Booksummary with Society the basics by Macionis

1: The Perspective, Theory, and Method of Sociology

This chapter gives an introduction to the discipline of sociology. The most important skill to gain is the ability to use the sociological perspective. This chapter will also introduce the sociological theory which will help you to build an understanding about what you see when using the sociological perspective. Furthermore this chapter will explain how sociologists ‘do’ sociology by describing three general approaches to conduct research and four specific methods of data collection.


1.1: The Sociological Perspective

Sociology is the systematic study of human society. At the heart of sociology is a distinctive point of view called the sociological perspective.


Seeing the General in the Particular

Sociological perspective is defined as: seeing the general in the particular (Berger, 1963). This tells us that sociologist look for general patterns in the behavior of particular people. It is true that every individual is unique but society shapes the lives of people in various categories very differently. You will begin to see the world sociologically when you start realizing how the general categories into which we fall shape our particular life experiences. A good example of this is the classic study by Lillian Rubin(1976) about women’s hopes for their marriages. Rubin found that higher-income women typically expected the men they married to be sensitive to others, to talk readily, and to share feelings and experiences. Lower-income women had very different expectations and were looking for men who did not drink too much, were not violent, and held steady jobs.

To sum it up: what women expect in a marriage partner has a lot to do with their social class position. The sociological perspective shows us that factors such as our sex, age, race, and social class guide our selection of a partner. It also tells us that it might me more accurate if we see ‘love’ as a feeling we have for others who match up with what society teaches us to want in a life partner.


Seeing the strange in the familiar

It seems at first that by using the sociological perspective you will see the strange in the familiar. The sociological perspective reveals to us the initially strange idea that society shapes what we think and do in patterned ways.


Seeing Society in Our Everyday Lives

The society which we live in have a lot of influence on our everyday choices in food, clothing, music, schooling, jobs, and just about everything else. Even the most personal decisions we make turn out to be shaped by society. To see how influential society is consider the decision by women to have children that is also governed by social patterns, or Durkheim’s classical theory about suicide that shows that even here social forces are at work.


Seeing Sociologically: Marginality and Crisis

Almost everyone can learn themselves to see the world through the sociological perspective, but two situations help people to see clearly how society shapes individuals lives:

  • Living on the margins of society ( The greater people’s social marginality, the better they are able to use the sociological perspective).

  • Living through a social crisis. (periods of rapid change or crisis make everyone feel al little off balance that encourages us to use the sociological perspective. C. Wright Mills (1959) illustrated this idea by using the Great Depression of the 1930s.


1.2: The Importance of a Global Perspective

As globalization is still going strong which is also due to new information technology that draws even the farthest reaches of the planet together, many academic disciplines are talking of a global perspective. The global perspective is important to sociology because global awareness is a logical extension of the sociological perspective. If sociology in general tells us that our place in society shapes our life experiences it is logical to think then that the position of our society in the larger world system affects everyone in your country.

The 195 nations in the world can be divided into three categories according to their level of economic development:

  1. High-income countries: (nations with the highest overall standards of living).
  2. Middle-income countries: (nations with a standard of living about average for the world as a whole).
  3. Low-income countries: (nations with a low standard of living in which most people are poor)

Comparisons between all the nations can be made for the following five reasons:

  • Where we live shapes the lives we lead.
  • Societies throughout the world are increasingly interconnected.
  • What happens in the rest of the world affects life here in our own country
  • Many social problems that we face in our own country are far more serious elsewhere.
  • Thinking globally helps us learn more about ourselves.

In an increasingly interconnected world, we can understand our way of live and ourselves only to the extent that we understand others and the societies in which they live. Sociology is an invitation to learn a new way of looking at the world around us.


1.3: Applying the Sociological Perspective

Sociology has had an impact/influence in many ways:

  • Sociology and Public Policy: Sociology have helped shape public policy in countless ways from racial desecration to laws regulating divorce.
  • Sociology and Personal Growth: Using sociology pays off in four ways:
  • The sociological perspective helps us assess the truth of ‘common sense’.
  • The sociological perspective helps us see the opportunities and constraints in our lives.
  • The sociological perspective empowers us to be active participants in our society.
  • The sociological perspective help us to live in a diverse world.
  • Careers: The ‘Sociology Advantage’: Having a background in sociology is excellent preparation for the working world. You can become a teacher, college professor or researcher in sociology. You can also become a researcher that is linked to government agencies or private foundations and business, gathering important information on social behavior and carrying out evaluation research. In addition some sociologists work as clinical sociologists. They, as much as clinical psychologists do this with the goal of improving the lives of troubled clients. Difference with clinical psychology is that clinical sociology has a stronger focus on de difficulties in the individual’s web of social relationships instead of in the personality of the individual. Furthermore, you don’t have to become a sociologist if you have studied sociology; you can also apply for jobs in, for example, criminal justice or in the health care. In both fields it is really an advantage if you are in possession of a sociological perspective.


1.4: The Origins of Sociology

Social Change and Sociology

People began to be more aware of society and their place in it because of the many big changes in Europe during the 18th and 19th century. Because of this the development of sociology really spurred. The three most important changes in the development of sociology are:

  • The rise of a factory-based economy.

  • The explosive growth of cities.

  • New ideas about democracy and political rights.


Science and Sociology

Throughout history people have been fascinated with the nature of society. In China among these people were the brilliant K’ung Fu-tsu & Confusius and in Greece you had Plato and Aristotle. In the Roman Empire there was Marcus Aurelius, St. Thomas Aquinas and Christine de Pizan and William Shakespeare. They all wrote about the workings of society. What all these thinkers have in common is that they were all are more interested imagining the ideal society instead of the real society. The French social thinker Auguste Comte (1798-1857) coined the term ‘sociology’ in 1838 to describe this new way of thinking: to be as a thinker more interested in de ideal society than in de real society.

Comte saw sociology as the product of three stages of historical development:

  • Theological stage (the church in the Middle Ages).

  • Metaphysical stage (The Enlightment and the ideas of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau).\

  • Scientific stage (Physics, chemistry, sociology).

Comte’s approach is called positivism. He thought that the idea of knowledge being based on tradition or metaphysics was speculation. Comte thought that knowledge was based on science.

As a positivist, Comte believed that society operates according to certain laws, just as the physical world operates according to gravity and other laws of nature. He believed that by using science people could come to understand not only the laws of the physical world, but also the laws of the social world. Comte’s ideas about sociology are still popular and even today most sociologists continue to consider science to be a crucial part in sociology but our thinking about society has evolved and we now also know that we are creatures of imagination and spontaneity, so human behavior can never be explained by rigid ‘laws of society’.


1.5: Sociological Theory

An important part of sociology is formulating theories. This comes from the desire to translate observations into understandings. A theory is a statement of how and why specific facts are related. The job of sociological theory is to explain social behavior in the real world. To test and refine these theories, sociologists need to do research. In deciding which theory they should choose, they choose a road map, or a theoretical approach to guide their thinking. A theoretical approach is a basic image of society that guides thinking and research.

In sociology there are three major theoretical approaches:

  1. The Structural-Functional Approach
  2. The Social-Conflict Approach
  3. The Symbolic-Interaction Approach

1)The Structural-Functional Approach: this is a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system where all the parts work together to promote solidarity and stability. This approach points to a relatively stable pattern of social behavior, otherwise known as a social structure. In each structure sociologists are searching for social functions. These are the consequences of a social pattern for the operation of society as a whole. The level of analysis is Macro-level.

There are three structural-functional pioneers: 1) Auguste Comte (he pointed out the need to keep society unified when many traditions were breaking dowm. 2) Emile Durkheim and 3) Herbert Spencer who compared society with the human body: just as the structural parts of the human body each carry out certain functions to help the entire organism to survive, social structures operate together to preserve society.

Robert K.Merton (1910-2003) expanded the understanding of social functions by pointing out that any social structure probably has many functions. Social functions can be divided in 1) manifest functions (consequences that can be recognized and are intended) and 2) latent functions (consequences that can’t be recognized and are not intentionally). Merton also recognized that not all the consequences/effects of social functions are good, thus a social dysfunction is any social pattern that may disrupt the operation of society.

By the mid-1900s most sociologists favored the structural-functional approach but in recent decades its influence has declined. Critics point out that the structural-functional approach is not critical of inequalities based on social class, race, ethnicity and gender. All of these inequalities cause tension and conflict. Because the structural-functional approach focuses on stability (at the expense of conflict) it makes it conservative

2) The Social-Conflict Approach: is a framework for building theory that sees society as an arena of inequality that generates conflict and change and is a critical response to the structural-functional approach. This approach focuses on how factors like class, race, ethnicity, gender and age are linked to inequality in terms of money, power, education and social prestige. This approach rejects the idea that social structure promotes the operation of society as a whole. Instead it focuses on how any social pattern benefits some people while hurting others. This approach has led to two important theories: 1) Gender-Conflict Theory (from this feminism was born) and 2) Race-Conflict Theory. The level of analysis is Macro-level.

Critiques on this approach are about the fact that it largely ignores how shared values and interdependence can unify members of a society. This is mainly due to the fact that The Social-Conflict Approach focuses too much on inequality. Some critics say that a Social-Conflict Approach is not objective. A final criticism is that it paints society in broad strokes (in terms of ‘family, ‘social class’, ‘race’ etc.

3) The Symbolic-Interaction Approach: is a framework for building theory that sees society as a product of the everyday interactions of individuals. This theory has roots in the thinking of Max Weber (1864-1920). He emphasized understanding a particular setting form the point of view of the people in it. The level of analysis is Micro-level

In this approach the society is seen as an ongoing process in where people interact in countless settings using symbolic communications. The reality people experience is variable and changing. We create a reality for ourselves by looking at others. We first define our surroundings, decide what we think of others en then we can shape our own identity. Mirco-level sociology by using the Symbolic-Interaction Approach shows us how individuals construct and experience society. However, by focusing on the individual en what is unique this approach risks overlooking the widespread influence of culture as well as factors like class, gender and race.

Keep in mind that using all three approaches is the best way to fully understand society. Each approach teaches us a new aspect of society that together can give a broader picture on the workings of a society in smaller parts and as a whole (micro as well as macro level).


1.6: Three ways to do Sociology

There are three ways to construct sociological research:

1) Positivist Sociology is the study of society based on scientific observations of social behavior. Positivist research discovers facts by using science which is a logical system that develops knowledge from direct, systematic observation. Positivist sociology is sometimes called empirical sociology because it is based on empirical evidence which is information we can verify with our senses. A basic element of science is the concept. This is a mental construct that represents some part of the world in a simplified form. A variable is a concept whose value changes from case to case (example: height, weight, age). The concept ‘social class’ can describe people’s social standing by using values like upper class, middle class and lower class. The use of variables depends on measurement which is a procedure for determining the value of a variable in a specific case. Researchers must operationalize a variable before they can measure it.

Sociologists use descriptive statistics to state what is average for a large population ( the mean), to find out what the score at a halfway point in a listing of numbers from lowest to highest is (median) and to find out which score occurs the most (mode). For a measurement to be useful it has to be reliable and valid. Reliability refers to the consistency in measurement, but consistency does not guarantee validity which means that the measurement actually measures what you want it to measure.

The payoff of all your hard work is determining how the measured variables relate to each other. Correlation means a relationship in which two or more variables change together. This is not where it stops because a sociologist wants to know not just if variables change together but also which variable changes the other. The most ideal is when a scientist can determine cause and effect which is a relationship in which change in one variable causes change in another. The cause is the independent variable and the effect is the dependent variable. Important to remember is that just because two variables change together this does not mean that they have a cause-effect relationship. When to variables change together but neither one causes the other this relationship is called a spurious or false correlation.

Objectivity is an important guiding principle in science. It means that the person who is doing the research is neutral and such objective research allows the facts to speak for themselves and not be influenced by the personal values en biases of the researcher. It is of course impossible to achieve total neutrality but carefully observing the rules of scientific research will maximize objectivity. According to Weber, sociologist must be dedicated to finding truth as it is rather than as they think it should be. Researchers must stay open-minded and be willing to accept the results as they come. The argument Weber makes is still very important to sociology today although most researchers are realizing that nobody can be completely objective en know about all their biases which includes being aware of one’s own political/social background which can be a big influence.

The corresponding theoretical approach within positivist sociology is the structural-functional approach.

2) Interpretive Sociology

Within sociology not every sociologists will agree with the statement that the best way for conducting research about human society is science. This is because humans are much more than objects moving around in ways that can be measured. We are active creatures but our humanity lies in the fact that we attach some meaning to our actions and it is precisely this meaning that is not easily observed directly. This is way sociologist have invented an interpretive sociology which is the study of society that focuses on discovering the meanings people attach to their social world. Max Weber is a pioneer in this kind of sociology.

Interpretive sociology differs in three ways form positivist sociology:

  • Positivist sociology focuses on actions because this is what we can observe directly interpretive sociology focuses on people’s understanding of their actions.
  • Positivist sociology claims that objective reality is about those things that really exist, are really out there. It can be observed so this reality exists ‘out there’. Interpretive sociology says that reality is subjective and people give meanings that are constructed within their own minds.
  • Positivist sociology with a focus on outward behavior favor quantitative data, interpretive sociology with a focus on inward behavior favors qualitative data.

Weber claims that the key to interpretive sociology lies in ‘verstehen’. It is not just to observe what people do, but also to share in their world of meaning coming the appreciate why people act as they do.

The corresponding theoretical approach within interpretative sociology is the structural symbolic-interaction approach. And de researcher is not a neutral observer but an participant.

3) Critical Sociology

Another branch within sociology who do not agree with the scientific method of positivist sociology are the ones is the critical sociology. This is the study of society that focuses on the need for social change. Sociologists who use critical sociology seek to change not only society but also the character of research itself. Society is patterns of inequality and the reality is that some categories of people dominate others.

Critical sociology wants to go beyond the positivism’s focus on studying the world as it is. Within critical sociology the researcher is guided by politics and uses research strategically so that they are maybe able to change society. The researcher is thus an activist and the corresponding theoretical approach is the social-conflict approach.


1.7: Gender and Research

In recent years it has come to light that research is affected by gender. Gender means the personal traits and social positions that members of a society attach to being male or female.

According to Eichler, (1988) and Giovannini, (1992) gender can affect sociological research in five ways:

  • Androcentricity
  • Overgeneralization
  • Gender blindness
  • Double standards
  • Interference

It must be stressed that there is nothing wrong with focusing a research on people of one sex or the other but every sociologist must be aware and mindful of how gender can effect an investigation.

1.8: Research Ethics

Like all other science fields sociology must be aware of the fact their work can harm as well as help people or communities. It is for this reason that sociologists have established guidelines for conducting research. Here are a few:

  • Sociologist must try to be skillful and fair-minded in their work.
  • Disclose all research findings without omitting significant data.
  • They should make their results available to others
  • Sociologist must make sure that the subjects that take part in a research project are not harmed and they must stop immediately when they suspect that some participants are being harmed.
  • They have to protect the privacy of participants
  • They have to let participants sign an informed consent which means that the participant must fully understand their responsibilities and the risks that come with the research before agreeing to take part.
  • Sociologist must include in their published results all sources of financial support.
  • Before beginning research in another country an investigator must become familiar enough with that society to understand what people there are likely to regard as a violation of privacy or a source of personal danger.

1.9: Research Methods

A research method is a systematic plan for doing research. The four most commonly used will be described below; these are the experiment, surveys, participant observation and the use of existing data.

Testing a Hypothesis: The Experiment

An experiment is a research method for investigating cause and effect under highly controlled conditions. They closely follow the logic of science, testing a specific hypothesis (which is an educated guess about how variables are linked). In an experiment the evidence needed to reject or accept a hypothesis is gathered in four steps.

  • State which variable is the independent variable en which is the dependent variable.
  • Measure the initial value of the dependent variable.
  • Expose the dependent variable to the independent variable.
  • Measure the dependent variable again to see what change took place.

