Last Updated 09 Oct 2020

Notes On The Basics Of Sociology

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Chapter 1 * Sociology helps people gain insight into themselves and into society, so they can live more satisfying, self-determined, and responsible lives * Paying attention to and making sense of the social world in a sociological way = being sociologically mindful * To be mindful of a thing is to see and appreciate its unique qualities.

Ex: mindful of a person = beyond stereotypes and prejudices * People have to be understood in terms of ideas, feelings, desires, bodies, and habits * Sociological mindfulness = practice of seeing how the social world works * Mindfulness helps us see how our lives are intertwined and how our words and deeds help or harm others in nonobvious ways. Ex. acism * Failing to be mindful = diminish or own and others’ chances of living good lives * Mindfulness can help decrease the amount of hatred and conflict in the world * American individualism inhibits sociological mindfulness because it prevents us from seeing our interdependence with others Chapter 2 * Shared belief is enormously consequential along side shared ideas * The social world is made of: patterns of activity; without ideas we would have no society * The social world depends on ideas invented by human beings * Reasons why the social world is durable: . People refuse to doubt the ideas that hold it together 2. People hold tightly b/c these ideas tell them right from wrong 3. Ideas allow people to feel good about themselves * Most ideas exist only in people’s heads, or are embodied in habit; the invisibility of the ideas that hold the social world together is part of what makes it seem so real. * Invisible b/c they are built into habit. Ex: brushing teeth.

Guiding ideas are still there, but only visible as habits * Someone finds a solution to a problem, other people see that it works and adopt it, and eventually the solution becomes “what everyone does” * Every society is built on a set of practices and to change these practices is very risky. Those who benefit from them are the ones least likely to want to change it (conservative attitude) * The failure to see the social world as humanly made is called reification; the social world is just there.

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Ex: “computer technology is the major force behind changes in our economy today” makes the economy seem independent of human beings * Reification makes the people and their choices disappear; the tendency to reify is strong because it can be hard to see where, how, and by whom decisions are made * Reification makes it hard to hold anyone accountable for the good or bad results arising from their actions * Reification makes us feel powerless b/c the social world comes to seem like a place that is beyond human control; we are confusing its reality; forgetting to be mindful of the social world as a humanly made place * People invent and categorize themselves; these things are defined into existence * Ex: race is a result from the invention of schemes for sorting people into groups so is gender * If we did not label things, we wouldn’t produce certain kinds of people to classify * Identities derive from invented categories, they are not apart of nature * The rules we use to decide which ideas are true are also invented. Ex: truth from books, word of mouth, or proven by science? * Not everyone has an equal say in deciding what is real and true, and truth often bends toward power * The social world could not continue to exist if we did not reenact it every day, in our thoughts, feelings, and behavior * The making of the social world is a collaboration; we can’t make anything social by ourselves Chapter 3 * How you grow up is basically what you continue to see.

Ex: men treating women as subordinates at home = that’s what he’s going to expect from women at work * Part of being sociologically mindful is seeing how our actions in one part of life are the causes and consequences of what happens elsewhere; take larger views of things * Pay attention to how different parts of society are connected then we are less likely to make wasteful and destructive choices * One thing leads to another; to see consequences we must first see connections * There is often a connection to a set of ideas that make inequality seem acceptable * Actions are reinforced by what is seen = tradition. Ex: children seeing their parents hiring a person of lesser wealth to clean up after them, learn that people who are rich enough do not have to take responsibility for cleaning up the messes they make * Our actions and the ideas we use to justify them can have intended and unintended consequences because of how the social world works; the social world labels everything based on tradition * Sociological mindfulness can help us see more of what must be taken into account in seeking solutions to moral problems. Ex: connections between abortion and women’s freedom and equality. Social world full of signs called indexes; and to interpret it sociologically is to see its connection to some aspect of how the social world works * Sociologically mindful means trying to see how conditions, customs, and events might be signs that point to other things. Ex: conditions in inner-city areas are indexes of how our economy works. * Our customary ways of doing things encode messages about us; read as signs of what we value and what we fear * People who organize schools are mainly concerned with turning students into good workers * Although things in the present do not merely point to or refer to the past; they carry it with them; knowledge itself is the past living in our minds and habits b/c everything connects to the past * The past shapes how we think and act today; Understanding how people define the past and how they feel about it is part of being sociologically mindful.

