Definitions: Starting Points Ch. 15-16

Estimated Reading Time: 00:01:39

Chapter 15: Politics and Ideologies

Politics: the processes by which individuals and groups act to promote their interests

Citizens: people who belong to a state. Citizenship developed out of the relative freedom of city life, granting equal treatment for all residents.

State: the set of institutions with authority to make the rules that govern a society. Weber wrote that the state “claims a monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory”.

Ideologies: coherent sets of interrelated beliefs about the nature of the world that imply or demand certain courses of political, social, or economic action.
(Compare with ideology in Chapter 16)

Power: according to Weber, “the ability of persons or groups to achieve their objectives, even when opposed”. Said another way, power is the capacity to compel people to act in certain ways, and politics is the process by wich people gain and exercise this power.

Authority: power that is considered legitimate by the people who are subject to it.

Propaganda: mass communication whose purpose is to influence people’s political opinions and actions.

Civil liberties: freedoms that protect the individual against government. These include freedom of speech, assembly, and movement, and freedom of the press.

Civil rights: rights we consider all people deserve under all circumstances, without regard to race, ethnicity, age, sex, or other personal qualities.

Chapter 16: Social Movements and Voluntary Associations

Voluntary association: a group formed by voluntary membership. Unlike other voluntary associations, social movements usually have a political goal.

Social movements: organized groups of people with an agenda or plan for social change, to be achieved through agitation and political pressure.

Ideology: a strategy, program, or point of view that justifies the goals and strategies of the movement: for example, it may justify demands for gender equality.
(Compare with ideologies in Chapter 15)

Counter-ideology: an ideology that supports alternative social values and challenges the dominant ideology.

Dominant ideology: an ideology that supports the status quo and the interests of the ruling class.

Week 11: Starting Points Ch. 16

Estimated Reading Time 00:18:25

Starting Points

Chapter 16
Social Movements and Voluntary Associations

Teppy seems really focused and concise-ish in all previous chapters but now he started to ramble a little bit. That, or maybe I’m just not concentrating as well. Anyway, a long and long-winded chapter.

Governments are not the only source of social order. We also form smaller groups within society. We would choose to associate with voluntary associations voluntarily (bad sentence, I know). When voluntary associates aim to produce change, we call them social movements.

Was our evolution a mistake? By gaining intelligence, do we really make the world into a better place? Are we evolving or devolving?
(The textbook has a marvellous quote from The Hitchhiker’s Guide, it’s not something that can easily be topped, but here’s another quote that I like.)

In my opinion, it [Life] is a highly overrated phenomenon. Mars gets on perfectly without so much as a microorganism. See: there’s the south pole beneath us now… No life. No life at all, but giant steps, ninety feet high, scoured by dust and wind into a constantly changing topographical map, flowing and shifting around the pole in ripples ten thousand years wide. Tell me… would it be greatly improved by an oil pipeline?

-Doctor Manhattan, Watchmen

We invented cultures, built societies, discovered science, pushed technology to its limits. We have created structure and order — we have used social norms and written laws to grant our actions stability and predictability.

While some norms remain, others change. We can change society without destroying the social order. We often work together to bring about changes. Voluntary associations and social movements have helped to shape the society we live in today.

Interdependence: The Real State of Nature

One of the fundamental features of social life is interdependence. We share common goals, common dangers, common friends, common enemies. We benefit from cooperation.
e.g. The market is a complex network formed by dyadic relationships. Market need regulation (repeated 3 times in two paragraphs — Teppy is a Keynesian).
e.g. The Internet is like an information market.

We are embedded in large social networks, and many of these networks are interconnected. As a result, we live in a “small world”. — Six degrees of separation, with “sociometric stars”.
We can choose who we associate with, but not the people who we associate with associate with. We only have limited control of our social network.

Classic Studies: Improvised News: A Sociological Study of Rumour

(Kind of a functionalist approach.)

Rumours are often the medium by which ordinary people express political views, construct images of reality, and show their social solidarity.

Tamotsu (Tom) Shibutani called rumours “improvised news”. Shibutani (1966) showed in his book that rumours travel through existing networks and provide a basis for sociability among people. The information they convey may be distorted by they always carry important social truths.

Gordon Allport and Leo Postman (1947) first characterized rumour as pathology. They simulated the children’s game “broken telephone” in a lab. They defined rumours as a “circulating supposition or belief without secure standards or evidence.” The movement of information from one person to another tends to distort the message.

But can you really emulate rumours in a lab? Meanings and motives are lost.

There are many important respects in which a psychology laboratory at, say, the University of British Columbia, is not like an Aboriginal community in the Yukon, for example. (If you remember nothing else from this book, please remember the previous sentence, for it calls attention to a key distinction between psychology and sociology).


Shibutani’s analysis of rumours focused on ordinary people in natural communities. Studied Japanese-American relocation centre and noted how an interned population made sense of its situation. Shibutani sees rumour as a social information to clarify issues of common concern through repeated interaction and discussion. Rumour formation is problem-solving.

Shibutani points out that you typically get rumour when unusual, unexpected events occur, and the normally reliable channels of communication break down. Then, people turn to others — often opinion leaders — for information.

Much of life is ambiguous, so we need to speculate — form rumours. Many important informations have to be made with inexact information, this understanding of collective decision making is widely applicable.

There are five roles to perform:
5.Decision Maker
In the process of turning alleged facts into information, some opinions are challenged, rejected, while others are retained. This continues until the group reaches a satisfactory interpretation of situation.
Contrary to Allport and Postman’s view that rumours are increasingly distorted, Shibutani shows that rumour collaboratively gain accuracy and provide more stability.

Rumours spread within existing social networks. People don’t spread rumours indiscriminately, to whoever they see. Rumour spreads through a series of interpersonal communications, until they eventually reach the outskirts of the communication network.
Rumour is a powerful method of communication with the potential to strengthen and increase solidarity of networks.

Knopf (1975) said maybe Shibutani should have based his analysis on more rumours, instead of just the 471 rumours he had.
Meyersohn (1969) said that the model is too simplistic.

Shibutani’s work is the first review on the topic of rumours and provided good insight. Shibutani offered a positive image of human beings whereas Allport offered a negative one.

Voluntary Associations and Sociability

voluntary associations address a variety of concerns, include alumni associations, frats, book clubs, etc etc. All these groups draw on familiarity among members — and sometimes intimacy, trust, and similarity.

These voluntary associations — though often aimed at solving a particular problem — are rooted in sociability, and some consider it a natural human impulse. Johan Huizinga (1955), a philosopher, spoke of humanity as “homo ludens” — we all want to play!
Play is freedom itself; play is a departure from “ordinary”; and play occupies its own time and space. Every society has play — even animals have play.
(I’m an animal, with an animal’s desires.)

Why is playing with others so fun? Different people bring different qualities and personalities to the event. We are all different and unique and that’s what makes life beautiful!
Georg Simmel points out, though, that play follows social forms and social norms (tact). e.g. Fashion. Otherwise, there is no real connection between people and we end up all playing with ourselves.
Play is not meant to be psychodrama. (The greatest tennis players, for example, are able to separate themselves from worldly concerns and simply focus on hitting the ball. Movements and shot placement become instinctive. This state of zen-like concentration is referred to as “the zone”, and is a goal for many aspiring tennis players of which I used to be one. Until I came to U of T that is. Sigh. UofT give me my life back.)

The Benefits of Voluntary Associations

Voluntary associations not only provide sociability but also bring together a diverse group of people for a common cause. Very different people can often meet voluntarily as equals. It’s great. Côté and Erickson said they are “schools for democracy”.

But voluntary associations have an unpredictable effect on social tolerance. e.g. Members of environmental groups tend to be less racist. Members of sports teams (which, broadly speaking, favour antagonism; I have nothing against sports) tend to be more racist. Labour unions are sensitive to the economy and so tend to be less tolerant too.

Familiarity is good, but trust and liking would promote tolerance even better.
Trust is the set of socially learned and socially confirmed expectations of others. We trust different people to different degrees, in different ways. In general though, trust is limited and conditional. Unconditional trust is rare and sometimes foolhardy. Trust arises in groups through reward and sanctions.

Often trust arises through connection (through “vouching”) as well as familiarity. If I don’t know you but my friend says you are trustworthy, I will trust you.

People Control One Another Informally

We want good opinion of others. Our sense of guilt or shame is based on childhood learning of the views of the “generalized other” of George Herbert Mead. Informal social control — based upon shame, guilt, gossip, rumour, and threatened rejection — is inexpensive and almost impossible to see. It punishes the rule-breaker, silently rewards the conformist with esteem, trust, and cooperation. It’s so much more effective than jailing.

Informal punishments has been an old topic under study. Some believe that control and conformity can be explained in solely individual terms, but others believe that altruistic rewards and punishments allow for better survival. Not to be a downer, but altruism is hard to find nowadays. 😦
By default then, it is easiest to explain conformity as a reaction to social control and a self-interest obedience of social rules.

“Social control” is a concept that identifies a new realm for discussing order and regulation. Social control is “control by society or social relations. It is different from military control, police control, or legal control. This concept makes civil society equally important as the state (discussed by Hobbes) and the economy (discussed by Marx).

Social control addresses two key questions: 1. Why/how is social order achieved? 2. Why does social inequality exist (and persist)?

Sociological theories, like those of George Homans, provide us with deeper insight into group influences. Especially into the ways in which groups protect themselves against deviant activities and deviant identities. Basically people reward wanted behaviour and withhold rewards for unwanted behaviour.

Classic Studies: The Civilizing Process

Formal and informal controls work together to bring about social changes. Norbert Elias wrote a book about formal/informal controls and good manners in The Civilizing Process. It’s a book in two volumes: The History of Manner and Power and Civility.

Elias shows that polite manners and state government develop together. Good manners began with the aristocracy and spread to the bourgeoisie. The middle class always wants to emulate the upper class.

Good manners is a repression of “natural” drives. Increasingly people use utensils when eating, go out of public sight when defecating, or make out and have sex in private. So politeness and shame is closely interrelated. People show their classiness through elegant manners and a knowledge of etiquette.
Good manners coincide with the rise of a strong state since it is through the rise of this state that a national, official culture develops. Regional variations are less socially acceptable. Which is why Parisians and Londoners are so proud of their accents.

As states (e.g. ruled by kings) become more stable, citizens are increasingly expected to regulate their own behaviour. Norms become widespread and people are obliged to act in socially accepted ways.

Seigel asks: how do you know if the people in 14-18th century Europe actually followed manners? Have you been there Elias? Also this work only looked at European manners.
Bullough says that this is bullocks. Elias ignores variables such as emerging concept of privacy, changing status of women, etc.

This work is still important though. It is the first to look at manners through a sociological lens. The work also showed a clear linkage “between microsociological and macrosociological realms of society” — e.g. between formal and informal control.
So we are coerced and controlled both by the army and by ridicule.


Sociologists have different approaches for social movements and voluntary associations: breakdown approach, resource mobilization approach, cultural approach, and political process approach.

Breakdown approach
Breakdown approach builds on Émile Durkheim (and so it’s functionalist). These theorists argue that social movements form when rapid and widespread changes in society weaken social bonds. Social movements, therefore, signify social disintegration.

Relative deprivation theory is a related functionalist approach. It argues that people form protests when they think they don’t have enough, even though people a couple generations ago have had less.
But three kinds of critique was levelled at relative deprivation theory and functionalism:

  1. It is not always only the most disadvantaged members of society who are frustrated and fight for social change. Members of middle and upper classes are more likely to lead revolutions. Like the Bolsheviks.
  2. Not all societies that experience deprivation fight for change through revolution.
  3. The relative deprivation theory is an ideology, reducing dissatisfaction and oppression into trivial symptoms of discontent.

Systemic theory is another functionalist theory. It focuses not on individuals but on society. It argues that although many individuals feel frustrated, their frustration is only effective when they mobilize as a group.

Critical theorists critique the breakdown approach: social conflict is natural, not pathological. Social movements are organization rather than disorganization. Most movements are not spontaneous, childish outburst of frustration but organizations with rational goals and plans.

Behind this mask there is more than just flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea… and ideas are bulletproof.

-V, V for Vendetta

Resource Mobilization Approach
Resource mobilization theorists believe protest organizations are much like many other organizations, and just as helpful. Social movements try to spread their counter-ideology. Resource mobilization theorists say that there will always be dissatisfied people — the question should be “why aren’t people protesting all the time?”
Resource availability determines the formation and actions of social movement, not goals and motivations.

To succeed, protestors much have at least one of the following:
-economic power: control over production; or at least money
-political power: control over legitimate use of violence (e.g. police or military)
-ideological power: the ability to spread ideologies through schools, churches, etc etc. The ability to propaganda.
These protest organizations are built on social networks.

There are two different approaches to how resource is mobilized: the utilitarian perspective and the political conflict theory.
The utilitarian perspective assumes that individuals join social movements for their own interests. But then again social incentives as well as peer pressure may cause people to join too.
The political conflict theory highlights how social classes promote the interests of their members through social movements. The most important conditions for success are social ties between members, influential contacts, and available resources.

Cultural Approach
Cultural approach stresses the importance of values and beliefs. People don’t react to social situations per se, but to their interpretation of these situations. There are the new social movements (NSM) approach and framing theory.

NSMs approach arose in Europe, and argues that after structural changes in the West, new identities aren’t based on class anymore. Instead, they have given rise to “identity politics” — a substitute for class-based politics. These identity-based groups fight for equity, dignity, and cultural recognition, as much as for economic justice.
“There is no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” -Pierre Trudeau, 1967

Framing theory emerged in North America, and criticized resource mobilization theory for its lack of attention to culture. They are inspired by the symbolic interactionists and is interested in how people develop and communicate cultural goals in a social movement. This communication of goals results in frame alignment.


  • breakdown approach: social movements signify social disintegration.
    • relative deprivation theory: people expect too much.
    • systemic theory: frustration is only effective en masse
  • resource mobilization approach: spreading of counter-ideology is good
    • utilitarian perspective: people join movements to further their own goals
    • political conflict theory: social classes promote their own goals in movements
  • cultural approach: people don’t react to social situations but rather to their interpretation of social situations
    • new social movements approach: identity politics, not based on class
    • framing theory: interested in how people develop and communicate cultural goals in movements
  • political process approach [not discussed in depth at all]

Classic Studies: Symbolic Crusade

By Joseph Gusfield. He wrote about the 18th Amendment to the Constitution — the one banning alcohol from USA in the 1920s – 1930s. But of course when you try to stop people from drinking it doesn’t work. This is when the arcane art of moonshining was developed.