(In the book the above is illustrated with the Stanford Prison Experiment)


Asking Questions: Survey Research

A survey is a research method in which subjects respond to a series of statements or questions on a questionnaire or in an interview. A survey picks a population (for example students) this is called the survey population. In most cases it is impossible to ask everyone who falls in a survey population to take part in a research so most researcher will take a sample from the survey population to make it more workable. A sample is a much smaller number of subjects selected to represent to entire population.

Besides selecting the subjects, the survey also needs a specific plan for asking and recording answers. This is in most cases done with the questionnaire method which can be a series of closed-ended questions like on a multiple –choice test. It can also happen that the researcher wants subjects to respond freely, to permit all opinions to be expressed. Then the researcher must ask open-ended questions in the questionnaire. The downside to this is that it can be quite a grueling task to make sense of the given open-ended answers.

In an interview a researcher personally asks subjects a series of questions, thereby solving the problem common to the questionnaire method: that some subjects don’t return the questionnaire to the researcher. With an interview the researcher can also ask deeper questions which provide in-depth responses. Downside to the interview method is that a researcher by asking the question him or herself can influence the subject, even in subtle ways. ( for example if you raise your eyebrow when someone gives you an answer, the subject can notice this and feel that you think something of here behavior). Furthermore interviews are expensive and time consuming.

In the book the survey research is illustrated by the research of Benjamin on studying the African elite (1991).


In the Field: Participant Observation

Participant observation is a research method in which investigators systematically observe people while joining them in their routine activities. This method is extremely useful for a exploratory and descriptive study of people in a natural setting, falling within interpretative sociology and produces qualitative data. Participant observation has not a lot of hard and fast rules but this flexibility allows researchers to explore the unfamiliar and adapt to the unexpected. Limitations are that it is time-consuming, replication of research is difficult and the researcher must balance the roles of participant and observer.

To illustrate the participant observation method the authors use the book ‘street corner society’ written by Whyte (1981, orig. 1943).


Using Available Data: Existing Sources

Not all research is done to gather new data, sometimes sociologists use existing sources, data that is collected by others. This is useful for exploratory, descriptive of explanatory research whenever suitable data is available. Advantages are that it saves time en money because you don’t need to collect the data yourself and it makes historical research possible. On the downside, as a researcher you have no control over the possible biases inside the data and not all the data may fit the current research needs.

To illustrate conducting research using available data the authors refer to the award winning study ‘Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia’ by E.Digby Baltzell (1979).


1.10: Putting it All Together: 10 Steps in Sociological Research

Here are ten questions that will guide you through a research project:

  • What is your topic?
  • What have others already learned?
  • What, exactly, are your questions
  • What will you need to carry out your research?
  • Are there ethical concerns?
  • What method will you use?
  • How will you record the data?
  • What do the data tell you?
  • What are your conclusions?
  • How can you share what you’ve learned with others?

2: The Workings of Culture

2.1 What is culture?

A culture is the ways of thinking, ways of acting, and material objects that together form a way of life for people. When you study a culture, you will have to consider the thoughts (nonmaterial culture) and things (material culture). The terms society and culture belong together but their precise meaning differ. Culture is a shared way of life and society refers to people who interact in a defined territory and share a culture. Society and culture need each other, otherwise they could not exist. If there is no culture, there is no society and vice versa.

When we travel to a county which has a whole different culture and an unfamiliar way of life it is most likely that you will feel some sort of culture shock. This is because we have the tendency to view our own way of life as ‘natural’. Most people around the world view their behavior as ‘natural’ but really, there is no such thing as ‘natural’ behavior. This is also a reason why we differ from animals who behave very much the same all around the world because their behavior is guided by instincts. This is in contrast with the creative power of humans. Only humans rely on culture rather than on instinct to create a way of life and ensure our survival.


Culture and Human Intelligence

5 million years ago, our distant human ancestors began walking upright. Stone Age achievements like: learning how to walk upright, building simple shelters, learning about the advantages of hunting in groups, the use of fire, tools and weapons mark the point at which our ancestors embarked on a distinct evolutionary course, making culture their primary strategy of survival. About 250.000 years ago the Homo sapiens had emerged. Humans continued to evolve and by about 40.000 years ago these ‘humans’ looked more or less like us. By looking at the cave art and wide range of tools that have survived we can suggest that these modern Homo sapiens developed culture really quickly. Settlements came into view about 12000 years ago in the region of the Middle-East and this marked a turning point because about this time the biological forces (instincts) had almost disappeared, replaced by the new tendency to fashion the natural environment to our purposes.


2.2 Elements of a culture

All cultures differ from each other but all cultures have four elements in common: symbols, language, values and norms.

1) Symbols (which is the basis for all the other elements). Humans transform the elements of the world into symbols. A symbol is anything that carries a particular meaning recognized by people who share a culture. Societies create new symbols every day. We are so dependent on our culture’s symbols that sometimes we take them for granted. We become aware of the importance of symbols when we are in a different culture and we don’t know or understand their symbol usage. We then feel lost and isolated, unsure of how to act and sometimes frightened. This inability to understand the meaning of a symbol in a different country is in essence what a culture shock is (for reasons both experienced as inflicted). Symbolic meanings also vary within a single society.

2) Language is the heart of a symbolic system. Language is a system of symbols that allows people to communicate with one another. Humans have made a lot of different alphabets to express all the languages we speak. Language allows much more than communication, it is the key to cultural transmission. Besides the fact that language skills links us to the past, they also spark the human imagination so that we can make causal connections between symbols in new ways. In doing so, we create a limitless range of future possibilities. Language sets humans apart from other creatures because of language we are self conscious, aware of limitations and ultimate mortality, yet are able to dream and strive for a better present and future.

The Sapir- Whorf thesis holds that people see and understand the world through the cultural lens of language. The symbols we use in a language does affect our reality because we shape reality out of our symbols, but it doesn’t determine reality in the way Sapir and Whorf claimed it to be.

3) Values and beliefs. When we admire a certain characters from books or movies, we are supporting certain values. Values are culturally defined standards that people use to decide what is desirable, good and beautiful and that serve as broad guidelines for social living. Values underlie beliefs which are specific ideas that people hold to be true.

Here are some characteristics about values:

  • Values are often in harmony but sometimes in conflict
  • Values change over time
  • Values differ from culture to culture but in general it can be said that the values that are important in higher income countries differ somewhat from those common in lower income countries. Values in lower income countries focus more on survival, in higher income country the focus is on individualization and self-expression.

4) Norms are rules and expectations by which a society guides the behavior of its members. In daily life people respond to other people with sanctions: rewards or punishments that encourage conformity to cultural norms. The term mores is coined by William Graham Sumner (1959, orig. 1606) to refer to norms that are widely observed and have great moral significance. Less attention is paid to folkways which are the norms for routine or casual interaction. When we learn about different kinds of cultural norms we gain the ability to look at our own behavior.

Important to remember is that the values and norms we set are more a reflection of how we want people ideally to behave, they are not a reflection of how people are actually behaving in reality.


2.3 Culture and technology

Every culture has, besides values and norms, a wide range of artifacts (physical human creations). These artifacts reflect to a certain extent the underlying cultural values. It also reflects a society’s level of technology, knowledge that people use to make a way of life in their surroundings. Researcher Gerhard Lenski (2010) says that the level of technology is a crucial factor that has an influence on what kind of ideas and artifacts a certain society has made or are possible to make.

The most basic way of life was hunting and gathering when humans used simple tools to hunt and gather vegetation for food. These kind of societies appeared around 3 million years ago en were still the dominant way of life until the 1800’s. Everybody from very young to very old helped in these societies to search for food. Women searched for vegetation while the men were out hunting. Because the two tasks were both considered having equal value, the two sexes also have the same social importance within their society. Hunting and gathering societies have no formal leader(s), they may have one person they look up to like a shaman of priest, but also they have to search for food, so it is a simple and egalitarian way of live. Because they have limited technology, hunters and gatherers are very vulnerable for the forces of nature. In the world today societies that are made up from hunters and gatherers are slowly decreasing.

Horticultural societies is a society were the people who live in it use hand tools to raise crops and they began to exist 10 000 years ago. In regions where there was a really dry climate people could not raise crops, instead they focused on the domestication of animals (pastoralism). The difference between pastoral peoples and horticulturalists is that pastoral people remain nomadic whilst horticulturalists build permanent settlements. In comparing pastoralism and horticulture with hunting and gathering it comes to light that pastoral and horticultural societies are more unequal because some families are the ruling elite.

Technological advances led to agriculture which is a large-scale cultivation using plows which are harnessed to animals or more powerful energy sources. Agriculture developed 5000 years ago and first appeared in the Middle-East. Like horticultural societies also agricultural societies build permanent settlements. The development of agrarian technology expanded human choices and sparks urban growth but it also makes social life more individualistic and impersonal. There is also more social inequality.

Industrial societies came into view when people began replacing human muscles and animals with machines (industrialization). Industry is the production of goods using advanced sources of energy to drive large machines. In industrial societies people work in factories and this replaced the traditional cultural values that till then guided agrarian societies. Industry also made the world look like a smaller place because goods and people could travel faster by boat and train. Industry also raised the standard of living and extended human life expectancy.

A lot of cultures have now entered the postindustrial era. Post industrialism refers to the production of information using computer technology. Postindustrial society centers around computers and other electronics that create, process, store, and apply ideas and information.


2.4 Cultural Diversity

Counties with a lot of cultural diversity like Holland or the US are multicultural; countries with no cultural diversity like Japan are monocultural. Cultural diversity also comes from social class. A society is divided into a high culture (cultural patterns that distinguish a society’s elite, like going to the opera or theater) and a popular culture (cultural patterns that are widespread among a society’s population). Sociologists feel some unease with the popular judgment that high culture is better than popular culture because of two reasons: first neither elite nor ordinary people all share the same tastes nor interests, the two groups also differ from each other within their own group. Second we must ask ourselves is we praise high culture because it really is better or if we praise high culture because its members have more power, money and prestige.

Subculture refers to cultural patterns that set apart some segment of a society’s population. Most people belong to more than one subculture. So we all belong into multiple subcultures without having to commit to only one of them. In reality some subcultures can be so dominant that a subculture can be strong enough to set people apart from other people (like religion and ethnicity).

Multiculturalism is a perspective recognizing the cultural diversity of one’s county and promoting equal standing for all cultural traditions. In reality the recognition for and equal standing of other cultures in a country is not always the case. In most countries that have more than one culture living in their society there is a hierarchy of different cultures that live in the same country.

When historians report events form the point of view of the English ancestry, and other historians from the point of European ancestry whilst paying little attention to the perspectives of other cultures this is called Eurocentrism ( the dominance of European (especially English) cultural patterns). To counter Eurocentrism, some multicultural educators call for Afrocentrism (emphasizing and promoting African cultural patterns).

Supporters of multiculturalism say that by using this view we can learn a lot about our own countries past, we can understand the cultural diversity better and we can strengthen the academic achievement of African American children.

Multiculturalism is still very popular and favorable but there are some criticisms as well:

  • Adversaries say it encourages divisiveness rather than unity because it urges people to identify with only their own category rather than with the nation as a whole.
  • Critics say that multiculturalism harms minorities themselves:
    • Multicultural policies seem to support the same racial segregation that we have struggled to overcome.
    • It will create narrow-minded people because early in their education they get taught on certain topics from only one point of view.
  • The whole global war on terrorism gave as a lot to think about and that we still have a lot to learn about tolerance and peacemaking.

Within a society where there is cultural diversity there is also in most cases a group that rejects the conventional ideas or behavior. This group is called a counterculture that has cultural patterns that strongly oppose to the widely accepted cultural patterns within a society.

A culture is always changing, if we like it or not. In most cases when one aspect of a culture changes, it also inflicts changes in other segments of a culture. These close relationships among various elements of a cultural system together are called the principle of cultural integration.

Some parts of a culture change faster than others, and this disrupts a cultural system. This fact is called a cultural lag by Ogburn (1964).

There are three causes that inflict cultural changes:

  • Invention (process of creating new cultural elements).
  • Discovery (recognizing and understanding more fully something that has already existed a long time).
  • Diffusion (The spread of objects or traits form one society to another).

Given the fact that a specific culture forms the basis for everyday experiences, it is no wonder that people judge someone else’s culture by the standards of their own culture (ethnocentrism). Contrary to ethnocentrism there is cultural relativism. This is when people judge a culture by its own standards.

More than ever, societies around the world are more and more in contact with each other. This is thanks to the flow of goods (global economy), information (global communication) and people (global migration).


2.5 Theories of Culture

In this section, three macro theoretical approaches are further explained:

Structural-Functional theory:

  • Thinks of culture as a system of behavior by which members of societies cooperate to meet their needs.
  • Cultural patterns are rooted in the values and beliefs that are very important to a culture and tend to by fairly stable.

Social-conflict and Feminist theories:

  • Thinks of culture as a system that benefits some people and disadvantages others.
  • The foundation of cultural conflict is according to Marx the economic production, feminist find that cultural conflict comes from gender issues.

Sociobiology theory:

  • Thinks of culture as a system of behavior that is partly shaped by human biology.
  • Cultural patterns come from biological evolution.

2.6 Culture and Human Freedom

Culture can be seen as a constraint, or as a freedom. Culture as a constraint because we may be the only creatures on this planet who can name ourselves but this is precisely why we also feel alienation. Furthermore it’s a fact that culture is a matter of habit which also limits our choices and drives us to repeat patterns. Culture can also be seen as a freedom because we ourselves shape make and remake our own culture.


3: Socialization Process, a Lifelong Process

3.1 What is socialization?

Socialization is a continuous process that lasts your whole life. It develops our humanity but also our particular personalities. The importance of socialization can be seen in the fact that when a person experiences extended periods of social isolation this can inflict permanent damage. Socialization is more a matter of nurture then of nature. Not more than a century ago, people thought that biological instincts were the impetus of human behavior. For us as human beings it is in our nature to nurture others.

3.2 Key figures that contributed to our understanding of Socialization

There are some important key figures that made a big contribution in helping us to understand socialization. In this section the authors name seven of them.

1) Sigmund Freud

He found that the human personality consists of three parts:

  • The id: is an innate, pleasure-seeking human drive.

  • The Superego: The demands of society in the form of internalized values and norms.

  • Ego: Our efforts to balance innate, pleasure-seeking drives and the demands of society.

2) Jean Piget

He believed that human development comes from biological maturation and of gaining social experiences. He identified four stages of cognitive development.

  • The sensorimotor stage (experience the world only through senses).

  • The preoperational stage (experience the world for the first time through sybols and other language).

  • The concrete operational stage (experience the world for the first time through causal connections in their surroundings).

  • The formal operational stage (experience the world for the first time through abstract and critical thinking).

3) Lawrence Kohlberg

He applied the four stages of Piget to develop stages of moral development:

  • We first judge rightness in pre conventional terms that are in line with our individual needs.

  • Next conventional moral reasoning takes account of parental attitudes and cultural norms.

  • Finally, post conventional reasoning allows us the criticize society itself.


4) Carol Gilligan

One of her findings is that gender plays an important role in moral development. Males rely more on abstract standards of rightness and females rely more on the effects of actions on relationships.

5) George Herbert Mead

According to Mead the ‘self’ is a part of your personality and that includes self-awareness and self-image. Your ‘self’ develops as a result of social experience (which involves the exchange of symbols). Social interaction depends on understanding the intentions of another, which requires you to step into someone else’s shoes. Human action is according to Mead partly spontaneous (I), and partly in response with others (Me). We gain social experience partly through understanding the generalized other.

6) Charles Horton Cooley

He is the first one to use the term ‘looking-glass self’. With this he wanted to explain that we act a certain way so that other people look at us, how we want them to look at us. We try to put an image in the minds of others so that we can manage the way others look at us.

7) Erik H. Erikson

He identified various challenges that individuals face in their life, form being born to old age. Personality formation is in his eyes a lifelong process. If you have success at one stage it prepares you for the next stage. He points out how several factors (family, school) shape our personalities.

