A.                 Introduction

Sociology arose in the early nineteenth century as an attempt to understand (and control) changes associated with modernity, including: massive population movements, industrialization, urbanization, the decline of traditional authority, and the cultural aftermath of the French Revolution.

Many social theorists assumed and still assume that society is an interacting whole, possessing an independent existence. A vantage point must be adopted from which to probe these social dynamics. These vantage points are provided by theories which link facts into unified wholes.

Different sociological theories hold that different aspects of society hold the key to understanding its dynamic. Functionalists argue that social actors and structures are in an equilibrium which is relatively stable. Critical theorists argue that society is composed of antagonistic groups, one of which holds power over the other(s). Interactionists suggest that the social structures emerge from the interactions of individuals and groups.

Virtually all sociologists agree that groups and social forces influence personal behaviour much more than is commonly recognized. Individual behaviour is rarely unrelated to the larger forces and structures of society.

“Sociology is the description and explanation of social behaviour, social structures, and social interaction in terms of the social environment (structures) and/or in terms of people’s perceptions of the social environment.”[1]

B.                C. Wright Mills, “The Promise of Sociology”[2]

“Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.” (p. 1)

“[Typically persons] do not possess the quality of mind essential to grasp the interplay of man and society, of biography and history, of self and the world.” (p. 2)

“What they [people] need, and what they feel they need, is a quality of mind that will help them to use information and to develop reason in order to achieve lucid summations of what is going on in the world and of what may be happening within themselves. [This quality is] . . . the sociological imagination.” (p. 2)

“The first fruit of this [sociological] imagination . . . is the idea that the individual can understand his own experience and gauge his own fate only by locating himself within his period.” (p. 3)

“The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society.” (p. 3)

Three sorts of questions that the sociological imagination seeks to answer:

·         What is the structure of this particular society as a whole?

·         Where does this society stand in human history?

·         What varieties of men and women now prevail in this society and in this period?

“For that imagination is the capacity to shift from one perspective to another—from the political to the psychological; from examination of a single family to comparative assessment of the national budgets of the world; from the theological school to the military establishment; from considerations of an oil industry to studies of contemporary poetry. It is the capacity to range from the most impersonal and remote transformations to the most intimate features of the human self—and to see the relations between them.” (p. 3-4)

“Perhaps the most fruitful distinction with which the sociological imagination works is between the ‘personal troubles of milieu’ and the ‘public issues of social structure.’ This distinction is an essential tool of the sociological imagination and a feature of all classic work in social science.” (p. 4)

e.g., unemployment (personal trouble or public issue?); divorce; suicide


“What we experience in various and specific milieu . . . is often caused by structural changes. Accordingly, to understand the changes of many personal milieu, we are required to look beyond them. And the number and variety of such structural changes increase as the institutions within which we live become more embracing and more intricately connected with one another. To be aware of the idea of social structure and to use it with sensibility is to be capable of tracing such linkages among a great variety of milieu. To be able to do that is to possess the sociological imagination.” (p. 5)

“Many great public issues as well as private troubles are described in terms of the ‘psychiatric’—often, it seems, in a pathetic attempt to avoid the large issues and problems of modern society. . . . it arbitrarily divorces the individual life from the larger institutions within which that life is enacted, and which on occasion bear upon it more grievously than do the intimate environments of childhood.” (n.p.)

C.                The Reflexivity of Sociological Investigation

“The reflexivity of modern social life consists in the fact that social practices are constantly examined and reformed in the light of incoming information about these very practices, thus constitutively altering their character.”[3]

Social science as scripting[4]

Consider the following view: "The sociological perspective, with its emphasis on groups and social interaction, increases human knowledge, extends our awareness of ourselves as human beings, and can expand our power over our own destinies."[5]

What are the (reflexive) limitations of increasing our “power over our own destinies?”

D.                An Introduction to the Major Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology

The first two perspectives listed below are often called macro-sociological in that they seek to explain social behaviour by factors which exist independently of individuals, i.e., social structures. The third perspective is often called micro-sociological in that it seeks to explain social behaviour by virtue of the interactions and symbol exchanges which occur between individuals.

1.                   The (Structural) Functionalist Perspective[6]

A society or group is an interactive system.

Social systems tend to be relatively stable and persistent; change is usually gradual.

A society or group cannot survive unless its members share at least some common beliefs, norms, and values.

Social integration is produced by the consensus of most members of the society on some norms and values.

2.                   The Conflict Perspective[7]

The main features of society are change, conflict, and coercion.

Conflict and dissensus (lack of agreement) are always present in every social system.

Social stability is based on the dominance of some groups over other groups.

Each subgroup in society has a set of common interests, whether its members are aware of it or not.

3.                   Symbolic Interactionism Perspective

Humans respond to others; their responses to the acts of others depend on the situation in which the act occurs and on the motives that are perceived to underlie the actions.

Humans create and use symbols. These symbols—things to which we attach meaning—are the basis of social life. Human interaction is greatly influenced by the symbols with which people conceptualize the “real world.”

Through symbolic interaction with others, each human develops a conception of a self, including a conception of the self that is acceptable in the community.


Review Table 1.1: Major Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology[8]


A.                 Auguste Comte[9] (1798-1857)

1.                   Life and Early Thought

Auguste Comte was born Montpellier, France in 1798. His early upbringing was quite unhappy. At the age of 14 he “ceased” believing in God and rejected the royalism of his parents. Thereafter relations with his family were strained.

At the age of 16 he enrolled in the Ecole Polytechnique, one of the first schools designed to train an elite corps of engineers and scientists. This school, with its scientific and technical advancements, became a model of the ideal society for Comte in his later writings. In a time of social turmoil in France (after the French Revolution of 1789-95), the methods and successes of the technical sciences were irresistible to Comte and many other social thinkers.

As the techniques of applied science were increasingly successful in their application to problems in the physical world, Comte came to believe that these same techniques and methods could be applied to the study of society.

Comte also came under the influence of contemporaries who believed that the progress of science could be understood as a historical development through a series of distinct periods. If science could be thought of as progressing through various stages, perhaps society had progressed through similar stages as well.

Comte attempted to deal with the practical realities of his day, including the disruption and need for social reorganization which resulted from the French Revolution and spreading industrialization.

2.                   Comte’s “Positive” Philosophy

a)                   The Three Stages

“The law is . . . each branch of our knowledge, passes successively through three different theoretical conditions: the Theological, or fictitious; the Metaphysical, or abstract; and the Scientific, or positive.” (18)

Each of these stages involves a peculiar methodology: (1) the Theological seeks Absolute knowledge and presupposes that all phenomena are produced by direct divine action; (2) the Metaphysical seeks to uncover the abstract forces which lie behind all phenomena, e.g., nature; and (3) the Positive seeks to understand all phenomena through uncovering the laws which describe their regular patterns of succession and resemblance.

b)                  Methodology

The final stage, i.e., positive knowledge, invokes the methodology of the experimental sciences. It is based on observed facts. Each science will develop its own scientific methodology. Social Physics [Sociology] will develop its own methods of observation, experimentation, and comparison.

“[T]he ultimate perfection of the Positive system would be . . . to represent all phenomena as particular aspects of a single general fact; such as Gravitation, for instance.” (19)

“Our real business is to analyze accurately the circumstances of phenomena, and to connect them by the natural relations of succession and resemblance.” (20)

All areas of human thought are subjected to a similar pattern of advancement from a primitive to a more advanced state, although they may vary in the pace of their progress. Comte believed that certain sciences needed the achievements of other sciences before they could develop. In all cases, however, the pattern of development is the same; the final, positive stage is the ultimate destination.

3.                   The Need for Sociology and the Problem of Social Order

“The positive Philosophy offers the only solid basis for that Social Reorganization which must succeed the critical condition in which the most civilized nations are now living.” (21)

“Till a certain number of general ideas can be acknowledged as a rallying-point of social doctrine, the nations will remain in a revolutionary state . . . It is in this direction that those must look who desire a natural and regular, a normal state of society.” (21)

Sociology will involve the study of social statics (principles of order) as well as social dynamics (principles of progress). Social statics is the study of the interworking of the various parts of the social system in their mutual interrelatedness. Social dynamics is the study of the historical progress of a society. In the latter case, sociology seeks to uncover the laws of social development.

“Social Physics must have a set of observations of its own.” (22)

4.                   Selected Criticisms of Comte

·         Comte’s unfailing belief in the possibility of a positive stage of social knowledge. This stage has yet to materialize. If it were to come about would the positive stage be the final stage and how would we know that?

·         His empiricist understanding of science—as observation, experimentation, and comparison.

·         He underestimated the durability of theological or metaphysical views.

B.                Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)

1.                   Life and Works

David Emile Durkheim was born on April 15, 1858 in Epinal, France, the son of a locally-prominent rabbi. As a young man, he rejected the Judaism of his family. He excelled in his studies and was eventually appointed to the first sociological post in the French university system.


In 1898 he founded the first French sociological journal (L’ Annee sociologique). He also spent many years working with the French department of education. Towards the end of his life he was very active in the effort to defeat the German menace during the first world war (1914-18). He died in late 1917.