Gusfield outlines the role of Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) — a voluntary association — in promoting this “troubled, ineffective, and short-lived legislation” (sic). From 1874 onward they tried to educate people about the dangers of alcohol, and gain support from women with alcoholic (and probably abusive) husbands.

But this fight against alcohol is about more than just alcohol. It has a symbolic meaning: it is seeking affirmation that sobriety is a key value to the American society. In the 1870s, industrialization, urbanization, and immigration after the civil war all threatened traditional WASP lifestyle.

As their efforts become less effective, the WCTU turned to more coercive legislations. This was status warfare.


Continuing from page 470:
So yeah, Gusfield is a pretty cool guy with alternative viewpoints. His approach viewed social movements as conscious efforts, not merely as symptoms of a disorganized society. Kk I’m done here.

Changing Causes of Social Movement Formation

As society evolves, so does social movements. In 18th and 19th centuries most social movements were organized poorly. They lack resources and are obstructed by pre-industrial communication. So these movements are mainly local.

In the early 20th century, social movements became organized by division of labour. These movements — e.g. worker’s unions — fought for economic equality, suffrage, and redistribution of wealth. These early social movements invented new and more effective ways of protest, such as mass demonstrations, blockades, boycotts, sit-ins, and strikes.

The second half of 20th century saw the rise of new social movements (NSMs). They fought for the rights of blacks, women, LGBTQ, etc etc. They are the champions of human rights.

Kitschelt (1993) said that social movements became more active over the past few centuries. With movements becoming more complex and more focused on societal (and not local) issues. But rate of increase is not uniform and there are fluctuations.

Social movements are more likely to form when public demands are unsatisfied. This momentum lessens when resources become scarce, members become disengaged, or the issue at hand received more attention by political parties. If a social movement gains enough support, it may turn into a political party. e.g. Green Party of Canada.

Social Movements in a Globalized World

Information technology enlarges social movements and increases their complexities. But then the stakes are higher and the leadership needs to be stronger.


The willy-nilly Tilly studied social movements in Europe since 1500. He studied over 8000 “contentious gatherings” in 1758-1834 Britain. He said that social movements have their beginnings in specific events. What are these specific events? The textbook doesn’t say.

As Western culture spread through trade, colonialism, and migration, the tendency for people to form social movements spread as well. Particularly in democratic states. Tilly claimed that successful social movements can aid political causes.

Carlo Ruzzo said of Tilly: Tilly thinks that structural political conflict is based on social relations, and not people’s inherent psychological tendencies.

Tilly thinks that the job of sociologists is to trace the “logic of violence” in the mobilization of social change.

Stanley (2009) advocates the approach of following narrative inquiry. Stanley said that analysis should place the stories in the context of contemporary large-scale issues, and look beyond the storyteller’s own version of the causes and effects in the narrative.
(Basically, don’t take gossip as it is.)

Sakai (2009) follow’s Tilly’s model in analyzing trans-generational narratives. Studied stories of Northern Ireland people after WWII. Sakai finds that storytellers reinterpret their own lives through the experiences of their parents.

Green and Ward (2009) agree that the “logic of violence” is evident in Iraq following the 2003 invasion. Do you know that in unstable states the black market is as economically important as legal ones?

Pallister-Wilkins (2009) looks at activism surrounding the building of West Bank barrier wall between Israeli and Palestinian territories. Activists from both sides don’t want the wall to be built. Palestinians because this is a threat to the well-being of their communities. Israelis because they think people need not feel oppressed to act against perceived injustice.

Hockey, Meah, and Robinson (2009) look at sex lives of young adults in WWII. In stressful times people are having premarital sex! Neither individualistic approach nor the group approach can provide a satisfactory answer. It shows that people can uphold social conventions at a collective level but flout them on a personal level.

Tilly belongs to the fusion approach.

New Insights

Teppy quotes a poem. Aww how nice. In my beginning is my end.

And The Words of the Prophets Are Written on a Subway Wall
Roberge (2009) write about Jeffery Alexander’s cultural sociology, and notes how present-day societies are “ritual-like”.

Man Is Defined by Actions, Not by Words
Gustavsen (2008) notes that action-research — research aimed at informing and promoting change — exists in many varieties and domains. It is dedicated to success.

Sarah Wakefield looked at the “food movement”. Building on the Frankfurt critical theory, she uses the term PRAXISSSSSSSSS to describe how people live out their beliefs. These approaches contribute to the quest for freedom, basis of critical theory.

CMS Sounds Like PMS
In organizational management, there is “critical management studies” (CMS). Willmott (2008) asks: what’s the point of CMS? (I wonder too). It is important to include developing connections between CMS and activists. These goals of committing business to social justice are interrelated and require supranational cooperation.
(It still doesn’t really tell you what CMS is…)

In the State We Trust
Ross (2008) says we shouldn’t rely too heavily on civil society and too little on the state in bring about social changes. “Anti-statism” and anarchy is not very good.

Get Off Your Arses and Do Work
Sukhov (2008) says that despite concerns about political issues, significant factors lead people to deter taking action. These causes include:
-Underdeveloped capacity for independent moral judgement
-Connection to others who are already involved in addressing the problem
-Their own previous involvement
Many of the behaviours of respondents may appear non-rational.

Freedom Soars Like a Hawk
Critical theorists such as Soares (2007) says that postmodernism is the new face of imperialism. It doesn’t reprimand society for the social ills capitalism causes.

Week 10 – Starting Points Ch. 15

Estimated Reading Time 00:16:25

Starting Points

Chapter 15
Politics and Ideologies

Political sociology ≠ political science. Sociologists study how power is converted into authority.

Canadian politics has been messy prior to 2009, before Stephen Harper’s majority government. Campaigns focused on dividing Canadians rather than uniting. How can politicians win back the trust of citizens? How can Canadians regain interest in the state?


Barrington Moore (critical theorist), Talcott Parsons (functionalist), Seymour Martin Lipset (functionalist), and George Homans (functionalist) are some important people.

Talcott Parsons is a leading functionalist. Wrote about politics in his book The Social System. Argues that families, small groups, large organizations, empires, etc. all have a political process — the goal attainment function — which is not so much tyrannical as functional. (Well, he’s a functionalist). These social systems need this function to survive.

Parsons is being philosophical rather than quantitative. But what he’s saying makes sense. Politics is everywhere. You think you can buy a cup of coffee without invoking politics? Think again.

Seymour Martin Lipset’s book Political Man is more quantitative. Deals with questions like “what social conditions and processes promote democracy?” It’s so political, man!

Michael Adams of Environics (a public polling firm) is well known for his many books of political commentary and analysis including Sex in the Snow and American Back Lash.
(“Political commentary”? …Yeah right.)
His beliefs are like Lipset’s. What are his lips set on?

George Homans is a functionalist who focuses more on the microstructure of politics. Homans studies humans and wrote The Human Group. Responsible for social exchange theory. Showed that small groups rule themselves through informal control — “small group politics”. These control include exclusion or ridicule towards anyone who deviates too much. Homans looked for the payoff — why people value such self government in small groups. In this sense he’s not unlike Erving Goffman.

Functionalists are all nice and cool but we’re gonna be critical. Here comes Barrington Moore. Essentially his argument runs as follows:
During modernization, if the majority is:
-middle class, you will get democracy.
-peasant/proletarian class, you will get communism
-traditional ruling class, you will get fascism.

Classic Studies: The First New Nation

What distinguishes the Canadian society and what role does politics play? Lipset compares US and Canada and tells us the answer in The First New Nation. What he’s really interested in was in the US but hey, at least he talks about Canada!

Lipset compares US to Canada, Australia and the UK and found several important US features. US is the only one to have a revolutionary war. It is founded on a contradiction: the contradiction between equality and achievement. Indeed both values are equally present and both were, in a sense, born in the American revolution.

The American Revolution came to symbolize the birth of the world’s “first new nation”.
(With the then young, vibrant humanist idea that all (hu)man are born equal. Until the fall of the US dollar of course. The privatization of the Fed Reserve paved the way to manipulation.)
Religions and the labour movement were both important driving forces. Religious fervour stimulated morality, and trade union movements stimulated class awareness and moved the American society into a more egalitarian one.

In comparison, UK is super elitist. Those British snobs. Canada is pretty elitist too and as a result don’t put much emphasis on equality of opportunity. Australia, on the other hand, is more egalitarian but with less populist politics (because it never had a revolution).
Elitism ranking: UK > Canada > Aussies > US

Why is Canada less egalitarian than the US?
“The US was born in blood.” Revolution followed by a civil war.
“Canada was founded in peace.” Pro-English Loyalists fled US to found Canada.

Lipset rooted his study in the humanist tradition of Max Weber. His analysis sheds light on newly emerging nations in Africa, Asia, South America, etc. Influential and praised by Parsons.

McCormack says Canada isn’t elitist at all. Cunliffe wonders Lipset’s correlation of war and the American character. “A third critic” (sic!) wonders how much Americans value equality.

Political Science and Political Sociology

It’s easy to confuse the two. Both study the state and social policy. Political science deals mainly with machinery of government and public admin. They read in libraries and philosophize.
Political sociology deals with the relations between politics, social institutions, ideologies, and culture. Sociologists also study POWERRRRRRRR. They do surveys and talk to people.

Political Authority

Authority is good for politics. Weber classified it into three: traditional (how’s it’s always done), charismatic (hey babay, gimme everythang tonight), rational-legal (what makes sense and is lawful).
Charismatic subverts traditional. Rational-legal is formalism (i.e. bureaucracy).
Rule of law is the reasons modern states much follow strict rules to preserve public legitimacy.

The State

Three types of modern states: authoritarian (Mumbarak), totalitarian (Stalin), and liberal-democratic (Obama).

Authoritarian and totalitarian are both dictatorships but totalitarian is harsher and often more stable. Democracy is modelled on ancient Greek city-states and is (supposedly) run by the people. Athens at the height of its democracy had 300,000 people and about 30,000 adult male citizens.

Canada is a representative democracy. We vote for a person to vote for us. It is also a constitutional monarchy which means the Queen is inherited but controlled by Parliament. This is in contrast to la république.

Canada has constituencies. Candidates has to win the constituency to win a seat in the Parliament. Sometimes this means that a minor party is not represented. In Italy they have proportional representation, where vote total is tallied up, and the Parliament chairs are divided up according to popular vote, not according to constituencies.

We also have lobby groups and stuff. Next chapter.
People’s political participation is a function of demography, social elements, and psychology.

According to democratic pluralism, all citizens have the chance to voice their views and pursue their interests in a democracy. State should be neutral. But there are still problems.

Gender and the State

The feminists strike! State is an institution permeated by gender inequality. McIntosh (1978) says state encourages employers to take advantage of women’s free services. Brodie (1996) says state policies promote women’s subordination. Beaujot and Ravanera (2009) say that lack of childcare prevents women from working outside the home in Canada.

Women are under-represented in the government. In 1918 (1940 in Quebec) women gained suffrage. In 1929 women were declared “persons” and were given rights that men enjoyed theretofore.
Today women make up 22.1% of Parliament with 68 MPs. The higher the position the less likely a woman will occupy it. There has been one prime minister in Canada — Kim Cambell. Also our governor general were women. Three of them in fact. Look we are being to nice to the women.

Poli. sic. Bashevkin (2009) bashes Canadians for being uncomfortable to put a women in a position of power. Incidentally when voter turnout is high more women are elected into office.
Women’s lack of participation is not by choice but by a glass ceiling. Also family takes time. Most Canadians want more women in politics. Canada is behind in proportion of female politicians. (Well what you do expect, Canada is traditional.) Sweden for example achieved gender equality in politics.

Politics in Canada: a Primer

The Canadian state is a complex system not unlike the DNA polymerase which needs primers. Jk lols I don’t know what I’m talking about. Power of legislation is divided between federal and provincial governments. Federal-provincial relations tend to dominate Canadian political discussions.

As of now only Liberal and Conservative parties have governed federally. NDP is socialist and wins 10-20%. Bloc Québécois, Alberta Alliance (conservative), and Green Party are some more parties. Yay parties. I love parties.

In practice many voters are unrepresented. First of all, not all voters vote. Second, ridings vary in size. Third, it’s not the party that wins most overall votes win, but the party that wins the most seats.
(Kind of like in tennis how you can win more points and still lose a match. It’s the set points and break points that truly matter).

A party that wins 40% of votes usually wins. In 2008 the Green Party won 6.8% of votes but no seats. Research shows that the more visible a party is the more likely it’s gonna win. Voter turnout has been decreasing. Young people less likely to vote. Canadian voting is kinda boring. Obama on the other hand is a whole other sensation.

Classic Studies: Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

Foucault shows that even democratic states can be dangerously powerful. One trend in modern states is increased surveillance. Punishment has a long and illustrious history beginning with the Code of Hammurabi. It punished crimes with death, dismemberment, or exile. There were no prisons though. Even in medieval Europe punishments had to be quick and inexpensive. There were public displays of torture.

But what if the victims gain sympathy? That’s not good. So prison was invented. Critics say that punishment is supposed to deter crime, not cause unrest. People kept criminals behind bars and out of public attention.

But there is physical discipline in prison, often for extended time. Record-keeping became an important part of control and punishment, with the people in power set about to record as much information as they can, to better regulate and examine criminals. Knowledge was used not to empower people, but to control and disempower them.

Another technique for discipline was surveillance. Echoing Jeremy Bentham’s idea of the Panopticon — a prison where guards can always see the prisoners, but prisoners cannot see the guards, so that they do not know if they are watched. This uncertainty leads to self-regulation.

But we can extend this analogy. From the moment we are born, we are disciplined and socialized — especially by “total institutions” (à la Erving Goffman). Today we are constantly monitoring and disciplining each other. (Somebody’s always watching youuuu……) So contrary to Marx’s prediction, our alienation lies not in isolation but in engagement with one another as guards and prisoners.