3.3 Special importance of familiar settings in the socialization process

Every social experience affects our socialization process in some way, but there are a few familiar settings that have a special importance:

  • The family: For some years the family has to teach children values, norms and beliefs, this teaching is not always intentionally, children also learn from their surroundings/type of environment that parents create. The family also gives children an identity (social race and class play al large part in shaping the child’s identity.


  • The school: Schooling will enlarge the social world of a child. They get to know people with different backgrounds. They also begin to understand the importance of class and race. As they are exploring the importance of these factors, they are most likely to do so in clusters with other children that have their class, race and gender.


  • The peer-group: By the time children go to school they have also found out about peer groups ( a social group whose members have interests, social position and age in common).Peer group allows children to escape supervision of adults (which are often concerned who their children are friends with). Adults (parents) will always have a strong more lasting influence then peers (who have influence on short-term things like music taste and tv-programs). Any neighborhood has several peer groups and every member of every group finds their own group the best. People are also influenced by the groups they want to join, this process is called: anticipatory socialization.


  • The mass media: not only important because they are so powerful but also because the influence of mass media is most likely to differ from that of the family, the school or the peer group. Mass media introduces people to ideas and images that reflect the larger society and the entire world.

In the end we see that socialization is not a simple learning process but a complex balancing act as we absorb information from a variety of sources, this information is weighed and sorted en with this we form our unique personalities.


3.4 Socialization and Lifecycle


Childhood has a special importance in the socialization process, learning will continue throughout the rest of your life. The course of one’s life reveals how society organizes human experience according to age which are divided into stages of live:

  • Childhood

  • Adolescence

  • Adulthood

  • Old age


The brief examination of the life course (p.85-86) leaves us with two important conclusions:

  • Although each stage of life reflects the biological process of aging, life course is for the greater part a social construction.

  • In any society the live stages present certain problems and transitions that involve learning something new and unlearning familiar routines.

The life experiences of people also vary depending on when and in what age they were born. Members of an age cohort are generally influenced by the same economic en cultural trends, and tend to have the same values and develop the same attitudes.


3.5 Total Institutions


Last type of socialization can be experienced in total institutions like prisons and mental hospitals. People in these institutions (inmates) are isolated and controlled by an administrative staff. Goffman (1961) has identified three characteristics: 1) all aspects of daily life are controlled by a staff, 2) Life in a total institution is controlled and standardized, 3) formal rules dictate when, were and how the inmates go about their daily lives.


The purpose is to ‘resocialize’ an inmates’ personality by this careful controlled environment. (resocialization). It’s a two-part process: 1) the staff breaks down an existing identity and when that’s finished, 2) the staff tries to built a new image (self) through a system of rewards or punishments. These total institutions affect all people who are in it in a different way.


4: Social interaction in Daily Life


This chapter offers a micro-level look at society. First it will deal with identifying social structures, then the authors try to explain how people construct reality and lastly it applies lessons that we learned to three important dimensions: humor, emotions and gender.


4.1 Social Structure


All members of society rely on social structure. In every society people use the idea of status to build their lives. Status is part of our social identity en defines our relationships with one another. Simmel has pointed out that we first need to know who the person is before we can deal with the person. An individual has more than one status; we all have a status set. These sets change over your life course. Over a lifetime people gain and lose a lot of statuses.


Statuses can be classified in terms of how people get their status:

  • Ascribed status you are given at birth (being a son, being Dutch, etc, you have little choice over this status).

  • Achieved status is a status you take on voluntarily and reflects personal ability and effort. (like honor student, writer, lawyer, etc).


We all have statuses, but some statuses are more important than others. A status that has a special importance is called a master status. This status can be negative or positive.

A person holds a status and performs a role. A role is expected behavior of someone who holds a particular status. Statuses and roles are different in each country. Just like we hold many statuses at the same time we also perform multiple roles (role set).

When you juggle many responsibilities at the same time that come with the various statuses and roles it is not unlikely that this sometimes will lead to a role conflict. We get pulled in various directions as we try to respond to many roles and sometimes this becomes too much for one person to handle. Even within one status, you can have multiple roles and sometimes there can be tension among roles that are connected to the same status (role strain).


4.2 Social Construction of Reality


The process by which people construct a reality through social interaction is called the social construction of reality. This is de foundation of the symbolic-interaction approach. We present ourselves in a way that suits the setting and our purposes and as others do this as well, we construct a reality. Street smarts are a form of constructing reality and the situations that are defined as being real, have real consequences (Thomas Theorem).

In most cases we take social reality for granted. To become more aware, Garfinkel (1967) came up with ethnomethodology which is the study of the way people make sense of their everyday surroundings. A good way become aware of everyday reality is when you break the rules.

Social background (class and culture) affects what we see. Put in a global perspective it becomes clear that reality building varies even more. People build reality from the surroundings that they live in and their view or social reality about the same subjects can be totally different form your social reality.


4.3 Presentation of the Self

Sociologist Erving Goffman analyzed social interaction and explained how people live their lives much like the actors on a stage (Dramaturgical analysis). This analysis offers a fresh new look at the concepts of status and role. In this analysis the status is the part of play and a role is a script and your performance is the presentation of the self (your effort to create specific impressions in the minds of others), this is also called impression management.

When we are ‘playing our part’ we can also communicate without saying a single word, this is called nonverbal communication for which we use body language (gestures, bodymovement, facial expressions etc).

Gender is also a key element in the presentation of the self:

  • Demeanor (the way we act and carry ourselves) is a indicator of power, the more power, the more freedom you have in the way you are allowed to act. Women generally have jobs with lesser power then men, so demeanor is a gender issue as well.

  • Personal space (the surrounding area which you claim as your private space) When you are speaking to a person, you stay several feet apart but in de middle east people stand much closer than we do. Just about everywhere men often intrude into women’s personal space, and if a women moves into a men’s personal space he often thinks she wants sex.

Staring (eye contact) encourages interaction, smiling often shows pleasure, but can also be a sign of pleasing other people or submission, and touching suggests intimacy and caring.

Goffman suggests that we idealize our intensions by constructing performances. We try to convince others that our actions reflect ideal cultural standards rather than selfish motives. We all use idealization in some degree.

Embarrassment is an ever-present danger because idealized performances typically contain some degree of deception. As people we tend to overlook these ‘flaws’ to avoid embarrassment for the other person en we want to help the person recover from his or her embarrassment.

Goffman’s research shows that although behavior is spontaneous in some ways, it is more patterned then we like to think.


4.4 Three Applications of Interaction in Daily Life


This paragraph illustrates the major elements of social interaction whilst focusing on three important dimensions: emotions, laughing and humor.


Emotions (social construction of feeling) or feelings are very important (what we do often matters less then how we feel about it). Just as society guides our behavior, it also guides our emotions. Every humanbeing has the same basic emotions, but culture guides 1) what makes us feel a certain emotion, 2) how people show their emotions and 3) how people value their emotions.


Laughing: (social construction of gender) Language is gender related. The way women and men an speak defines them as different types of people. How people respond is a reflection of what society thinks is a typical female or a male answer. This also shows that society attach greater power to what men say, then to what women say.


Humor: Humor is part of a culture, and people in different countries have a different kind of humor. Humor is a result of a difference between conventional and unconventional facets of a situation. It is much more important than you think, it’s a mental escape from a conventional world that is not entirely what you want it to be.



5: The Workings of Groups & Organization in Society


This chapter firstly explains what a social group is and will speak of the different types of social groups. Then the differences between the social groups will be discussed. In the last segment the focus will shift to formal organizations that govern various tasks in modern day cities.


5.1 Social Groups, what are they?


Almost everyone wants to belong or fit in into a group. A social group is a group that consists of two people who identify with one another and interact with each other. Examples for groups are: couples, friend circles, church, neighborhoods, large organizations. A group contains people with shared experiences, loyalties and interests. Social groups think of themselves as a special ‘we’. Keep in mind that not every collection of individuals is a social group (common status, Women etc. are categories, not groups.


There are two types of social groups:

  • Primary group (Small group, members share personal and lasting relationships, personal orientation).

  • Secondary group (Bigger group than the primary group, feels impersonal, has a goal orientation, so the members strive towards a specific goal or activity).


Keep in mind that these traits define two groups in an ideal from, in reality most groups have elements of both. Also watch out for the generalization that small towns emphasize primary relationships and that large cities are characterized by secondary relationships.


Important element of a group is the leader. There are two types of leaders:

  • Instrumental leadership (concentrate on performance, usually have formal secondary relationships with its members)

  • Expressive leadership (concentrate on the well being of its members, often has informal personal relationships with its members).


Sociologists describe leadership in terms of decision-making style:

  • Authoritarian leadership (members have to obey orders, focuses on instrumental concerns, takes personal charge)

  • Democratic leadership (More expressive, wants to include everyone in the decision making, makes for creative solutions in stress situations).

  • Laissez-faire leadership (Allows the group to function more or less on its own.


Members want everyone in their group to fit in. This gives a secure feeling of belonging but group-pressure can also be very unpleasant and dangerous. Experiments by Asch (1952) and Milgram (1963, 1965, 1986) shows that even strangers can encourage group conformity. This overly desire to fit in, can lead to groupthink (Janis, 1972, 1989).

We use references groups to assess our own attitudes and behavior. Reference groups can be primary or secondary. Through our need to conform It shows how the attitudes of others affect us. A reference group is a point of reference in making evaluations and decisions. We do not make judgements about ourselves in isolation, and we don’t compare ourselves with everyone we see or meet. Regardless of our situation in absolute terms, we form a subjective sense about how we look at ourselves by comparing ourselves to reference groups (Stouffer (1949).


We all have a favorite and a non favorite group, an in- or an out-group. We feel loyalty to the in-group and we feel a sense of competition or opposition for an out-group.

There are different groupsizes according to Simmel:

  • The Dyad (2 persons)

  • The Triad (3 persons)


As a group gets bigger, it becomes more stable and capable of coping with the loss of some members. Bigger groups have a lesser intense interaction so there is also less personal attachment and more focus on formal rules and regulations.


Race ethnicity, class and gender play a role in group dynamics. Peter Blau discovered three ways in which social diversity influences group dynamics:

  • Large groups turn inward

  • Heterogeneous groups turn outward

  • Physical boundaries create social boundaries.


A network is a web of social ties, a social web. Largest network of all is the internet. Some networks are almost a group but it contains of people we know and who know us but we rarely interact with them. Network ties give as the sense we live in a small world. Network ties way be weak but they can come in very handy and can be a powerful resource (whom you know is often just as important as what you know). Networks are based on colleges, café’s, political parties, personal interests etc. Some networks have more power, prestige and wealth then others, and some networks are denser than others. Gender also plays a part in networks. Although networks of man en women are the same size, women have more relatives in their networks and men more co-workers.


5.2 Types and Origins of Formal Organizations


Etzioni identified three categories of formal organizations:


  • Utilitarian organizations

  • Normative organizations

  • Coercive organizations


It is possible for an organization to fall into each organization category, it depends on how you look at the organization.


Formal organizations already existed thousands of years ago but they lacked technology and they had traditional cultures ( tradition makes a society conservative, organizations hardly change because of this). The rise of the organizational society is a result of the rationalization of society (this is when people were starting to think rational instead of traditional).


It is really hard to run an organization effectively. People began to rationally design a model so that an organization could run effectively, this is called bureaucracy.

Weber identified six key elements that a bureaucratic organization should have:

  • Specialization

  • Hierarchy of offices

  • Rules and regulations

  • Technical competence

  • Impersonality

  • Formal written communications


How well an organization performs depends also on the factors (technology, economic, political events, current events, available workforce and other organizations) outside an organization that affects is operation (organizational environment).


In real life, bureaucracy has an informal side. Human beings are creative enough to resist bureaucratic regulations. Informality comes partly from the personality of the organizational leader. Different types of leaders will produce different kinds of bureaucracy. Emails have loosened up bureaucratic organizations because everyone, from the lowest to the highest ranking can bypass immediate superiors and come in to direct contact with the boss.


There are a few problems with bureaucracy, it can dehuminaze (Bureaucratic alienation) and manipulate us and some say it is a threat to political democracy. Rob Merton coined the term bureaucratic ritualism to refer to the focus on rules and regulations to the point that it undermines an organization’s goals. Rules and regulations are there to reach a goal, they are not a goal in itself. In some cases, bureaucratic organizations tend to take a life of their own beyond their formal objectives (bureaucratic inertia)


Robert Michels pointed out the relation between bureaucracy and political oligarchy. The pyramid shape of an bureaucratic organization shows that only a few leaders lead an entire organization consisting of many workers.


5.3 Evolution of Formal Organizations

According to Weber a bureaucracy is a top-down system and a century ago his idea took shape in the organizational model that is called scientific management. This is the application of scientific principles to the operation of a business or other larger organization. It consist of three steps:

  • Managers carefully observe how each worker performs the job.

  • Managers analyze their observed data to search for new ways which will make the job more efficiently.

  • Management provides guidance and incentives for workers to do their jobs more efficiently.


The principles of scientific management do lead to greater productivity but by breaking every job into a lot of smaller steps and give managers more control over their workers scientific management also leads to social inequality between managers and workers.


5.4 The Future of Formal Organizations


One challenge to conventional bureaucracy is to become more open and flexible in order to take advantage of the experience, ideas and creativity of everyone who works for them. Weber knew and acknowledged that bureaucratic systems would be efficient but also dehumanizing. It limits creativity, choice and freedom. But there is a change coming as large organizations more strive to a flatter, more flexible model that encourages communication and creativity.


6: Sexuality and its Impact on Society


This chapter will explain that sex is a not just a simple biological process linked to reproduction. Society shapes human sexuality and guides sexuality in our daily lives.


6.1 Understanding sexuality


In a biological way, sex refers to the bodily differences between man and women (primary sex characteristics, genitalia and organs used to reproduce) and secondary sex characteristics, bodily developments apart from genitals that makes man manly and women feminine)

Gender is different, this term refers to the psychological sex a person has (is cultural).


On the one hand sexuality is a biological issue because:

  • Your sex is determined when you are conceived

  • Males and females have different genitals and bodily development that make you either a man or a woman.

  • Hermaphrodites have a combination of male and female genitalia.

  • Transsexual people feel that they have been born in the wrong body; they want to be the sex that they are not born with. (female wants to be male and vice versa) .


On the other hand sexuality is a cultural issue

  • For humans sex is not a biological programming but a matter of cultural meaning and personal choice.

  • Sexual practices vary in every society. Every society has a different opinion on sexual practices like kissing, standards of beauty etc.

  • The incest taboo exists in all societies because the regulation of sexuality is a necessary element of social organization. Specific taboos vary from one society to another.


6.2 Sexual attitudes in de US


The sexual revolution (1960s 1970s) made sexuality an topic that could be more openly discussed. The baby boomers were the first generation that grew up with the idea that sex was a normal part of live.


The sexual counterrevolution (1980s) had huge amount of critique at the ‘permissiveness’ and urged to people to return to a more traditional way of family life with the old family values.


Alfred Kinsey was the first to study sexual behavior in the US and many followed him. Al these researches have reached interesting conclusions about sexuality in the US.

  • Premarital sexual intercourse became more common during the 20th century

  • Almost half of young men have had intercourse in their senior year in High School.

  • Among all adults in the US, sexual activity varies.

  • Extramarital sex is condemned widely all over the world.


6.3 Sexual orientation


There exist our sexual orientations:


  • Heterosexuality (attracted to the opposite sex)

  • Homosexuality (attracted to the same sex)

  • Bisexuality (attracted to both sexes)

  • Asexuality (attracted to neither sexes)

Most research supports the conclusion that sexual orientation is rooted in biology in much the same way as being right-handed or left handed. Sexual orientation is not a matter of neat categories, its not like someone can say that he or she is 100% this or that. Many hetero’s have homosexual experiences and vice versa. Homosexuality still is an hot topic in debates and although the gay rights movement has helped to change the public attitude towards gay people still a lot of people have great difficulty in accepting homosexuality.