In all his work Durkheim aggressively pursued a scientific and secular reformist agenda. His dominant preoccupation was “to establish a genuine science of the social life, which would include a science of ethics and thus provide a reliable guide to social policy.”[10]


Several of Durkheim’s works are still highly regarded. They include: The Division of Labour in Society (1893), The Rules of Sociological Method (1895), Suicide (1897), The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912), and Moral Education (1925).


2.                   “What is a Social Fact?” [11]

If sociology is to be a genuine science, it must meet several fundamental criteria. For one, it must be distinct from all other sciences, that is, it must not dissolve into psychology, biology, or physiology. Furthermore, it must possess a unique set of objective, resistant, and persistent facts which stand apart from individual human will. If sociology is to be a science, it must have its own permanent and enduring data that permit generalization and replication.

In Durkheim’s view, there is a group of phenomena in every society which do not and cannot belong to the natural sciences, e. g., duties, religious practices, languages, and obligations which are external to me, even if I concur with them subjectively. (1) These practices exist outside of individual consciousness. (2)

These practices are not only external to the individual—they have coercive force; they are independent of individual will. (2)

The public conscience exercises a check on every "offending" act. (2)

Even the (mere) conventions of society are "enforced" indirectly by ridicule or threatened social isolation.

Even when successfully resisted, social facts reveal their objectivity by their resistance to our resistance. (3)

"Here, then, is a category of facts with very distinctive characteristics: it consists of ways of acting, thinking, and feeling, external to the individual, and endowed with a power of coercion, by reason of which they control him." (3)

These "facts" are properly called social since their source is not in the individual but in the surrounding society (either the whole of society or a smaller subset of the same).

"Absolute individualism" cannot adequately account for how and why our ideas and tendencies are developed from sources external to us." (4)

Social reality consists of established beliefs and practices, e. g., legal and moral regulations, religious faith, financial systems, as well as so-called "social currents," e. g., enthusiasm, indignation, or pity in a crowd. (4)

The force of these "social currents" is most clearly felt in attempting to resist them or in their perceived "alienness" after the crowd has dispersed and I recognize that I was caught up in something other than my own doing. (5)

"A social fact is every way of acting, fixed or not, capable of exercising on the individual an external constraint; or again, every way of acting which is general throughout a given society, while at the same time existing in its own right independent of its individual manifestations. (13)

3.                   Durkheim’s Investigation of Suicide:

In his classic study, Suicide (1897), Durkheim concluded that suicide rates could not be accounted for by climate, imitation, or personal distress.

He discovered that suicide rates were a phenomenon sui generis, that is, a separate type of fact about the society or a subset of the society.

After studying the relation of individual factors to suicide, Durkheim concluded that they could not account for the variance between social groups. He concluded that suicide rates vary in parallel with social integration. For Durkheim, the fundamental social fact behind suicide is the level of social integration which exists in the society. Those persons who are well-integrated into their social setting are least likely to commit suicide when they face distress. Personal characteristics (which are evenly distributed throughout all societies) are unable to account for the variance in suicide rates between social groups.

The collective tendency of a society towards (or away from) suicide is a social fact, a fact about the society as a whole, a reality in itself, a reality exterior to the individual and a reality with great coercive force.

C.                Karl Marx (1818-1883)

1.                   Life and Works

Karl Heinrich Marx was the second child of a middle-class Jewish family in Prussia (modern Poland). He came from a long line of rabbis on both sides of his family. His father, a lawyer who was forced into Protestant baptism in order to retain his job, sent him to the Universities of Bonn and Berlin, but it wasn't until his father's death that he began to seriously study history and philosophy.


Early on he came under the spell of Hegel and joined the Young Hegelians, a fateful association which eventually barred him from a university career. He turned to journalism, taking up a position with a newspaper in Cologne. Within a year he was promoted to editor. However, the paper was soon closed by the authorities.


This began a series of moves, which eventually ended in London. Marx published the Communist Manifesto in 1848. The first volume of his great work Das Kapital, was published in 1859; the final volume came out in 1867.


2.                   Selections from the Marx-Engels Reader, pp. 582, 584

3.                   The Starting Point

For Marx, the proper starting point for understanding the nature of social relations and the evolution of society is the pervasive mode of production in a given society and the relations of the various groups to the means of production (property, factories, capital, etc.). This mode of production determines a definite mode of life in all of its facets.[12]

For Marx, history is not driven by ideas, ideals, or illusions; it is “driven by the actual labouring activity whereby humans produce goods for their needs.”[13]

4.                   Alienation

Alienation refers to the process whereby people are distanced from or set over against the products of their own labour. In the capitalistic system, alienation arises because:

·         Work is external to the worker;

·         Work is simply a means of satisfying other needs;

·         Work is forced and regimented;

·         It is not my work, but someone else’s labour.


5.                   Ideology and Class Interests

A class is a particular relation, e.g., owner, worker, to the means of production.

For Marx, the triumph of the money-class over the proletariat is not simply economic: it is a wholesale domination. Those who possess economic power, (i.e., the capitalists) also create an ideology which “justifies” their economic position, practices, and results. They successfully create religions—the projected interests of their class, educational systems, arts, legal systems, and political lackeys who will do their bidding. All of these institutions are extensions of the interests of the dominant class.

Exploited classes would, in Marx’s view, soon develop an awareness or consciousness of themselves as classes and would develop a corresponding political organization. When a class becomes conscious of itself as a class it becomes, in Marx’s terminology, a "class-for-itself." Marx believed that this class consciousness would eventually overwhelm the false consciousness produced by capitalist ideology.

6.                   Model of Capitalistic Society

Marx used an architectural (not organic) model of social relations

Substructure: means of production

Superstructure: law, politics, family life, education, ideology, religion

Contrary to John Locke, Adam Smith, and Emile Durkheim, society is not a self-governing, benign mechanism which providentially (naturally) harmonizes and coordinates discordant interests; it is a fraud, a “collective, systematic misperception, or false consciousness.” It is the ideology of capitalism which attempts to simply pass itself off as “an object governed by immutable laws.”[14]

Discuss “Classes in Capitalism and Pre-Capitalism”



I.                   INTRODUCTION TO ‘UNIT IDEAS’[15]

Two customary ways to treat the history of sociological thought: (a) the important person; (b) the system or 'ism' approach. Robert Nisbet offers a third approach which looks at the underlying unit ideas which permeate the various periods and persons in sociology.

Criteria by which unit-ideas can be detected in a discipline like sociology:

1.                   Generality—widely dispersed

2.                   Continuity throughout the history of the discipline

3.                   Distinctive to the discipline

4.                   Ideas in the full sense: a fundamental perspective


          A preview of Nisbet's unit-ideas and their antitheses:

1.                   Community—emotional cohesion, depth, fullness           vs. (Society)

2.                   Authority—inner order of association                              vs. (Power)

3.                   Status—position in the hierarchy of prestige                   vs. (Class)

4.                   Sacred—value independent of utility                              vs. (Secular)

5.                   Alienation—estrangement due to isolation                      vs. (Progress)


These unit-ideas should be understood as part of the nineteenth-century revolt against Enlightenment ideas such as the inevitability of progress, human sociality as contractual, the pre-eminence of Reason, the release of the individual from enslaving institutions, and homo faber.

The early sociologists had to deal with the failure of these Enlightenment ideals, especially in the collapse of the French Revolution and its aftermath. The great hopes of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were not coming to fruition. In Alvin Gouldner’s terms, sociology was born out of the trauma of man having created his social world and being unable to possess it.[16]

"[W]e need constantly to see the ideas of each age as responses to crises of events and to the challenges formed by major changes in the social order."[17]


II.                 THE TWO REVOLUTIONS[18]

"The fundamental ideas of European sociology are best understood as responses to the problem of order created at the beginning of the nineteenth century by the collapse of the old regime under the blows of industrialism and revolutionary democracy."[19]

The cataclysmic impact of the French and Industrial revolutions!!

Sociological thought attempted to reconsolidate what had been lost in these "revolutions."

A.                 The Themes of Industrialization

The sociological response was directed at:

1.                   The condition of labour (Movement from self-sufficiency to low-skilled workers)

2.                   The transformation of property (Property is now a commodity)

3.                   The rise of industrial cities (The problem of urbanization)

4.                   The dominance of emerging technologies (Supplanting previous modes of life)

5.                   The factory system (The mechanization of life)


B.                Democracy As Revolution: The French Revolution

The early sociologists often linked the French Revolution to problems of:

Social disorder



Changes in property






The French Revolution massively reconstructed the social world. Previous revolutions were much more limited in scope. It brought into being two irreconcilable interests: the potent State and suddenly free citizens. It did this by destroying both king and subject.[20]

Declaration of the Rights of Man: "the source of all sovereignty is essentially the nation."[21]

Loi Le Chapelier, (June 14-17, 1791) forbade the establishment of any form of intermediate association between the individual and the state. This law formed the basis for outlawing all religious orders and the eventual confiscation of all Catholic property. Individual citizens were directly exposed to State power.

