitalism

Importance of values; the case of religion

-secularization resulted in organized religion playing a less important part in Canadian social life

-many sociologists (such as functionalists, feminists) see religion as a lesser important social factor than factors such as economic class or patriarchal values

-Max Weber: religion concerned with questions of ultimate importance, has consequences on economic and social realms

-Durkheim: religion tends to include all beliefs and rituals that create intense social bonding or involve the use of ritual objects

Cultural Integration, Ethnocentrisms and the Mass Media

-Durkheim – religious/cultural values server to forge strong social bonds between members of society

-small-scale tightly knit and interrelated societies- people’s value and experiences similar, changes in culture rare and brought about changes in other elements of culture

-modern societies – variety in people’s lives, technology and marketplace always changing culture and people’s lives

Ideal culture: that aspect of culture that lives only in people’s minds, the set of values people claim to believe in, profess openly, hold up for worship and adoration

Cultural integration: the process whereby parts of a culture (for example, ideal culture and real culture) come to fit together and complement one another

Ethnocentrism: the tendency to use one’s own culture as a basis for evaluating other cultures

-mass media an important source of cultural integration and a way to avoid ethnocentrism

Classic studies: theory of leisure class (veblen)

-shift of society based on raw materials to one centered on information

-critiqued modern western society, especially bourgeoisie, for wasteful consumption of time and goods

-foreshadowed the growing culture of consumption which would characterize the 20th century

Habitus: ability to live properly and effectively within given culture

Social field: social setting, domain or institution within which the habitus is to be exercised (ex politics, education, economics)

Cultural Variation

-high culture: set of preferences tastes and norms that are characteristic of or supported by high status groups

-popular culture: culture of ordinary people

-cultural capital: body of knowledge and interpersonal skills that helps people to get ahead socially (usually learning and participating in high culture)

-popular culture is fragmented along age, sex and social class lines, reflects the influence of high culture

-Mass media and popular culture reflect trends in high culture, middle classes adopt cultural tastes and practices of upper class, upper classes adopt new practices to preserve their social distance

-people with higher cultural capital do better in life than those with lower cultural capital

-cultural capital unequally distributed in the population, based on personal experiences

Counter culture: subculture that rejects conventional norms and values and adopts alternative ones

Subculture: group that shares the cultural elements of the larger society but which also has its own distinctive values, beliefs, norms, style of dress and behaviour patterns

Cultural literacy: solid knowledge of the traditional culture, which contains the building blocks of all communication and learning


Cultural change

-cultures change, for example fashion and vocabulary changes


Canadian Culture

-Canadians less traditional and less elitist than Americans

-Some believe Canadian culture is collection of regional cultures

-studies find North American culture divided into 4 regions


-Culture both marco (exists above individual people, ex languages, institutions, material artifacts) and micro sociological (inside of us all, something that affects our behaviours and communications everyday)

-cultural environment radically different from one group to another (rich vs poor, atheist vs religious, Italian vs Inuit)

Chapter 3 (L. Xu)

Estimated Reading Time 00:03:36

Notes by Lance Xu

Chapter 3: Social Structures

-Social script: guidelines that people follow to carry out interactions and fulfill role expectations as seamlessly as possible

-people play a variety of roles, they influence our behaviour and define who we are

-the groups we belong to also have large influence (teams, bands, roles within groups)

-people in large organization often feel estranged from their jobs, size and methods of achieving goals are largely impersonal

Classic studies: Outsiders (Howard Becker)

-social groups create deviance by creating rules which constitute deviance and applying them to particular people and labeling them as outsiders

-deviance is a process, once labeled deviant people set themselves apart and develop subgroups with their own language and patterns of behaviour

-ex. Jazz musicians and marijuana users

Identity, Roles and Role Sets

Dramaturgical approach views social life and roles as scripted play

-different clothes and behaviours for different situations, deviation results in embarrassment and confusion

Role: expected behaviour of and individual in a social position and the duties associated with that position

Identity: the ways we view and describe ourselves (female, male, friend, student, etc)

-roles and identities related, roles shape our identities

-community: group of people who interact and communicate often with one another, share common interests, values and goals

-membership in community important to people, conform to rules to stay in community, fear expulsion or exclusion

-social communities are more important than demographic categories

-demographic categories can mobilize into a social community (woman’s/gays rights, black power movements)

