Study Document

Sociology: Changing Societies in a Diverse World Book Report

Pages:30 (9606 words)


Topic:Urban Sociology

Document Type:Book Report


Sociology: Changing Societies in a Diverse World (Fourth Edition)

George J. Bryjak & Michael P. Soroka

Chapter One Summary of Key Concepts

Sociology is the field of study which seeks to "describe, explain, and predict human social patterns" from a scientific perspective. And though Sociology is part of the social sciences (such as psychology and anthropology), it is quite set apart from the other disciplines in social science; that is because it emphasizes the study of social groups - and how those social groups shape the thoughts and actions of humans.

The two phases of modernization: the first phase was the Industrial Revolution, which had a dramatic effect on countries like the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand; the second phase began post-WWI and continues now. Globalization alludes to the movement of industry - jobs, people and capital - from one society (and country) to another, as economies grow, throughout the world. Also, part of Globalization is the movement of values and other cultural characteristics with those industries and people. One down-side of Globalization is that if one interrelated economy hits a roadblock, the economies elsewhere in the world that fed or are fed by that slowed down economy, or are partially dependent upon that economy, can also suffer slow-downs. It has a ripple effect.

Sociology is a "debunking science" because it looks for "levels of reality" other than utilizing those already listed in official explanations and definitions. In Positivism, decisions are reached based on available scientific knowledge, whereas intuition means a person uses his best immediate extemporaneous response, judgment and sensory experience about something, not based on fact or previous research. Comte's contribution was to bring sociology into a more scientific genre; and he believed knowledge can only be based on what one sees, touches, feels, hears and tastes. The downside to Comte: he was wrong in his belief that social laws would determine the outcome of societal progression.

Durkheim's four categories of suicide: Altruistic suicide (people over-involved in a group, and have strong inner convictions); egoistic suicide (under-involved, under-committed individuals simply want a way out); anomic suicide (a person never reaches the social status nor achieves out-of-control desires and dreams); fatalistic suicide (victims of despotism, over-regulation, or repression would rather die than be compromised or locked into a life which is despairing and desperate). Theory: a set of logically coherent concepts that explains, or attempts to explain, some observable phenomena, or collection of facts; the life blood of science. A grand theory deals with "universal aspects of social life" and is normally rooted in assumptions which are basic. Middle range theories focus not on "universal" aspects but of "specific problems" in the social world.

Talcott Parsons' functional requirements: Social systems must adapt to their environments (Adaptation); members of social groups must have goals and the wherewithal to achieve those goals (Goal Attainment); today's functionalists understand that all components of society must be coordinated into some kind of a cohesive whole (Integration); everybody needs a psychological and physical break, or rest period, from the fast-paced world we live in (Pattern Maintenance).

Symbolic interactionism is more of a social psychological approach, taking smaller scale issues and subjectively examining them; conflict and functionalist theories deal mainly with larger-scale social phenomena, and they begin with the assumption that tangible facts are of primary importance. Symbols and the context in which they appear help social scientists understand the human culture; people respond to things based upon what meaning those things have for the individual. Survey research is social scientists studying behaviors or attitudes by asking questions; observation study is just observing rather than asking; and experimental research is more of a way to explain social patterns, or predict new ones.

Chapter Two Summary of Key Concepts

Culture is the combined values, norms, institutions and artifacts that reflect a people's way of living and social heritage. Cultures set the guidelines and boundaries for how a people think and live, and they are altered as times and people change within them. Sociobiology proponents observe that since no society has real "instincts" and since every society has certain similar forms of behavior (for example, altruism, aggression, and homosexuality), those behaviors must be "biologically based" and transmitted "genetically" through generations. Those not buying into sociobiology say humans learn through experience, not through biological processes.

Language: a) allows humans to transmit culture from generation to generation; b) is the tool for storing and sharing knowledge; c) allows the transcending of the here and now, into fantasy, and back into history. Material culture comprises things people make and utilize, while nonmaterial culture consists of ideas, beliefs, laws, customs.

Popular culture consists of the things that are part of everyday life, as portrayed in movies, TV, books, magazines, the Internet, sports, music and other forms of entertainment. Observing popular culture gives us a way to explore the present and evaluate it, while having a perspective of the past juxtaposed with the present. America's core values are the key identifying characteristics of our nation. Some of our core values include: work, achievement, material comfort, success, acceptance of change, progress, freedom, individualism, patriotism. As for patriotism, we have seen the current president exploit the concept of patriotism in order to promote his agenda of attacking nations with "weapons of mass destruction" (e.g., Iraq). And in using patriotism, the president is tapping into a core value, and making it work to his political advantage, it would appear.

Norms are simple rules that identify what humans should do and say and think; folkways are the customary ways in which a group of people does things; mores are rules - spoken and unspoken - which must not only be observed, they must be "obeyed." Laws are mores which have legal backing. Ethnocentrism is the somewhat vain belief that the values and norms of one's society are superior to values and norms of other societies, but a less judgmental route is cultural relativism, in which people believe there is no absolute, universal right and wrong, and everything must be judged within the context of its own cultural value. Culture shock occurs when one meets people whose view of the world is radically different; culture shock can cause frustration, confusion, even revulsion. A subculture shares some values and behavioral patterns with the larger society, but have their own specific brand of beliefs and activities within their group. An example would be Southern Baptists, or the Army, or stamp collectors, or baseball players. But countercultures have values and beliefs which contradict the lifestyles and values of the greater culture - and an example of countercultures would be hippies living on a communal farm, or the Ku Klux Klan. One counterculture that was incorporated into the larger society was the Solidarity Movement in Poland; leaders of the SM were elected to national office, and thereby brought the group into national focus and prominence. It was actually a revolution of change, from despotism to democracy, from despair to hope.

Cultural lag occurs when one aspect of the culture changes faster than other aspects. For example, life support systems keep humans technically alive though "brain dead" - and our culture has not come to grips with the manifestations and ramifications of this phenomena as of yet.

Chapter Three Summary of Key Concepts

Social Structure refers to the attempt by a culture to translate its values and patterned relationships into concrete terms. Members of social aggregates will share the exact same physical space at a particular moment (such as several men standing in line in a rest room at a baseball stadium), but have little else in common. Meanwhile, social categories share more than just momentarily being in the same place; for example all men who were born on July 1, 1950, are a social category; or, all women who graduated from the University of Wisconsin would fall into that "social category."

Status alludes to a social ranking or position a person achieves within a group or society. Role just defines what that person within that position in society is expected to do. Role strain is the inability to successfully achieve all the things that are expected of one in a particular role (a teacher is supposed to lead, not be pushed around; but in some gang-infested schools, bullies dictate what teachers will and won't do). But role conflict refers to being caught in the middle of expectations because all people have more than one specific role in the society (a coach is also a teacher, but his dedication to the quality of his football team does not allow him to grade social studies papers as quickly as he would like to, so students are upset with him when they don't get their papers back quickly).

Membership groups are specific groups to which people belong, and within that group the person acquires the values and attitudes of that group. A reference group is similar to a membership group, but it may be a group that a person wishes to identify with,…

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