Beneath the social structure, that complex labyrinth, there are tunnellings of every kind. There are mines of religion and philosophy, politics, economics and revolution, galleries driven in the name of a theory or a principle, or mined in anger. Voices call from one gallery to the next. Utopias are born in these subterranean channels and spread their roots all ways.... So many different underground levels, different objectives, different harvests. And what comes of it all? The future.

Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom -
champion of justice and civil law.
Lanckoronski relief (1st cent. B.C.)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond



The study of sociology takes us behind the scenes in the highest drama we know -- the ongoing story of human relations, with all of its achievements, conflicts, uncertainties and everyday pleasures. It isn't a simple plot to follow, this inquiry into the social factors that bring us together and sometimes drive us apart. In this ongoing drama, narratives of personal success and failure are interwoven with processes of cultural conflict and broad societal change. When we think about human activity, we often see largely individuals and their experiences -- people coming together in groups, but mostly charting their course through private decisions and inner motivation. Yet, a great deal of what happens in social life, from the personal level to the global, follows a different principle. The central insight of sociology is that, to understand human activities and the larger social arrangements we create, we must look beyond the self and explore below the surface of patterns that we find in this interconnected world.

It takes keen insight to break new ground in seeing beyond the obvious. For thousands of years, when people dreamed of some day flying through the air, they imagined imitating the motion of birds. Science advances when people go beyond the obvious, breaking through to a different level of reasoning by searching for principles that explain what appears on the surface. Today, we know that to free a plane from the earth and send it soaring, it is necessary to understand a great deal about pressure, lift, friction, velocity and much more that people never considered, with all their longings to fly, until they adopoted a more analytical approach to aviation.

Before we could fly, we had to learn how to plant ourselves more firmly on the ground. Architects experimented for centuries with building techniques that would free their designs from the constraints of weight and allow a stately church roof soar toward the sky. They finally discovered a way, with flying buttress construction, to reinforce a wall from the outside so that it could withstand the tremendous lateral thrust of a lofty ceiling. We see the beauty of a gothic cathedral. Architects see tension, thrust and compression. It was further experimentation with these and related concepts -- none obvious on the surface -- that led from those stunning breakthroughs in building design to supersonic flight and space travel.

As with the physics of flight and of architecture, sociological knowledge helps us to better understand our world by taking us below the surface in human relations to the underlying interests, rules and structures that make up the entire range of human activities. Because we live through our creative imaginations as well as our jobs and personal ties, sociological insight is art as well as science. It speaks to the yearnings we all have to break free of the familiar and fly.

You may never dissect another frog once you finish your biology course, and after Chemistry 101 you may never centrifuge another compound. But you can benefit every day from better knowledge about how the social world works. My purpose in writing this book has been to put both analytical and the practical dimensions of sociology within your reach. Along the way, I can promise you intriguing discoveries as we explore the patterns of society that people and time have shaped, and that make us human.

 

Core Sociological Questions

"Sociology" is a term that everyone knows but not all of us can clearly define. When I'm introduced as a sociologist to a new acquaintance, a question that frequently follows is, "Just what is sociology, anyway?" Because the domain of sociology is vast, encompassing the totality of social life, a short answer can only be suggestive. At its core, sociology is the scientific study of arrangements that give structure and continuity to human relations and also of forces that produce change. Sociologists tend to organize their research around five broad questions that I highlight below, with examples of how a few researchers have addressed these questions.

 

Chapter Sections:

Core Questions
Macro- & Microsociology
What are Social Systems
   The Individual
   Statuses
   Roles
   Social Structure
   Institutions
Innovation/Social Change
Identity & "Collective We"
Values We Live For
Controversy & Consensus
Glossary
Hot Links
Web Readings
Study Questions
Recommended Books
Footnotes

 

Leonardo da Vinci dreamed of flying -- like a mechanical bird, as you can see in his pen and ink drawing from the year 1490.
Leonardo actually built this machine, called an "ornithopter," with a frame of wood and two huge wings that could be flapped with foot pedals. But he never got it off the ground.
Many experiments and more than 400 years later, two brothers who worked in a bicycle shop finally came up with a better solution.
First Flight, Dec. 17, 1903.
Orville Wright later wrote, "This flight lasted only 12 seconds, but it was nevertheless the first in the history of the world in which a machine carrying a man had raised itself by its own power into the air in full flight, had sailed forward without reduction of speed and finally landed at a point as high as that from which it started."