-people often frustrated with social rules, however conform due to fear of punishment and/or for opportunities/rewards

Looking-glass self: process in which people come to see and value themselves as others see them

-role embracement: person willingly accepts role

-role distance: person takes on role but keeps separate their behaviour from the identity associated with that role

-role exit: process of leaving a role

-interactionist perspective – roles and identities not inborn, but socially determined

-role set: collection of roles an individual plays

-individuals, not societies control what roles they play

George Herbert Mead- people adopt roles (role taking) based on their motivations, the motivations of others around them and the society as a whole

Role-taking: process in which we take on existing defined roles

Symbol: the thing that stands for or represents something else and proves a means of communication

Role-making (Ralph Turner): process of creating new social roles in a through interaction

-problem with role making: new role may not be accepted by society, it must be widely known and generally accepted

Role conflicts and role strains

Role strains: result of role conflict, where the demands of some roles conflict with the demands of other roles

-prioritizing social role an important way to maintain social order

-compartmentalization: division of activities into categories or sections based on role (act differently around friends than parents)

Secrecy and Secret Societies (George simmel)

-people adhere to society’s rules to avoid exclusion or stigma, however everyone deviates or breaks rules from time to time

-“first world” is recognized world of socially acceptable activies

-“second world” includes hidden/secret deviant activities (sexual affairs, drug addictions etc)

Dryads Triads and small groups

-dryads (2 people/even number groups) agree easily or fall into hard to resolve conflict

-triads (3 people/odd number groups) take longer to agree, do not usually fall into hard to resolve conflicts

-voluntarism: our behaviour a clear reflection of our goals, values and intentions, our identities shape our interactions (sociologists do not agree with this view)

Teams Bands and gangs

-people join because they want to be members, not for pay cheque or credits

-defined membership, clear set of goals and main activities

-defined hierarchies, with leaders who motivate other members

Cliques, networks and small worlds

direct connection –friendship, acquaintance, kinship

-dyadic relationships: people exchange, as long as these relationships satisfy their needs they remain in the relationship (people constantly leaving or joining their social networks)

-cyberspace helping people to set up virtual networks, increasing information flow

-cliques: tightly interconnected people who ignore or exclude outsiders

-purpose is to raise status of clique members at expense of non-members


-knowledge and power control people by creating and enforcing social norms for human behaviour

-‘governmentality’ = regulation of people’s behaviour by themselves, others or the state

Chapter 2 (L. Xu)

Estimated Reading Time 00:04:43

Notes by Lance Xu

Chapter 2: Material Settings


-Demography: study of human populations – their growth and decline through births, deaths and immigration

-Thomas Malthus – Earth’s population may exceed carrying capacity one day, food increases linearly, population increases exponentially

-‘Checks’ could keep population growth in line with food supply, positive checks increase death rate (war, famine, pestilence and disease), preventive checks limit number of live births (abortion, infanticide, contraceptives, etc)

-need to use preventive checks to avoid positive checks


Critical theory

-People take actions that benefit themselves the most and support theories that justify their actions

-problems in poor countries not as a result of overpopulation but rather from an unfair and harmful distribution of the world’s resources

-historically famine not a significant positive check

-poverty often causes problems similar to those posed by overpopulation and also contribute to overpopulation

-zero population growth -> deaths = births, global strategy of survival

Urban Life


-social problems in city result of growth and specialization (more wealth = more robbery)

-characteristics of the city (size, variety, etc) that promote social disorganization, weak social controls and consequent deviance and distress

-rural life – members shared same experiences and developed similar values, norms and identity

-urban life – people interdependent on others for prosperity and survival

Critical Theory

-whose interests are served by the dominant groups in society and their ideology

-urban problems such as homelessness and poverty is caused by capitalism, power groups disinterested in helping lower class

Symbolic Interactionism

-how meanings and thought patterns affect environmental problems, and how they influence people’s perception of these problems

-environmental geography: study of the interactions between humans and their surrounding natural world, focusing on the human impact on the environment and vice versa

-what kind of claims make the greatest impact, and how they become a problem in the public’s eye

-also study how environmental polluters manipulate symbols to protect themselves from criticism (greenwashing – repackaging products as environmentally friendly)

Feminist Theory

questions prevailing capitalist celebration of increasing growth, unlimited resources and unregulated commerce

-ecofeminists link exploitation of marginalized groups (women) with exploitation of environment

Limits to growth

-World3 model; simulation of the next 100 years, showed that earth’s resources would be depleted or too expensive to buy

-possible to change this by reaching an equilibrium, using cutbacks in spending, buying and consuming, impossible to achieve at North American standards of living

Why demography?