As a result, we get political stability! We think of the criminal as a deviant, and we should fix the criminal and not the government. Additionally, the class basis of punishment is driven underground. Rule breaking is bad. Rule making and rule enforcing is good and people respect you for it.

Goldstein (1979) says that some observations in the book are unsupported by evidence. Evidence is ethnocentric and of French origin (Shelly, 1979). Garland (1986) doesn’t like Foucault “for this and other reasons” (sic!).

But still, Foucault’s theory of power is real good. Power is progressive as well as oppressive. And Foucault can be considered a logical successor to Weber.

The Political Role of Ideology

As Antonio Gramsci noted, capitalism maintains control not just through violence, threat, and coercion, but also throughout he manipulation of ideas and ideologies. The bourgeoisie set the standards of normality and morality. So the working class thinks what’s best for themselves is the same as what’s best for the bourgeoisie.

To change this situation, the working class must develop its own culture. This culture would attract the oppressed and the intellectual classes to the cause of the proletariat. You must break out from the dominant ideology.

Whether an ideology is “dominant” is something we can learn only through research. But American culture, for example, places high values on heroism and war.
Most modern people believe “I choose my own path”. This can be related to (perhaps) Darwin’s survival of the fittest or the Calvinist work ethic. Ideologies explain how society is organized — who gets rewarded and why.

This ideology tends to focus on individual problems and often does not notice a social trend (microscopic). Some that this ideology blames the victim for social inequality. In the end, this ideology makes people politically inactive — why does others’ lives matter to yours?
This ideology though is dominant in Canada.

Ideologies and Public

One approach to politics distinguishes between the ruling and the ruled. What is the public? Any given public is an unstructured set of people who hold certain interests in, views on, or concerns about a particular issue. Ideologies structure this public’s participation in society.

Normally public members don’t talk to each other but they are the vox populi. The media spews out news in clusters to move the public into the decisions the media wants. The bandwagon effect is present which encourages journalists to report propaganda under the guise of news.

Ideologies and Action

Ideologies that propose change are either radical or reformist. Reformist is minor while radical is major. Providing health care/child care/etc. would be a reform. Changing the government from a capitalist one to a socialist one would be radical. Killing off every other human being on Earth to make sure that you are the sole ruler is a pretty radical idea indeed.

These ideologies are also called counter ideologies. They usually arise from inequality or abuse. They spread through the educated — the intelligentsia. These counter ideologies challenge the harm done by the dominant one.
The dominant ideology, for example, instills false consciousness — leading people to blame themselves after losing an unfair game.

They that are discontented under monarchy call it tyranny, and they that are displeased with aristocracy call it oligarchy; so also, they which find themselves grieved under a democracy call it anarchy.

-Thomas Hobbes.


Coolest name in the book, hands down.
I’m just gonna spell out his full name every time I mention him. Can’t help it — it’s too much fun!

Frankfurt school. Criticizes capitalism, science for destroying nature, religion for not making sense. Argued that the process of social learning is dynamic and unpredictable from one epoch to another, not linear and progressive as Marx said.

To Jürgen Habermas, rationality must go beyond strategic calculations. We must form a community and seek mutual agreement. This is “communicative action”.
(Kind of like how Khas united the Protoss with Khala. Or if you are mathematically inclined, like what Nash’s game theory did to Adam Smith.)

Jürgen Habermas suggests that in a “deliberative democracy”, citizens would thoughtfully debate and rationality would prevail. But such a process could be skewed by the inequalities and divided interests created by private ownership.

Jürgen Habermas’s invented terminologies:
-“communicative action”: process through which actors in society seek to reach common understanding and to co-ordinate actions by reasoned argument, consensus, and cooperation rather than strategic actions for their own goals.
-“lifeworld”: term invented by German Edmund Husserl. For Jürgen Habermas the lifeworld consists of informal, culturally grounded understandings and mutual accommodations, rooted in widely shared social and cultural arrangements.

-Muller-Doohm (2009) notes that Jürgen Habermas does what’s described above. Doohm is a pretty fun name too though gotta say.
-Pederson (2009) describes how rational reconstruction is used in Jürgen Habermas’s political theory.
-Roth (2009) notes that defining “truth” can be troublesome, and sociologists should look for understanding rather than truth.
-Heath (2009) notes that the social science that underpins Marxism is obsolete, and analytical Marxism by Jürgen Habermas seeks to update it.
-Keat (2008) (his plural form would be a British poet) says that Jürgen Habermas contributed quite a but but fails to show how political ethics can truly be independent of other moral and practical concerns.
-Hall (2009) (his plural form would be cough drops) asserts that methods of historical sociology face research problems. To solve them we need to “analyze the interplay of multiple social temporalities”.
-Benson (2009) notes that the reach and influence of media is described by Jürgen Habermas. But criticizes that Jürgen Habermas takes the media as a given. Media is changing too.
-Edwards (2009) (his single form would be a glittering vampire) explores how Habermas’s concepts of communicative action and colonization might aid in the revival of UK public sector unions.
-Wicks and Reason (2009) daw on Jürgen Habermas’s reasonings and Reason that success or failure of a research project often depends on what happens at the beginning of the inquiry process.

So Jürgen Habermas made the Frankfurt School part of C. Wright Mills’s “sociological imagination”.


What more can be said of politics, after giants like Marx, Weber, Gramsci, Foucault, and Habermas have spoken?

Vampiric-Politician Hunter
Rosemary Hunter (2007) has a name befitting of 19th century Transylvania. Instead of fighting Dracula, she notes that even though policy makers label themselves as non-theoretical, but there are major debates between critical theorists and postmodern theorists in the political realm. What kind of theory would we like? How can policy makers make reliable decisions if they can’t even explain their theories effectively?

A Real Man Fears Not His Past
Zizek (2008) writes that in this era of rapid change we abandon old social forms. We think we are in the postmodern era. But in fact the old can survive. Quotes Blaise Pascal’s question: how can we remain faithful to the old in new conditions? It is only through addressing this question can be create something new.

Start Anew
Cassinari and Merlini (2007) has names that sound like cocktails in a chic jazz bar. They note that “modern West” include characteristics like free-market capitalism, individual property, democratic rule, civil society, etc. But the postmodern West is ahistorical. There is no temporality. This poses problems of belonging and continuity.

High Five!
Fives (2009) say that while post modernists defend democracy, they do so in relativistic terms, not absolute modernist tones. Liberal democracy is not good in itself, it’s just better than everything else.

Ha, We Told You So
Kurnik (2009) notes that the current crisis of capitalism (2009 financial crisis) highlights the troubled role of labour in modern society. Only “transformation of labour” can help you now. We call for a revolution.

A Nickel for Your Thoughts?
Nickel (2009) says it’s difficult of combine critical theory and postmodernism in political analyses of the modern welfare state (e.g. Canada, Norway, Luxembourg, Australia). Slogans obstruct critical thinking, yet slogans are pragmatic.

We Are Getting Soft
Rostboll (2008) note that efforts to combine political liberalism and critical theory obscures some important differences between the two traditions. The theory of deliberative democracy has converged around a less critical and more pragmatic view of freedom: the acceptance of status quo. Critical theorists need to resist this convergence.

Do Not Compromise
Tassone (2008) notes that critical thinkers like Habermas have tried to find a place for morality and ethics in a capitalist society. But capitalism is fundamentally immoral. There can be no right way of living in a wrong society.

The World as a Colosseum
Baral (2008) analyzes the 9/11 and terrorism. In a tone reminiscent of Baudrillard, he argues that human degradation has become a violent spectacle in which we all participate at least as spectators. Every local, wrongful death, however minute, stands as a representative of the mass, global destruction that results from a violent exercise of state power.

Look at It Another Way
Kristjanson-Gural (2008) wants to merge critical and postmodern approaches. “Postmodern Marxism” isn’t morally relativist, but it offers new insights.

Once Bitten, Twice Shy
Grosfoguel (2007) suggests that “radical colonial critical theory” can provide a southern, thither than capitalist, perspective on Third World colonialism and nationalism. In this view, there is no postcolonial era, the legacy of formal colonial rule lives on as “coloniality”, or continued domination. Yes, we are still subordinates to the Queen.

Eddy Says
An important figure is Edward Said, discussed in “an earlier chapter” (huh?). His work is on Orientalism and the “Other”-ing of non-Western peoples. Lima (2008) says Said shed further insight into imperialism: 1) the US hegemony works against a democratic world order, 2) fights for independence and liberation carries moral risks for less developed countries, and 3) Westerners is still prejudiced against Arabs and Muslims because they don’t understand the Muslim culture.

Definitions: Starting Points Ch. 11-14

Chapter 11: Families and Socialization

Family: for the purpose of this chapter, any social unit, or set of social relations, that does what families are popularly imagined to do, by whatever means it does so.

Nuclear family: a group that usually consists of a father, a mother, and their children living in the same dwelling. Such a family comprises no more than three relationships: between spouses, between parents and children, and between siblings.

Extended family: multiple generations of relatives living together, or several adult siblings with their spouses and children who share a dwelling and resources. More than three kinds of relationship may be present.

Census family: a household that includes two spouses — married or cohabiting (if they have lived together for longer than one year) — with or without never-married children, or a single parent with one or more never-married children.

Socialization: the lifelong social learning a person undergoes to become a capable member of society, through social interaction with others, and in response to social pressures.

Primary socialization: learning that takes place in the early years of a person’s life that is crucial to the formation of an individual’s personality.

Secondary socialization: learning that occurs after childhood, usually involving learning specific roles, norms, attitudes, or beliefs, and sometimes involving self-imposed learning.

Anticipatory socialization: learning about and preparing for future roles, built on accumulated learning.

Resocialization: learning within social institutions aimed at retraining or reprogramming people.

Chapter 12: Schools and Formal Education

Education: a process designed to develop one’s general capacity for thinking critically, as well as a capacity for self-understanding and self-reliance.

Formal education: education received in accredited schools during formal teaching sessions.

Informal education: the variety of ways we undertake to gain knowledge for ourselves outside institutions of formal education (e.g. schools, colleges, and universities).

Training: a process designed to identify and practise specific routines that achieve desired results.

Hidden curriculum: lessons that are not normally considered part of the academic curriculum that schools unintentionally or secondarily provide for students.

Meritocracy: any system of rule or advancement where the rewards are strictly proportioned to the accomplishment and all people have the same opportunity to win these rewards.

Chapter 13: Churches and Religion

Religion: any system of beliefs about the supernatural, and the social groups that gather around these beliefs.

New religious movements (NRMs): groups and institutions comprising people who share similar religious or spritual views about the world but who are not part of mainstream religious institutions.

Church: any social location or building — church, mosque, synagogue, or temple — where people carry out religious rituals.

Seekers: people and groups who draw on the teachings of several religions and philosophies to fulfill their needs for spirituality.

Secularization: a steadily dwindling influence of formal (institutional) religion in public life.

Civil Religion: an organized secular practice that serves many of the same social functions as traditional religion, by giving people direction, explaining how the world works, and providing solidarity.

Chapter 14: Media and Mass Communication

Mass media: the technology that makes mass communication possible; it includes the printing press, radio, television, photocopier, and camera, among others.

Mass communication: the transmission of a message from a single source to multiple recipients at the same time.

Political economy perspective: a viewpoint that focuses on the ways private ownership affects what is communicated, and the ays it affects the exercise of power.

Conglomerate: a business structure that engages in several, usually unrelated business endeavours: for example, moviemaking gambling casinos, and alcoholic beverages.

Cross-ownership: a business structure in which one corporation owns media businesses of different types. For example, a large corporation may own newspapers, magazines, television networks, and radio channels.

Cultural studies perspective: a viewpoint that focuses on the types of communication to which people are regularly exposed and especially on messages conveying the dominant ideology.

Alternative media: channels of communication used by subordinate groups to promote their own messages and points of view.

Week 8 – Starting Points Ch. 14

Estimated Reading Time 00:21:04

Starting Points

Chapter 14: Media and Mass Communication

Mass media is important. It is powerful. And it can change us. Today no one reads books anymore. They watch the news instead for information.

“Come on Ted! It’s 2012. What do you expect? To meet some cute travel agent when you’re reading a newspaper in a bookstore? None of those things exist anymore.”

Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother

Traditional forms of printed information face an unprecedented challenge: the Internet. Cellphones are another example — it is common to own a cellphone but not a landline. The trend is toward more and more flexible communication devices.

Even mainstream (mass) media had to compete with the open-sourcing tendencies of the Internet. But mass media is still not entirely replaceable for the same reasons that universities can’t be replaced by Wikipedia alone. Mass media still influences our tastes, opinions, and beliefs.


Functionalists are interested in the way mass media are organized and how it contributes to equilibrium. Media is a mechanism for informing, socializing, and educating the public. (Especially in developing countries).

Media literacy and mass media consumption are important factors in “modernization”. As people consume more media, they become more knowledgeable toward the world and about cultural diversity — they are more likely to demand an open, democratic society.

But what if people consume media hostile to modernity or Westernization? Then they’d hate Westernization too!
But you can’t underestimate the importance of information flow in and of itself. e.g. To an extent, Soviet society imploded because people gathered (forbidden) information about the Western world.
(In Soviet Russia TV watches YOU!)

As Marshall McLuhan said, “the medium is the message”. Content aside, information flow by itself increases the appetite for more information.
At the very least, the media create and feed curiosity about the world. Increasingly the media are forces in “social engineering” — or brainwashing, if you’re the cynical type.

Critical theories are interested in ways powerful groups use media to perpetuate their dominant ideologies. A variant of this approach is the political economy perspective.
Critical theory is important in understanding the manipulative side of mass media. e.g. over-coverage or slanting of particular topics; which is a notion in cultivation theory by Gerbner and Gross (1976).
Cultivation theory: mass media, especially TV, have become the main source of information in society today. People who watch TV for more than four hours a day are exposed to lots of news about violence! And so they think the world is mean.
Gerbner: the overuse of TV creates a homogenous, fearful populace.

TV normalizes violence, numbing violence for some individuals, while heightening it for others. e.g. Child abductions make parents worried!
Gerbner and Gross essentially assumed that the populace is passive and uncritical: people just believe whatever they see on TV, conforming easily.