6.4 Sexual issues and controversies


In the US about 750000 teenagers become pregnant each year. The rate of teenage pregnancy has dropped since the ‘50s but a difference with the present situation is that teens that were pregnant in the 50’s got married and a lot of teens pregnant today don’t get married. They have a high risk of dropping out and becoming poor.

Pornography is sexually explicit material that causes sexual arousal. Every community sets their own standards of decency. Conservatives condemn pornography based on morals, liberals see pornography as a power issue and find it demeaning to women.


A prostitute is someone who sales sexual services. Prostitution is illegal almost everywhere in de US. Many people think of prostitution as a victimless crime but it does victimize women and is the cause of widely spread of sexually transmitted diseases.


Every year in de US 85000 people get raped, but the actual number is most likely to be higher. About 10 % of all the rapes involve men as the victim.


In 1900 al states of the US have banned laws of abortion. People who are opposed to abortion call themselves as being ‘pro life’ and are against abortion on moral grounds. People who support abortion call themselves ‘pro-choice’ and think that every woman has the right to choose abortion.


6.5 Theories of sexuality


You can apply the three theories to sexuality:


Structural-functional theory: Level of analysis is macro, according to this theory society depends on sexuality for reproduction and society uses the incest taboo and other norms to control sexuality in order to maintain social order. Sexuality has changed over time because as advances in birth control technology separate sex from reproduction, societies are more relaxed when wanting to control sexuality.


Symbolic-interaction theory: Level of analysis is micro, according to this theory sexual practices vary among the many cultures in the world. Some societies allow individuals more freedom than others in matters of sexual behavior. Sexuality has changed over time because the meanings people attach to virginity and other sexual matter are all socially constructed and subject to change.


Social-Conflict/Feminist theory: Level of analysis is macro, according to this theory is sexuality linked to social inequality. US society regulates women’s’ sexuality more than a men’s sexuality. This theory isn’t conclusive if sexuality has changed over time, in some ways it has in some ways it hasn’t. Some sexual standards have relaxed, but society still defines women in sexual terms.




7: Deviant Behavior

This chapter explains how and why society creates and encourages both conformity and deviance. Also the concept of crime is introduced and looks at the way the criminal justice system works.


7.1 Deviance


It is called deviance when someone violates the norm ranging from minor infractions (bad manners) to major infractions (serious violence). One category of deviance is crime and this also has a wide range. Not all deviance involves action or even choice.


All of us are subject to social control; often this is an informal process but in cases of serious deviance may have to be handled by the criminal justice system. Every society sees deviance in a different way and has largely to do with how society is organized.


Biological context and biological theories about crime give a limited explanation. It may be true that biological traits in combination with environmental factors explain why some people commit serious crimes. Because the biological context looks closely at the individual it offers no insight whatsoever on how some kinds of behaviors come to be identified as deviant in the first place. Current research puts a greater focus on social influences than on biological influences because the research is still not decisive enough.


Psychology research has shown that personality patterns have some connection to deviance. The people who commit serious crimes are sometimes psychopaths. However most serious crimes are committed by people who are psychological defined as normal.


Biologist and psychologist view deviance as a trait of individuals. The reason why biological and psychological research has a limited value is because deviance is more rooted in the organization of society.


Deviance is shaped by society because

  • We can say that deviance varies according to cultural norms.

  • People become deviant as others define them in that way.

  • Both norms and the way people define rule-breaking involve social power.


7.2 The Function of Deviance


Durkheim made the statement that there is nothing special about deviance; in fact according to him deviance has four essential functions:


  • Deviance affirms cultural values and norms

  • Responding to deviance clarifies moral boundaries

  • Responding to deviance brings people together

  • Deviance encourages social change.


R.Merton argued that some deviance may be necessary for a society to function, but too much deviance results from particular social arrangements. R.Cloward and L.Ohlin (1966) extended Merton’s theory proposing that crime results not simply form limited legitimate opportunity but also from readily accessible illegitimate opportunity. Deviance or conformity depends on the relative opportunity structure that frames a person’s life. Albert Cohen Suggests that criminality is most common among lower-class youths because they have the least opportunity to achieve success by conventional means. Walter Miller adds that deviant subcultures are characterized by trouble, toughness, smartness, a need for excitement, a belief in fate end a desire for freedom. E.Anderson explains that poor urban neighborhoods most people manage to conform to conventional of decent values. But because people in these neighborhoods are constantly faced with crime, people (young men) feel neglect and hostility towards police or even their parents. At that point young men can decide to live by the ‘street code’ to show others that he can survive on the streets.


7.3 Defining Deviance

With symbolic-interaction analysis came the labeling theory which is the idea that deviance and conformity result not so much from what people do as from how others respond to those actions.


E.Lemert observed that some deviance may provoke some reaction from others but this process has little effect on the self-concept. Lemert calls this primary deviance. After an audience takes notice of deviant acts, it may change the person who committed deviant acts. He or she is going to talk, dress and act differently, rejecting people who are critical of his or her actions and go on repeatedly breaking rules. Lemert calls this change of self concept secondary deviance.


Secondary deviance is the start of an deviant career. (Goffman) When someone develops a deeper commitment to deviant behavior they typically acquire a stigma. This operates as a master status, overpowering other statuses of dimensions of identity.


Once people begin to stigmitaze they may engage in retrospective labeling (this is when you take the past of a deviant person and see in this past also deviant acts that maybe weren’t there). It also can provoke projective labeling. This is when people use a deviant identity to predict the persons future actions.


T.Szasz claims that people are too quick in labeling certain behavior they find annoying as deviant or even as mental illnesses.

Labeling theory by Szasz and Goffman helps to explain an important shift in the way our society understands deviance. Over the past fifty years the growing influence of psychiatry and medicine has resulted in the medicalization of deviance.


When you define a certain acts as deviant it has three consequences:

  • It affects who responds to deviance

  • Issue of how people respond to deviance

  • Issue of the competence of the deviant person.


According to E.Sutherland a person’s tendency toward conformity or deviance depends on the amount of contact with others who encourage or reject conventional behavior (differential association)


T. Hirschi is the developer of the control theory which states that social control depends on people’s anticipating the consequences of the behavior. Hirschi links conformity to four different types of social control:

  1. Attachment

  2. Commitment

  3. Involvement

4. Belief


7.4 Deviance and inequality

Social-conflict theory says that laws and other norms operate the way they do to protect the interests of powerful members of a society (Marxist view). There are three types of crime:

  • White collar crimes: Crimes that are committed by people who are in a high social position. Sutherlands says that these kind of crimes don’t get prosecuted that often and are most likely to come before civil court (rather than criminal court).

  • Corporate crimes: Are illegal actions made by corporations or people that are acting on the behalf of the corporation. Corporate crimes cause a lot of public harm but in most cases they walk freely.

  • Organized Crimes: These are crimes committed by business that supply illegal goods or services.


7.5 Deviance race and Gender


Race-conflict and feminist theory see deviance as a reflection of racial and gender inequality. Racial-conflict theory calls criminal acts towards a person by an offender which is motivated by racial or other bias a hate crime. Deviant labels are more readily applied to women and other minorities. Important to deviance is that it is a means of control. Dominant people discredit others so they can dominate them.


7.6 Crime


There are two major crime types that are in the crime index of the FBI:


  • Crimes against the person (murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault, forcible rape, and robbery).

  • Crimes against property (Burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.

A third category that is not included in the index is:

  • Victimless crime (Illegal drug use, prostitution and gambling).


Researches use official crime statistics to conduct victimizing surveys. These are some crime patterns from the US that research has discovered:


  • 62% are arrested for property crimes, and 80 % of people arrested for violent crimes are male.

  • Arrest rates peak in late adolescence and drop with age.

  • Street crime is common among people of lower social class and class differences in criminality are smaller.

  • More white people than African Americans are arrested for street crimes, however in relation to their population size, more African Americans are arrested.


7.7 The Criminal Justice System of the US.


The criminal justice system is the formal response to crime. The US criminal justice system consists of a police, the courts and the system of punishments and corrections.

  • The police will decide based on logic and personal discretion whether and how to handle a situation. Research suggests that police officers are more likely to arrest someone if the offense is serious, if there are bystanders, or if the suspect is African American or Latino.

  • The Courts give a verdict based on the advice of attorneys. Two attorneys, one for the defendant and one for the state, will present their cases in the presence of a judge. In most cases it will not come to this but the attorneys will settle the case through plea bargaining.

There are four justifications for punishment:

  • Retribution

  • Deterrence

  • Rehabilitation

  • Societal protection

The death penalty is still legal in most of the states of the US. People living in the US are still pro-death penalty but judges, criminal prosecutors and members of trial jury are less and less likely to give the death penalty. Four reasons:

  • Crime rate has gone down over the past couple of years.

  • It may be that the death penalty has been used unjustly.

  • It is now also an option to give a criminal a lifelong jail sentence without the possibility of parole.

  • Death penalty cases are really expensive and these high costs are a serious factor for why the state doesn’t give the death-penalty as much as before.

Prison is the place we use to correct and alter behavior of criminals but in reality it isn’t as effective as one might hope, and it costs a lot of money to maintain prisons. A recent alternative to prison is the community-based corrections which are correctional programs that operate within society at large rather than behind prison bars. As a result, they are saving money and the prisons are less overcrowded. There are three forms of community based correction:

  • Probation

  • Shock probation

  • Parole



8: Social Stratification in Society


This chapter introduces the concept of social stratification.


8.1 Social stratification


Every society has some social stratification, this is defined as a system by which a society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy and it is based on four principles


Social stratification:

  • Is a trait of society, not simply a reflection of individual differences.

  • Carries over from generation to generation.

  • Is universal but variable.

  • Involves not just inequality but beliefs as well.


8.2 Caste and Class systems


A society can have a closed system (caste system) or an open system (class system). A caste system is social stratification based on ascription, or birth. Many of the agrarian societies are caste systems (like India) because agriculture demands a lifelong routine of hard work.


Caste systems: 1)Determines the direction of a person’s life, 2)Demands that people marry others from the same caste.3)Guides everyday life by keeping people in the company of their own kind. 4) Rest on powerful cultural beliefs.


Class systems: 1) are based on birth and on individual achievement (meritocracy).2) Permit social mobility. 3) are common in industrial and postindustrial societies


Stratification is not just based on birth, but also on your merits (Latin for ‘earned’) This includes knowledge, abilities and effort. A society with a pure meritocracy has never existed. Class systems in industrial societies did move towards a meritocracy but at the same time keep elements caste systems to maintain order and social unity. Status consistency is the degree of uniformity in a person’s social standing across various dimensions of social inequality. (Caste system has little social mobility so a high status consistency).


The United Kingdom is a good example of a country that has a mix of caste and meritocracy in their class system. It’s an industrial nation which has a long agrarian history. For an example of a classless society we have to turn to the former Sovjet Union. When in 1985 Gorbachev took power and introduced his perestroika it was the start of one of the most dramatic social movements in history. In the 20th century there was upward social mobility in Russia. Expanding industry drew a lot of poor peasants into factories and offices; this is a good example of structural social mobility. When we want an example of new emerging class systems which is a mix of old political and new industrial hierarchy, then China is a good one to study.


A reason that explains way social hierarchies still exist is by ideology. An ideology consists of cultural beliefs that justify a particular social arrangement, like social hierarchies or patterns of inequality.




8.3 Applying theory to social stratification

Structural-functional theory: Davis-Moore thesis proposes that social stratification has beneficial consequences for the operation of a society. They give a good argument: if it wouldn’t be beneficial why else has every culture some form of social stratification? Davis and Moore claim that a society could be egalitarian but only if people really want to be. Do we want to have a society in which all people can perform any job they want? Would we like it if someone performs poorly he or she gets the same reward as someone who performs good? A system like this wouldn’t really inspire people to try their best. The thesis by Davis-Moore gives a suggestion not a definite answer to the question why social stratification exists.


Melvin Tunim critised the Davis-Moore thesis:

  • He wondered how you assess the importance of a particular occupation. Furthermore, do rewards actually reflect the contribution someone makes to society?

  • He claimed that Davis and Moore ignore how the caste elements of social stratification can prevent the development of individual talent.

  • Living in a society that places so much emphasis on money we tend to overestimate the importance of high-paying work


Structural-functional theory (p.213):

  • Level of analysis is on macro-level

  • Stratification is a system of unequal rewards that benefits society as a whole.

  • Social position reflects personal talents and abilities in a competitive economy.

  • Unequal rewards are fair, because they boost economic production and spur people on to work harder and try new ideas.


Social-conflict theory: According to Marx social stratification is rooted in people’s relationship to the means of production. Aristocracy in industrial capitalism was replaced by the capitalists and the peasants by the proletarians. Capitalists and proletarians will come into conflict with one another because they have opposing interests and the division between rich and poor. Marx thought that overtime the proletarians would overthrow the capitalists. Because the poorer are getting poorer and the richer are getting richer he foresaw that Capitalism would bring about its own downfall. According to Marx the poor people don’t enjoy their work anymore because they have little control over what kind of products they make and how they make the products, work only produces alienation. After capitalism would be overthrown, socialism would replace capitalism and take over.


Why has this revolution never happened? Four reasons:

1) Fragmentation of the capitalist elite.

2) A higher standard of living.

3) More worker organization.

4) Greater legal protections.

Max Weber agreed with Marx that social stratification is the cause for social conflict but he found Marx’s two-class model too simple. Weber identified three distinct dimensions of social stratification: Economic class, social status/prestige and power. The conflict exists between people at various positions on a multidimensional hierarchy of socioeconomic status (SES).


Social-conflict theory: (p.213)

  • Level of analysis is on macro-level.

  • Stratification is a division of a society’s resources that benefits dome people and harms others.

  • Social position reflects the way society divides resources.

  • Unequal rewards are not fair, they only divide society.

Symbolic-interaction theory


Social-conflict theory & Structural-functional theory treat social stratification as a macro-level issue. Symbolic-interaction theory about social stratification uses a micro-level approach. In this theory stratification is a factor that guides people’s interactions in everyday life. The products we consume all say something about our social position. Some people may or may not find unequal rewards as fair. People may view their social position as a measure of self-worth and will justify inequality in terms of personal differences.


8.4 A Global Perspective: Stratification and Technology

In this section the relationship between a society’s level of technology and its type of social stratification is explained on the basis of Gerard Lenski’s model of sociocultural evolution. This analysis gives the following conclusion: The advancing of technology initially increases social stratification (strongest social stratification is in agrarian societies) but industrialization has reversed this trend, and reduced social stratification for a while, till the postindustrial society emerged and social stratification again increased.

8.5 Inequality in the US


There are many dimensions involved in social stratification:


  • Income: This is the money you earn by working or the money you get out of investments. These earnings are unequal. In de US the richest families make 12 times more money than the poorest families.

  • Wealth: Your wealth is the total value of all your assets minus the depts. The distribution of wealth is even more unequal then income.

  • Power: income and wealth together determines how much power a person has.

  • Occupational Prestige: when you are working, you’re not just earning money, you’re also earning prestige. White-collar jobs offer more income and prestige then blue-collar jobs. Jobs that generate low income and prestige are often done by women and people of color.

  • Schooling: The way you were schooled has a big influence on both your occupation and income. Some people have more opportunities to go to good schools/universities.

  • Family ancestry, race and ethnicity and gender all have an effect on your social standing.


8.6 Social Classes in the US


It is not easy to define classes in the US because of the low level of consistency, it is more like a fluid class system instead of a rigid class system like de caste system. But the author of this book uses the four general rankings (which also can be subdivided into other categories):

  • The upper class: 5% of the US population

      • Upper-uppers: Old rich, inherited their wealth.

      • Lower-uppers : New rich, Work high-paying jobs to earn their money.

  • The middle class: 40-50% of the US population

      • Upper-middles: have significant wealth, more prestige then average-middles.