“If it is good to know how to deal with men as they are, it is much better to make them what there is need they should be. The most absolute authority is that which penetrates into a man’s inmost being, and concerns itself no less with his will than with his actions. . . . If you would have the General Will accomplished, bring all the particular wills into conformity with it; in other words, as virtue is nothing more than this conformity of the particular wills with the General Will, establish the reign of virtue.”[22] (1762)

The Committee of Public Safety: "You must entirely refashion a people whom you wish to make free, destroy its prejudices, alter its habits, limit its necessities, root up its vices, purify its desires."[23]


These two revolutions symbolized the general decline of particularity or localism and the exposure of the new-born individual to distant, terrifying, and depersonalized forms of power.

III.              COMMUNITY

A.                 The Rediscovery of Community

The philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries [the century before the rise of sociology; the Enlightenment] generally held that society "must rest on man not as guildsman, churchman, or peasant, but as natural man, and it must be conceived as a tissue of specific and willed relationships which men freely and rationally enter into with one another."[24]

“The rediscovery of community is unquestionably the most distinctive development in nineteenth-century social thought . . . . It is hard to think of any other idea that so clearly separates the social thought of the nineteenth century from that of the preceding age, the Age of Reason."[25]

The sociological question: What are the consequences for traditional forms of community when they are confronted with newly-constructed, ‘rational’ organizations?


B.                Towards a Sociological Definition of Community

Nisbet’s Definition of Community: (1) high degree of personal intimacy; (2) emotional depth; (3) moral commitment to the good of the whole; (4) social cohesion; (5) continuity in time.[26]

“[A] community is composed of a limited set of people . . . the members share a set of beliefs and values; the relationships are personal and unmediated, usually face-to-face; friendship or a sense of obligation, rather than self-interest, holds the members together; the ties among members encompass the whole of their lives rather than only one or a few aspects; members feel a sense of belonging—a sense of 'we-ness'; the interests and identity of each member intimately depends on and forms that of the whole; and members demonstrate solidarity with one another."[27]

"Communities, in the sense in which we are using the term, have a history—in an important sense they are constituted by their past—and for this reason we can speak of a real community as a 'community of memory,' one that does not forget its past. In order not to forget that past, a community is involved in retelling its story, its constitutive narrative, and in so doing, it offers examples of the men and women who have embodied and exemplified the meaning of the community.”[28]


C.                The Problem of Community[29]

“Quite apart from the innumerable agencies of private welfare, the whole tendency of modern political development has been to enhance the role of the political State as a direct relationship among individuals, and to bring both its powers and its services ever more intimately into the lives of human beings." (141)

"The most fundamental problem . . . has to do with the role of the primary social group in an economy and political order whose principal ends have come to be structured in such a way that the primary social relationships are increasingly functionless, almost irrelevant, with respect to those ends.” (142)

“Our present crisis lies in the fact that whereas the small traditional associations, founded upon kinship, faith, or locality, are still expected to communicate to individuals the principal moral ends and psychological gratifications of society, they have manifestly become detached from positions of functional relevance to the larger economic and political decisions of our society.” (143)

“What is crucial is the invasion of the area of traditional function by new and often more efficient functional agencies—in charity, law, education, and economics. The consequence is a profound crisis in meanings and loyalties.” (145)

“The displacement of function must lead in the long run to the diminution of moral significance in the old; and this means the loss of accustomed centers of allegiance, belief, and incentive.” (145)

"The family is a major problem in our culture simply because we are attempting to make it perform psychological and symbolic functions with a structure that has become fragile and an institutional importance that is almost totally unrelated to the economic and political realities of our society." (147)

“But in hard fact no social group will long survive the disappearance of its chief reasons for being . . . . Unless new institutional functions are performed by a group—its psychological influence will become minimal." (147)


D.                Community and Suburbia[30]

“The central principle of this premodern ecology was that the wealthiest members of the community lived and worked closest to the historic core, while the poorest people were pushed to the periphery. Indeed, the word ‘suburb’ . . . referred exclusively to these peripheral slums, which surrounded all large towns” (20).

“The basic principle of a city like London before 1750 was that work and residence were naturally combined within each house. Almost all middle-class enterprises were extensions of the family . . . The banker conducted business in his parlor, the merchant stored his goods in his cellar, and both housed and fed their apprentices along with their families” (7).

“Even for the wealthy elite of merchants and bankers, the family was not simply (or perhaps even primarily) an emotional unit. It was at least equally an economic unit” (29).

The inward pull of the city centre—efficient communications, business information, socialization, etc; outer-city expansion was virtually impossible; the social mixture within urban households: servants, apprentices, children, relatives; trade goods in cellar; the proximity of all classes.

“[T]he active role played by women in London commercial life [in the mid 18th century]. A wife’s daily assistance in the shop was vital for smaller businesses, and even the most opulent merchants were careful to give their wives a role sufficiently prominent that they could participate in and understand the source of their income . . . the worst threat to the family was the husband’s death. Only if the wife had the competence to carry on the business could the capital be passed down to the next generation” (29).

The role of women: How was the marriage “partnership” understood?

About midway through the eighteenth century the middle class came to the notion that social distinctions required physical segregation. Previously, social distance implied no such separation.

“The emergence of suburbia required a total transformation of urban values: not only a reversal in the meanings of core and periphery, but a separation of work and family life and the creation of new forms of urban space that would be both class-segregated and wholly residential” (8).

“The London bourgeoisie who invented suburbia were also experiencing a new form of family, which Lawrence Stone has called ‘the closed domesticated nuclear family.’ Inner-directed, united by strong and exclusive personal ties, characterized in Stone’s phrase by ‘an emphasis on the boundary surrounding the nuclear unit,’ such families sought to separate themselves from the intrusions of the workplace and the city. This new family type created the emotional force that split middle-class work and residence” (9).

These trends intensified the emotional bonds between family members; the family closed in around itself, separated itself from its environment, and focused on mutual intimacy and on child raising.  Imagine the enormous emotional/relational burden of the “closed” domesticated family.

“This contradiction between the city and the Evangelical ideal of the family provided the final impetus for the unprecedented separation of the citizen’s home from the city that is the essence of the suburban idea. The city was not just crowded, dirty, and unhealthy; it was immoral. Salvation itself depended on separating woman’s sacred world of the family and children from the profane metropolis” (38).

Vast changes in the role of women flowed from their isolation from the economic and productive roles which had been their lot in medieval and rural family life. The suburban woman is now the angel of her isolated household, the priestess of a disconnected and disjointed nuclear family.

IV.             AUTHORITY

A.                 The Emergence of Mass, Revolutionary, and Totalistic Power

In medieval society authority was interwoven into the fabric of everyday life. Even the king's authority was diffuse, limited by custom, his council, manifold obligations, difficulties in fund-raising, etc.

"Precisely as the breakup of the old order made men aware of the loss of traditional community, it made them aware also of the loss of traditional authority . . . . And just as the erosion of accustomed community led to sociological premonitions of mass society, so the decline of ancient authorities led to premonitions of disorganization, on the one hand, and, on the other, of new types of power, more encompassing and penetrating than any known before in history."[31]

"In our days men see that the constituted powers are crumbling down on every side; they see all ancient authority dying out, all ancient barriers tottering to their fall, and the judgement of the wisest is troubled at the sight; they attend only to the amazing revolution that is taking place before their eyes, and they imagine that mankind is about to fall into perpetual anarchy. If they looked to the final consequences of this revolution, their fears would perhaps assume a different shape. For myself, I confess that I put no trust in the spirit of freedom which appears to animate my contemporaries. I see well enough that the nations of this age are turbulent, but I do not clearly perceive that they are liberal; and I fear lest, at the close of those perturbations, which rock the base of thrones, the dominion of sovereigns may prove more powerful than it ever was."[32]

1.                   The totalism of revolutionary power

2.                   The mass base of revolutionary power

Persons cannot be injured in that they "participate" in political authority

3.                   The centralization of revolutionary power

Centralized government is the singular expression of the "will" of the people

4.                   The rationalization of power

e.g., currency, weights & measures, calendar, education, administration

B.                The Tyranny of Democratic Power— De Tocqueville

"All that alienates man in modern society from traditional authority—from class, guild, church, and so on—tends to drive him ever more forcefully into the haven of power, power conceived not as something remote and fearful, but as close, sealing, intimate, and providential."[33]

Unlike most of his contemporaries, Alexis de Tocqueville saw democracy as a system of power.

"Hence the majority in the United States has immense actual power and a power of opinion which is almost as great. When once its mind is made up on any question, there are, so to say, no obstacles which can retard, much less halt, its progress and give it time to hear the wails of those it crushes as it passes.”


“I therefore think it always necessary to place somewhere one social power superior to all others, but I believe that freedom is in danger when that power finds no obstacle that can restrain its course and give it time to moderate itself.”


“[N]o monarch is so absolute that he can hold all the forces of society in his hands, and overcome all resistance, as a majority invested with the right to make the laws and to execute them, can do.”