Advantages of the Gerbner and Gross (GG) approach: it is easy to apply to a wide range of texts.
Disadvantage: the theory denies people agency, ignoring the intelligence of audiences. In reality communication is more complicated. Sociologist Herbert Gans takes an approach a little bit more sophisticated than Gerbner and Gross.


Classic Studies: Deciding What’s News

We can’t be experts at everything, so we rely on the media. We are (usually) unable to challenge their story with opposing facts — in this sense, media act as filters, showing us some things and ignoring or even hiding others. Gans is the first researcher in this topic.

How do events become news? Gans did his research in late 1960s choosing CBS, NBC, Times, and Newsweek news journals. He asked participants in these four companies: how do they choose stories to become news? Gans also analyzed 3500 news stories spanning eight years. Both quantitative and qualitative data.


  1. News wants audiences. There’s usually an inclination to include at least some stories that appeal to mass audience. e.g. famous people, violence and bloodshed, and sex scandal. Tendency to report “negative news” — if it bleeds, it leads.
  2. National news is shaped by and serve the interest of people in high positions. Tell the truth or keep your job? Seems like job is more important.

Despite competition, there is large degree of consensus. All four organizations include value of individualism, belief in responsible capitalism, and desire for social order and strong national leadership.
Also, much of the news communicated to audiences is inaccurate or at least distorted. It benefits people with power over the media. No Big Brother in America? Think again.

To summarize, the decision journalists make in choosing coverage is influenced by:

  • “news-worthiness”
  • internal pressures
  • tastes of the audience
  • responsibility and ethics

In particular, journalists need to bear moral responsibility for the coverage they provide.

Robinson (1980) said this book succeeds in linking sociological theory and data to make a solid argument. Graber (1979) said the book offers valuable insights to the world of news making. The book also reveals role of journalists in perpetuating “the political status quo they helped create. (Robinson, 1980)”

This book is a foundation, said M. D. Murray.
(His name kind of sounds like Andy Murray; wonder if he plays tennis.)

Media Ownership

Media broadcasting is affected by its ownership. But its ownership varies: they can be publicly owned, by governments, or privately owned, by corporates and/or conglomerates. Historically media is owned by individuals or small groups, but over time they merged into massive multimedia empires.
In US especially three out of four major TV networks are part of multimedia giants.
ABC – Walt Disney Co.
Fox – Rupert Murdoc News Corp.
NBC – General Electric

In Canada ownership too is concentrated. The Royal Commission (aka Kent Commission) was created due to newspaper closings in Winnipeg and Ottawa in 1980. Kent Commission reported in 1981 that newspaper chains are owned by conglomerates, and argued that such cross-ownership would compromise journalism’s social responsibility to the reading public.

The Kent report said:

  • smaller news services are good, but may not survive
  • electronic media and telecommunication endangers the press newspaper

Both of which are fully warranted concerns but the report generated little interest at the time. In fact, it was fiercely attacked by newspaper chains whose very interests it put into peril, by proposing the Press Rights Council.
As a result, the problems remain unresolved, and media still gets owned by large business enterprises.

Canadian Content

Canadians always want to protect and preserve Canadian culture. Hmm. Go figure. USA is rich, large, influential, and corporates are more incentivized to broadcast American content — which always guarantee profit — than non-cost-effective Canadian content (CanCon).

(What kind of acronym is that?! CanCon?! It’s the sound an aluminum can makes when you drop it down an elevator shaft. No wonder these companies don’t want Canadian content. This word is just embarrassing to mention.)


  1. Canadian government, through the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), has to force private media companies to include CanCon.
  2. Canadian government has to provide financial incentives to promote CanCon.

But then broadcasters are often underfunded and many Canadian media industry workers have left for America.

Since 1969, the CRTC has been the key independent public authority on the regulation and supervision of CanCon.
Furthermore, Canada’s media are regulated by a federal Broadcasting Act, est. 1968 and amended in 1991. The purpose is to strengthen Canadian culture through related politico-economical institutions. In practice though the Act and CRTC both are more sympathetic to private media than public ones and there are always little leeways to make politicians happy.

Media and Politics

You get news from media; true. But what you get isn’t just truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. You get a carefully assembled package of information that promotes a certain ideology. News stories are coded messages about the nature of society and social life.

Let’s look at politics. Increasingly politicians dumb down their language to appeal to the people. Due to limited time and space, providing in-depth analysis in newspapers no longer seems possible. Most journalism today is (slightly) biased toward one political party or ideology, as reflected in editorials etc.

In addition, media coverage is superficial. Media covers statistics — seemingly caring about the vox populi — but provide no close examination of competing views. This polling turns democracy into a popularity contest. (Good old high school student activity councils…) Undecided voters are less likely to engage in political debate.

Media can additional influence voting by:

  • “Agenda-setting”: focusing on some issues but not others
  • Report on candidate’s characteristics: such as Sarah Palin’s style of dress.

So the role of the media in politics is neither informative nor integrative. It simply serves its owners and powerful parties.

Global Media

As you may remember from an earlier chapter (huh?), some have called globalization “American Imperialism”. Neo-liberal free trade treaties (e.g. NAFTA) have increased the impact of cultural goods and American media companies.
e.g. Hollywood.
Canadians consume lots of American culture/media but not vice versa.

We must be aware of bias! In media portrayals of other cultures! Even media coverage of human rights abuses is biased. According to a study done by The Economist and Newsweek, the media are more likely to report abuses when they occur in large, economically-developed non-Western countries. Such as China or Russia. What about Congo, Sudan, Myanmar, Canada, USA? Not so much.

Jürgen Habermas (2006) said mass media is only helpful when it is not involved in its social environments. Which is never.

Classic Studies: Material Girls: Making Sense of Feminist Cultural Theory

Feminist researchers were among the first to focus on media representation of disadvantaged groups — women. The way media depicted women would influence, as well as reflect, the way women were treated in society.

Suzanna Walters wrote a book. Material Girls: Making Sense of Feminist Cultural Theory looks at well-known female icons in pop culture, such as Madonna. How does media depict women?

One of the key concepts in the book is the “male gaze”. Is the gaze inevitably male or do female gaze too? Walters also looks at the female “ways of seeing”, as well as related themes of spectatorship, audience, subjectivity, and positioning.

Walters said there is a need to integrate feminist cultural theory with other traditions, such as ethnography. We can start with real women and see how media affected their world.
Reviewers praised Walter’s book for her systematic outline of an emerging field in feminism.

(Interestingly enough, this is the only classic studies to offer a book with no criticism. I guess everyone just wants to be politically correct. But true academia may not thrive if all criticism is silenced, eh?)

The Cultural Studies Perspective

Cultural studies is interdisciplinary. Not exactly sociology but it too is grounded in the Frankfurt School’s critical theory tradition. In Canada, we have Marshall McLuhan. A good man. He wrote before the development of current cultural studies but he’s a prophet. So it’s all cool.

The cultural studies approach tries to understand “culture” by analyzing the sociopolitical context. Kind of connected to the institutional ethnography of Dorothy Smith, to be discussed later.

The political economy perspective focuses on media ownership and control; while cultural studies perspective focuses on the the media’s role in supporting and manipulating power. The cultural studies approach focuses on the messages communicated in media content, the interpretation of this content by audiences, and the struggles of some groups to change mainstream media messages or communicate their own messages in alternative media forms.

Applying the cultural studies perspective to gender issues, let’s talk about “appearance”. Women, much more than men, are subject to appearance norms. They are judged (and judge one another) according to beauty. The mass media played a central role.

Appearance norms are shared notions about beauty that attracts us to some people and repels us from others. We all apply sanctions like ridicule, exclusion, or disapproval to people who fail to meet our culture’s standards of beauty and attractiveness.
Abundant images glorify ideal mean and women. Our culture idealizes youth, a slender toned body, and symmetrical delicate facial features.

This results in the perpetuation of social disadvantage. We are unprepared for life in real world after seeing so many perfect people. Erving Goffman, using the dramaturgical approach, examines appearance and notes that we all bring social expectations to any situation. But our ability to “follow the script” is compromised by a flawed or deviant appearance. For example, a prominent facial scar undermine the actor’s performances and impede social interaction.

Any feature that has such a discrediting effect is called stigma by Goffman. It reveals a gap between virtual and actual social identity. In its most general meaning, stigma is any characteristic, behaviour, or experience that may cause the “branded” person to be rejected by others.

Additionally, appearance norms reflected in the mass media tend to promote appearance pathologies such as anorexia. Eating becomes ritualized and people become OCD. About 95% of anorexics are women. Bulimia nervosa — throwing up food after eating it — is another one. Bulimics consume large amounts of food in a short time. About 50% of people who have been anorexic develop bulimia — your body wants the food back and overcompensates.

Media Representation of Disadvantaged Groups

Groups are not only misrepresented but also underrepresented, for various reasons — especially economic ones. Producers and advertisers only want to make programs that appeal to the rich.
Also, dominant groups are more commonly presented in media because they are more commonly in positions of media control.

Media Portrayal of Women and Gender

Often mass media present women in stereotyped and conventional ways — as either the Madonna or the whore. These approaches cause real women performance anxieties.
Even in video games, a woman’s appeal still depends as much on her sexiness as on her competence.

In newspaper and TV news women are described by their looks, age, and how many children they have, while men are described by their occupation or political affiliation.
Even media advertising are gender specific: Barbie dolls for girls, and male action figures for boys. Since we strive for normality, we emulate the media.

The media slant information to conform to a particular gendered approach — “the Male Gaze”. When a story is told in a male point of view it is assumed to be objective and unbiased. But is it? The “point of view” itself subtly marks the tone of the story. The implication is that news embodies stereotypical masculine qualities of objectivity, reason, coolness, and practicality.
(I may be chauvinistic here but–what’s wrong with objectivity, reason, coolness, and practicality?)
Women tend to be treated more dismissvely than even the most inept men. e.g. Adrienne Clarkson and Michaëlle Jean.

Media influences us and perpetuates stereotypes because we tend to emulate successful, attractive, admired figures on TV. The theoretical framework that deals with this issue is feminism. Sometimes, alternative media can provide an outlet for these progressive views. Alternative media can provide us with true and critical understandings of the world.

Homogenization and Niche Marketing

How do you broadcast to people, some smart, some dumb? Easy — just dumb everything down to the dumbest level so that everyone can understand. This is mainstream media. It approaches us viscerally, at the animal or chemical level.

As Marshall McLuhan said, “the medium is the message.” The way media affects us depends on whether it is printed or visual. Cold or hot. TV is much more direct and visceral and emotionally provocative than printed books. In a sense, we are massaged psychologically in an uncritical, yet emotionally arousing way.

There are limits to the homogenization effects of mass media though. (After all, modern society isn’t milk.) Post-industrial societies with organic solidarity are necessarily diverse.

There is an opportunity for profit through segmentation: niche marketing is developed. Different media have different target audiences.

Certain commodities are visible though. Adoption of merchandise follows an S-shape: at first the courageous rich try it, then early adopters buy it, then laggards buy it, then prices fall, commodity go from luxury to commonplace, and people need a second TV, a second car, a second PS3, etc. (No idea why the textbook suddenly talks about this.)

Poor people though still can’t spend as much and so they aren’t as important in companies’ eyes.
“Captains of consciousness” mould the desires, needs, and intentions of the spending public.
Market research are more sophisticated with elaborate demographic and psychographic models.
Sociologists have played a (not always glorious) part in market research. To market household products sociologists advised companies to play on working class wives’ fears of losing their husbands to other women.

Because of niche marketing, mass media have segmented and are becoming less homogenizing.

Media, Conflict, and Crime

The media often portray people using violence to deal with problems. They also portray news in a narrow, biased, and conflictual fashion.
Both news shows and dramas depict violence in a variety of forms, including rape, murder, gunplay, fist fights, and so on.
It is still unclear how much this media influence contributes to actual violence though. As opposed to childhood trauma, etc.

Boxer et al. (2009) recently addressed this issue and says that yes, violent media does increase the likelihood of violent behaviour and aggression. But of course it is still difficult to disentangle media effects from other social influences, since different kinds of people watch different media.

This circular argument went on for 40 years and is summarized on the website Media Awareness Netwark. Cross-national research presented some evidence that media causes violence. But Jonathan Freedman calls it into doubt. Japanese media (e.g. manga and anime) were really violent! But Japan has much lower rates of murder than Canada or the US. Cultures teach us different ways of dealing with violent arousal.

1930s “frustration-aggression hypothesis”: frustration always leads to aggressive behaviour. But it is not true! People only react aggressively if they have been socialized to react aggressively.

Media and the Construction of Social Problems

The media tell us what problems to pay attention to.
As Herbert Blumer (1971) points out, social problems develop in stages:

  1. Social recognition: the point at which a given condition is first identified as a potential social concern.
  2. Social legitimating: social institutions formally recognize the issue as a serious threat to social stability.

The mass media both raises awareness and mobilizes legitimacy for the problem. e.g. During the 1990s media warned of sex offenders against children. But in actuality these offences remained the same — or even declined! The media coverage was nothing more than a socially constructed panic.
Catholic priests molest children, but media doesn’t really cover that.

In a sense all social problems are socially constructed. Hitler needs to be on the news for us to consider him as evil. So we can’t assume that “facts speak for themselves”. Many “facts” are half-truths, and many facts never surface. Bringing issues to public attention is key to the social construction of social problems.


Another Frenchman! Delightful!

Well known for his work on hyperreality (such a French thing to do). Especially American’s construction of hyperreality–a fantasy world that they believe to be real but where nothing is authentic. One does not experience life but simply watches performances and are controlled by illusions.

So uh, Baudrillard basically denied that the first Gulf War existed at all. Before the war began he said that there’d be no war. After the battles ceases he continued to assert that no war had taken place. The textbook said this illustrates his use of hyperreality but sounds to me like this dude’s just in denial.

Baudrillard also used Marx’s concept of commodity fetishism. A Marxian definition of commodity fetishism would be the transformation of subjective, emotional, bonding human relationships to objective, unemotional, nonchalant material relationships by capitalism. e.g. People weigh careers not by their passion in the field but by how much money they can earn.