      • Average-middles: less prestige, do white-collar work and most of them have attended or attend college.

  • The working class: 30-40% of the US population, blue-collar work, only 1/3 of the children attends college.

  • The lower class: 20% of the US population. Lack financial security because they have low incomes, many life below the poverty line, 50% of the lower class hasn’t completed high school.


People that have high social standing, in general have better health, have certain values and political beliefs, and pass on cultural capital to their children. In the US they have a certain amount of social mobility, only small changes occur from one generation to the next. Because of the expansion the world economy the richest families now make more money than ever. People that are in the lower classes only have had small increases in income.


8.7 Poverty in the US


There is relative poverty and absolute poverty, about 1.4 billion people all over the world are at risk to fall in the ‘absolute poverty’ category. In the US there are about 46,2 million people living in poverty (that’s about 15.1% of the population) 50% of these 46,2 million poor people is under the age of 25. About 70% of the poor are white but in relation to their population African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to be poor. More and more of these poor families are headed by Women (feminization of poverty). It can be suggested that society itself is the main cause for poverty because almost half the US population is either poor or low-income.


How can we explain this poverty? On the one hand you can blame the individuals, like Oscar Lewis with his ‘culture of poverty thesis’ that suggest that poverty is due to the deficiencies of poor people that exist in themselves. On the other hand you can blame society for the existence of poverty like William Julius Wilson does. He says that poverty is caused by the unequal distribution of wealth and the lack of good paying jobs. In today’s world social inequality has risen. Most people think that the gap between rich and poor people is too big and are also concerned that you don’t get ahead by just working hard.



9: Global Stratification in Society


Social inequality is a worldwide pattern, some countries are richer and more economically productive then other countries. This chapter will discuss stratification and social inequality on a global level.


9.1 Global stratification


The two pie charts on p.243 show that global income and wealth are very unequally divided. Because some countries are much richer than others, even people in rich countries that have an income below the poverty line live far better lives then the majority of the people in the whole world.


Earth has 195 nations and if you try to divide these into categories some striking differences will be overlooked. However, there exist various models that classify countries so that we can study global stratification:

  • Global model that divides the world into three categories: Fist World (rich industrial countries), Second World (less industrialized socialist countries) and the Third World (Non-industrialized poor countries).

This model is not so useful anymore because:

      • It is a model that is a product of the Cold War.

      • The Third World category is full of countries that are not so poor anymore that they shouldn’t be considered a third world county.


This call for a revised model: the 72 high-income countries are defined as the nations with the highest overall standards of living. The 70 middle-income countries are defined as nations with a standard of living about average for the world as a whole. Remaining 53 low-income countries are defined as the nations with a low standard of living with most people being poor.


Two advantages over the three world model are:

  • Focuses on economic development rather than political system.

  • Gives a better picture of the relative economic development of various countries because it doesn’t put all the lower income countries into one big category.


See the global map on p.245 to see which countries fall in to what category (high, middle or low).



9.2 Global Wealth and Poverty


When you are poor in an already poor country, is a much grimmer situation than being poor in a rich country. Quality of life differs so much from country to country because the economic productivity is lowest in regions where population growth is highest.
Relative poverty exists in every country because relatively speaking there will always be people who have lesser things or money than others, however with absolute poverty people have such a lack of resources that the situation becomes life-threatening. Because absolute poverty can be deadly, people in low-income countries have a greater risk of dying young. In poor countries, a lot more people of the total population are poor unlike richer countries were poor people together form a smaller segment of the total population.


Women are more likely to become poor then man, and gender bias is greater low-income countries. Women who live in low-income countries are kept away from many jobs, with the result hat a lot of women have to work in factories were they are exploited for a very small salary. Furthermore women in poor countries receive little to non reproductive health care.


Slavery is also a big problem in low-income countries. The ASI (Anti-Slavery International) makes a distinction between 5 types of slavery:

  • Chattel slavery

  • Slavery imposed by the state

  • Child slavery

  • Dept bondage

  • Servile forms of marriage.

Additional form of slavery is: human trafficking.

Factors that cause poverty:

  • Lack of technology.

  • High birth rates, they produce rabid population growth.

  • People resist change because they have traditional cultural patterns.

  • The distribution of wealth due to extreme social inequality.

  • Extreme gender inequality limits the opportunities of women.

  • Colonialism and neocolonialism justifies the exploitation of other countries.


9.3 Global Stratification: Applying Theory


There are two theories that both try to explain the unequal distribution of the world’s wealth and power:


1) Modernization theory: Model of economic and social development that explains global inequality in terms of technological and cultural differences between nations.


      • This theory follows the structural-functional approach.

      • Emerged in the 1950’.

      • Claims that because poverty has been the norm throughout human history, that it is affluence (wealth, riches) that needs explanation.

      • Modernization theory points out that not every society wants to adopt new technology.

      • According to modernization theory it is tradition that holds back economic development.

      • Modernization theory claims that high-income countries play important roles in global economic development:

1) Controlling population increase.

2) Increasing food production.

3) Introducing industrial technology.

4) Providing foreign aid.

      • Modernization theory thinks that every country has access to affluence. Technology is available to all people and every country should gradually industrialize/modernize.

        • Walt Rostow (1960) thinks that modernization occurs in four stages:

          • Traditional stage.

          • Take-off stage.

          • Drive to technological maturity.

          • High mass consumption.


Five criticisms to modernization theory:

  • Modernization theory has simply not occurred in many poor countries. Living standards in a lot of poor countries has only improved a little, or not at all.

  • Modernization theory fails to recognize how rich nations often block the path to development to other countries.

  • Modernization theory threats rich and poor countries as separate worlds ignoring that a single global economy affects all countries.

  • Modernization theory uses the most developed countries as a standard and by this standard they judge the other countries. This is ethnocentric.

  • Modernization theory blames the poor countries for being poor. The fault lies within the poor, low income countries themselves.


2) Dependency theory: is a model of economic and social development that explains global inequality in terms of the historical exploitation of poor countries by the rich countries.


  • Follows the social-conflict approach.

  • Holds rich nations responsible for global poverty because they impoverished poor countries and made them dependent.

  • A.G.Frank (1975) argues that the colonial process that helped develop rich nation’s also underdeveloped poor countries.

  • Dependency theory is based on the idea that the economic positions of rich and poor countries in the world are connected and you can’t understand the one without the other. The prosperity of rich countries came largely on the expense of less developed countries.

  • Colonialism that started in the 15th century had a big impact on the later economic en social development of countries.

  • Dependency theorist I. Walterstein (1974, 1979, 1983, 1984) uses the model of ‘Capitalist world economy’ to explain global stratification. He calls the rich countries the core of the world economy and the poor countries are the periphery of the global economy. The world makes poor nations dependent on rich ones and this involves three factors:

1) Narrow, export economics.

2) Lack of industrial capacity

3) Foreign dept.

  • Dependency theory sees global inequality in terms of how countries distribute wealth, and rich nations when they were under developing poor countries have in the process overdeveloped themselves.

  • Dependency theory dismiss think that the programs that are made by rich countries to help poor countries raise their living standards will not help. Instead rich nations and the ruling elite will be the only ones that benefit from these programs, not the poor people in poor countries. Lappé and Collins say that we in the West think of poverty as being something that is inevitable but according to Lappé and Collins this is not the case. They point out that the world is already producing enough food to feed every person in this world.


Critiques to dependency theory:

  • Dependency theory wrongly treats wealth as if no one gets richer without someone getting poorer.

  • Dependency theory wrongly blames rich countries for global poverty because many poor countries have had little contact with rich countries.

  • Dependency theory is too simplistic because they are trying to blame only one factor (the capitalist market system) for all global poverty.

  • Dependency theory wrongly claims that global trade always makes rich countries richer whilst the poor countries get poorer.

  • Dependency theory only gives vague solutions to global poverty.



10: Gender Stratification in Society



This chapter is about gender stratification. What is gender? What is the meaning people attach to being male or female? Why is gender such an important dimension of social stratification? All these questions will be answered in this chapter.

10.1 Gender and Inequality


Gender refers to the personal traits and social positions that members in a society attach to being female or male. Gender shapes the way we interact with others and how we think about ourselves. Gender also involves hierarchy and that’s way there is gender stratification ( the unequal distribution of wealth, power and privilege between man and women). When speaking of gender we have to be careful not to think of social differences in a biological way.


Three important studies that have highlighted the differences between masculine and feminine and have demonstrated that gender is based in culture:


  • The Israeli Kibbutz

  • Margaret Mead’s Research (1963, orig.1935)

  • George Murdock’s Research (1937)


Gender is a social construction that differs from one culture to another. Every culture has a different idea about what’s typically male and female.


A society can be run by male’s (patriarchy,) or by females (matriarchy, like Museo in China). If someone tries to justify a patriarchy by saying that men are better leaders simply because they are men is called sexism (the belief that one sex is innately superior to the other). Sexism is also built into the intuitions of society (institutional sexism). Because of sexism women cannot reach their full potential and it’s not like man are really benefiting from sexism either. On paper you might think that men should benefit but because sexism puts women in a lower position, it raises the bar for men and they feel the pressure to prove their masculinity. Because of this it encourages men to engage in many high risk behaviors. Patriarchy drives men to take control and they lose opportunities for intimacy and trust.


Some suggest that patriarchy is inevitable and they base their argument on biological research that suggests that men and women are ‘wired’ different because their hormones and brain structures differ. Most sociologists however belief that gender is a social construction which has nothing to do with biological differences between man and women and that it can be changed. Just because society hasn’t get rid of patriarchy doesn’t mean that we must let things stay the same.


10.2 Gender and Socialization


Gender shapes our feelings, thoughts and actions from the day we were born to the day we die. Children are fast to pick up on the fact that society sees men and women quite differently. Children are three when they sense that something is up and children start to consider themselves as being male or female.


Women are described as being: emotional, passive, and cooperative. Men are described as being: rational, active and competitive. Nowadays we know that most people develop personalities that are a mix of male and female traits.


Gender doesn’t just affect the way we think, but also the way we act. We develop attitudes and we take part in activities that a society links to each sex (gender roles or sex roles). ‘Doing gender’ is done in:

- The family (when you were born, first thing they asked was whether it was a boy or a girl, and if you were a girl you got pink stuff, and as a boy blue stuff) ,

- Peer group (boys and girls will take part in activities that are linked to their gender) ,

- Schools (the courses boys or girls follow also show gender patterns)

- Mass media (since the day media existed, man have taken centre stage and women play less capable characters).

10.3 Gender and Social Stratification


Gender stratification shapes aspects of our daily life. Almost everything we do is covered in gender. Gender stratification shapes the place we work, family life, education and politics.


Gender stratification in the workplace and in family life


Gender stratification in occupations is easy to see in our everyday lives: female nurses assist male physicians; female secretaries assist male directors etc. How is it that women are kept out of certain jobs? Some jobs are seen more as manly jobs hence women are considered less capable performing those kinds of jobs. Example of a men’s occupation is working in the mines. This is considered being a men’s job and men feel like it is unnatural if a women would work in the mines (Tallichet, 2000).


In the corporate world you can also see that there are few women who work in the top levels of the company. In the corporate world you would not hear anyone say it out load, but many people still feel that women don’t belong in the top levels. This feeling can prevent women form being promoted. Sociologists call this the ‘glass ceiling’.


Women earn less than men, the main and first reason for this is the type of work women do is largely clerical and service jobs. People who are supporting gender equality have proposed a system in which suggests that people should not get paid according to the double standard but according to the level of skill and responsibility involved in the work.

A second reason why men earn more money than women has to do with the way the society thinks about family. Women have certain family responsibilities that not always mix well with work (pregnancy, raising children).

The third reason is discrimination. Because overt discrimination is illegal, this is done in more subtle ways (like the glass ceiling in the corporate world is a subtle way of discriminating women out of high level jobs).


Gender stratification and education


College doors have opened to women and have been really successful and the differences between men’s and women’s majors have become smaller. Despite all the progress men do still dominate in some professional fields. But the share of women in all these professions has risen and is now close to half. Based on the success of women in the educational field, analysts suggest that this is the only social institution were women dominate.


Gender stratification and politics


In today’s world thousands of women are active in politics as mayors, responsible administrative jobs, and legislators. This is a huge step forward if you consider that almost a century ago women couldn’t even vote, let alone being active in politics. Change is slower at the highest level of power. In the worlds 187 parliamentary governments, women only hold 19 % of the seats, but this 15 % is a lot higher than the low 3 percent fifty years ago.

Women are also better represented in the military and almost all military assignments are open for to both women and men. But the law prevents women from engaging in offensive warfare.

The debate about women in the army has existed for a very long time and is still a hot topic


Are women a minority?


Most white women do not think of themselves as being a minority. A minority is any category of people that a society sets apart and subordinates based on physical or cultural differences. Women do not consider themselves being a minority because unlike racial and ethnic minorities white women are well represented in all classes, including the very top. But remember that in every social class, high or low, women make less money, have less wealth, lower education and have less power than men. (Bernard, 1981)


Violence against men and women is a widespread serious problem and is linked to how a society has defined gender. Issues are: sexual harassment and pornography.


10.4 Theories of Gender


Structural-functional theory: Takes a macro level view. Gender serves as a means to organize social life. This view was popular in the 1950’s but in today’s word it is rarely used anymore. Structural-functional theorist Parsons sees gender as something that helps integrate society. Gender forms a complementary set of roles that links man and women into family units. In this family units each sex has his or hers own responsibilities. Thus gender plays an important role in socialization. Gender is encouraged by society itself, if you stray too much form your gender-path you will be rejected by the other sex. (Simply put, if a man is not masculine, a women will reject him as an unattractive man). Gender gives men and women distinctive roles and those roles are helpful because they help society run smoothly.


As said, this approach has lost much of its standing, because:

  • It assumes a singular vision of society that is not shared by everyone.

  • Parsons’ analysis ignores the personal strains and social costs of rigid roles.

  • The fact that he thinks that genders/sexes want to complement each other feels a little bit too much like he is saying that women want to be submitted or are submitting to male domination.

Symbolic-interaction theory: takes a micro level view of society and focuses on the face to face interaction in everyday live. This theory suggests that gender affects everyday life in a number of ways. Gender is part of reality that guides the interaction between sexes in everyday situations. Because we make construct our reality through interaction, we also shape reality through gender because gender is a part of everyday life. On the positive, gender helps us relate to one another, but as gender also shapes our behavior it places men in control of social situations (everyone expects the men to take leadership for example).

A limitation of this theory is that by focusing on situational social experience it cannot say a lot about broad patterns of inequality among sexes. To really understand to roots of gender stratification we need a macro-level theory so that we can see why society makes men and women unequal.

Social-conflict theory: Takes a macro-level view of society and thinks that gender involves much more than difference in behavior, it sees gender as a structural system of power. One sex overpowers the other one. Social-conflict theorists like Engels don’t think that gender is helpful, they see gender as a social structure that creates division and tension. They thought we would we would be better off if gender doesn’t exist at all. This also implies that they were no huge fans of traditional families.

Limitations to this theory is that by saying that traditional families are wrong, you also overlook the fact that men and women can live happily together in families. Secondly social conflict theory claims that capitalism is the cause for gender stratification while in fact gender stratification already existed in agrarian societies and was probably more severe than in capitalist society’s.

Intersection theory: is an additional social-conflict approach. It is the analysis of the interplay of race, class and gender, which often results in multiple dimensions of disadvantage. Intersection theory helps us see that although gender is very powerful, it doesn’t run operate alone. Class, race, ethnicity, gender all form a multilayered system and this system is harmful to some (women), and useful to others (men). Although is state’s clearly that women are disadvantaged, it doesn’t say what we should do about gender stratification.


10.5 Feminism


Feminism is the support or social equality for women and men, in opposition to patriarchy and sexism. Basic feminist ideas are:

1) Taking action to increase equality

2) Expanding human choice

3) Eliminating gender stratification throughout society

4) Ending sexual violence

5) Promoting sexual freedom.