“I know no country in which, speaking generally, there is less independence of mind and true freedom of discussion than in America.”

“But in a democracy organized on the model of the United States there is only one authority, one source of strength and of success, and nothing outside it."[34]

De Tocqueville argues that in a modern democracy the will of the majority is an absolute sovereignty, the sole moral authority, an omnipotence, and a potential tyranny.

C.                The Sociological Response to Modern Power

Tocqueville believed that these unwelcome tendencies in modern democracies would be offset in America by its social and political culture which was deeply shaped by its religious and political practices. These aspects of the culture (what Edmund Burke called “manners and morals”) would prevent the American democracy from falling into what Jack Rakove has called a “mobocracy.”[35]

Conservative sociologists also made the distribution of political centres the heart of their critique of revolutionary power. In the nineteenth-century sociologists we have the rediscovery of custom, tradition, patriarchy, and local authority as alternative, non-totalistic forms of authority. In their view, the political state should be but one of many independent sources of authority. Poltiical life should involve a constant negotiation between these independent (and sheltering) authorities.

V.               THE SACRED

A.                 The Recovery of the Sacred

French Enlightenment thinkers, who were the most radical of the period, generally held that religion (especially institutionalized Christianity) was merely a bundle of superstitions. “Few in the enlightenment doubted that reason alone is the rock on which true morality is founded."[36]

"This is the view of the Enlightenment . . . [R]eligion is something that one believes or does not believe, something whose propositions are true or not true, something whose locus is in the realm of the intelligible, is up for inspection before the speculative mind. . . . A legacy of it is the tendency still today to ask, in explanation of 'the religion' of people, What do they believe?—as though this were a basic, even the basic, question."[37]

Sociologists, on the other hand, used religio-sacred ideas as a perspective through which to view apparently nonreligious phenomena such as authority, status, the family, community, personality, and law. In sociology, the term ‘the sacred’ refers to “the totality of myth, ritual, sacrament, dogma, and the mores in human behavior."[38]

For many nineteenth-century sociologists, religion was socially necessary and not likely to ever disappear. According to Durkheim, “there is something eternal in religion.”

[I]t is an essential postulate of sociology that a human institution cannot rest upon an error and a lie. . . . If it were not founded in the nature of things, it would have encountered in the facts a resistance over which it could never have triumphed. . . . In reality, then, there are no religions which are false.[39]

"From Durkheim's point of view, critical rationalists who have sought to dismiss religion as simply a tissue of superstitions, expendable once men are correctly informed, are as much in error as theologians who have endeavored to express the nature of religion in terms of creed and dogma. Religion is sacred community."[40]

B.                Four Fundamental Sociological Perspectives on Religion[41]

1.                   Religion is necessary for society. It is an integrative force. Sacred values are necessary for moral consensus.

2.                   Religion is a key element in understanding history and social change.

3.                   Religion is much more than faith, doctrine, and precept. It is also rite, ceremony, community, authority, hierarchy, and organization.

4.                   Conservative sociologists believe that religion is the source of many fundamental social institutions and practices.

e.g., loyalty, society itself, law, public institutions—Fustel de Coulanges

C.                The Sacred as Constitutive—Fustel de Coulanges (1830-1889)

In The Ancient City [1864] we find the first clearly analytical use of the perspective of the sacred in the interpretation of social organization and institutional change.[42]

"The members of the ancient family were united by something more powerful than birth, affection, or physical strength; this was the religion of the sacred fire, and of dead ancestors. This caused the family to form a single body, both in this life and in the next. The ancient family was a religious rather than a natural association."[43]

"[R]eligion constituted the Greek and Roman family, established marriage and paternal authority, fixed the order of relationship, and consecrated the right of property, and the right of inheritance. This same religion, after having enlarged and extended the family, formed a still larger association, the city, and reigned in that as it had reigned in the family. From it came all the institutions as well as all of the private law, of the ancients."[44]

Note the direction of social causation: from religious ideas/beliefs ®® social institutions. This view challenged Enlightenment notions that religious beliefs were incidental to history, were merely an ideology created by a powerful class, or that social arrangements could be durably founded on contractual “bonds” between non-religious individuals.

VI.             ALIENATION[45]

A.                 The Fabrication of Alienation

"The modern concepts of society and of culture arose in a social world that, following the French Revolution, men could believe that they themselves had made. . . . Yet, at the same time men could also see that this was a world out of control, not amenable to men's designs . . . . a world made by men but, despite this, not their world. . . . The germinal concepts of the social sciences, then, are imprinted with the birth trauma of a social world from which men saw themselves alienated from their own creations; in which men felt themselves to be at once newly potent and tragically impotent. . . . The concepts of society and culture, which are at the very foundation of the academic social sciences, are in part based upon a reaction to an historical defeat: man's failure to possess the social world that he created."[46]

"It is the special genius of much nineteenth-century thought that it could see possibilities of social decay and individual estrangement in the very conditions that to most of the Enlightenment had promised, for the first time in history, man's emergence into the light of true freedom and rational order." (264)

B.                Alienation as the Inversion of Progress

Alienation is the antithesis of progress and rationalistic individualism.

Classic Enlightenment View:

Progress, therefore, is not an accident, but a necessity. . . . As surely as the tree becomes bulky when it stands alone . . . so surely must the human faculties be moulded into complete fitness for the social state; so surely must the things we call evil and immorality disappear; so surely must man become perfect.[47]

"Alongside it [the idea of progress], in its shadow indeed, is another view of the nature and possible end of Western development; one that, from identical premises of what was evolving—mass democracy, technology, rationalism, secularism, and so on—derived opposite conclusions." (268)

C.                The Alienation of Labour: Marx

"In the separation of man from the fruits of his labor lies the Marxian essence of alienation." (290)

            Labour is external to the worker

            It is only a means for satisfying other needs

It is forced

            It is not her work, but someone else's labour



I.                   SOCIAL RESEARCH[48]

A.                 The Stages of Social Research (See Henslin et al., 2010, 37, Figure 2.2)

1.                   Select a topic

2.                   Define the problem

3.                   Review previous research on the problem (Literature Review)

4.                   Formulate a hypothesis (predict what relationship will exist between variables)

5.                   Identify empirical indicators for all variables in the hypothesis

6.                   Set up the research design/method (See section B. which follows)

7.                   Select an appropriate sample or population

8.                   Decide on data collection method(s)

9.                   Collect the data

10.               Analyze the data

11.               Interpret the data

11.        Share the results via a research report


Every one of these steps involves important “micro” decisions which affect the accuracy and validity of the entire research project.

See Henslin et al., 2010, 39, Table 2.2: “How to Read a Table”

B.                The Research Problem

1.                   Methods of Data Collection

a)                   Surveys

i.                     Wording effects

e.g., the 1995 debate over the Quebec Referendum question

ii.                   Leading or nonneutral questions
iii.                  Equivalent Question Discrepancies

e.g., Louis Harris Poll—77% were interested in plants and trees but only 39% were interested in botany

e.g., "not allowing" vs. "forbidding" People typically prefer something to be "not allowed," rather than "forbidden."

iv.                 Questions are too complex: Double negatives, etc.

b)                  Participant Observation: The problem of generalizability

c)                   Qualitative Interviews


d)                  Secondary Analysis—the study of other studies

e)                   Document Analysis

f)                    Unobtrusive Measures, e.g., studying graveyards

g)         Formal Experiments (see B.3 below)

2.         Sampling

A population is an entire group that one intends to study or generalize to. A sample is a smaller portion of that population from which one intends to generalize to the entire population.

Random Sample: A sample of a given population where every member of the population has an equal chance of being included in the sample.

Stratified Random Sample: A sample of specific subgroups of the target population in which everyone in the subgroups has an equal chance of being included in the study.

Nonrandom Sample: A sample of a given population where some members of the population have a greater chance of being selected into the sample than other members of the population.

3.         Classical Experimental Design

This research design permits researchers to make a causal connection between the independent variable and changes in the dependent variable.

Hypothesis: A prediction of the relation between the independent variable and one or more dependent variables.

Independent variable: An applied "treatment" or “input” variable which, when administered to a social setting, produces a change in that setting. These variables are often called explanatory or causal variables.

Dependent variable: A measurable change (or difference) in an aspect of the social setting which occurs as a result of the independent variable being applied to the setting.

See Table on Next Page




Human Subjects


Random Assignment to Two Groups


Experimental Group


Control Group

Initial Measurement of the Dependent Variable


Initial Measurement of the Dependent Variable

Exposure to the Independent Variable


No Exposure to the Independent Variable

Second Measurement of the Dependent Variable


Second Measurement of the Dependent Variable

The Initial Measurement is Subtracted from the Second Measurement

The Initial Measurement is Subtracted from the Second Measurement



Compare the Net Change in Experimental Group’s Independent Variable to the Net Change in the Control Group’s Independent Variable


The Difference Between These Net Changes Can be Reliably Attributed to the Independent Variable


II.                 SOCIAL STRUCTURE[49]

A.                 Review of Macro- and Micro-Sociology

Review Henslin et al., Sociology, 5th Can. Ed., Table 1.1, page 18

B.                Introducing Social Structure

Social structure is the basic framework of society which exists independently of any given person, “the recurrent pattern of relationships among the elements of society."[50]

Social structures establish and enforce limits to the range of social behaviours. Cf. Durkheim’s social facts

C.                Social Institutions [Cf. Unit 5, 2d semester]

Over time all societies develop stable and reasonably consistent cultural and structural configurations to deal with fundamental social needs. These are called social institutions.