-large population puts more pressure on natural environment, more likely to innovate or break into smaller populations, and large populations need the systematic production of food

-industrial, post agricultural societies don’t need large populations

-large populations dense and crowded, usually live in cities

-population growth resulted in urbanization

-large populations divide labour, resulting in different social roles for people with different skills and aptitudes

-composition of a population makes a difference, young predominantly male population = more disorder/deviance, evenly split population typical of a settled family community = less deviance

-age also a factor, old = high spending on medical care, young = high spending on education

Human capital: skill set, usually including educational attainment or job related experiences that enhances a worker’s value on the job; the result of forgone income and a long term investment in personal improvement

-healthy, long lived society likely to contain higher level of human capital and therefore higher productivity and increased prosperity

-population turnover both negative (undermines traditional culture and existing social networks) and positive (reinvigorates culture and introduces new social elements)

-Sudden rejuvenation of the population (baby boom) or dramatic aging (less childbearing) have huge effects on culture, politics and social institutions


Population Trends Reveal a Society’s History

Population composition: makeup or mix of different social types in a population (gender, age, etc)

Population pyramid: graphic depiction of the age-sex composition of a population

Cohort: set of people with common origin or starting point (birth cohort = same year of birth)

-can learn about societies and their histories by analyzing population composition, war = drop in men, baby boom = increase in children

-unequal male/female ratio result of gendercide

World Population

-1750-present world population increased dramatically

-growth starting to decline, lower fertility in developed countries

-proportion of people living in less developed countries > 80%

Risk society (Ulrich Beck)

-advancing technology posing serious risks to environment (ex BP oil spill, Chernobyl nuclear meltdown)

-people must assume both individual and social responsibilities for their actions

The Natural Environment

-people much more aware of natural environment than a generation ago, due to environmental movements

-humans rely on natural environment for their basic needs as well as luxuries

-water becoming valuable resource, demand for water growing, not evenly distributed


Human geography: systematic study of the location of human enterprises and characteristics (health, education, commerce and trade)

-historically people have lived close to sources of water, these people tend to have more interaction with different types of people, resulting in a more diverse culture

-different landscapes, environments and climates lead to different challenges, lifestyles and resources

Buildings and Cityscapes

-rise of cities coincide with rise of markets and states, could not come into being without systematic farming and agriculture

-constantly come into conflict with surrounding smaller rural communities


-more people live in cities than ever before, greatest urbanization in developing countries

-megacity: a geographic locale with a large concentrated population, sometimes defined as exceeding 5 million people

Bedroom suburb: residential area near a large city that provides housing and services for people who commute each day into the downtown urban area

Built Environments

-built environment puts huge pressure on the natural environment, North America use disproportionate share of the world’s energy and mineral resources due to high standard of living

Chapter 1 (L. Xu)

Estimated Reading Time 00:05:22

Notes by Lance Xu

SOC103 Chapter 1

Sociology: systematic study of behaviour or the study of society

Society: Largest scale human group whose members interact with one another, share a common geographic territory and share common institutions

-move social theorizing away from moral philosophy (ideas of blame, guilt, sin and wrongdoing)

-common sense not enough, sociologists use research and studies

-people rarely get what they deserve, status/money inherited, high class stay where they are and so do lower class

Macrosociology: study of social institutions and large social group

Microsociology: study of processes and patterns of personal interaction that take place within groups

Sociological imagination: approach to sociology that situates the personal experiences of individuals within the societal context in which these experience occur

Social institution: on kind of social structure, people use institutions to achieve their goals

Social role: expected pattern of interaction with others

Functional Theory

-views society as set of interconnected parts that work together to preserve the stability and efficiency of the whole

Robert Merton- social institutions perform both manifest (easily recognized) and latent (hidden) functions

-social problems = failure of institutions to fulfill their roles during periods of rapid change

Emil Durkheim – Anomie (strain) condition during times of rapid change, when social norms are weak or in conflict with oneanother

-best way to deal with social problems is to strengthen norms and slow pace of change

Critical Theory (Karl Marx)

-Focus on inequalities and unequal distribution of resources/power in society

-view society a collection of varied groups that struggle with one another to dominate society and its institutions

-reject functional theory; criticize their limited attention to power struggles

Bourgeoisie: elite owners of production (upper class)

Proletariat: working class

-solution to social problems = abolishing social classes, private ownership of means of production and economic inequality


Symbolic Interactionism

-Focuses on small group interactions, how behaviours are defined or framed and how people learn to engage in everyday activities.