There are three types of feminism:

1) Liberal feminism (Wants equal opportunities for men and women).

2) Socialist feminism (Thinks that gender equality will become a reality when capitalism is replaced by socialism).

3) Radical feminism (Wants the concept of gender to be eliminated and in doing so, create an egalitarian and gender free society).


Socialist and radical feminism are strongly criticized, on the other hand, people do support liberal feminism


11: The Role of Race & Ethnicity

This chapter explains how race and ethnicity are created by society. All over the world race and ethnicity are not only about difference but also show social inequality.


11.1 The Social Meaning of Race and Ethnicity

Race refers to socially constructed categories based on biological traits the members of a society consider to be important. The cause for racial diversity was the fact that all humans lived in different geographic regions of the world. The striking variety of racial features today is due to migration.

In the past, scientists created three racial types:

  1. Caucaloids: people with relatively light skin and fine hair.
  2. Mongoloids: people with yellow or brown skin and distinctive folds on the eyelids.
  3. Negroids: people with dark skin and coarse hair.

Sociologists find these categories misleading and harmful because there are no societies with biologically pure races. The meaning and importance of race differs from place to place. Societies use racial categories to rank people in a hierarchy, giving some people more money, power and prestige then others. However, over many generations genetic traits from around the world have began to blur because more and more people from different races get into contact with each other, fall in love and create children that have two different racial backgrounds. The world is becoming a multicultural place and genetic traits from around the world have become mixed.

Ethnicity is a shared cultural heritage and refers to socially constructed categories based on cultural traits a society defines as being important and give its members a distinctive social identity. Ethnicity reflects common ancestors, language and religion. The importance of ethnicity varies from place to place and over time. People choose to play down their ethnicity. Societies may or may not set categories of people apart based on differences in ethnicity.

Minorities can be based on racial and ethnic differences and have two important characteristics:

  • Society gives them a distinctive identity.
  • Minorities experience feelings of subordination.

11.2 Prejudice and Stereotypes

Prejudice is a rigid and unfair generalization about a category of people. One type of prejudice is the stereotype which is a simplified description applied to every person in some category. The social distance scale invented by Bogardus (1925) is used to measure prejudice.

Recent research that measured student attitudes confirms that prejudice toward al racial and ethnic categories are declining. The patterns of social distance among college students today are:

1) Student opinion shows a trend toward greater social acceptance.

2) People see less difference between minorities.

3) The terrorist attacks of 9/11 may have reduced social acceptance of Arabs and Muslims.

Racism is a very destructive type of prejudice because it asserts that one race is innately superior or inferior to another. Racism has always existed and although we are making some progress racism remains a serious social problem.


There are four theories of prejudice:

  • Scapegoat theory: Holds that prejudice comes from frustration among people who are themselves disadvantaged. A scapegoat is a person or category of persons that have little power whom other people use to blame unfairly for their own troubles. Minorities or often used as scapegoats because they have little power and therefore are sage targets.

  • Authoritarian personality theory: Formulated by T.Adorno (1950). He thought that extreme prejudice is a personality trait of specific individuals. People with authoritarian personalities see things as clear-cut matters of right and wrong and also view society a naturally competitive with better people dominating those who are weaker. People who express tolerance toward one minority are likely to accept all minorities. Tolerant people are more flexible in their judgment of others and treat all people as equal.

  • Culture theory: Claims that some prejudice is found in all people because prejudice is part of the culture in which we live and learn. Evidence is given by the Bogarde social distance and by the fact that minorities express the same attitudes as white people when they judge others than their own.

  • Conflict theory: proposes that prejudice is a tool that is used by powerful people to oppress and dominate over others. Shelby Steele (1990) says that minorities themselves encourage race consciousness in order to win greater power and privileges. Minorities see themselves as the victims that need special care. Although this strategy might be fruitful on short term it also causes opposition from people who oppose ‘special treatment’ on the basis of race or ethnicity.

11.3 Discrimination

Discrimination is treating various categories of people unequally. Prejudice refers to attitudes, discrimination involves actions

Institutional prejudice and discrimination is bias built into the operation of society’s institutions, including schools, hospitals, the police and the workplace. Prejudice an discrimination perpetuate themselves in a vicious circle, resulting in social disadvantage that fuels additional prejudice and discrimination.


11.4 Patterns of interaction between majority and minority


Social scientists have developed four models:


1) Pluralism means that racial and ethnic categories, although distinct have roughly equal social standing. In a pluralistic society all people have regardless of their race and ethnicity equal standing by law.


2) Assimilation is a process by which minorities gradually adopt the patterns of the dominant culture. When someone assimilates into another culture, they will change the way they dress, speak, the way they think about religion will change and their values and norms will change. People who are new in a country use assimilation as a protective device against prejudice and discrimination and in doing so they have a better chance to clime the social ladder (upwards social mobility). In every society, some categories of people have assimilated more than others, the amount of assimilation varies in every category.


3) Segregation is the physical and social separation of categories of people. Sometimes minorities will segregate voluntarily but in most cases the majority will cast out the minorities and force them to segregate by excluding them. At its extreme segregation is called ‘hypersegregation (Douglas Massey & Nancy Denton, 1989) which means having little contact of any kind with people outside your community.


Genocide is the systematic killing of one category of people by another. This deadly form of racism was common in the contact between Europeans and the original inhabitants of America. Genocide also happened in the II WO when Hitler killed millions of Jewish people in concentration camps. Sadly even today there are genocides like the ongoing killing between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda.


11.5 Race and ethnicity in the US


Here are the seven major categories of the US population:


  • Native Americans: Were the original inhabitants of America. Over the course of history they have experienced genocide, segregation, and were forced to assimilate. In today’s world the social standing of Native Americans is still well below average.

  • White Anglo-Saxon Protestants: Were the original founders of America. They had an European background and many still have a high social standing.

  • African Americans: Have endured two centuries of slavery. They came to America on slave boats to work for white people on the plantations. Emancipation in 1865 gave way to segregation by law (Jim Crow law) A national civil rights movement in the 50’s and 60’ resulted in new legal laws that stated that segregated schools and overt discrimination were from now on against the law. In reality even though the law has changed, African Americans are still disadvantaged.

  • Asian Americans: Had to suffer racial and ethnic hostility. Even though discrimination still continuous, Asian Americas have an above average income and schooling.

  • Hispanic Americans (Latinos): are the largest minority in the US. They include people with Spanish heritage, Mexican heritage and with Cuban heritage

  • Arab Americans: Are in today’s US a growing minority. Arab Americans are a culturally diverse population and they are represented in al social classes. Terrorist attacks from 9/11 and everywhere else in the world have ensured that there is a lot of prejudice against Arab Americans .As a result a new stereotype was born that led people to believe that all Arabs are terrorist.

  • White ethnic Americans: Not be mistaken with White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. White ethnic Americans emigrated to the US in the 19th and 20th century. In response to prejudice and discrimination many white ethnic Americans have formed residential enclaves were they live.


12: The Impact of Economics & Politics

This chapter is about the economy and politics. The economy is regarded as having the greatest impact on society as a whole. Politics are closely related to economy.  Both are social institutions which are major spheres of social life or societal subsystems organized to meet human needs. 


12.1 The Economy

Historical overview

The economy is the social institution that organizes a society’s production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. Goods are commodities (necessities and luxury items) and services are activities that benefit people. In the past there were three crucial moments that technological revolutions reorganized the economy and also had a big impact on social life:


- The agricultural revolution: 5000 years ago a revolution took place when people found a way to harness animals with plows. This permitted the development of agriculture which was 50 times more productive.  This also meant that not everybody had to look for found anymore, so many people took on other more specialized jobs like making tools etc. then people began to settle more in one place and towns were founded that were linked by roads. Because of these roads people could trade with other towns. In this way economy became a social institution.


- The industrial revolution: In the mi18th century the industrial revolution took place. It started in England and made its way to the US and other parts of the world. Industrialization transformed the economy in 5 ways:

1.     New sources of energy

2.     Centralization of work in factories.

3.     Manufacturing and mass production.

4.     Specialization.

5.     Wage labor.

Because of the industrial revolution the standard of living was slowly rising because countless of new products made live a lot easier. Especially in the beginning the benefits of this revolution were divided very unequally.


- The information revolution and postindustrial society

In the 1950’s the production of goods was once again changing. The US created a postindustrial economy which is a productive system that is based on service work and computer technology. Automated machinery replaced human labor and it made workers shift from industrial work to service work. The invention of the computer was the drive behind this economic change. The information revolution introduced new products and new forms of communication and changed the way we work. There are three big changes:

1.     Form tangible products to ideas.

2.     From mechanical skills to literacy skills.

3.     Form factories to almost everywhere.



These three revolutions sparked a shift in balance among the three factors of an economy: Primary sector, secondary sector and the tertiary sector.

As a result of new information technology, more and more people around the world are drawn together to form a global economy. The development of such an economy has five consequences:

-         We begin to see a global division in labor.

-         An increasing number of products pass through more than one nation.

-         National governments have no control over the economic activities in their own countries.

-         Now a small number of businesses that operate internationally control a vast share of the world’s economic activity.

-         Globalization of the economy raises concerns about the rights and opportunities for workers.


Economic systems


There are two economic models and these models intertwine with one another in almost every country:

- Capitalism: an economic system  in which natural resources and the means of producing good s and services are privately owned. There are three distinctive features for an ideal capitalist economy:

1.     Private ownership of property (individuals can own almost anything).

2.     Pursuit of personal profit (capitalism seeks to create profit and wealth).

3.     Competition and consumer choice (pure capitalism wants as the government to intervene as little as possible, a laissez-faire economy).


- Socialism: an economic system in which natural resources and the means of producing goods and services are collectively owned. There are three distinctive for an ideal socialist economy (exactly the opposite of capitalism)

1.     Collective ownership of property.

2.     Pursuit of collective goals.

3.     Government has control over the economy and favor a centrally controlled  or command economy that is operated by the government.


Most nations offer social welfare programs otherwise known as the third type of economic system: welfare capitalism an economic and political system that combines a mostly market-based economy with extensive social welfare programs (Western Europe, especially Sweden,   Denmark and Italy). Another alternative is state capitalism, this is an economic and political system in which companies are privately owned but cooperate closely with the government (like Japan, South-Korea and Singapore).


It is difficult to compare all these economic models because all nations have a mix between capitalism and socialism in varying degrees. Despite the fact that it is complicated, some comparisons can be made and are revealing. Comparisons are made about economic productivity (capitalism has a greater productivity then socialism), economic equality (Capitalism provides an overall higher standard of living  then socialism but socialism has less income inequality then capitalism does) and personal freedom ( In an capitalist economy there is more emphasize on self interest, and in socialist economies there is freedom of basic want).




Work in Postindustrial US economy

More people have service related jobs but these jobs pay a lot less then the factory jobs. This means that people in postindustrial economy earn less and these jobs provide only a modest way of living.  The changing economy has also seen a decline in labor unions. Another difference is that nowadays every job is called professional; a profession is a prestigious white collar occupation that requires extensive formal education.  Four basic characteristics are:

-         Theoretical knowledge

-         Self-regulating practice

-         Authority over clients

-         Community orientation rather than self interest.


You can also earn a living without having to work for a large organization. This is called self-employment. Examples are lawyers, physicians, architects etc.


Where there are people employed, there are also people who are unemployed. Few young people will find a job straight away when entering the labor force or some will leave their jobs to stay at home with the family, or someone gets very ill and can’t work anymore. Unemployment besides being a personal problem is also an economical problem. Jobs will disappear when companies have to close their doors or change the way they operate. The people who are currently jobless have a difficult time finding another job. The median length of unemployment is now 21,6 weeks (this means that half the people are even longer without a job).  Underemployment is also a serious issue.  The economy evolves in circles, with periods of prosperity followed by periods of recession, in the past, this circle went a lot faster than it now does.


An issue that involves the workplace is the increasing role of computers and other new information technology.  The information revolution changes what people do in various ways:

-         Computers are deskilling labor

-         Computers are making work more abstract

-         Computers limit workspace interaction

-         Computers increase employers’ control of workers

-         Computers allow companies to relocate work



The corporation is at the core of today’s capitalist society. A corporation is an organization with a legal existence, including rights and liabilities, separate from that of its members. Most corporations in the US are small so it is the largest corporations that dominate the economy. Economic concentration creates giant corporations composed of many smaller corporations (conglomerates). These conglomerates are also linked to each other because they own each other’s stock.  Corporations are also linked by networks of directors of many corporations (interlocking directorates).  The fact that these extensive linkages exist makes it obvious that  large corporations don’t operate independently, also a few very large corporations dominate markets so there is no real competition between corporations.

De law forbids companies to establish a monopoly but an oligopoly is legal and very common. A lot of very large corporations are now multinationals; these multinational corporations go to low-income countries to establish themselves over there because the labor costs are very low. According to dependency theorists these multinationals blocks the path for low income countries to develop their own industries en push poor people to produce products for the rich westerners. This makes poor countries even poorer and very dependent on rich countries.

12.2 Politics


Historical overview

There exists a close link between economics and politics. Politics is the social institution that distributes power, sets a society’s goals and makes decisions. Power (in Marxist terms) is the ability to achieve desired ends despite resistance from others. The government (a formal organization that directs the political live of a society) uses this power.


Weber said that most people have respect for their political system, but no government is likely to keep its power for very long if compliance comes only from the threat of brute force. Every government tries to legitimize itself so that the people will believe in the system.  The concept of power that people perceive as legitimate rather than coercive is called authority. Preindustrial societies rely on traditional authority (power legitimized by respect for long-established cultural patterns) Weber explained that the expansion of rational bureaucracy is the foundation of authority in modern cities (rational-legal authority). The last additional type of authority that Weber describes is charismatic-authority, this is power legitimized by extraordinary personal abilities that inspire devotion and obedience.  Because charismatic authority comes from one individual, when this leader dies this creates a crisis. If people want charismatic movements to survive you need routinization of charisma (transformation of charismatic authority into some combination of traditional and bureaucratic authority.


Global perspective

There are four political systems:

  • Monarchy : a political system in which one family rules from generation to generation. Most common in agrarian societies and leadership is based on kinship.

  • Democracy : a political system that gives people as a whole society the power to participate actively in politics. Is common in modern societies, leadership is linked to elective office.

  • Authoritarianism: a political system that denies the people any participation in politics and government.

  • Totalitarianism: a highly centralized system that extensively regulates people’s lives. 

You can ask yourself if globalization is changing politics in the same way it has changed the economy. On one level the answer is no. the world remains divided into nation-states and the United Nations plays a very small political role in world affairs. On the other hand,  politics have become a global process and politics is dissolving into business as the corporations grow larger then governments. Thanks to the Information Revolution national politics have become a global thing. It is almost impossible as a country to conduct your politics in privacy due the rise of social media (wikileaks).  NGO’s are also busy trying to advance global issues like human rights and environmental protection. In a globalizing world, leaders find it difficult to keep control over the political events occurring within their own countries.


Politics in the US

The US government has grown over the past two centuries. The US has developed a complex system of government agencies and programs that provide benefits to the population that resulted in their welfare state.  This welfare state is smaller than most other high-income countries. The political spectrum in the US goes from conservative right to liberal left and each side of the spectrum has its own ideas about economic and social issues.  People organize themselves in special interest groups to address a certain economical or social issue. These groups are at their strongest where political parties tend to be weak.  It’s a fact that not many people vote, the people who do vote are most likely to be female, and above the age of 65, furthermore people who own a home, have young children, with extensive schooling and good jobs have more feeling with politics and are more likely to vote.  Of course there will always be non voters because some people are very sick, disabled are in prison (people who are convicted have no right to vote in every state except Vermont and Maine).

Theories of Power in Society

Researchers have developed three competing models of power in de US:

Pluralist theory: Applies the structural functional approach, according to this theory power is spread widely throughout society so that all groups have some voice and think that the US is a democracy because the power is spread widely enough.