1. How do people manage to cooperate with one another in daily life?

Each of us has points of view and interests that are uniquely our own, and in any group of people there are certain to be divergences in perspectives and priorities. Your desire to make a higher salary may be out of step with your manager's interest in reducing labor costs. Your idea of vacationing in France next summer may conflict with your spouse's wish to take a car trip to Alaska instead. You may want a neighborhood regulation against high fences, but some others may have a preference for backyard privacy. In hundreds of ways, people's interests and values collide on questions that are important to each of us, both at work and in private life. Yet, we have to live together cooperatively if society is to work.

How do we manage to get along with one another most of the time and to succeed in pursuing common goals? Values that people hold in common are one of the keys. When people see the world the same way, they are more likely to have harmonious and productive relations. Institutions that create and sustain shared beliefs, then, are core features of groups and societies -- the family, religion and education, for example. This is unstable terrain, because society's principal institutions that build cooperation and solidarity are themselves being rapidly transformed. Explanations must be frequently revised in light of new information, and researchers sometimes disagree about how the pieces of this puzzle fit together.

Recent sociological studies of the family illustrate this ferment. In two books that draw on her own field research and also additional sources (Brave New Families and In the Name of the Family), Judith Stacey describes a revolution that is fundamentally reshaping the family and individuals' commitment to it. " Family life in the United States today, as in most of the world, is deeply vulnerable and insecure," Stacey writes, and continues, "The past four decades have yanked the rug out from under patterns of family, work, and sexuality that most Westerners have taken for granted for more than a century."1 Alan Wolfe's study of 200 middle-class American families (One Nation, After All) also uncovered tension between customary family roles and the desire for personal autonomy and freedom, but he nevertheless sees a strong tendency for Americans to turn to families "for moral sustenance" and for "the world of personal ties" that "counts for so much."2 In short, questions about the future of the family and the implications of changing family values loom large in sociological research today. It is "a moment when we will either continue to follow old paths or use the opportunity of these unsettled times to construct new kinds of social ties and commitments," Betty Farrell concludes.3

Beyond the family are many other institutions that give social life direction and structure. Across the board, they are being transformed by trends and pressures of contemporary life. Religion is a case in point. In a classic study in the sociology of religion that was conducted nearly a hundred years ago, Emile Durkheim contends that "nearly all of the great social institutions have been born in religion," and that religion can be a powerful force in uniting members of society.4 Although there is sharp disagreement among sociologists about how widely religion performs that role today, nearly everyone acknowledges that religion has served that function in different times and places. Some analysts maintain that religion is on the wane as the twenty-first century begins, especially in the Western world, while others suggest that religious revitalization is the dominant trend. Holding the first position, Karel Dobbelaere argues in a series of studies that religion has been "individualized" to the point that it is now largely restricted to the private sphere in Western societies, and that it has little remaining influence over political and economic life.5 But Rodney Stark disagrees, taking issue with "the myth of religious decline" and insisting that religion is no less influential today than it was in earlier times.6 While Stark's research confirms that "the sources of religion are shifting constantly in societies," he also believes that "the amount of religion remains relatively constant" and that the long term prospects for religious influence are undiminished.7

When sociologists examine sources of cooperation in society, in addition to studying institutions such as religion and the family that promote shared values, we also examine features of social life that bring individuals and groups together in spite of their divergent perspectives. Political and economic institutions are oriented above all else toward getting people to cooperate with one another who may have contradictory interests. There are contradictory views about how that happens.