-Labelling theory – any social problem is viewed as such simply because an influential group of people defines it so (e.g. marijuana vs cigarettes or alcohol)

-Interested in consequences of people being labelled as deviants or criminals (stigma)

Feminist Theories

-focus on gendering and gendered inequality (sometimes considered branch of critical theory)

-women forced to act out role that dominant (male) group have defined

-feminist movement – mid 19th to early 20th century

-different feminist theories have same goal (equality between sexes) but differ in ways to achieve goal

-interested in gendering of experiences, victimization of women and intersectionality (interaction of gender with other victimizing social characteristics like class and race)

Postmodern Theories

-Interested in unmasking ideologies that protect the dominant social order

-modernism holds view that science is key to improving social life

-postmodernists deny this approach, argue that knowledge is situation specific, deny universal knowledge and focus on local or particular insights

-postmodernists are fascinated by mass media and cultural production, as they frame and transmit conventional ideas about normality, gender class and science

-Emile Durkheim – research on suicide rates and causes, concludes that suicide is inversely correlated with an individual’s degree of integration into society (less integrated = more suicide prone)

Functions of Deviance and Conformity

-all societies allow a margin of tolerable or invisible deviance to go unpunished

-psychologists focus on individuals, sociologists look at societal causes of crime and deviance

-social control theory: normal people have deviant impulses, but have “stake in conformity” and are afraid of punishment

-rational choice theory: people are competing for desired social and economic resources, and are motivated to maximize their own welfare even if they have to break some rules

-rise of corporate crime in recent years as a result of failure of government regulation, lack of corporate self regulation and lack of public awareness

-crime and deviance are normal, found in all societies at all time periods, and serve important social functions

Functions of Conflict

-conflict increases social cohesion, cooperation and unity among people who share the same point of view

-people mutually interdependent, conflict unavoidable

Critical Theory

-Believe conflict focuses attention on social problems and brings people together to solve them (LGBT, women’s movement, trade unionism, etc)

-Dominant ideology justifies upper class’s power and authority, society does not rebel against class inequality because they are programmed to believe in values promoted by dominant ideology

Conflicts over Power and Authority

-power: the ability to get your own way or to force another person to do what you want

-authority: power that is exercised in a legitimate way, by people we deem to have the right to exercise it

-modernization is associated with rational authority rather than traditional

Modern Critical Theories

Marx – conflict arose from hierarchical relations of dominance and subordination (capitalists control means of production, workers form resistance groups i.e. unions)

Weber – conflict arises from horizontal relations of difference and mistrust, groups compete to seize and protect their resources

-conflict arises between groups with differing or opposing goals

-media blame young, minorities or poor however conflict exists among people of all types and ages


Stigma (Goffman)

-people conform the society’s norm to avoid stigmatization (ridicule, condemnation)

-in social interactions people try to present themselves as normal, and follow scripts for given situations

-passing: the act of hiding discreditable facts of one’s identity, to appear as normal as possible (difficult with things such as race or physical disability)

-covering: act of deflecting attention away from the stigma (sunglasses for blind man)

Key Ideas of Symbolic Interactionism

Social structures: enduring, predictable pattern of social relations among people in society, they control us so that we act in a certain way in a given situation despite personal differences and they change us so we behave differently in different situations despite our more or less fixed personalities, and they produce social change

1)     humans act toward things on a basis of the meanings that things have for them

2)     these meanins arise out of social interaction

3)     social interaction results from a fitting together of individual lines of action

Social constructionism

-any idea is an invention of a particular culture or society, some ideas considered true and compelling, others are not

-Herbert Mead – shared meanings make social interaction and cooperation possible

-Erving Goffman – society is a theatre where people compose and perform social scripts together, people hide and protect their true identities

-humans react not toe the physical objects or events but to the socially constructed meanings (rose = beautiful, cabbage = ugly)