Power-Elite theory: Applies the social-conflict approach, according to this theory power is concentrated in the hands of the op business, political and military leaders and because of this concentration of power they don’t think that the US is a democracy.

Marxist Theory : Applies the social-conflict approach,  according to this theory power is directed by the operation of the capitalist economy and because this economy favors just a few people  the US  is no democracy.

Power beyond the Rules

A political system tries to settle controversy within a system of rules but sometimes the rules don’t apply and no political is immune to revolution. A political revolution is the overthrow of one political in order to establish another.  Revolutions share 4 traits:

- Rising expectations (rather than bitterness or despair) make revolution more likely.

- Unresponsive government, revolution is more likely when a government is unwilling to reform.

- Radical leadership by intellectuals, intellectuals provide the justification for revolution and universities are often at the centre of political change.

- Try to establish a new legitimacy. mostly done by disposing the formal old leaders very fast in a crude way.

Like revolution, terrorism  is a political act that goes beyond the rules of a established political system. Terrorism has 4 characteristics:

- Terrorist try to legitimize the use of violence as the only tactic they can use.

- Terrorism is used not only by terrorists but also by governments against their own people (state terrorism).

- Democracies principally condemn and reject terrorism but are very vulnerable for terrorism attacks.

  • Terrorism is always a matter of definition.


War and Peace

War is an organized, armed conflict among the people of two or more nations, directed by their governments. Wars occur very often, and like many forms of social behavior, warfare is a product of society that is more common in some parts of the world then in others. Quincy Wright(1987) cites five factors that promote war:

1) Perceived threats

2) Social problems

3) Political objectives

4) Moral objectives

5) The absence of alternatives


Few young rich or young poor people join the army. Generally speaking most of the people who join the army are working-class people from the south of the US.  Also more women are joining the army and are engaging in combat. Up to 14 % of all military personnel are now female.


Terrorism is a new kind of war, it’s an asymmetrical (instead of symmatrial were two nations sending armed forces to fight with each other) conflict and there are only a few attackers or in some cases just one attacker.


For decades the costs of having and upholding an army went up because of the ‘armed race’ between the US and the Sovjet Union.  On the other hand, some analysts see a link between the high spending and the domination of US society (military-industrial complex).


Nowadays when there is a war going on, the media keeps us updated 24/7. But we have to keep in mind that the media covers the war from their political point of view and is therefore not objective. Nevertheless the role of mass media in war is very important.


How can we keep the peace? Recent approaches to peace are:

-         Deterrence

-         High-technology defense

-         Diplomacy and disarmament

-         Resolving underlying conflict

13: The Impact of Family & Religion


Two other major social institutions are family and religion.  Both of them have existed since mankind but nowadays they are changing rapidly. Family and religion are closely related are society’s symbolic institutions. They both guide social life of a society by setting standards of morality, maintaining traditions and joining people together.

13.1 Family


Basic Concepts of Family

A family is a social institution that is found in every society. Family unites people in cooperative groups to care for one another including children. Family ties reflect also kinship a social bond based on common ancestry, marriage, or adoption. Families form around a marriage which is a legal relationship, usually involving economic cooperation, sexual activity and childbearing.  Nowadays a lot of people don’t define a family as being marriage based and find the above definition of a  family narrow minded and conventional. A lot of people nowadays see family as a close group of people who feel that they belong together and they don’t need to be blood related to feel close to each other.


Global Variations of Family

In preindustrial societies, people recognized the extended family which is a family composed of parents and children as well as other kin (aunts, uncles, nephews etc everyone that was blood related). With the industrialization this changed, due to increasing social mobility and geographic migration this gave rise to the nuclear family which is a family composed of one or two parents and their children. The idea of what a family is varies across time and cultures.


Marriage patterns

People have made cultural norms that state which people are suitable or unsuitable for marriage. Some of these norms are pro endogamy. This is a marriage where the spouses are from the same social category. By contrast there is also exogamy. This is a marriage between people who are of different social category. In high income countries a marriage is considered to be monogamous (marriage that consists of two people).  In low-income countries they permit polygamy (a marriage that consists of one person being married to multiple others persons.)  Within polygamy the category polygyny is by far the most popular (marriage between one man and two or more women). The opposite is when a woman marries two or more men, this is called polyandry. This is extremely rare.


Residential patterns

Society also regulates the way you live with your family. In most cases married couples live near their husband’s family (patrilocality) but in some cases a family lives near the wife’s family (matrilocality). In industrial societies families favor neolocality in which as a family they live in a new place and not near either of their parent’s family.


Patterns of decent

Decent is the system by which members of a society trace kinship over generations. There is:

 Patrilineal decent (traces kinship through males like when fathers pass on they give their properties to their firstborn son, is common in pastoral and agrarian societies), 

Matrilineal decent (traces kinship though the females and property is passed on from mother to daughter most common in horticultural societies were the females produce most of the food.

Bilateral descent (traces kinship  through both men and women, common in industrial societies.

Patterns of authority

Family is still very much male dominated. In today’s world it is still very common that men are the heads of their families and that most children take on their fathers surname. However, more egalitarian families are evolving.


Theories of the Family

Structural-functional theory

According to this macro level theory, the family provides four important functions for the operation of society:

- Socialization

- Regulation of sexual activity

- Social placement

- Material and emotional security

This theory shows us why society is built on families, why families form the ‘backbone’ of a society. This approach doesn’t really talk about the diversity of family life and ignores how other social institutions could at least meet some of the same human needs. It  also overlooks the negative aspects of family life.


Social-Conflict & Feminist Theories

Also a macro level theory. These theories also think that the families form the building blocks of society, it is central to our way of life.  This approach shows us how the family contributes to the existence of social inequality in four ways:

- Property and inheritance

- Patriarchy

- Race and ethnicity.

Symbolic –Interaction and Social-Exchange Theories

This micro level analysis explores how individuals shape and experience family life. Both symbolic –interaction and social-enhance focus on the individual experiences but in doing this they miss the bigger picture of the other theories.


Stages of family life

Most people in societies across the world recognize a few distinct stages in family life:

- Courtship and romantic love.

§ In middle-income countries across the world people consider courtship to important to be left to the young ones. Arranged marriages are marriages in which to families form an alliance to exchange not only children (in marrying them off to one another) but also in wealth and favors. This is not at all romantic and the children are often very young when their parents make marriage arrangements.

§ With the arrival of industrial societies, tradition began to weaken and more and more young people wanted to chose their own partners.

§ In our day and age we emphasize the importance of romance and want people to fall in love with the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with but we are not as free as we like to think because we do get nudged in a certain direction.  We often fall in love with people of the same race, who are close in age and of similar social class. Society encourages homogamy which is a marriage between people with the same social characteristics.

- Settling, the ideal and the real marriage.

§ Society paints a pretty picture about married live but in reality it is hard work to keep a marriage good and their bound to be some disappointments along the way.

- Child rearing.

§ Due to the increasing industrialization that has ensured that child raising costs a lot more money then before, family size has decreased over time.

§ Because more women are going to school and get a job, fewer children are born.

- Family in later life.

§ Many older people are active grandparents and many middle –aged couples take care of their parents.

§ Death of a spouse marks the last phase of a marriage


Families in the US

Family lives are shaped by social class, gender, ethnicity and race. When a child is born into a rich family they typically have better physical health and mental health and they also get more changes to make something of their lives than the children that are born in poor families. Ethnicity and race can affect a person’s experience of family live, but this is different for every person so we can’t generalize this.  Gender affects the family life because in most cases it is the man that dominates.


Transitions and Problems in Family Life

Family violence is a very important widespread problem. In most cases most adults who abuse other family members were also abused themselves. Four in ten marriages end up in divorce. Remarrying creates complex blended families were some children are from previous marriages. Six most common causes for this high divorce rate are:

-         Individualism is on the rise.

-         Romantic love fades.

-         Women are less dependent on men.

-         Many of today’s marriages are stressful

-         Divorce has become socially acceptable.

-         Legally a divorce is easier to get nowadays.


Alternative Family Forms

There are alternative family forms:

-         One parent families: 31 % of US families with children under eighteen have only one parent. This percentage has tripled since the 70’s. Single parenthood increases the risk that women have to live in poverty. Research shows that children that grow up in a one-parent family have a disadvantage.

-         Cohabitation: is the sharing of a household by an unmarried couple. Cohabitation seems to appeal more to independent minded people and those who strive for gender equality.

-         Gay and lesbian couples: Most same-sex couples with children live in blended families raising the children of previous hetero sexual marriages.


More and more women, often by choice) are living alone. Many unmarried women have difficulty in finding a man because the older a women is, the more education she has and the better her job, the more difficult it is to find a husband.


New Reproductive Technologies and Families

Due to the rise of new reproductive technologies (test tube babies) ideas about the parenthood are changing. In today’s world some women who would normally have difficulty or can’t conceive babies now can.  


13.2 Religion


 Basic Concepts of Religion

Most people expierence objects and events as profane, but we also consider some things as sacred. Setting the sacred apart of the profane is the essence of religion. The sacred is embodied by ritual. Because religion deals with ideas that transcend everyday life, sociology can’t prove or disprove religious doctrine. Religion is based on conviction rather than on scientific evidence (faith).


Theories of Religion

Structural-Functional Theory: is a macro level theory. According to Durkheim, religion represents the collective life that helps to hold society together. He identified three important functions of religion that contribute to the operation of society:

-         Establishing social cohesion.

-         Promoting social control.

-         Providing meaning and purpose.


People around the world transform everyday objects into sacred objects; such a sacred object is called a totem. Weakness of this approach is that it glosses over the dysfunctions of religion.


Symbolic-Interaction Theory


According to this micro level theory, religion gives everyday life sacred meaning.  Peter Berger says that ‘placing our small brief lives within some cosmic frame of reference gives us the appearance of ultimate security and permanence’.  Marriage is a good example because when you look at it as a contract, it is also a lot easier to file for divorce because you don’t see or feel the sacred of a marriage. When you look at marriage as a bond between two people we ore joined together in holy matrimony marriage sounds a lot more sacred and not like something you give up easily. This is also the reason why religious people divorce less then atheists.


Social-Conflict Theory & Feminist Theory


Both social-conflict theory and feminist theory stress that religion supports social inequality. Religion also supports the domination of women by men.


Religion and Social Change

Max Weber argues that religion is the cause for dramatic social change that in due time brought about the industrialization of Western-Europe. The religious movement that caused the industrialization was Calvinism because Calvinists believe in the doctrine of predestination. Driven by this anxiety over their faiths began to see prosperity as a sign of divine blessing from God. That’s why Calvinists work very hard and also made a lot of money.  This money was not for needless spending, they believed that they had to reinvest this money to make even more profit. They were also eager to adapt to new technological inventions because this made the workplace more efficient. These traits laid the groundwork for industrial capitalism. This shows that religion has influenced our society and how it has developed.


Liberation theology is a social movement from the 1960’s in Latin America’s Catholic Church. This theology combines Christian principles with political activism (often Marxist in character). 


Types of Religious Organizations

All the different religious organizations can be divided into three categories: Churches, sects and cults .

Churches are religious organizations that are well integrated into the larger society. Though it is concerned with the sacred, a church is accepting of the ways in the profane world. A church can operate with the state. When it does, it is called a state church. A denomination is a church that is independent of the state and recognizes religious pluralism.

 A sect, unlike a church, is a religious organization that stands apart from the larger society. A sect had a different kind of leader. Sects want their leaders to show divine inspiration in the form of charisma. Sects are also more formal then churches and a sect forms an exclusive group.

A cult is a religious organization that is largely outside a society’s cultural traditions. Because some principles of a cult are considered normal, outsiders don’t see cults as deviant or evil.


 History of Religion

Hunters and gatherers believed that elements of the natural world are conscious life forms that affect humanity. This is called animism. With pastoral and horticultural societies it started that people considered one divine power as the creator of the world. Religion became more important in agrarian cultures. When the industrial revolution made its stamp on Western society, more and more people were using science instead of religion to explain the world around them. Durkheim suggested that religion would never vanish because science can’t tell us what the meaning of life is.


Religion in US

The US is one of the most religious nations in the world. The way which researchers operationalize the variable religiosity affects how religious people in the US seem to be. Religious affiliation is affected by social class, ethnicity and race. Which religion you prefer is closely tied with your ethnic background. Most of the Slaves transported to the US by slave ships became Christians but they blended in some elements of African religion.


Religion in a Changing Society

The churches are declining, but meanwhile the sects are growing. We call the historical decline in the importance of the supernatural and the sacred secularization.  Almost half of the US adults have changed to another religion or to no religion at all. People still feel as one due to civil religion, this is a quasi-religious loyalty linking individuals by patriotic/nationalistic feelings in an overly secular society. Some people now pursue spiritual development outside conventional religious organizations, these people are called spiritual seekers. They believe in a higher power, that we are all connected, that there is a spiritual world. They want to experience the spirit world, and they pursue transcendence. 


At the same time when a church gets to ‘worldly’, believers tend the leave and favor sects more because they offer a more intense religious experience.


A trend within religion is the growth of fundamentalism. This is a conservative religious doctrine that opposes intellectualism and worldly accommodation in favor of restoring traditional, other worldly religion.

There are five distinctive qualities about fundamentalism:

-         Fundamentalists take the word of sacred texts literally.

-         Fundamentalists reject religious pluralism.

-         Fundamentalists pursue the personal experience of God’s presence.

-         Fundamentalists oppose ‘secular humanism’.

-         Many fundamentalists endorse conservative political goals.



14: The Importance of Education, Health, & Medicine for Society


This chapter is about two major social institutions that emerged in modern societies: education and healthcare. This chapter will explain why education is so important and who benefits most form schooling. Good health, just like education, is unequally distributed across society.


14.1 Education


A Global Survey

Education is the social institution through which society provides its members with important knowledge, including basic facts, job skills, and cultural norms and values. In high-income countries education depends largely on the formal instruction under the direction of a specially trained teacher, otherwise known as schooling.  A lot of children in low-income countries don’t go to school, or do not make it past second grade. Schooling in low-income countries reflects the national culture. The extent of schooling is tied closely to its level of economic development.


The Functions of Schooling

The structural functional theory thinks that schooling has some major functions:

- Socialization: As societies get more advanced, complex technology they need trained teachers to teach people how these technologies work so that other people can do their jobs and pass their knowledge on to the next generation.

- Cultural innovation: Scholars do research and the outcomes and discoveries can change our lives.

- Social integration: Al students with diverse social backgrounds get molded into one society that shares certain norms and values.

- Social placement: It’s a schools responsibility to see talent and to give education that matches their talents. Schools reward hard work with better grades regardless of your background and provide a path to upward social mobility.

- Schools also provide some latent functions like bringing people together to form networks, schools also provide child care and schooling occupies young people in their twenties who would otherwise be out in a grueling job market.


The symbolic approach shows us how we all build a reality through the interaction we have with others. When a school defines someone as gifted, you can expect that a teacher will treat this student differently but also the student changes and is going to behave differently because he or she is labeled as being gifted. If students and teachers start believing that one race is academically better than other races, this can, according to Theoram, become a self fulfilling prophecy. 


Schooling and Social Inequality

Social-conflict analysis emphasizes three ways in which schooling causes and perpetuates social inequality:

- Social control, people in school learn the importance of obeying orders. (Bowles & Gintis, 1976)

- Standardized tests unfairly transform a privilege into a personal merit because it defines the majority of students as smarter.(Crouse & Trusheim, 1988, Putka, 1990).

- Schools use tracking to assign students to different types of educational programs. Tracking is supposed to help teachers recognize the talents and abilities of each student but Jonathan Kozol sees tracking as one of the savage inequalities in the present school system.

89 % of the 62,4 million primary and secondary school children attend public schools that are funded by the state. The rest goes to private schools, some of them are Catholic or Protestants, but some private schools are nonreligious but really prestigious and expensive.  Students of private schools do perform better then students of public schools, due to the small classes, more demanding coursework and greater discipline.