Even those most sympathetic to baudrillard’s approach criticize his work, finding his style exaggerated, chaotic, and lacking systematic analysis. (Well, he’s French.)

Baudrillard is nonetheless important in calling our attention the way hyperreality pervades the media, and the way liberalism and Marxism have both ceased to function as overarching narratives. As a result, people are neither behaving like active informed citizens or proletarians yearning for revolution. Instead, they sit on their fat arses and watch TV.

Gauthier (2009) commemorated Baudrillard by saying that in him we find a seductive defiance of perception — “that reaches heights seldom seen before in the history of thought… a path that typifies the vigilance of the humanist thinker”. In other words, he admires Baudrillard’s denial of reality. Gee sociologists are weird people.

We do need to rethink our ideas, methods, and taken-for-granted assumptions though. Sefat and Kelly (2009) follows Baudrillard’s logic and concludes that sovereign nation-states may not be real.
(Though to be fair, Baudrillard’s argument goes something like this: since US is so much more powerful than the Iraq there was never any doubt that the US will win. So it’s not a war, but a domination, an abuse.)

Staples (2009, coughcough, nice name)notes that media stresses symbolism of 9/11 attacks but overlooks the global role of US power. Staples used Baudrillard’s work on the “binary of the Other” and shows how media justifies the American “culture of terror”.

Walters and Kop (2009) note that digital technology not only transforms the world but also revolutionizes people’s inner lives as well. Facebook changes lives yo. Digital revolution is qualitatively different from the printing revolution described by Marshall McLuhan in The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man

Torikian (2009) says that postmodernism is a dangerous philosophy because it questions whether there can (ever) be objective reality. Hyperreality is an attempt by postmodernist thinkers to discover the “truth behind truth”. But come on! They are veering dangerously close to the cliffs of nihilism.

Kellner (2006) notes that events following 9/11 brought Baudrillard back into the mortal world. Before, Baudrillard viewed world history as composed of “weak events” and boring politics, but after, he viewed terrorism as a sign that the world has entered a new world defined by globalization’s war with itself.

Politics become nothing more than a struggle to broadcast the most compelling images. Baudrillard’s idea of the “immanent reversal” captures the process by which triumphant display of US military success and power instead becomes powerful global symbols of defeat, showcases of American brutality and arrogance.

Baudrillard viewed signs and symbols as realities in their own right, regardless of a material reality. So absolute truth is non-existent. Is reality really real?
Rennett (2009) calls the term “reality TV” a euphemism–these programs don’t show “real life” at all. Reality TV shows a pretend world so powerful that they can “erase the original”.
(Quite right, in fact I think I read an except of that in one of the SAT readings I did.)

So Jean Baudrillard, though a bit loopy, is actually quite often cited. He deserves a place in our fusion approach to sociology, but more importantly in our hearts.

New Insights

Two Parrots
Gane (2005), parroting Baudrillard, asserts that media technologies have become the foundation of human life. So what if we question media? Kittler, parroting Claude Shannon, Warren Weaver, Marshal McLuhan, Jacque Lacan, and Michel Foucault, question materiality of information technology.

Rabot Rhymes with Parrot
Rabot (2007) argues against the trivialization of media imagery, noting the need to recognize their potential for deep social importance. New technologies can potentially “demythologize” the society.

How to Start a Revolution
Fuchs and Sandoval (2008) look at alternative media, including print, online, and broadcast forms. These alternative media critique globalized capitalism not only through content but also through organization, journalistic methods, production, distribution, etc. These media exemplify the “prosumer” concept: making people both producers and consumers, reducing oppression.

Ortiz-Negron (2008) argues that traditional lines between government business, and media have become blurred. Media influence politics and workings of government by publicizing various social problems.

Together We Can Rule the Galaxy
Berardi (2006) notes that over the last 15 years Italy has submitted to “semi-capitalism”. Government controlled conglomerate incorporating and used it to control the public.

Gather ‘Round People, Wherever You Roam
Martelli (2005) notes that two religious events, the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the World Youth Day, have received exceptional coverage. Currently, TV favours postmodern religious expression, which has a mystical, collective flavour, as opposed to modern, ascetic, individualistic faith. Post modernity brings about “de-secularization”.

Baptized in the River, I Wanna Be Delivered
Lyon (2006) notes a similar religious reawakening among Protestants, making use of modern media. Young (mainly urban) people tend to approach Christianity in non-traditional ways. Worshipping with rock music, etc.

Lau (2004), contrary to Gans, argues that news reporting is influential not only by outside forces but also by internal forces, such as actions and choices of journalists themselves.

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SOC103 Notes by digitalhardhat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Week 7 – Starting Points Ch. 13

Estimated Reading Time 00:18:17

Starting Points

Chapter 13: Churches and Religion

For the pious, religion reveals truths — truths as solid and unequivocal as trees, but infinitely more important. Truths of unassailable significance and validity.

Sociologists view religion as just beliefs — beliefs not unassailably true. Sociologists are interested in how certain beliefs are legitimized, and who controls this process. How do religions rise and fall? And why have some existed for so long, while others dwindled?

For a sociologist, religion is a (merely) social phenomenon (don’t get offended). Marx viewed religion as a form of socially organized self-deception (in response to whose theories Nietzsche envisioned Übermensch — Superman — that shall rule over the meek, made weak by Judeo-Christian beliefs of sacrifice). Durkheim viewed it as an opportunity for group celebration. Weber viewed it as a set of beliefs that gives life meaning and purpose.

A standard account of modernity:
Past few centuries saw much rationalization of society and accumulation of scientific knowledge. Religion lost much of its social relevance in the West, in fact many comes to deny the sacred texts and teachings (As Nietzsche would say, we murdered God with our modernization).

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

F. Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

Is this account accurate? Ask yourself. 60% of Canadians still consider themselves to be moderately or highly religious. There are new religious movements (NRM) which people view as better serving their needs. People may have given up on traditional worship but they have not given up on religion.

For multicultural Canada we have a problem: should religions be presented in the public sphere? Some serious devouts would think that only their religion deserves public attention, etc. 80% of Canadians identify themselves as “more or less” Christian, so it is still tied to our lives.

Another issue: some religions have been traditionally patriarchal. But modern women are equals of men! How do we reconcile with this? Of course we can’t just send all the clergies to jail?

Would society be better or worse off if religion disappeared? (If we manage to, as Weber suggests, thoroughly “disenchant” the world through rationalization?)


Durkheim is a functionalist: interested in religion’s role to promote solidarity. Why are religions universal? He asks. Conclusion is that religion has the power to bring people together. (Isn’t that the same as the premise?!)
Religion perpetuates social solidarity by reaffirming shared values. But of course modernization will eventually lead to decline of religion. What will be in its stead? Durkheim wonders.

Marx established critical theory. He thinks religion is a form of social control and therefore cause of conflict (complete antithesis to Durkheim’s argument). Religion forms part of the dominant ideology — opiate of the masses, making them subdued, uncritical, easily manipulated. It numbs the pains of oppression and diverts working class’s attention.

Marx predicts that after a proletarian revolution, there would be no need for religion. Class concerns alone should occupy worker’s concerns. But experimentally Marx is wrong.

Weber focused on subjective meaning and personal experience of religion. He believed that people have an inner need to understand the world as “meaningful” (rationalization). Else how can we deal with our existential angsts? In a universe where nothing is certain except death, we’ve devised religion as a sweet nepenthe that makes us oblivious of how utterly insignificant and meaningless we are. He wrote The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (See Week 3; Chapter 4).

Classic Studies: The Elementary Forms of Religious Life

Written by DURKHEIM. His final work. Durkheim wants to understand the universality of religion–preferably at its birth. But neolithic communities don’t keep records too much. So instead Durkheim asks: how might religion come to be? What might it have been devised to solve?

Totemism – the use of natural objects and animals to symbolize spirituality.
Preliterate societies use this emblems to symbolize their faith in a higher power. An emblem is meaningless but it unites a tribe. It evokes collective loyalty.

Rituals and ceremonies further reinforce these totemic objects. These experiences lift people from mundane, “profane” life to a higher, “sacred” plane of being. Often most significant life occurrences (birth, adulthood, marriage, death) are given religious significance.

In Durkheim’s analysis, the totemic objects or rituals are not meaningful in themselves but derive meaning from the social cohesion they create. So we might as well have celebrated National Cucumber Day than Christmas.

People get excited for religion because of its out-of-the-ordinary, emotionally moving rituals. People link to each other as social beings. When people worship a totemic animal they are in effect worshiping their own society.
So for Durkheim, religion is a collective consciousness.
Keywords are “shared” and “symbol”.

Modernization turns a society from mechanical to organic. It means we must appeal to common humanity to connect to others, and not rely as heavily on religion in a diverse organic society. Durkheim concludes, then, that eventually the influence of traditional religion will decline.

Definitional Problems

It is difficult to define “religion”. Spirituality and faith may mean different things to different people. McGuire (2005) suggests that we can distinguish between substantive and functional definitions of religion.
Substantive: examines a religion’s core elements, including the belief in a higher being and supernatural forces.
Functional: describes how religion provides a sense of connectedness between people, while also creating strife.

Sociological theories of religion can contain both types of definition.
e.g. Durkheim believes that social life have sacred and profane parts. We spend most of our time in the profane part but once in a while dress up and behave differently. This is a substantive definition of core features of religion.

Drugs and alcohol have an ambiguous role in social life – on the one hand, well, don’t do drugs. On the other, drugs shift people’s consciousness to other-worldly concerns–ecstasy, reflection, connection with deeper selves.
– In a Catholic mass, why do priests drink wine, but not cranberry juice? It’s because of this “sacred” effect.

Some religions can’t be categorized into “sacred” and “profane” to easily. If the higher being is manifested in all aspects of life, then it’s not so easy to separate yourself to have a completely profane life. Western sociologists tend to be biased towards Judeo-Christianity, but there are lots of other religions in the world too.

Distinction: organized religion and spirituality.
Organized religion: set of social institutions. Groups, buildings, etc.
Spirituality: set of beliefs that, though shared, may not be enacted with other people.
This duality is characteristic of, say, Christianity. But it isn’t really so if you examine Buddhism. It’s kind of implying that organized hierarchies of priests, etc, are more important than spirituality itself.
(And many a philosopher would critique that this is indeed the problem with modern Western civilization).

Sociologists, aware of this, ask: why do people seek religions?

Religion in Canada Today

Report in The Globe and Mail. Canadians rank highly in the world on charitable giving. Research shows that people who give more to charity tend to be happier than people who do not.
(Not to be a cynic, but people who give more also tend to be the ones with more to give, you know?)

This raises questions:

  1. What makes some societies more charitable than others?
  2. Why should charitable giving make people happy? Post hoc ergo proper hoc?
  3. Is charitable giving a religious act or a secular one?

Most charitable societies tend to be most affluent, best educated, and most socially progressive. It seems that commitment to social equality and social altruism makes people happy when they give. But what makes people more committed?

More giving people tend to be happier.
Incidentally, highly religious people also tend to be happier.
Maybe happiness comes from a sense of meaning and fulfillment. Maybe happiness comes from a sense of belonging. Or maybe those people are just lying, saying they’re happy when they’re not.

Science is interested in finding laws of nature. But religion is concerned with promoting ethical and charitable behaviour, with transcendent goals.
So does widespread charity in Canada indicate a deep religiosity? Maybe. Canada’s very multicultural.

Are people getting less religious? Maybe. One-third of Canadians go to church but more than half have their own private forms of worship. Church attendance says as much about religiosity as divorce rates says about marital satisfaction.

Statistics Canada uses a “religiosity index”: a combination of affiliation, attendance, personal practice, and (stated) importance of religion. This index corrects the limitations of just using church attendance.
(Consider role distancing of reluctant churchgoers, for example).
Religiosity Index:
40% low, 31% medium, 29% high. Highest among older people and women and people raised in religious families.

But exercise caution because Canada is so multicultural. 41% of immigrants have high religiosity though. Highest level of religiosity from South Asia (Pakistan) and lowest level from East Asia (China).

Religion vs. Science: The Debate of the Modern Era

Our society is secular – i.e. we are less religious. Most people say it’s logical, scientific, or (in Weber’s terms) a rational-legal society. People are “disenchanted” with the natural world, and rely on science instead of supernaturalism.

The science-religion debated started back in the Enlightenment. Darwin for example made religious leaders angry by proposing evolution. Science is the (empirical) search for knowledge, which Robert Merton (1976) summarized as CUDO: communalism, universalism, disinterest, and organized skepticism.
i.e. Science is non-religious.

Science advances by peer review and independent, disinterested (unbiased) research, public debate, etc. Science demands skepticism — all scientific claims are critically evaluated and all conclusions are “tentative”, awaiting disproof.

Religion, on the other hand, isn’t expected to advance. It is timeless. Religious scholarship is rarely disinterested. Take a step too far and you get burned on a cross.
Religious debates rarely public; carried out internally, so that church may present a united front toward the outside world. Religion does not encourage organized skepticism.
But of course religion can adapt too. e.g. Hadiths in Islam.

Institutional inflexibility is a problem for religion. e.g. Catholicism is still inflexible about birth control, abortion, and premarital sex. But eventually it does give in. E.g. the 1992 apology to Galileo for his trial.
Religion can’t ever be as flexible as science though. Science requires no commitment to traditional beliefs. e.g. “Phlogiston” theory of heat transfer.

Science looks forward, while religion looks backward.
(And the engineer looks at the present. Coughcough let’s go on.)
Religion is rigid and unyielding, compared to science. Religions are convinced that they have found eternal and everlasting truth, and everyone else are misguided. Such exclusion created bloodshed. But religion also brings people together, which science fails to do.

Religions are committed to creating and preserving order. Science on the other hand creates and foments skepticism and disorder.
(Lawful vs. chaotic)
Maybe this is why people are still religious. Religion gives a sense of purpose. Science is disinterested in this topic.

Is science really chaos though? Drawing from Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), scholars examined paradigms which define what constitutes acceptable theories and experimental behaviour in sciences.
Even science is rigid and hidebound. Fields of research go through periods of unchallenged authority followed by a paradigm shift (e.g. Einstein replacing Newton).

Weber notes that paradigm shifts are set off by charismatic leadership. Then order is recreated through routinization of charisma.