"Social institutions are marked by relatively stable clusters of values, norms, statuses, role prescriptions, social groups, and organizations that relate to a specific area of human activity."[51]

Examples: Family, Religion, Law, Politics, Economics, Education, Science, Medicine, Military, and Mass Media.

D.                What Holds Society Together? (Social Cohesion)

1.                   “Mechanical” versus “Organic” Solidarity (E. Durkheim)

Emile Durkheim suggested that traditional agrarian societies were bound together by the fact that most people did the same tasks, with the same resources, and faced the same obstacles. The similarity of conditions could not help but promote feelings of commonality and mutuality. This is what Durkheim called “mechanical” solidarity.

However, most members of modern industrial societies with their specialized divisions of labour do not actually do the same things. Social cohesion is maintained by the interdependence or “organic” solidarity of the participants. Social cohesion results from the system-like cooperation which results between independently acting individuals.

"We are thus led to consider the division of labor in a new light. In this instance, the economic services that it can render are picayune compared to the moral effect that it produces, and its true function is to create in two or more persons a feeling of solidarity. In whatever manner the result is obtained, its aim is to cause coherence among friends and to stamp them with its seal."[52]

2.                   Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft (Tonnies)

Gemeinschaft represents the intimate village life of an agrarian society in which people co-exist through time, united by feelings of mutuality and intimate knowledge of each other.

Gesellschaft is the result of industrialization and the rise of impersonal associations as replacements for previous forms of social solidarity.

E.                 Social Status

Sociologists use the term 'social status' to refer to a person's position in the network of social relationships. Status can thus refer to positions which are highly esteemed, e.g., physician, or to those not so highly esteemed, e.g., factory worker. In our complex society we 'occupy' many status locations which vary according to the social setting. Sociologists refer to this collection of status positions as a status set.

1.                   Ascribed versus Achieved Status

Ascribed statuses are involuntary, many of which are ascribed to us at birth, e.g., parental social class; sex; ethnic origin; connection to extended family.

Achieved statuses are (somewhat) voluntary, they are typically earned or accomplished, e.g., marital status; occupation; reputation.

A great deal of sociological research indicates that social statuses are immensely important in constraining/limiting social behaviour patterns as well as limiting the social prospects of the 'occupant'.

2.                   Status Symbols

Status symbols are signs which point to a particular status which the owner occupies or aspires to. Although we often associate status symbols with the wealthy and their “conspicuous consumption,” status symbols actually demarcate all status locations. For instance, what status (social position) is communicated by those who drive old cars, or who wear worn-out clothing?

3.                   Master Statuses

The master status of your status set cuts across or dominates all your other statuses, e.g., disability, race, gender.

When there is a significance mismatch in your status set, e.g., a 10 year old college student, others may have difficulty in knowing how to respond to you and you may feel misplaced and mismatched with your surroundings.

F.                 Social Roles

Status is a positional concept. Social role, on the other hand, refers to the expectations (prescriptions) which impinge on a person who occupies a given position.

"Most accounts of medieval society stress the way in which a man was defined by his position in the social order . . . . As Erich Fromm has put it: 'a person was identical with his role in society; he was a peasant, an artisan, a knight, and not an individual who happened to have this or that occupation'. We can see that this must to a large extent have been true in a rigid society in which the possibility of 'becoming something else' was comparatively very limited. As mobility increased, and at least men could change their state, the idea of being an individual in a sense separable from one's social role obviously gained in strength."[53]

On occasion the various positions that we occupy generate role expectations/ behaviours which produce role conflict. For instance, the role of an RA includes both a responsibility to the college administration as well as friendship to one's peers on the floor. When might these roles come into direct conflict?

III.              CULTURE

A.                 Defining Culture

Culture refers to shared objects, symbols and their meanings prevailing in any society or part of society. These symbols and their meanings include ideas about facts, goals, and how people should or should not act.[54]

We are able to navigate in society largely because we share meanings about many types of behaviour, e.g., dating rituals, traffic rules and conventions, gestures, conversational distance. Although the original assignment of meaning to a symbol may be somewhat arbitrary, its subsequent function and meaning are anything but arbitrary, e.g., choosing a national flag.

Ethnocentrism: Loyalty to one's own culture and the belittling of other cultures. A certain amount of loyalty to one's own culture seems universal.

Culture Shock: The trauma of being immersed in a very different culture, typically where even the most significant shared meanings are lacking.

B.                Symbolic Basis of Culture

1.                   Gestures

2.                   Language

a)                   Language allows experience to accumulate; it permits the transcendence of immediate experience.

b)                  Language provides a social or shared past—language enables memory.

c)                   Language provides a social or shared future.

d)                  Language allows complex, shared, goal-directed behaviours.

e)                   Linguistic sophistication enables more profound understandings.

"Let us be warned by the horrid recent example of the high schools and monastery schools, in which not only was the gospel neglected but bad Latin and Greek styles were taught, so that the poor people . . . were nearly deprived even of natural reason."[55]

C.                Subcultures

Groups which have a great deal of internal interaction, supporting institutions, and some form of distance from the larger culture often develop local characteristics within the host culture. These local cultures are referred to as subcultures. Subcultures are sometimes physically isolated from the centres of dominant culture; they often have unique dress, lifestyles, and vocabularies.

Seymour Martin Lipset, an American sociologist, suggests that the cultural differences between Americans and Canadians can be traced to their very different responses to the American Revolution in 1776. Dislocated British loyalists came to Canada and imbibed its culture with their greater deference to authority, conservatism, lower achievement orientation (than non-loyalist Americans), elitism, and their willingness to put the good of the community ahead of their individual interests.

Lipset found that Canadians and American differed along the following dimensions: (1) Achievement and success; (2) Individualism; (3) Activity and work; (4) Efficiency and practicality; (5) Science and technology; (6) Progress; (7) Material comfort; (8) Humanitarianism; (9) Freedom; (10) Democracy; (11) Equality; (12) Racism and group superiority; (13) Education; (14) Religiosity.

Comment on Table 3.2 on page 57 of Henslin et al., 5th Can. Ed., Sociology.



A.                 Definition

"Socialization is the complex learning process through which individuals develop selfhood."[56]

"For the sociologist, becoming human is not a single event, either biological or religious or legal, but a gradual process whereby individuals learn to experience themselves and others in a way that is typical of the society into which they are born. It cannot be done outside the company of others. In short, becoming a human is becoming a member of a social community—an insider—with all that entails. Socialization is the name of that process."[57]

Notice how does this account of socialization contradicts the claims made by Enlightenment philosophers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that the individual can be conceived, and even exist, apart from all external influences.

B.                Types of Socialization

1.                   Primary Socialization (including gender socialization)

Basic socialization which occurs in childhood.

2.                   Adult Socialization

Involves adapting to new locations, work environments, cultures, and other changes of circumstance which characterize adult life.

3.                   Anticipatory Socialization

Role playing or practice for a new situation prior to actually facing it, e.g., law students role-playing as trial attorneys.

4.                   Resocialization

A fundamental overturning of previous socialization(s) by adopting a new set of roles, expectations and behaviours, e.g., boot camp for military recruits or juvenile criminals.

C.                George Herbert Mead's Theory of the Self[58]

"The self is something which has a development; it is not initially there, at birth, but arises in the process of social experience and activity, that is, develops in the given individual as a result of his relations to that process as a whole and to other individuals within that process." (135)

The "I" (the self as spontaneous actor) vs. the "me" (the self as synthesized object)

"The self [the ‘me’] has the characteristic that it is an object to itself, and that characteristic distinguishes it from other objects and from the body." (136)

"The individual experiences himself as such, not directly, but only indirectly, from the particular standpoints of other individual members of the same social group, or from the generalized standpoint of the social group as a whole to which he belongs." (138)

"The self, as that which can be an object to itself, is essentially a social structure, and it arises in social experience . . . it is impossible to conceive of a self arising outside of social experience." (140)

"The organized community or social group which gives to the individual his unity of self may be called 'the generalized other.' The attitude of the generalized other is the attitude of the whole community." (154)

"The structure, then, on which the self is built is this response which is common to all, for one has to be a member of a community to be a self." (162)

"Selves can only exist in definite relationships to other selves. No hard-and-fast line can be drawn between our own selves and the selves of others." (164)

D.                The Critical Perspective Applied to Socialization[59]

1.                   The Impact of a Dominant Standpoint

In the last several decades critical sociologists have elaborated the implications of Mead’s view. Feminists, for example, agree with Mead that children do in fact learn to see themselves from the standpoint of others. However, they see in this process a serious problem. Whose standpoint, they ask, is the child taking on? ( 51)

2.                   Meaning, Power and Gender

"[W]hose meaning prevails is ultimately a question of power." (54)

"[S]ome groups in the society are able to impose their interpretation of the world upon others, as 'the way things really are'." (54)

[Underpinning this entire discussion is the view that meanings are made, assigned to the world, and imposed on others. The "loser" groups are distinguished by the fact that they are unable to impose their views on the larger society.]

