BU CAS SO 100 - Lecture 1: The Sociological Imagination

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The Sociological ImaginationWay of putting our lives as individuals into broader sociological contentsWritten by C. Wright Mills (1959)  The first fruit of this imagination, and the first lesson of the social science that embodies is the idea that individuals can understand his own experience and gauges his own fate only by locating himself his period, that can know his own chances in life only by becoming aware of those of all individuals in his circumstancesNew Left Social Movement of the 1960’s  New wave of student led of social movements that were responsible for all the massive student protests against various institutional changesBerkeley Undergraduate Social Movement – Free Speech movement. Mario Savio Proul Hall speech, addressing the crowd after his meeting with president because he had been punished for protesting about free speech on campusHe as a student and other students were treated in American society as raw materials, public universities were there to create workers like factories. Faculty were employers, regents were CEO’s and students were raw materials. How do universities play a role in society?Sociological imagination is to see how you as an individual are connected to these larger institution and to question them. Different from individual perspective, but seeing it from a bigger picture and broader perspective.Troubles vs. IssuesTrouble (individual/biography) occur within the character of the individual within the range of his immediate relations with others, they have to do with his self and with those limited areas of social life of which is directly and personally aware. The individual as a biographical entity and within the scope of his immediate milieu- the social setting that is directly open to his personal experience and to some extent his willful activityUsing sociological imagination to move from personal trouble to an larger issues For example:Individual status of unemployment to national unemployment trendIndividual status or trait of being white man to social race privilegesIndividual status of homelessness to international comparison of poverty ratesIndividual status of supporting the war to social issues of international affairsIssues (society/history) have to do with matters that transcend these local environments of the individual and the range of his inner life. They have to do with the organization of many such milieu into the institution on a historical society as a while with the way sin which various milieu overlap and interpenetrate from the larger structure of social and historical lifeDenaturalization  (1) connecting individual lives/experiences to larger social-historical contexts, social trends, or social facts. (2) explaining those social-historical contexts, social trends or social facts (the “why question”) not natural, that issues are due to social changes for example:Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” characters talking about cultural differences between Europe and America “Quarter Pounder vs. The Royale” – Tipping, age limits, job hours, freedomCollege: is it worth it?Only recently that people start to question college – i.e. individuals Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg “expectations that prove the rule”Research studies show that financially individuals of the majority do benefit from college.Why?Substantive or cognitive skills?Cultural capital?Networks, aka social capital?Credentials: degree as signal?Social Institutions  A group of social positions, connected by social relations, performing a social role and reproducing themselves over time. Roles connected by stories, learning roles over timeFounding TheoriesAugust Comte (1798-1857) and Harriet Martineau (translator)Social physics  social laws, social determinantsPositivism  everything is discoverableCreated sociology; however, beforehand people regarded society as a result of religion or biology. Comte explained society according to social rules and physic. This is related to natural sciences because it is objective and it contains the scientific methodClassical TheoriesKarl MarxHistorical development  capitalism is a social system that goes through distinct stages of development (feudal, capitalism, egalitarianism or communism)History is driven by class conflict  capitalists and workers, capitalists trying to exploit the workers as much as possible and the workers trying to overthrow capitalists to create an alternative societyCapitalists vs. workersSocialismMax WeberVerstehen “understanding or insight”  People’s ideas shape their actions. Less interested in the economy, but by understanding people’s ideas of the world and how it shapes their actionsSubjectivity, it’s not value free, human beings are not completely objectiveThe Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism  Protestants have a notion of predestination in their theology. You are confirmed to be an elect, that you are allowed in heaven, if you make and save moneyEmile DurkheimAnomie “Alienation, normlessness, or isolation”  We are motivated by meanings and norms we get from society, being connected and attached to particular groups. Actions are driven by a condition of normlessness and meaninglessness. For example, suicide is most likely driven by feelings of alienation from a social group, less suicide during war because of the feeling of nationalism during difficult timesGeorge SimmelSmall group interactions and social forms  small groups interactions shape everything, the way in which people are organized mattersDyads vs. Triads – identities of people involved in groups changes when there are three or more people. For example, sexual relationships “Jerry Seinfeld: I’m not an orgy guy”. Social dynamics change dramatically when you add one person to a dyadDyads are the foundation of all other relationships. Small groups are informal, and large groups are formal and it requires hierarchyAmerican SociologyThe Chicago SchoolCharles Cooley and the theory of “The Looking Glass Self”  we get our sense of self in our identity through interactions with other people. We imagine how others see us and you come to see yourself as others see you, like that of a ‘mirror self’. Self awareness and self is solidified if people regard you in that particular way. There is no real of true self, it only emerges through social interactions and adopting the position of the otherW.E.B. DuBoisDouble consciousness  Cooley’s


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BU CAS SO 100 - Lecture 1: The Sociological Imagination

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