Problems in the Schools

A big problem that affects all schools is violence. Violence is a bigger issue on schools in poor neighborhoods. School do not create violence, violence is brought into the school by the surrounding society. Other schools also have problems with the students being too passive. This is not only caused by students themselves, but also by educational system.  Students become passive because the schools are very bureaucratic. There are five ways in which bureaucratic schools undermine education:

1)Rigid uniformity

2)Numerical ratings

3)Rigid expectations

4) Specialization

5) Little individual responsibility

 Due to this bureaucracy inside the schools, the drop-out rates are very high. Furthermore, because of the declining academic standards, cause lower average scores on achievements tests. Also a lot more people are functional illiterate (a lack of reading and writing skills needed for everyday living) and there is talk of grade inflation.


Current Issues in US education

Some important challenges that education in the US face today:


- School choice movements want to make schools more accountable to the public.

- In the beginning, home schooling was invented by people who wanted their children to enjoy a strongly religious upbringing but now people want their children to be homeschooled because they feel the public schools are performing very poorly.

- School people with disabilities have been schooled in special classes for a long time but parents want their children to go to more mainstream schools because it gives them more opportunities and other children can learn a great deal from people who suffer from mental of physical illness.

- Adult education is a booming business. More and more adults are enrolling as students in the US. Most older learners are women and doing it to improve their job related skills.

- There is currently a large teacher shortage. There are about 400000 teaching vacancies due to low salaries, frustration, retirement and rising enrollments & class size. To overcome this teacher shortage, schools are looking abroad for new teachers because they are hard to find within the US.


14.2 Health and Medicine

Medicine is the social institution that focuses on fighting disease and improving health. Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.


Health and Medicine

Society affects health in four ways:

-         Cultural patterns define health.

-         Cultural standards of health change over time.

-         A society’s technology affects people’s health.

-         Social inequality affects people’s health.


Global Survey

The causes of differences in health around the world are due to differences in societal development. Health in low-income countries there is bad sanitation, hunger and a lot of other problems that are linked to poverty. Live expectancy is about 23 years less than in the US. In very poor countries, one in four people die before they turn twenty.  The standard of living raised because of the industrialization. It also provided better nutrition, safer housing so about the 1850’ health began to improve. Also a lot of steps forward were made by medical science.


Health in the US

Who is and isn’t healthy has also a lot to do with your age, gender, social class and race. Social epidemiology has shown that health and disease are distributed throughout a society’s population. Women in general have better health then men and people of high social position have better health then poor people.

Current issues are:

-         Cigarette smoking

-         Eating disorders and obesity

-         Increase of sexually transmitted diseases

-         Ethical dilemmas about euthanasia.


The Medical Establishment

Due to the industrialization, health care became a responsibility of trained doctors and other specialists. At first, people took care for their own family. The model of scientific medicine is the foundation of the US medical establishment. This model now has competition of the holistic medicine.  This is an approach to health care that emphasizes the prevention of illness and takes into account a person’s entire physical and social environment. The three foundations of holistic medicine are:

-         Threat patients as people

-         Encourage responsibility, not independency

-         Provide personal treatment

Due to all the expensive technologies, the costs have become very high. All over the world, countries use different strategies to meet these costs. In socialists societies they see medical care as a basic human right and government give every person basic care. Capitalists see medical care as a commodity that has to be bought, through socialized medicine (Sweden) or national health care insurance.


Theories of Health and Medicine

Structural-functional theory: Talcott Parsons (1951): medicine is a strategy that tries to keep the members of a society healthy. Illness is dysfunctional because it reduces the abilities of people to go on about their everyday activities like going to work, attending classes etc.            When you are sick, and you look seek people will allow you to take on a sick role (patterns of behavior defined as appropriate for people who are sick). Also the medical expert that is helping you get better plays a certain part: the physician’s role. They use this role to evaluate claims of sickness and they try to make them feel better. Limitation of this concept is that it applies better to acute conditions then to chronic illness. Also, illness is not entirely dysfunctional; it can indeed have positive consequences because when people are sick, it also gives them the time to think about their lives and see what’s really important.

Symbolic-interaction theory:


According to this theory, health and medical care are socially constructed by humans through the interaction with others.

Every person defines a medical situation differently and this can affect the way you feel when you have a certain medical condition. Our response to illness is based on social definitions, and in some cases this response has no medical basis. Take aids for example. People who have aids will have to deal with a lot of prejudice that can’t be justified on medical grounds.


Physicians will think long and hard about how they are going to present themselves to patients and how their office should look like because they want to come across like a physician that is in charge and knows what he or she is doing. (Erwin Goffman’s dramaturgical approach). Sociologist Joan Emerson (1970) also illustrates this process by the analysis of a gynecological examination.


Furthermore, symbolic-interaction theory has taught us that surgery can affects someone’s self-image and social identity. The effects of surgery can even be very influential even when there is no obvious physical change like losing a limb. Example of surgery that causes no physical change but makes a big impact on your self-image and social identity is a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus).


Let down of this theory is that by directing attention to the personal subjective meanings people attach to health and illness it wrongly implies that there are no objective standards of well-being that in reality do exist. (People who have no food or water suffer regardless whether they see their environment as normal or not). But nevertheless the meaning of health in ways of illness, treatment and personal identity are socially constructed by society itself.


Social-conflict theory& Feminist theory:


Following the ideas of Marx, social-conflict theory on the subject of health, stresses the relation between health and social inequality. Feminist theory stresses the link between health and medicine to gender stratification. There are three main issues:


- Access to healthcare: The rich have access to better quality healthcare which society provides for them because they have the money to pay for this kind of healthcare.

- The effects of the profit motive:  Capitalist economy defines health and medicine. In a capitalist system, they are not concerned with health, but with making as much profit as possible.  This system has turned doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical industry in money machines.  Its focus has shifted from making people better to making as much money as possible, this result in unnecessary tests and surgery.

- The politics of medicine: Scientific medicine is glossing over the social causes of illness, they chose to downplay them. These social causes include poverty, racism and sexism.


The most common critique this theory gets is that it overlooks the fact that medicine has improved our standard of living and our life expectancy. It overlooks/minimizes the positive outcomes medicine has achieved and focuses purely on the negatives. Yes, there is still plenty of room for improvement, but let’s not overlook the fact that the health indicators for society as a whole rose steadily.


15: Population, Urbanization, & Environment of Society


Chapter 15 is about three dimensions of social change: 1) population dynamics, 2) urbanization, 3) increasing threats to the natural environment.  These three dimensions are also linked together.


15.1 Demography, the Study of Population


In 2012 there where according to this book, more than seven billion people living on this earth. Every year ca. 83 million people are added every year. What caused this rapid growth and the consequences that follow are the two main questions a demographer asks.  Demography is the study of the human population and is a cousin of sociology that analyzes the size and composition of a population and study how and why people move from a certain place to the next.  It’s not only about analyzing statistics, it’s also important as a demographer to ask oneself what the effects of population increase are. Demographical studies also do suggestions as to how we can control this growth.


Some basic demographic concepts are:


Fertility: study of human population begins with how many people are born. Fertility is the incidence of childbearing in a country’s population. Demographers describe fertility by using the crude birth rate (number living births in a giving year for every 1000 people in a population).


Mortality: the size of the population also reflects the incidence of death in a country’s population (mortality). Demographers describe fertility by using the crude death rate (number of deaths in a giving year for every 1000 people in a population).  Besides crude birth and death rates there is a third demographic measure: infant mortality. (number of deaths among infants under one year of age for each 1000 live births in a given year). When there is a low infant mortality it raises the life expectancy in a country.


Migration: The population size is also affected by the movement of people into and out of a specified territory (migration). The in-immigration rate is calculated as the number of people entering an area for every 1000 people in the population. Out-migration rate is calculated as the number of people leaving for every for 1000 people in the population. The difference between these numbers is called the net-migration rate.


Growth: To calculate a population natural growth you subtract the crude death rate from the crude birth rate. Global map 1 on p.443 shows that all high income countries population growth is well below the world average of 1.2%.


Population composition:  Demographers also study the composition of a population. One variable is the sex ratio, which is the number of males for every 1000 females in a nation’s population. A more complex measure is the age-sex pyramid. This is a graphic representation of the age and sex of a population. (for an example see fig.2 on p.444).



15.2 History and Theory of Population Growth


In the past a lot of children were born, but also a lot of children died at a very young age so there was a constant brake on population growth. Around 1750, this changed and a major demographic shift took place and the world’s population grew rapidly. Not only was the population growing, but the growth rate went faster as well.


Thomas Robert Malthus was an English economist and warned that rapid population growth would lead to social chaos. According to him, the population would increase in a geometric progression. Not only would the population increase, also the food production would increase but in an arithmetic progression. This would lead to a world in which the population will grow more and more and the food production would have trouble keeping up with this growth.


We can now say that fortunately Malthus his calculations were flawed. Critics say that Malthus ignored the role of social inequality, still he offers an important lesson that we must all be cautious of rapid population growth because it can’t go on forever, there will be a time when the world is bursting at the seams.


Demographic transition theory is a more complex analysis of population change. It is a thesis that links population patterns to a society’s level of technological development.


Stage 1: Preindustrial agrarian societies have a large birth and death rate,

Stage 2: An industrial society has lower death and birth rates, so these populations are growing very slow.

Stage 3: In mature industrial societies birth rates drop and fertility falls. Birth and dead rates continue to go down, so growth is also slowing down even more.

Stage 4:  In postindustrial societies the demographic transition is complete. Birth rates keep going down and death rates are steady.  This means that the population grows very slowly and in some cases even decreases.


This theory suggests that the key to population control lies in technology. The demographic transition theory is popular with modernization theorists. They think that poor countries over time will get their population growth under control because at a given time, these countries will industrialize. Dependency theorists on the other hand, are more skeptical about the demographic transition theory and they disagree completely with modernization theorists. First high income countries have to redistribute their resources and share them with low income countries if they do not, the world will forever be divided in the rich countries that have it all, and the poor countries that have nothing.

With the information we have gathered thus far, we can identify some important patterns about the population of today’s world:

- Growth rate of the population in the Western Europe and North America has been steadily declining. The US birth rate is at a point demographer’s call zero population growth: the rate of reproduction that maintains population at a steady level. Because raising children is more expensive, women more and more get a job, there exists a trend towards later marriage and the widespread use of contraceptives and abortion less children are born. A lot of governments are concerned with the population rates dropping and are afraid of under population.

- The ever growing population is a big problem in poor countries of the Southern Hemisphere. In Congo, Africa it is still very normal for a women to have an average of six children.  In most poor countries this rate has dropped to three children but three children are still enough to make global poverty a lot worse. By improving the status of women, these countries can have more control over their population growth. Give women more life choices and these women will have fewer children.

- The population dynamics are very different in high and low income countries. This gap between rich and poor countries is sometimes called the demographic divide. This divide now separates rich countries with low birth rates and aging population from poor countries with high birth rates and very young populations.


15.3 Urbanization, the Growth of Cities


Urbanization is the concentration of population into cities.  The first cities developed about 10,000 years ago (Jericho) By about 2000 years ago, cities had emerged in most regions of the world except for North-America and Antarctica. A second urban revolution began about 1750 as the industrial revolution began and caused rapid urban growth in Europe. The physical form of cities changed as planners created wide, regular streets that made trade easier.  This ever growing trade market  caused the commerce to grow and grow.  The emphasis on commerce as well as the increasing size of cities made urban lives more impersonal.


In the US:

-         Urbanization came to North America with European colonists.(1565-1800)

-         By 1850, new cities emerged along the trade routes. Urban expansion was greatest in the northern states.  

-         The civil war (1861-65)  caused an enormous boost to urbanization because factories needed to make a lot of weapons. By 1920 a majority of the US population lived in urban areas.

-         Since 1950, the decentralization of cities has resulted in the growth of suburbs.  Suburbs are urban areas beyond the political boundaries of a city.  The industrial cities stopped growing  or are declining.

-         Nationally, Sunbelt cities are increasing in size and population.


As regional cities grow , they start to overlap. Jean Gottmann coined the term megalopolis to refer to a vast urban region containing a number of cities and their surrounding suburbs. Urban decentralization has over time created edge cities, which are business centers that are located some miles away from the old city. Nowadays more people are returning to a more rural way of life.


15.4 Urbanism as a Way of Life


Rapid urbanization during the 19th century led early sociologist to study the differences between rural and urban life. These early European sociologists were:

- F.Tönnies(855-1937): built his analysis on the concepts of the German words gemeinschaft (typical of the rural village, joins people in what amounts to a single primary group, people are very closely tied by kinship and tradition) and gesellschaft (typical of the modern city, describes individuals motivated by their own needs rather than the well-being of the community as a whole, people come together based on self interest)

- E.Durkheim: Agreed with a lot that Tönnies said but Durkheim claimed that modern city’s do have social bonds but the basis of social solidarity just differs from rural villages. There are two types of solidarity: Mechanical solidarity (social bonds based on people having same feelings and shared morals, are typical for traditional rural life) and organic solidarity (social bonds based on specialization and interdependence, this is typical for the modern city).

- G.Simmel(1858-1918): Thought that the overstimulation of city life produced (as Simmel put it) a blasé attitude in urbanities.


Early sociologist in the US:


-         R.Park: felt that cities permit greater social freedom.

-         LWirth.  Claimed that late dense heterogeneous populations create an impersonal and self-interested way of life. 


Sociologist use the term urban ecology to study the link between the physical and social dimensions of cities, These urban ecologist also study the physical design of cities..


15.5 Urbanization in Poor Nations


The world’s first urban revolution took place about 8000 B.C. with the first urban settlements. The second urban revolution took place after 1750 in Europe and North-Africa with the industrial revolution. A third urban revolution is now taking place in poor countries, in today’s world the largest cities can be found in less developed countries. Cities provide no quick fix to problems for problems about escalating population growth and increasing poverty.


15.6 Environment and Society


Like demography, ecology is also closely tied to sociology.  Ecology is the study about the interaction of living organisms and the natural environment (.

The state of the environment is a social issue because it forms a reflection about how human beings organize social life. Societies increase the environmental deficit by focusing too much on short-term benefits and ignoring the long-term consequences brought on by their own way of life. The more complex the level of technology is, the greater is its capacity to change the natural environment. The logic-of-growth thesis supports economic development, claiming that people can solve environmental problems as they arise. The limits- to-growth thesis states that societies must curb development to prevent eventual environmental collapse.


Five environmental issues are:


- Disposing of solid waste everywhere. We think that when we chuck something in the bin, it’ s gone forever, but in reality half of this waste never goes away. Waste ends up in landfills and this garbage is ruining the water that’s in the ground. Environmentalists want us to use less and try to turn our garbage into something useful.

- Protecting the quality of water and air. Two major problems with water are population and supply. Air is also polluted but this rate is dropping because high-income countries have forbidden high pollution heating.

- Protecting the rain forest. Rain forests are regions on the world that have a very dense forestation. Rainforest also have to bend the knee to the world as the world has more needs and appetites.

- Global warming. Rain forests are so important because they get rid of CO2 in the atmosphere. Because we are chopping down those rainforests, and we are still pumping CO2 in the air, this leads to global warming. Because rainforests are decreasing, and humans get more and more control over nature, biodiversity declines.

- Environmental racism refers to patterns of development that exposes poor people to environmental hazards. This has been pointed out by the social-conflict theory.

Today we face serious environmental problems and we have to overcome the challenges that the world throws at us. A lot of the problems we have created ourselves and are due to ever increasing populations and the overconsumption in rich countries. The answer to these problems is to create a ecologically sustainable culture. To make this solution a reality firstly we have to take control of the population growth. Secondly we have to try to think about the future and use resources efficiently. Thirdly we have to reduce waste.  In order to make these strategies work, the whole world needs to learn to work together.


  • This summary was written in 2013-2014



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