Sex versus gender. Typically gender is seen as a social construct and thus amenable to fundamental change.

"[S]ociologists are discovering that gender is a fundamental organizing feature of social identity." (57)


A.                 Social Groups

A group is defined as two or more persons “who interact with one another in structured ways on the basis of a common set of expectations about each other's behavior."[60]

1.                   Groups Within Society

a)                   Primary Groups

“By primary groups I mean those characterized by intimate face-to-face association and cooperation. They . . . are fundamental in forming the social nature and ideals of the individuals.”[61]

"Primary groups are small groups in which members have close, personal, and enduring relationships.” (58)  e.g., families, friendship groups, gangs.

b)                  Secondary Groups

A secondary group . . . is typically a larger, more temporary group that is brought together for some specific purpose or task and in which the relationships are relatively impersonal." (58)

Usually these groups are more anonymous, formal, and impersonal, e.g., college classrooms, political parties, associations, workplaces.

Secondary groups tend to evolve into a loose collection of primary groups which serve as buffers between the individual and the demands of the secondary group.

c)                   Ingroups and Outgroups

"An ingroup is a group a person belongs to and with which he or she has a sense of identity and loyalty. It is contrasted with an outgroup, a group to which the person neither belongs nor has any sense of loyalty." (58)

"The hostility between ingroups and outgroups serves to define the boundaries between groups." (58)

d)                  Reference Groups

Reference groups are the groups we use as standards to evaluate ourselves. We may not actually belong to the group, but its perceived standards govern our behaviour and operate as a form of social control.

What might happen when reference groups are distinct from and in opposition to primary groups?

2.                   Group Structure

"Groups consist of interlocking statuses, but these statuses need not be equal. Some statuses may be seen as more important than others to the functioning of the group. Consequently, most groups have a 'status hierarchy'." (61)

"Personal characteristics and actions contribute to the development of differential power and influence in social groups and thus to the formation of hierarchies that affect the group's functioning." (62)

3.                   Selected Issues in the Study of Groups

a)                   The Effects of Group Size

"The size of a group influences its structure and the interaction between its members." (63)

"The smallest group, called a dyad, consists of two people and requires the active involvement of each member. . . . The addition of a third person to a dyad creates a triad." (63)

"When a group contains more than about eight to ten members, it becomes virtually impossible for members to converse directly with one another. Some regulation of the flow of interaction is required, and some form of status structure emerges." (64)

Darley and Latane (1968) demonstrated that students who believed that they alone had witnessed an epileptic seizure all responded quickly to the perceived emergency. Of those who believed that another person had also witnessed the emergency, only eighty percent responded and they were slower in responding. In six-person groups only sixty percent went to help and did so even more slowly.

e.g., what are your odds of getting help on a little-traveled back road in Saskatchewan vs. a superhighway in Toronto.

b)                  Conformity to Group Pressure

Solomon Asch (1952) brought seven students into his lab. Six of the seven had been briefed and coached prior to the test. During the test a single line was to be compared with three other lines. The similar lines were obvious and quite easy to discriminate. When queried all seven matched the first line with its partner. And again on a second sample. On the third occasion the first five purposefully misjudged the correct line. The unbriefed subject (number 6 in the row of seven subjects) was then under group pressure to conform or risk looking ridiculous. After the unbriefed subject gave his/her answer the seventh person agrees with the first five. This type of test is repeated eighteen times, with varying episodes of group accuracy and group pressure to say the wrong answer.

Asch tested 50 people. About 33% gave in to the group about half of the time and gave what they knew to be wrong answers. Another 40% gave in occasionally to the group verdict. Only 25% stuck to their guns throughout the experiment.

B.                The Small/Support Group Movement[62]

1.                   A Profile of the Movement

Table II


Percentage of Each Category That is Currently in a Small Group That Meets

Regularly and Provides Caring Support for its Members.





Income $20k or Less





Income 20-39k





Income 40k +










White Anglo


Age 18-34





Age 35-49





Age 50 +








In Large Cities


High School or Less



In Medium Cities


Some College



In Towns/Rural


College Graduate







Table III


Percentage of Group Members Who Have (A) Felt Each Need and (B) Met Each Need Fully



Felt Need

Met Need

Having neighbors with whom you can interact freely and comfortably



Being able to share deepest feelings with someone



Having friends who value the same things in life you do



Having people in your life who give you deep emotional support



Being in a group where you can discuss your basic beliefs and values



Having friends you can always count on when you’re in a jam



Having people in your life who are never critical of you



Being part of a group that helps you grow spiritually



Having cooperation rather than competition with people at work



Having people you can turn to when you feel depressed or lonely



Knowing more people in your community



Table IV


Percentage of Group Members Who Say They Have Received Each of

These Kinds of Support From Their Group


Made you feel like your weren’t alone


Gave you encouragement when you were feeling down


Helped you celebrate something


Helped you through an emotional crisis


Helped you make a difficult decision


Helped you out when someone was sick


Brought meals to your family


Provided you with physical care or support


Provided you with babysitting or child care


Helped you overcome an addiction


Loaned you money



2.                   Small Group Processes as Theologically Adaptive

“The small-group movement is beginning to alter American society, both by changing our understandings of community and by redefining spirituality.” (3)

"But small groups are not simply drawing people back to the God of their fathers and mothers. They are dramatically changing the way God is understood. God is now less of an external authority and more of an internal presence. The sacred becomes more personal but, in the process, also becomes more manageable, more serviceable in meeting individual needs, and more a feature of group processes themselves." (3-4)

"[T]he small-group movement is currently playing a major role in adapting American religion to the main currents of secular culture that have surfaced at the end of the twentieth century. Secularity is misunderstood if it is assumed to be a force that prevents people from being spiritual at all. It is more aptly conceived as an orientation that encourages a safe, domesticated version of the sacred." (7)

“The most general way in which small groups are redefining the sacred, therefore, is by replacing explicit creeds and doctrines with implicit norms devised by the group.” (19)

3.                   Small Groups and Bureaucratic Infiltration

“[Small groups] are supposed to provide the intimacy that people cannot find in their places of work. As cold bureaucratic efficiency takes over more of the world, small groups are said to be pockets of resistance, or at least enclaves in which people can find shelter from the storm. . . . small groups may be a product of the rational, bureaucratic planning that dominates other sectors of contemporary life. Indeed, small groups may be extending such planning into an area of life that formerly depended on nothing but the goodwill of neighbors and friends." (134)

“Community, then, becomes more intentional as a result.“ (14)

“The small-group movement thus is . . . extending the principles of formal organization into an arena of interpersonal life that was largely spontaneous and unorganized until very recently.” (159)

4.                   Small Groups as Created “Community” and Extended Individualism

"[S]mall groups encourage a different view of commitment. Because there are so many, we are seldom limited by circumstances. We can, indeed, shop around. There may be fifty different groups from which to choose within five miles of our home. And the logic of shopping emphasizes satisfaction rather than long-term commitment. The idea is to try it out. . . . But always, the contract is tenuous. It depends on whether the individual member remains satisfied." (141)

“The availability of hundreds of thousands of small, highly diverse groups permits American society to loosen itself from its traditional moorings and become even more mobile and fluid. People can move to new communities more easily because they know they can join support groups there; they can shift their religious affiliation to a new denomination for the same reason; or they can enter a new line of work, withstand the trauma of leaving a spouse, or become interested in a new political cause.” (23-34)

Small groups create “modular communities that can be established and disbanded with relative ease." (8)

"[Small groups] do not fundamentally challenge our individualism. They allow us not only to retain our individuality but also to focus deeply on our own personal interests and needs and, for the most part, to limit the time we spend with other people or the levels or obligation we are willing to incur toward them. Small groups adapt us to the individualistic norms of our culture more than we generally realize." (197)

"But the church, as it has evolved in the twentieth century is in many ways ill suited to provide community. It brings people together once a week, drawing them from broad geographical areas, and expects them to forge some intimate bond when they probably will not see each other again for seven days. It adds people to its membership rolls—the more the better—until most of them have no idea who their fellow members are. It places a speaker up front and expects everyone else to sit in rows facing that speaker, much as they would at a concert or athletic event. If interaction happens before or after the service, it does so informally; despite everything else that has gone on. In short, the church is an administrative convenience, created unwittingly by a combination of its history and the programs planned by its leaders. If community is going to take place there at all, it must occur against high odds."[63]

"[C]ommunity describes not just what they [members of a community] have as fellow citizens but also what they are, not a relationship they choose (as in a voluntary association) but an attachment they discover, not merely an attribute but a constituent of their identity."[64]



A.                 Deviance

1.                   Sociological Definition of Deviance

“A violation of social norms to which others react negatively.”