Classic Studies: Civilization and Its Discontents

Oh hey, it’s Freud!

Why do people keep coming back to religion even when scientific thinking has taken over? Freud says religion is nothing more than a symptom of neurosis (and God is an illusion).

Freud says that we are all driven by buried desires–the id. We often need to repress these desires (most notably sex; unfortunate I know), which makes us neurotic. Humanity, repressed by civilized rules, experiences a constant sense of frustration and bitterness. Our repressed sexuality promotes anxiety, hate, fear, and guilt.


Freud sees the Judeo-Christian tradition as an atonement of guilt. Here we have an (imagined) slaying of the primal father, a psychologization of wished-for death of one’s actual father. So Christianity is more or less of an Oedipus complex.
But what about Buddhism? Also we can’t really disprove Freud since no one can see the unconscious.
On the other hand maybe the unconscious is like gravity. Invisible but ever present. How else do you explain neurosis?

Criticism: narrow view of religion, ignoring cultural and social meanings. (Give the poor man a break; he’s a psychologist).
But it’s coherent. e.g. Freud predicts that as sex becomes more available, people will be less devout. Which is true.

The Idea of Secularization

Durkheim and Freud both saw secularization as a positive development. Durkheim because it denotes a growth in tolerance and diversity; Freud because it denoted a drop in repression.

But religion is still an important presence in modern societies. Its importance may not be fully represented in statistics like church attendance, etc.

Secularization theory argues that many formerly powerful religious institutions have lost their influence in society.
e.g. Napoleon reduced power of the Catholic church through his conquest.
Institutions still close at Christian holidays (and not other holidays), so religion still is embedded in our society.
On the other hand people may consider themselves Christian but do not follow strictly on its teachings (thou shalt not lie; thou shalt not steal; etc.)

One example is Quebec: traditionally the Roman Catholic Church is significant — protecting Quebec from cultural assimilation. For three centuries prior to 1950, Catholicism is significant. In the 1960s though church attendance fell significantly — marking Quebec’s “Quiet Revolution”. It removed Church from education and politics.
Reason? Quebecers view Church as backward and oppressive.

Though secularization is usually case-by-case, some generalization is possible:

  • Social Differentiation: process by which a society becomes increasingly complex and diverse. In the past the Church took care of education, health care, social mediator; now we have schools, hospitals and other social institutions for these functions.
  • Societalization: the way people increasingly connect to and abstract “society”, and not to a concrete community in which every person knows everyone else. People started to look to “society” — a faceless amalgam — to provide for their needs.
  • Rationalization: effort to explain the world through the logical interpretation of empirical evidence. In fact Judeo-Christianity encouraged rationalization — they encouraged theology (systems of doctrines) over mythology (unsystematic leaps of faith). Even today Christian church leadership still stresses philosophical inquiry into people’s link to the divine.

Civil Religion

Civil religion is a mid point between secular and sacred approaches to life. It challenges the claim that human society will eventually be fully rational-legal with no place for religion. It celebrates the state, replacing many of the traditional functions of religion.

Nationalism is the most important and widespread version. It provides people with meaning and purpose. It may be linked to religion itself — e.g. American exceptionalism and the sense that America was God’s beacon to humanity.
On the other hand consider the Super Bowl.
Rober Bellah et al. (1985) say that this kind of event provides cohesion apart from any specific religion. Christians and Muslims alike can enjoy a fine Super Bowl Sunday.

New Religious Movements

New Religious movements (NRMs) exist all over the world and is gaining popularity. e.g. Wiccans (neo-pagan modern-day witchcraft). Aboriginal groups are working to re-establish their spiritual exercises.

Many of these groups suffer ridicule — labelled as “cults”. But these movements are mainly groups of people who share similar views about the world!
(It is us against the world you and me against them all…)

e.g. Raelians – UFO worship. Does not brainwash, contrary to stereotypes. As Durkheim would say, it’s simply a substitution of totemic objects.

Religion in the Schools?

Should religion be taught in public schools? Should faith schools receive tax money? In Canada education varies from one province to another. In 19th century schools were denominational; providing students with moral grounding through religion. But this becomes a problem as Canada becomes diverse.

Some say, though, that exposure to religion is important even to non-religious people. Current some people in Canada can “opt-in” to a religious education.
Anyway, Robert Bellah is an important person.


Robert Pattinson + Bella Swan = Robert Bellah.

Robert Bellah’s two most influential articles are “Religious Evolution” (1964) and “Civil Religion in America” (1967). He sees social science as a moral inquiry.
(Which I agree. All science should have a moral element to it.)
Van Gerwen (1998) finds the following questions to Bellah’s work: “How can our society become and remain independent? How can it be just and fair to all its members? How can it remaiin innovative and democratic?, etc. etc.”

Best known book: Habits of the Heart (1985).
There are three founding cultural traditions of America: republicanism, biblical religion, and individualism.
Individualism prevents Americans from giving proper attention to the first two. Individuals pay too little attention to public lives–justice, equality, social responsibility, or spiritual matters. Indeed as Durkheim taught: individuals can only flourish under conditions of social cohesion (game theory: prisoner’s dilemma).

“We are not simply ends in ourselves, either as individuals or as a society. We are parts of a larger whole that we can neither forget nor imagine in our own image without paying a high price.” – Robert Bellah

Roof (2009) draws on Bellah’s “American civil religion” to examine how American use myths to form their national identity and how these myths are influential on American society. The “public faiths” of the US approximate the civil religion to varying degrees.

Proe (1992) identifies Super Bowl as a “religious festival”. Buttersworth (2008) takes up this them to examine Super Bowl in 2008, where several displays of national and military symbolism were featured.

Riley (2008) cites Bellah’s “civil religion” in exploring the narratives, symbolism, and commemoration surrounding the site in Pennsylvania. (Like Ground Zero). It’s invoked as a holy place.

Meizel (2006) looks at American popular music. Esp. two songs: “God Bless America” in WWII and “God Bless the USA” in Iraq War. Such songs provide people with anthems through which they can celebrate.

In any religion there are saints and sinners, gods and devils. Wender (2007) analyzed religious imagery of American “War on Terror”. US is cast as the divinely anointed deliverer of the world from the “evil of terrorism”. The war is a holy “civil” crusade.

Swatos (2006) imagines that, in theory, the US could have reacted in many different ways to the 9/11 attacks. Why has the American government reacted to harshly? Why attack Iraq, who has no connect to al Qaeda? Besides spoiling for a war, US government and citizenry

Bertin (2009) notes that Bellah originally viewed religions as unifying and stabilizing. Bertin sees a crisis in American civil religion both in its inherent contradictions and in the politically charged conflict caused by the growing power of evangelical fundamentalism and the religious Right. Religion is separating progressive and conservative Americans.

Hecht (2007) draws on both Bellah’s “civil religion” and the work of Will Herberg to develop the concepts of “passive pluralism” and “active pluralism” by looking at the eruv.
“Passive pluralism” was historically the norm in US — mainline religions dominated public space. This is giving way to “active pluralism” with more immigrants coming in.

Copen and Silverstein (2007) explores how religious values and beliefs are communicated from parent to their children. Three mechanisms:

  1. Socialization: teaching beliefs and values.
  2. Social training: living out their religion as a role model.
  3. Status inheritance: placing children in socioeconomic situations that reinforce their world view.

Ferdinand Tönnies investigated connection between religion and social cohesion. Religion vs. individualism?! Tönnies wrote about this in his analysis of community and society.

Turner (2005) points out that Kant distinguished between cult (seeking favours from God) and religion as moral action (changing one’s behaviour). Kantian approach is important to Weber’s view of asceticism and capitalism. Talcott Parsons built on Weber and Kant. In his later works Talcott turned to Durkheim. Robert Bellah was a student of Parsons.

Bellah belongs to the fusion approach.

New Insights

Vido, not Video
Vido (2008) notes that continued importance of religion to society seems to refute the “secularization thesis”. Religion ain’t disappearing.

What Are We Even Doing Here?
Smith (2008) says that sociological study of religion is going through a transition in which major issues and future goals are ambiguous.
The notion of “multiple modernities” — that society can modernize in different ways — needs further development in the study of religion. We are at a turning point.

The Triumvirate
Goldstein (2009) says that in the old paradigm of sociology, secularization is linear. In the new paradigm, secularization is “revival and routinization”. Kind of like the standoff between Marx & Durkheim (linear theorist) and Weber (cyclical/non-linear theorist). Goldstein points out that even Durkheimian model allows for spiral/dialectical/paradoxical/etc patterns.

Not So Black and White
Hornbacher and Gortowik (2008) dispute Eurocentric version of the inevitable march of secularization. In Asia religious practices are clearly flourishing even though they are developing.

Post-Modern Orthodox
Mulders (2008) says the revival in Russian Orthodox is seen not only in increased membership but also increased public discourse. It’s a sign of “postmodern ideological diversity”.

Religion as a Developing Force
Lunn (2009) says that religion, spirituality, and faith need to be re-examined in connection with the theory, policy, and practice of socioeconomic development. Religion can help development be sustainable. Savagnone (2009) examines the role of Italian Roman Catholic Church in advocating for the Italian South.

A Horseman in Thailand
Horstmann (2009) considers reivial of traditional art and ancestor worship in souther Thailand. In a postmodern context traditional practices have been adapted to treat modern illnesses.

Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks
Amineh and Eisenstadt (2007) note that Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979 produced the only modern regime founded on religious fundamentalism. They supported presidential-parliamentary system and equality and political participation not found in traditional Islamic thought.

Kabbalah is famous because Madonna publicly declared that she follows it.

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SOC103 Notes by digitalhardhat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Week 6 – Starting Points Ch. 12

Reading Time 00:15:26

Starting Points

Schools and Formal Education

Education used to be a privilege; now it is a way to gain credentials, which leads to credentialism — the rising need for ever more sophisticated educational qualifications.

Besides work training, education also instills societal values. So it is a form of primary socialization. Students learn to behave as responsible and informed — in other words functional — citizens.

Education isn’t a level playing field. e.g. Harvard. Social advantages are passed down through higher education. Both socio-economic inequality and values and aspirations are important in the study of education.

Meritocracy would be nice: but how would you differentiate between people? Wouldn’t the criteria themselves be biased? Tests are not always fair. Sigh my SATs but nevermind that.

Schools have limited resources (except maybe Harvard). People have limited time and energy and money. Politicians are swayed by popular opinion.

Diversity in student body may create conflict, but more often widens students’ horizons. What is it about schools that result in formation or destruction of social bonds? We will find out by studying formal and informal education.


Functionalists focus on manifest and latent functions of education.
Manifest: give students literacy and numeracy, maybe training (come on, how’s that a bolded word?!) for jobs or being informed citizens.

Critical theorists often focus on latent functions of education.
Latent: warehousing unemployed (or unemployable) people, especially during times of high unemployment. Keep young people off the streets.
They studied schools as a source of hidden curriculum.

  • Maybe the boredom you experience at school PREPARES you for the boredom at work!?! (No. That’s a horrible way to live. A life without passion.)
  • Schools are meritocratic — sends an ideologically suitable message in a capitalist society.
  • Schools also teach students how to dress and behave. As girls or boys. Or even as doctors, lawyers, managers, etc.

Increasingly, institutions of higher education is interested in producing knowledge and translating knowledge. i.e. Research.

Classic Studies: The Academic Revolution

1968 by Christopher Jencks and David Riesman (looks like Riemann). Looks at historical ties between schools and societies, and examines evolution of higher education in post-industrial society.

The Academic Revolution recounts rise of “research universities” in the 20th century. American society bureaucratized, leading schools to transform into a national system of higher training. Top high school students go into top undergrads go into top graduate schools.
University characterized by specialized curricula, heavy research agenda, and an all Ph.D. faculty. University without these are considered sub-par.

So universities increase research and decrease undergraduate teaching (cough cough) to raise their international profile. Professors gained greater visibility and importance. Increasingly these professors — concerned with research and graduate teaching — determine the character of undergraduate education. These professors promote meritocracy.

Of course this shift created conflict. Youth who resent adult authority, locals who resent foreigners, the religious who resent secular education, social elites who resent lower classes oppose this change — “generational war”.

This academic revolution has not succeeded fully. Positions at top universities are limited, students from wealthy backgrounds continue to gain entry the most easily. (Cough cough Harvard). Jencks and Riesman say that this is due to unequal structure of American society. (Well. Yeah.) And more energy must be directed to make society more equal. Otherwise efforts to create meritocracy will be futile.

But still, education has been important to upward mobility. As John Porter had said.

More recently Jonathan Cole said in The Great American University: Its Rise to Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why It Must be Protected: social values and social and economic structures behind each research university is important. Why do universities produce scientific research and technological innovation? Because they have a standard of excellence in accordance with scientific research. (As opposed to religion).

Jencks and Riesman described the US situation but what about Canada? Canada has a smaller system (even per capita) with smaller inequality. The best are not THE best and the worst are not THE worst. Comme ci, comme ça. Canadian universities focus on research too though. So students pay more and more. Right now half of a university’s operating costs are paid by student tuitions.

Andrew Hacker is not happy. He wrote Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids — And What We Can Do About It. He said tuition fees are too much, tenured professors don’t teach and relegate the job to adjuncts, graduate programs are too big for their own good, Ph.D.’s can’t get jobs, all the money goes to med school, science, or business with none left for humanities. Students get an education they don’t need and can’t use, while putting themselves in debt for the next 10 or so years.

Criticisms for Jencks and Riesman.

  • Tedious read! with no new insights. (Bidwell, 1969. I bid him well.)
  • Suggestions for reform are half-hearted.
  • Ad hominem! People feel personally attacked by remarks on “marginal colleges”: the local, black, religious, and women’s colleges.

But others find it revealing and persuasive! Bidwell said their secondary analysis of various data on college and university attendance is especially praiseworthy.

Educational Inequalities

Schools did a good job to level the playing field. Do you know that girls to better than boys at elementary, secondary, and even (whatever that’s supposed to mean) at post-secondary levels?

Continuing gender differences — in salary and rank — reflect not a failure of education. It’s just that, most women don’t choose higher-paying, traditionally male-dominated careers. Some blame higher education, but self-selection is important too.