Ex: men treating women in demeaning ways without realizing it * If we are sociologically mindful about how parts of the social world are connected, we will pay attention to how seemingly little things can reinforce bigger problems * Being sociologically mindful means thinking about how the choices we make today might affect other people, even society as a whole, in the future Chapter 4 * Feelings depend on what happens throughout the day and interaction shapes one’s mood * Sociological mindfulness help us see how our feelings depend on what happens during certain encounters * If we are sociologically mindful we see that individual achievement is an illusion b/c achievement is not really individual it always grows out of a person’s ties to others. Ex: being taken care of as a baby, others giving us opportunities to develop, existence of institutions, and etc. * Mindfulness of the nterdependence we have helps us avoid being egotistical, selfish, and ungrateful * What we know and how we know are the results of our ties to others; we are limited in what we can know about the world and about ourselves, unless we move around and get a bit of experiences * A perspective takes shape b/c of commonalities and differences * People who do similar kinds of work, solve similar kinds of problems, earn their money in similar ways, and relate to others in similar ways will tend to develop a shared outlook on the world * Differences in knowledge and feelings are not natural, but rather the results of how categories (ex: men and women) are defined and how the people in these categories are taught to feel, think, and act * Sociological mindfulness helps us to see that our individual point of view is really a result of how we learn to relate to others. * Those in more powerful groups will generally know less about people in less powerful groups. Powerful people are even likely to know less about themselves. Kind of like the cost of power is ignorance about one’s self and others. (Ex: it seems likely that blacks will know more about whites than whites know about blacks) * What we know depends on the nature of our relationships with others.

Being sociologically mindful would mean going beyond individualism and appreciating how those relationships make us what we are * Our behaviors affect and are affected by others therefore mindfulness means taking more things into account before we act (Ex: smoking, violent sports, having babies) * Sociological mindfulness is the practice of reexamining our choices and paying attention to how our choices have consequences for others Chapter 5 * The social life makes us human and turns us into certain kinds of people; everyone is a result of the interaction between these two influences * The workings of our minds, the possession of self-consciousness, our desires and hopes, and our feelings about ourselves, arise out of social life * We often fail to be mindful of what we have in common with others and exaggerate the differences, however our similarities with others are essential to being human. “The first step to becoming an individual is to recognize that you are not one” * What we become as people depends on the ature of our ties to others, and language gives us the power to develop our individual humanity and to connect with others in distinctly human ways * We gather meanings to ourselves from the culture we live in; meaning we gather (ex: black or white, gay or straight, democrat, liberal) give us a sense of who we are * Part of becoming human is the process of coming to know who and what we are * We depend on each other to maintain a coherent and stable sense of who and what we are as persons; identities are public meanings that determine much of what goes on between people and let us interpret ourselves to others quickly * Acquiring language and developing self-awareness are essential to becoming human and to being able to function in the social world (prerequisites to being self-regulating * We are no less interdependent in becoming human than in being human * Valued identities are a source of self-esteem; if you are attached to your identities, you will try to act in ways that uphold them.

If we are attached to certain ideas we will tend to do things that affirm rather than contradict those ideas * Self-regulation also requires silent knowledge = unspoken knowledge; knowing how to do something without necessarily being able to explain it * Reason does not keep us from hurting ourselves and others b/c human beings always think of ways to make cruelty and violence seem reasonable * Our responses can be either sympathetic or empathetic; we are emotionally responsive to others to protect our own feelings * Feelings about one’s self are affected by the real or imagined reactions of others * The force of tradition arises in large part from our emotional responsiveness to others, which rises from our ability to imagine how others are judging us, and desire to feel good about ourselves * Sometimes we become to responsive to judgments and feel compelled to do things we know aren’t right * Cutting-off may occur when members of a dominant group feel shame and guilt at the suffering they have caused others; if our actions are the source of a person’s pain we may be unresponsive emotionally * Deciding not to care about certain audiences can be a way to resist oppression * How we organize ourselves to live together also affects the creation of human beings; by being sociologically mindful we do not only see how we become human but how we might live more humanely * Behavior is a product of circumstance not just personality; emotions arise from interactions with others * Part of becoming human is learning what we are supposed to feel in different situations, how to properly display emotions, and how to manage our own feelings and the feelings of others * Thinking aimed at changing how we feel is called emotion work

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