Sociologists use the term ‘deviance’ nonjudgmentally, simply indicating that the act is deviant as defined by the encompassing society.

2.                   Gender and Class Distribution of Deviance

In general, males commit more crimes (especially violent crimes) than females, although the gap is narrowing. In addition, persons prosecuted for criminal offences are disproportionately from the lower economic classes.

There are problems, however, in correlating class or racial characteristics with deviance: (1) Are crimes a reflection of the lack of “opportunity structures” and the harshness of circumstances rather than class itself; (2) Are members of the lower classes targeted for social control and thus they appear more often in the justice system and official statistics; (3) Are social problems the result of class differences or do those who behave in a deviant manner end up in the lower classes? In the latter scenario, deviance and criminality would appear more often in the lower classes without this status actually causing them.

B.                Crime

1.                   Factors Which Distort Crimes Statistics

a)                   Definitional variations (through time and across jurisdictions)

e.g., at some time in the 1970s breaking off a car antenna in Regina became a crime, whereas elsewhere in Canada it was not. The year that this new definition of a “crime” was introduced, crimes rates in Regina soared.

b)                  Only a warning is issued to some and not to others

c)                   Local and political variables:

i.                     protecting community image lower than actual reporting
ii.                   justifying higher budget requests full or inflated reporting
iii.                  justifying police effectiveness lower than actual reporting
iv.                 cleaning up crime full or inflated reporting


d)                  Victim is unaware of the crime, e.g., white collar crimes

e)                   Non- or under-reporting


Table V[65]

Reasons Given by Victims for Not Reporting

Victimization to the Police, Canada, 1987



Reasons Given for Not Reporting






Incident was too minor



Police couldn’t do anything about it



Incident was a personal matter



Didn’t want to get involved with police



Nothing was taken



Fear of revenge



2.                   Assessing Actual Crime Rates

Though crime statistics are inaccurate, they are still used because they are thought to reflect a fairly stable proportion of all crimes committed. Almost all homicides and car thefts are reported, whereas perhaps only 10% of sexual assaults are reported.

Criminologists use victim surveys and self-report (by criminals) studies in order to ascertain actual crime occurrence levels. These studies indicate that crime rates are higher than reported and that certain crimes, e.g., violence against women, are seriously underreported.

C.                A Functionalist Theory of Crime and Deviance

1.                   “The Normality of Crime”[66]

“Crime . . . consists of an act that offends certain very strong collective sentiments.” (459)

"What is normal, simply, is the existence of criminality . . . crime is normal because a society exempt from it is utterly impossible. . . [it] is a factor in public health, an integral part of all healthy societies." (459)

Even a society of saints would identify “minor’ flaws as criminal or, at least, deviant, and subject them to punishment.

Durkheim holds that "public sentiments" are analogous to forces which are kept in balance by opposing forces. The altruistic sentiment relies on the criminal act to invigorate its social force. Criminal acts can only be removed as others arise to take their place. All societies, in Durkheim's view, require a criminality force to balance and bring about altruism.

"Where crime exists, collective sentiments are sufficiently flexible to take on a new form, and crime sometimes helps to determine the form they will take. How many times, indeed, it is only an anticipation of future morality—a step toward what will be." (461) Certain types of social deviance—e.g., civil rights agitation—produce a change in the society and ultimately produce other benefits.


A.                 The Rational Reconstruction of Society[67]

1.                   The Beginnings of the Great Transformation

The development of the legal concept of persona ficta, the corporation

"This legal change, this creation of a new kind of corporate actor not grounded in the family, made possible a new form of social structure—one that contrasts with primordial social organization and can be described as purposively constructed organization." (2)

"Altogether one might say that in the Middle Ages, the concept of a corporate actor, independent of persons, and the concept of individuals, independent of corporate bodies surrounding them, had not yet arrived." (3)

2.                   Social Change and the Changing Foci of Sociology

"[T]he development of sociology followed social changes in society." (4)

Overhead: Changes in US Social Structure and Benchmarks in Sociology[68]

Progression of Sociological Studies:

a)                   Marx (1859)—decline of feudalism and the emergence of the market

b)                  Tonnies (1887)—decline of face-to-face interaction

c)                   Durkheim (1893)—the emerging structure of economic production

d)                  Park (1925)—the social features of the city

e)                   Weber (1921)—the triumph of bureaucracy in society

f)                    Lazarfeld (1942)—the sociometrics of a national market

g)                  Blau and Duncan (1967)—stratification in the entire nation (USA)

h)                   The Great Society (1964)—the emergence of social policy research

"Social policy research is designed to evaluate the functioning of new constructed organizations, and it follows the decline of primordial institutions." (7)

Overhead: Evacuation of the US Household[69]

"[A] massive movement out of the household, a primordial institution with diffuse and multiple functions, into narrow-purpose constructed organizations, the workplace and the school." (7)


Societal Change


Change in mode of production

Marx, Durkheim

Change in place of residence

Toennies, Park, Lynds

Transcendence of place

Lazarfeld, Blau & Duncan

Erosion of primordial institutions

Social policy research


3.                   A Different Structure

"But in primordial social organization, such rights are born of informal social processes that depend on a dense and relatively closed social structure that has continuity over time. Closure and continuity provide a form of social capital on which the effectiveness of social norms depends." (9)

"The social capital on which primordial social organization depended for social control has been eroded. The closure of social networks has been destroyed by the technological changes that have expanded social circles and erased the geographic constraints on social relations. The stability of these structures, on which social capital equally depends, has been destroyed by the same technological changes that allow mobility and facilitate the breaking of relations." (9)

4.                   The Critical Mistake

"We fail to recognize that the social capital on which primordial social organization depends is vanishing; we fail to recognize that societies of the future will be constructed, and that we should direct our attention to designing those social structures." (10)

"I said our mistake (not recognizing the continuing loss of social capital) is correctable. It is correctable in society through the explicit design of institutions, rather than the mere patching up of old ones." (10)

"As the family disintegrates, carrying the family's honor into the future is less important. One result of these changes is sharply reduced incentives for parents to bring up their child to be productive. There is no reason to expect parents to be motivated to bring up their child to maximize the child's value to society." (12)

B.                The Emergence of Formal Institutions[70]

1.                   The Breakdown of the American Colonial Household

"The family familiar to the early colonists was a patrilineal group of extended kinship gathered into a single household. By modern standards it was large. Besides children, who often remained in the home well into maturity, it included a wide range of other dependents: nieces and nephews, cousins, and, except for families at the lowest rung of society, servants in filial discipline. . . . the conjugal unit was only the nucleus of a broad kinship community whose outer edges merged almost imperceptibly into the society at large." (15-16)


"As the [eighteenth century American] family contracted towards a nuclear core, as settlement and re-settlement, especially on the frontier, destroyed what remained of stable community relations, and constant mobility and instability kept new ties from strengthening rapidly, the once elaborate interpenetration of family and community dissolved. The border line between them grew sharper; and the passage of the child from family to society lost its ease, its naturalness, and became abrupt, deliberate, and decisive: open to question, concern, and decision." (25)

2.                   The Colonial Response: Household Restoration Through Law

"Within a remarkably short time after the beginnings of settlement it was realized that the family was failing in its more obvious educational functions. . . . The famous Massachusetts statute of 1642, prefaced by its sharp condemnation of 'the great neglect of many parents and masters in training up their children in learning and labor,' was one of a series of expedients aimed at shoring up the weakened structure of family discipline." (26)

"Such laws [the Massachusetts statute of 1642, Virginia's statute of the same year and the Duke's Laws of New York in 1665], expressing a sudden awareness, a heightened consciousness of what the family had meant in education, of how much of the burden of imparting civilization to the young it had borne, and of what its loss might mean, were only the first of a century-long series of adjustments." (26)

"The famous Massachusetts law of 1679 . . . concluded the efforts of two generations to recreate the family as the ordered, hierarchical society. By the end of the century the surviving elders of the first generation cried out in fearful contemplation of the future. Knowing no other form than the traditional, they could look forward only to the complete dissolution of the family as the primary element of the social order." (24)

3.                   The Colonial Response: Household “Functions” ® Formal Institutions

"The Puritans quite deliberately transferred the maimed functions of the family to formal instructional institutions, and in so doing not only endowed schools with a new importance but expanded their purpose beyond pragmatic vocationalism toward vaguer but more basic cultural goals." (27)

"From the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, which came with the adoption of the factory system of production, men have been seeking something to take the place of the old-time apprenticeship. They have been trying to find satisfactory substitutes (1) for the apprenticeship method of teaching trade processes, (2) for the master's method of imparting the technical knowledge connected with a trade, and (3) for the general schooling and moral discipline that formerly was a part of apprenticeship training. In seeking these substitutes they have looked to the schools for assistance in all three directions."[71]

"The seventeenth-century statutes reveal extravagant efforts made not merely to retain the broad scope of apprenticeship obligations within the structure of the family, but to extend it, to include within in cultural matters dislodged from other areas and threatened with extinction. But the evidences of failure and the displacement of functions are manifest in the records of successive generations." (31)