Ethnic groups have experience increases in education too. Although to be fair it may have to do with immigration policies. The unnecessary requirement of Canadian working experience often forces educated immigrants to work for jobs for which they are over-qualified. Immigrants push their children to work hard and get college/university education. Aboriginals though are still underrepresented. There are some stats in the book check it out.

Children from poorer socio-economic backgrounds are generally less likely to gain a higher education. This begins early in life.

Classic Studies: The Adolescent Society

James S. Coleman based The Adolescent Society on a survey of US high school students. Coleman finds out that — academic achievement means nothing, and looking good means everything! If you are academically successful but unattractive, well, GG.

Coleman argues that this teenage subculture is largely separate from the adult world. Where, well, good looks do count but so does hard work. The adolescent way of thinking discourages academic ambition and undermines the preparation for workforce.

Why has this culture developed? Industrialization separated adolescents from adults, leading them to gain approval from peers. New non-adult bases of evaluation developed. Academic success is viewed as conformity.

Some critics say that those teens’ parents are just shallow. So this book is a hidden critique of American culture and society. Problems schools and educators face are indeed cultural and motivational, not merely economic.

Teenage relationships are inherently conflictual. So much drama!

Ability Grouping or Streaming

Some schools segregate different kinds of students by ability grouping/tracking/streaming. Debate continues.

Three main types of ability grouping
1. Ability grouping: common in elementary schools. Students are divided into “slow”, “average”, and “advanced” readers. etc.
2. Setting: “Honours”, “academic”, “applied” course codes, etc.
3. Tracking/Streaming: students move as one block, taking all classes together. Referred to as a “core group”.

Advantages of streaming: pupils advance according to their abilities; failures are reduced; bright students are not bored; less likely to confront students with their inadequacy.

Disadvantages: lack of able students to stimulate learning; stigma; unnecessarily trap young people if assessment not accurate (Einstein wasn’t very bright as a child); higher levels simply receive more work rather than different work. Teachers may not want to work with slower students. Minorities are not socialized to be ambitious. Lower-stream students receive instruction that is slower-paced and of lower quality.

Segregation or Distance in Schools

Not all students are created equal. Some parents choose private schools. Reason? Better education, less student variety, more instillation of values. Currently they are even thinking of “black schools”, like segregation all over again, which of course the textbook scoffs at.

Some parents home school. It’s an increasing trend. Children remain at home to be taught and it is considered legal. But there are difficulties with respect to the curricula. Why? Don’t want to be brainwashed, don’t want to be multicultural or egalitarian, don’t want to be secular or scientific. Which of course the textbook scoffs at.

Some parents isolate their children from the opposite sex. Does it help? Research is inconclusive. On one hand this saves time and energy. On the other students don’t know about the opposite sex which can cause trouble trouble trouble.

Classic Studies: Crestwood Heights

What is the connection between family life, school experience, and mental health? John R. Seeley wrote a book.

Crestwood Heights is a project to learn about the mental health of children in Canada. Post WWII. Seeley wants to study “the culture of the child under pressures of conformity”. What’s a child’s culture? What’s his values, goals in life, and problems? (see UP) Focused on Forest Hill community of Toronto.

To the residents of Forest Hill, the child is a problem to be solved. Like other things in life. They want a trophy child. A child that they can be proud of. These parents are successful and upwardly mobile people, usually businesspeople or professionals. To varying degrees they all want their homes to look like Hollywood movies or haute-couture photo shoots.

They teach their children to be “perfect”: competitive and successful in their pursuits. Children are a reflection of the parent. They need to be successful in scout groups, music lessons, and in school! School is a place where children can prove their worth. Thus the Parent-Teacher Association becomes important. It retrains parents and restrains teachers.

There is tension. Parents don’t like their children below A which leads to grade inflation. Which means they’ll get destroyed in universities.


  • Small and biased sample space. (Bidwell, 1957, good to see him again).
  • Elkin (1957) said book is descriptively vague and lacks a theoretical framework. Mostly anecdotes.

Praised for “faithful ethnography”.

Even 50 years later many of the same patterns exist. Especially immigrant parents socialize their children to be ambitious and independent (rather than, say, dutiful, generous, or pious). Often the values schools promote are just an extension of parents’ values — ambition and advancement.
But social capital and cultural capital matter too.

Abuse or Violence in Schools

Bullying is bad and a source of concern. With Internet comes cyber-bullying. Bullies terrorize their victims, physically, emotionally, or socially. They consume their souls. Bullies are either buff or popular at school (or both). Forms include a “roughing up”, threats, or gossip (this one is usually by girls), or exclusion.

Childhood bullies are also likely to display anti-social behaviours in adulthood — 40% of childhood bullies have violent tendencies as adults. Motives originate at home, and bullies often imitate their parents. Bullies show aggression to many people, even teachers and parents, with little empathy.

Victims are often associated with tension, fears, worry, low self-esteem, and depression. Bullies grow up to be bullies. Victims may or may not still be victimized when they grow up.
Five out of six students say they feel uncomfortable when they see someone get bullied.

Bullying is not merely psychological but also social. E.g. bullying serves a function in the “adolescent society” of Coleman — to distinguish winners and losers. Bullying often focus on certain culturally supported stereotypes — handicaps (deafness, blindness, obesity, etc.), unpopularity, or homosexuality. e.g. Calling victims “gay”. Hyper-masculine activities (like football) are especially likely to encourage bullying.

The Integrating Power of Schools

It is in the school setting that children broaden their base of close friendships. School brings people together by driving them apart. We are cleaved from our parents and able to form relationships with our peers.

Early in life, we are most concerned with our relations with parents. But at school we are aware of a much larger world. We are confronted with moral doubt. And we grow and see identities and goals of our own. We want to find our true selves but also be part of the crowd.

Schools contribute to the evolution of independence. From adolescence into adulthood. How?

  1. Schools bring together large numbers of young people, giving them an opportunity to communicate and interact easily.
  2. Most children want to make friends, and school provides this opportunity.

Erik Erikson (nice name…) said that we all grow up following a predictable human life cycle, made up of 8 stages. At each stage we are faced with a specific task. If we complete it and beat the boss, we can advance to the next level. We’ll look at two of them.

Stage 4: latency stage, 6-12 years old. Children learn new skills, developing a sense of industry and competence. They also develop socially, comparing themselves to others and (sometimes) feeling inadequate and inferior. As these times they confront problems with their self esteem. Most significant relationships are school, neighbourhood, and peers. Parents are important but not the most important.

Stage 5: 12-19 years old. Development depends mainly on what they do, not what others do to them. Neither children nor adults – life gets more complex as young people try to find their own identities, struggle with social interactions, and grapple with moral issues. Ultimate goal is to find the self to move forward.

At this stage adolescents may distance themselves from their families: Erikson calls this a “moratorium” of family relations. Because they lack experience, adolescents substitute ideals for experience. They develop strong devotion to friends and causes, wanting to idealize them. Most important relationships are often peer groups.

It’s so good to be young!

James S. Coleman

A Columbia grad, Coleman understands well how young people influence one another. Coleman did one of the largest studies in history and surveyed over 150000 students. This report is called Equality of Educational Opportunity. Aka Coleman report.

Coleman said that students’ achievements do not depend on school funding but depends on student’s background and socioeconomic status. e.g. Black students perform better in mixed schools instead of segregated schools — leads to desegregation!

Coleman is interested in how schools provide cultural capital (as opposed to the Frenchman, Bourdieu, who contended that cultural capital are passed down through inheritance. Kind of an interesting illustration of American vs. French thinkings.) and social capital.

Lillbacka (2006) is the first to try to measure social capital empirically, through indicators as 1) interpersonal trust, 2) a strong social network, 3) self-confidence, and 4) belonging to voluntary associations.

Healy (2004) said that social capital is contextual. What works in one situation may not work in another. So social capital is kind of like currency – Canadian dollars may not work in Sri Lanka!
Healy and Lillbacka say that these contextual problems cannot be solved. But they can be improved!

Barnett (2005) tested Coleman’s hypothesis that “Catholic schools instill more social capital than public schools”, and therefore Catholic students do better in school. Barnett found that Catholic school students do have more social capital but not necessarily do better.

Bankston (2004) looked at immigrant children — ethnicity is a kind of social capital. But it’s only beneficial if that ethnicity endorses cultural values that pertain to school achievement.

Ethnic minorities — especially, immigrants — benefit from what Raymond Breton (student of Coleman) called “institutional completeness”. Students benefit from integration into their ethnic group, and they benefit from higher aspirations. That’s not it though. They benefit most from an interaction of the two.

e.g. Chinese Canadians will have more educational payoff than integration into a culture that doesn’t value education that much. So education depends also on “cultural investments”.

Bonikowski (2004) says that stratification studies like Coleman’s (which emphasize on socioeconomics) do not consider the effect of curriculum on academic outcomes. Curriculum design itself may be influenced by socioeconomy. So Bonikowski says that the theory is incomplete — did not consider all variables.

Elster (2003) says Coleman is perceptive but dogmatic. Apart from lack of variables, Coleman is following the “rational choice theory”, saying that social investment is conscious. It may not be. e.g. Teens and their fixation on sports and acne? Oh gee.

Lindenberg (2003) says that Coleman isn’t practical enough. Coleman did very little institutional design, so why should anyone listen to him? (Article: How to Keep Learning as an Expert). Lindenberg says that Coleman is trying to be all microeconomical, but life isn’t microeconomics!

Coleman’s later work involve “economic sociology” and “mathematical sociology” — often hard to understand! Some sociologists are simply not good at math. Others view it as and oversimplistic, overidealized approach. But Coleman may have potential.

Coleman is trained as both an engineer and a sociologist and he deserves some respect.

New Insights

Scott (2009) writes about Chris Searle who taught with “resistance education” — a way of reaching awareness and freedom to the working class. Scott notes that Searle’s writings draw on his own students’ lives and thoughts in the practice of critical literacy.

All Are Welcome
Davis tells a story. Searle spent most of his time at non-white schools where he brought together Yemeni, Pakistani, and white students, along with the community. Polar opposite to Crestwood Heights.

The Truth Behind Truth
Roth (2009) says that discovering and imparting truth cannot be the goal of education for postmodernists. A “new critical language of education” must be massed on understanding and justification.

This Woman is High
Amatucci (2009) describes learning and teaching as a personal search. Education should be emancipatory — “freeing”, in a sense.

Porn Frees Our Souls
McNair describes another emancipatory form of education — “pedagogy of porn”. Pornography became more and more available, and is influenced by feminism, gay rights movement, and Internet.

Yea, It’s My Life, In My Own Words I guess
Klugkist (2009) said that telling personal stories can help you “rewrite yourself”. Former students of a private European school in South Africa tells their stories of how they behaved in school long after. They were able to lean more about themselves.

Whosoever Slayeth, Vengeance Shall be Taken on him Sevenfold
Henry (2009) is traditional and used survey data. He studied the 1999 mass murder at Columbine High School in Colorado. Theretofore school violence was examined in isolation, but not anymore! Henry proposes an interdisciplinary approach.

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SOC103 Notes by digitalhardhat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Week 5 – Starting Points Ch. 11

Estimated Reading Time 00:16:36

Starting Points

Families and Socialization

Families teach children rules, and children grow up and form families to pass those rules on. It’s a circle! Today there are a lot of different types of families. But which type is the best? Are you ready to make babies? And be a parent?

Family is fluid and malleable, but also basic and necessary. It’s the primary unit (quantum) of society. Today norms about what constitutes a “family” are changing, and this causes confusion. e.g. polygamy; divorce.

Though families have changed and diversified, they retain one characteristic: families are agents of socialization. Our parents teach us how to behave — and our first years are most formative. e.g. We need to learn to share! And to realize that our desires can’t be satisfied all the time. And to learn to care for others. etc.



Family is the central institution in society. It’s a microcosm for society, with each family member contributing to a unified whole. Kind of like what an H2O molecule is to water. Or a cell is to an organ. Or a byte is to digital data.
So, changes in family mirror changes in society.

In modern industrial societies, family life is complicated. Socialization is the manufacture of new citizens, and it’s complex. Talcott Parsons and Robert Bales (1955) view family’s division of labour as its key to success.
i.e. Husband keeps food on the table, make decisions (instrumental)
Wife nurtures and is the emotional centre (expressive)
Through this specialization, families are effective at satisfying physical and emotional needs of its members, and socializing children. Of course that was the 50s and the times they are a-changin’ so it doesn’t apply as much now.

Are some family forms “natural” or “inevitable”? Psychiatrists Ronald Immerman and Wade Mackey (1999) say yes. They argue that almost all marriage systems in the world support monogamy. Monogamy is favourable because it limits STDs, out-of-wedlock births, infant morbidity, etc. So monogamous societies tend to function better than communities that do not maintain pair bonding. So monogamy is functional.

Linda Waite (2000) argues cohabitation is inferior to traditional (legal) marriage. (Guess she doesn’t want to Waite for a proposal any longer! Ha ha!) Cohabitation fails to provide the economic and psychological benefits, such as access to extended families, and provides less support in crisis. So she thinks that married monogamy contribute to the survival of society.

Critical Theories

Critical theories don’t look for no universal truths about family life, or support certain forms of families neither. Rather, they take a historical approach and look at changes in family life.

With industrialization, families went from self-sustaining (farmers) to consumption units (dual-income households that purchase goods and services). They become dependent on external sources of income.
Implication? Men had to sell their labour while women gained exclusive control over (were relegated to) the household — sometimes called social reproduction.

But women took care of the household without $$$$! This specialization only increases gender inequality, under conditions of exploitive capitalism.
Feminists: just as workers depend on capitalists, wives depend on husbands. Such dependence easily turns into subordination!

Patriarchal tendencies were old and pre-industrial, but industrialization affirmed them. These tendencies are especially strong in traditional communities, industrial or pre-industrial.
But some women in traditional communities are turning feminist too. e.g. evangelical feminists say evangelism is “a strategic form of women collective action”. But single mothers, working mothers, bisexuals, or lesbians are excluded.

Symbolic Interactionism

Focus on micro level. Ways members of a family interact and resolve conflicts. Social constructionists focus on “family values” by right-wing religious leaders + politicians. By appealing to people’s concern for their family, they channel common anxieties into hostility against single mothers, LGBTQ, etc. Republicans. Use traditional ideologies to hurt vulnerable families instead of supporting them. Produces dangerous citizens of tomorrow due to poor socialization.


Two main views: functionalist vs. symbolic interactionist.

Socialization occurs top down: children internalize social norm and conform. Talcott Parsons described this in Family, Socialization, and Interaction Process (1955). Parsons says top-down learning is necessary for society, because it creates conformity and consensus. Ideal society characterized by social integration, with homogenized values, etc (∫ ds = const).

Criticism: People may not be completely shaped by norms and expectations. Dennis Wrong (1961) says Parsons is Wrong. Parsons’s view may be “over-socialized”. Feminists also don’t like this view — it justifies the socialization differences between man and women, and by extension, differences in socioeconomic statuses. Why aren’t there more women in engineering?
Adomo et al (1950) say that top-down socialization may be effective at homogenization, but it also produces anger, prejudice, racism, homophobia, etc.
Also what about socialization from bottom up? (i.e. children teaching themselves and each other?)

Symbolic Interactionists:
Most accepted view of socialization, by Charles H. Cooley and George Herbert Mead. Notes that people participate in their own socialization. How does a child develop its sense of self, and how does family help/hinder this development?

Parents try to train child top-down, with language, punishment, etc. But child also evaluates itself according to others — looking-glass self by Cooley. The reaction of others is important. But how important? Depends on our self-awareness and importance we attach to various reference groups.

Mead believed self-concept was made up of the I and the me. The I is our spontaneous, creative, unique self; the me is the self we develop for social purposes. (We put on a mask sometimes.) e.g. you may sing songs in your shower but not on subway, for example.
(Mead may be right, but a shower also has much better acoustics than what you can find on TTC.)

Mead: playground is one key public setting. Children has opportunity to practice socially learned roles and expectations. Through play and interaction children develop concept of generalized other — notion of attitudes and expectations of society at large. The reason you don’t strip in public is probably due to this generalized other. This helps us act in a socially approved manner.

Classic Studies: World Revolution and Family Patterns

William Goode is a Goode sociologist and is Goode at tracing family patterns. Goode looked at relationship between changing family patterns and industrialization.

Family patterns everywhere are moving towards nuclear family model. (Though rate of change is not uniformly distributed, ∇(∂F/∂t)≠0) Families are getting small — a self-sustaining unit of production and consumption. Individual family members have more freedom; parental authority has declined; husband’s control over wives dwindled; dowries disappearing everywhere.

Industrialization and urbanization encourage smaller, more flexible family units, to meet industrial changes. e.g. they can migrate more easily. But of course there are still “barriers” such as housework or child care. Sometimes nuclear families emerge before industrialization; sometimes extended families persist after industrialization.

Goode’s work is Goode (significant) because it attempts to ambitiously define laws of family change under industrialism and because of its global scale. Goode predicted that industrial growth and education would alter women’s roles.

Some stats: (In 2006)
-As Goode “might have” predicted (the heck is this supposed to mean?) Canada’s families are increasingly diverse: nuclear families + cohabiting + single-parent + … In 2006 married couple accounted for 69 percent of all census families — decreased from 83% two decades ago.
(69 should be an easy number to remember right?)
-In 2006 number of unmarried Canadians aged 15+ outnumbered number of legally married couple. 52% (now) vs. 39% (before).
-Same-sex couples represent 0.6% of all couples in Canada. 16.5% of these were married. More men couples than women couples. Half of these live in MTV (Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver).
-Single-parent families increased from 11% to 16%.
-Cohabitation from 6% to 15%.

The Idea of “Family”

Is the family in trouble? Are people turning away from responsibilities of marriage and parenthood? Public polls still show that family is important to Canadians. In fact most still believe in a nuclear family ideal. Why? Let’s look at functionalism.

Functionalists consider family to be a social institution with one preferred structure that meets the most societal demands. They seemingly ignore the fact that a variety of family forms can satisfy need for love, attachment, and understanding among members. So nontraditional families — cohabiting, non-nuclear, etc. — are important too. e.g. modified extended family. Relatives don’t share a household but live close to each other.

Census family is a broader definition of family. But the textbook says it’s still not broad enough. Because
1) many units that meet structural definition do not behave like ideal families and
2) many units that behave like ideal families do not meet structural definition.
(Form or function?)

So let’s talk about family processes instead of forms:

  • Dependency and intimacy: long term commitment & attachment to each other and to family as a social unit.
  • Sexuality: long term exclusive sexual relationship. Do it with your spouse only!
  • Protection: guard each other against all kinds of dangers. e.g. keep kids away from drugs. Take a bullet for your wife.
  • Power: the more powerful members protect the less powerful ones. May contribute to patriarchy though. (So if you protect your girlfriend/wife don’t rub it all in her face; you are simply following through the sacred duty of a man.)
  • Violence: families are also often marked by violence. Usually it’s when a male assaults a female. Not ideal but sadly true.


Socialization. One universal feature of family life. Through childhood and adolescence people experience a very intense primary socialization. Then they go on to live their lives and undergo secondary socialization.

Primary socialization usually takes place within the family context. Helps form personality and charts course of personal development. Child learns social skills. Parent are important because they are the first people a child interacts socially with. They also control child’s learning environment.

Primary socialization is interesting to both macro- and microsociologists.
Macro: primary socialization integrates people into society, teaching them to fulfill societal roles. Humans are tabula rasa. Through this teaching and imprinting, society is able to reproduce itself into the future. But this also perpetuates inequality.
Micro: study how socialization forms people’s concept of self.

Secondary socialization is less fundamental. Involves learning specific roles, norms, attitudes, beliefs, etc. e.g. We know how to be a parent only when we become one. Occurs outside of family and is based on knowledge accumulated in primary socialization. When we prepare to enter a role, we engage in anticipatory socialization. e.g. in med school, you also learn about how to behave as a doctor socially.
e.g. frosh week; employee orientation; prenatal parenting, etc.
Some other times though, we don’t have a chance for anticipatory socialization if we get fired. Then we’d need to improvise.
(Pre-death orientation would be nice.)

Sometimes we want to become a “new person” through resocialization.
e.g. job-training; grief counselling; soul-searching.
Erving Goffman describes total institutions to resocialize their clients drastically through surveillance and punishment.
e.g. asylum, monastery, boot camp, etc.

Classic Studies: The Authoritarian Personality

Where do violence and prejudice come from? Social isolation — according to Theodor Adorno, who Adorno’ed himself with honour after his work is published in 1950. Socio-psychological model that centres on individual personality traits and childhood socialization experiences.
Findings: faulty socialization -> overt racism, etc.
Adorno measured “authoritarianism” using an “F-scale”. F for fun! No not really. F for fascism. The antithesis of fun.

Adorno identified nine characteristics of the authoritarian personality using his F-scale:

  1. Conventionalism: rigid adherence to conventional middle-class values;
  2. Authoritarian submission: submissive, uncritical attitude to idealized moral authorities in group;
  3. Authoritarian aggression: tendency to be on lookout for and condemn people who violate conventional values;
  4. Anti-intraception: objection to tenderness or the imaginative;
  5. Superstition and stereotyping: (self-explanatory);
  6. Power and “toughness”: preoccupation with dominance; exaggerated assertion of strength;
  7. Destructiveness and cynicism: generalized hostility; vilification of the human;
  8. Projectivity: belief in wild and dangerous things going on in the world; projection of outward unconscious emotional impulses;
  9. Preoccupation with sexual goings-on: exaggerates penis size. (Okay not exactly but close. Exaggerates sexual occurrences and practices.)

Summarize: 1) Prejudice is a generalized tendency — people who hate Jews also tend to hate other minorities. 2) Prejudice is linked to political and social conservatism — opposing social welfare, etc. 3) Prejudice is related to a variety of personal beliefs (superstition, fatalism, etc.) and to anti-introspection.

A bully grows up in a family where people do not inspect or reveal their feelings. A bully may glorify his parents to hide his insecurities. A non-bully is more accustomed to expressing disagreements — starting with arguing with his parents, based on secure and warm relationships.
A bully attributes his insecurities to others through a Freudian process, projection.

Aside: Freudian theory of repression. People who are forced by cruel (or unfeeling) parents to hide their fears and desires express them in veiled ways, such as in dreams, fantasies, and groundless anxieties.

Criticism: methodological flaws and researcher bias. Tamotsu Shibutani notes that study is more psychological than sociological.

Generally, families which are more cohesive and adaptable tends to deal with social stresses better.

Gender Socialization

Sociologists view the development of socially recognizable gender differences as a main social phenomenon. Though sometimes parents reinforce gender socialization (“Boys don’t cry.”), most of the time it’s unintended. e.g. Toy packaging, TV ads, etc.

Racial and Ethnic Socialization

This includes all of the ways parents shape their children’s learning and understanding of race and race relationships.

Class Socialization

Parents communicate about their life experiences and feelings about their place in society. Children learn the social hierarchy. This socialization affects the children’s future goals and aspirations.
e.g. independent thinking and hard work vs. luck and charm?

Children who are taught that hard work is irrelevant, school is a waste of time, and all that counts is who you know, not what you know are less likely to succeed. As Thorstein Veblen notes: the poorest and the richest members of society are similar — neither is part of the contest for success.

Values like ambition, responsibility, and independence are transformative. They are means by which (middle-class) families prepare their children for adulthood. Middle-class prefers cultivation, with enrichment lessons. The poor and the rich prefer natural growth.

But of course, your values may change significantly during adolescence.


Hochschild says that ally the ways humans feel and express emotions are largely social. We are taught what to feel by culture. We follow “feeling rules” as much as other rules of behaviour. We try to be happy at a party or sad at a funeral, and wonder if we are normal if we can’t summon the appropriate feelings.

I told her Mother had died. She wanted to know how long ago, so I said, “Yesterday.” She gave a little start but didn’t say anything. I felt like telling her it wasn’t my fault, but I stopped myself because I remembered that I’d already said that to my boss. It didn’t mean anything. Besides, you always feel a little guilty.

– A. Camus, L’Étranger

Theory of “emotional labour” — work one must do to develop the “right” emotions for themselves. Emotions are commodified. e.g. Sales; flight attendants in The Managed Heart (1983).
Also focuses on division of emotional and physical work in modern families (with a working wife) in The Second Shift (1989).
Also interviewed Fortune 500 people to see how their work lives compare with their family lives in The Time Bind (1997). Though most CEOs say they value family, for many people the workplace culture provides a better sense of community, appreciation, support, and competence than home.

Melissa Milkie et al. (2009) used Hochsschild’s concept of the “second shift” to study employment and domestic workloads of mothers with full-time jobs whose partners also worked full-time. Total workload of these women — “focal mothers” — exceeds their partner by 10 days a year. They are slightly more pressured, though not by much.

Sayer et al (2009) did a similar study, found little difference. Uhde (2009) looked at social inequality with caregivers. Uhde sees a need to recognize and ensure justice for the many immigrant women caregivers.
Mitsuhashi (2008) studied emotional burnout in Japanese care workers, finds that burnout most likely to happen when workers are unable to do emotional work, rather than when they actually do it.
Hansen and Andersen (2008) explore what influences a person’s decision to work when sick. Sickness presence vs. sickness absence. They found that supervisors, people working long hours, and people in small convivial companies are prone to sickness presence (duh).
Brook (2009) takes Hothschild’s position further, saying commodification of emotions leads to exploitation.
Ozkaplan (2009) says the study of care labour — especially emotional labour — can be considered a sociology of women’s work.
Hesmondhalgh and Baker (2008) researches how television program research team deals with stress and handles emotions.
Blakely (2008) looks at emotional aspects of a different kind of work — e.g. wedding planning.

A lot of buzz on Hochschild. She belongs to the fusion approach!

New Insights

Modern Family
Mann and Barnard (2002) notes debate about modern families, especially family stability. One side says diversity is a threat. One side says oh no it’s fine. Mann and Barnard say that too many texts present little or no coverage about this diversity and how it will change us.

Hey, I Spent My Month’s Salary on That Ring
Boney (2003) surveys major studies in divorce and identifies a male-focused bias in studies that negatively portray divorced single parents. Postmodern studies tend to present the positive side of divorce. In 2002 Boney notes that negative view of single parenthood, based upon traditional values, stresses single mothers, making them Boney. 😦 But a postmodernist therapy may help!

Employee Retention
Tambe (2006) looked at brothels as boundaries between families and non-families. Feminist theory often separates prostitution and family life. But In 1920s Bombay many women were actually encouraged by their families to join the sex trade. There was a hierarchy. In effect brothels functioned as real homes for these girls and young women.

Don’t Nuke Us
Pedraza Gomez (2007) finds the modern Western notion of childhood does not suit the current Third World. Education took European children out of work force but not indigenous children or slaves. So non-Western families don’t follow nuclear family model.

You Raised Me Up
Keller and Demuth (2006) try to disentangle views about “independence” as a value of childhood socialization. Because everyone teaches it.
Germans breastfeed for emotional closeness. Americans breastfeed for health.

What If I Told You We Don’t Play Starcraft All Day?
Lee (2005) notes that people in South Korea, who didn’t know what to do with their free time, are learning Western leisure activities.

Don’t Grow Complacent
Kanduc (2004) views leisure consumerism as a type of social control that perpetuates exploitation. The unspoken goal of the ruling class is to produce people who are productive but also docile. People believe that happiness can be found in consumerism but this belief is an opiate.

New Car, Caviar, Four Star Daydream
Baldauf (2002) asks why do young people like to shop? To satisfy needs for sociability, distinction, and individuality. Shopping is viewed as a “sociology of manipulation”. Baldauf proposes that shopping provides “shopperedutainment” — a way of healing the wounds of capitalism by holding out the glimmers of freedom, individuality, and authenticity. People don’t define themselves by work anymore but instead by the clothes they wear.

Ticking Away the Moments That Make Up a Dull Day
North-Jones (2009) studied how 10 families lead their daily lives (way to make the study scientific with such a small sample size…). People say they were rushed. People say they want their children to respect themselves and others, have wisdom, have knowledge of the world, etc. People say they feel they don’t have enough time.

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SOC103 Notes by digitalhardhat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.