4.                   Formal Education (Schooling) as Social Restoration

“For the self-conscious, deliberate, aggressive use of education, first seen in an improvised but confident missionary campaign [directed towards Indians], spread throughout an increasingly heterogeneous society and came to be accepted as a normal form of educational effort." (39)

“The tendency to reduce the once extensive network of mutual obligations to a few simple strands and to transfer the burden of all but strict vocational training to external, formal agencies of education increased through the years.” (30)

"In all, there took place a reduction in the personal, non-vocational obligations that bound master and servant and a transfer of general educational functions to external agencies. With increasing frequency masters assigned their apprentices to teachers for instruction in rudimentary literacy and in whatever other non-vocational matters they had contracted to teach." (32)

"[B]y the end of the colonial period it [education] had been radically transformed. Education had been dislodged from its ancient position in the social order, wrenched loose from the automatic, instinctive workings of society, and cast as a matter for deliberation into the forefront of consciousness. Its functionings had become problematic and controversial. Many were transferred from informal to formal institutions, from agencies to whose major purpose they had been incidental to those, for the most part schools, to which they were primary. Schools and formal schooling had acquired a new importance. They had assumed cultural burdens they had not borne before. Where there had been deeply ingrained habits, unquestioned tradition, automatic responses, security, and confidence there was now awareness, doubt, formality, will, and decision. The whole range of education had become an instrument of deliberate social purpose." (21-22)

[1]Robert Hagedorn, Sociology, 5th ed. (Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Co., Canada, 1994), 4.

[2]Excerpted from The Sociological Imagination (New York: Oxford University Press, 1959). Reprinted in Seeing Ourselves 4th John J. Macionis and Nijole V. Benekraitis, eds. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1998), 1-5.

[3]A. Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990), 38.

[4]See Alasdair MacIntyre, “How Psychology Makes Itself True—or False,” in A Century of Psychological Science, ed. Sigmund Koch and David Leary (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1985), 897-903.

[5]Hagedorn, Sociology, 4.

[6]Many of the points under these three perspectives are taken from Hagedorn, Sociology, 13.

[7]Several points in this section are from Neil J. Smelser, Sociology (Engelwood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1981), 14.

[8]James M. Henslin, et al., Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach, 5th Canadian ed. (Toronto: Pearson Education Canada, 2010), 18.

[9]Some of what follows (re: Comte) is taken from Bruce Mazlish, “Comte, Auguste,” s.v. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Paul Edwards, ed., 8 vols. (New York: Macmillan/Free Press, 1967), 2:173ff. Quotes are taken from Auguste Comte, The Positive Philosophy as excerpted in Sociological Perspectives, ed. Thompson and Tunstall (Middlesex: Penguin, 1975), 18-32.

[10]Peter Winch, “Durkheim, Emile,” s.v. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2:438.

[11]The material in this section is taken from “What is a Social Fact?” Chapter 1 in The Rules of Sociological Method, 8th ed. (New York: The Free Press, 1938). Numbers in parentheses refer to page numbers in this source.

[12]Karl Marx, The German Ideology [1845-46], in Jene M. Porter, ed., Classics in Political Philosophy, 3d ed. (Scarborough, ON: Prentice Hall Canada, 2000), 558.

[13]John H. Hallowell and Jene M. Porter, Political Philosophy: The Search for Humanity and Order (Scarborough, ON: Prentice Hall Canada, 1997), 571.

[14]Robert Paul Wolff, Understanding Rawls: A Reconstruction and Critique of A Theory of Justice (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977), 124.

[15]See Robert A. Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Pub., 1994), ch. 1.

[16]Alvin Gouldner [1920-80], The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology (London: Heinemann, 1971), 52-53.

[17]Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition, 9.

[18]Ibid., ch. 2.

[19]Ibid., 21.

[20]See Simon Schama, Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution (New York: Knopf, 1989), 15.

[21]Cited in Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition, 36.

[22]Jean J. Rousseau, The Social Contract and Discourses, trans. G. D. H. Cole (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1950), 297-98.

[23]Cited in Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition, 40.

[24]Robert Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1993), 49.

[25]Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition, 47.

[26]Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition, 47.

[27]Markate Daly, "Introduction," to Communitariansim: A New Public Ethics, ed. Markate Daly (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub. Co., 1994), xv.

[28]Robert Bellah et al., Habits of the Heart (New York: Harper and Row, 1985), 153.

[29]Quotations in this section are taken from Robert Nisbet, The Quest for Community [1953] (San Francisco: The Institute for Contemporary Studies Press, 1990), 41-65. Reprinted in Communitarianism, 139-53.


[30]Taken from Robert Fishman, Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia (New York: Basic Books, 1987).

[31]Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition, 107.

[32]Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America [1840], ed. Phillips Bradley (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1945), 2:314.

[33]Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition, 120.

[34]This quotation and the four immediately preceding it are from Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America [1835], trans. George Lawrence, ed. J. P. Mayer (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1969), 248, 251-52, 254-255.

[35]Jack N. Rakove, Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), 49.

[36]Robert Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Pub., 1994), 223.

[37]Wilfred Cantwell Smith, The Meaning and End of Religion (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991), 40.

[38]Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition, 221.

[39]Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1947), 2-3.

[40]Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition, 248.

[41]Taken from Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition, 229-31.

[42]Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition, 238.

[43]Fustel De Coulanges, The Ancient City: A Study on the Religion, Laws and Institutions of Greece and Rome [1864] (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), 34.

[44]De Coulanges, The Ancient City, 5.

[45]Page numbers in parentheses are from R. Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition.

[46]Alvin W. Gouldner, "Sociology's Basic Assumptions," An Excerpt from The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology (Heinemann, 1971), 52-54. Reprinted in Sociological Perspectives, ed. Kenneth Thompson et al. (Middlesex: Penguin, 1975), 15-16.

[47]Herbert Spencer, Social Statics; or, The Conditions Essential to Human Happiness Specified and the First of Them Developed (New York: 1886), ch. 2.

  [48]This section is derived from Sociology, 5th ed., ed. Robert Hagedorn (Toronto: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1994), ch. 2, and James Henslin et al. Sociology, 4th Canadian edition (Toronto: Pearson Education Canada, 2007), ch. 2.

[49]Much of the material in this section is taken from Henslin et al., 4th Can. Ed., Sociology, 82-91.

[50]Norman Goodman, Introduction to Sociology (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), 43.

[51]Goodman, Introduction to Sociology, 46.

[52]E. Durkheim, The Division of Labor in Society [1893], trans. George Simpson (New York: The Free Press, 1933), 56.


[53]Raymond Williams, The Long Revolution, 2d ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), 75.

[54]Sociology, ed. Robert Hagedorn, 5th ed. (Toronto: Harcourt, Brace & Co., Canada, 1994), 57.

[55]Martin Luther, Letter to the Town Council. Cited in Robert Jenson, "The Political Arts and Churchly Colleges" [1992], in Essays in Theology of Culture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 206.

[56]Hagedorn, Sociology, 89.

[57]Leslie J. Miller, “Culture and Socialization,” in Contemporary Sociology, ed. Peter S. Li and B. Singh Bolaria (Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman, 1993), 48.

[58]Quotations in this section are from George H. Mead, Mind, Self and Society: From the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1934), 135-64.

  [59]Material in this section is taken from Li and Bolaria, eds. Contemporary Sociology.

[60]Norman Goodman, Introduction to Sociology (New York: HarperCollins Pub., 1992), 57. Page numbers in parenthesis in this section refer to this source.

[61]Charles H. Cooley, Social Organization, (1909). Cited in Henslin et al., Sociology, 2d Canadian ed., 104.

[62]The material in this section is taken from Robert Wuthnow, Sharing the Journey: Support Groups and America’s New Quest for Community (New York: The Free Press, 1994). The tables that follow are from pages 47, 50, 121, and 170, respectively.

[63]Robert Wuthnow, Christianity in the Twenty-First Century (NY: Oxford University Press, 1993), 214.

[64]Michael Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 150.

[65]Source: Statistics Canada, 1988, General Social Survey, as cited in Li and Bolaria, Contemporary Sociology, 374. Figures do not add up to 100% since multiple responses were permitted.

[66]Emile Durkheim, "The Normality of Crime." Excerpts from The Rules of Sociological Method. 8th ed. (New York: The Free Press, 1938). Reprinted in Sociological Theory: A Book of Readings. 4th ed. Lewis A. Coser et al., eds. (NY: Macmillan Pub. Co., 1976).

[67]Taken from: James S. Coleman, “The Rational Reconstruction of Society,” American Sociological Review 58 (February 1993):1-15.

[68]Coleman, “The Rational Reconstruction of Society,” Fig. 2.

[69]Coleman, “The Rational Reconstruction of Society,” Fig. 3.

[70]Quotations in this section are from Bernard Bailyn, Education in the Forming of American Society (New York: Vintage Books, 1960).

[71]Charles A. Bennett, History of Manual and Industrial Education Up to 1870 (Peoria, IL: The Manual Arts Press, 1926), 266.