In the view of capitalism's best known critic, Karl Marx, the economic and political system is able to keep the class struggle at bay by convincing the proletariat to accept "religions and political illusions" as well as through heavy-handed exploitation.8 Extending Marx's claim that capitalist owners dominate all of society, C. Wright Mills describes a "power elite" drawn from the political, business and military spheres that essentially runs the world -- shaping all other institutions according to its own interests.9 But other researchers describe instead a political arena in which a variety of competing groups work for their own interests, each with some success -- groups that form around a variety of issues. In World Risk Society, Ulrich Beck suggests that questions involving the environment, globalization and terrorism are creating new political alignments that go well beyond traditional notions of power elite domination and social class struggles. Beck believes that it is both possible and desirable in this era for societies to be shaped from "below" rather than by a few people in positions of power.10


Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

Flying buttresses are slender masonry "props" that transfer the outward thrust of vaulted ceilings away from the walls of a cathedral to piers outside the walls. This innovation allowed Gothic cathedrals to reach toward the heavens and to let in abundant light through large windows that could now be placed in walls that did not need to support the full weight of the roof.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Judith Stacey: "We are living, I believe, through a transitional and contested period of family history, a period after the modern family order, but before what we cannot foretell" (1998, p. 18).

Alan Wolfe: "Just as a significant number of middle- class Americans lament the passing of the traditional family but welcome the new freedoms they increasingly have, they also see some- thing positive in obligations undertaken out of individual choice" (1998, p. 262).
Edward Luttwak: "Extremes converge, so it is not all that surprising that the new turbo-capitalism has much in common with the Soviet version of Communism. It too offers but a single model and a single set of rules for every country in the world" (2000, pp. 27).
Emile Durkheim (1858- 1917): "Before all, [religious] rites are means by which the social group reaffirms itself periodically" (1915, p. 432).

 

 

Karel Dobbelaere: "The world is increasingly considered to be calculable and man-made, the result of controlled planning. Such a world has engendered not only new roles, but also new, basically rational and critical, attitudes and a new cognition" (1999, p. 233).

 

Rodney Stark: "Of course, religion changes. Of course, there is more religious participation and even greater belief in the supernatural at some times and places than in others . . . What is needed is a body of theory to explain religious variation . . . In that regard, the secularization theory is as useless as a hotel elevator that only goes down" (1999, p. 268).
C. Wright Mills (1916-62): "Families and churches and schools adapt to modern life; governments and armies and corporations shape it; and, as they do so, they turn these lesser institutions into means for their ends" (1956, p. 6).

 

 

Ulrich Beck: "The world is increasingly democratic. Voters have a tendency to vote against policies that hurt them. . . . My thesis is that opportunities for alternative action are opening up in all fields of activity" (1999, pp. 7, 70).

 

 


2. How does social change occur in societies, and what are the implications of large-scale change for social life?

Whether cooperation is based more on agreement and social harmony or strained power relations that threaten to erupt in social conflict is not always obvious, even on the inside. How many Germans expected the Berlin Wall to come down abruptly in 1989? And who was predicting that the Soviet Union would collapse almost overnight, to be replaced by 15 independent countries? Almost no one. Other developments also can change the way we live very quickly. The World Wide Web was invented only in 1991. Where would you be today without it? The 9/11 terrorist attack against the United States instantly altered our understandings of "war" and "civilian" -- perhaps forever reshaping the way governments relate to one another and to their citizens.

Berlin Wall at Brandenburger Tor
A section of the Berlin Wall is lifted by a crane as workers start to dismantle the structure near the Brandenburg Gate in East Berlin. (Photo by: David Robins UPI / Corbis-Bettmann.)

If you would like to learn more about the history of the Berlin Wall and see more photographs, go to Berlin Wall Online.



Social change predictably leads to disruption at many levels. Today's globalization trends have redefined "business as usual" across the board, from the Great Wall of China to Wall Street. The new global economy created huge fortunes in the 1990s. But in the late 1990s, the bubble burst in several countries of Asia, and as the new century got underway, markets were down and economies uncertain around the world. Companies folded, retirement savings were lost overnight, and unemployment spread. Trying to understand the factors that bring such unexpected turnarounds, researchers compare events of one period with similar trends in earlier eras -- examining, for example, how new technologies lead to dislocation, whether the technologies center on computers and the Internet or on the key innovations of a century ago that spelled unpredictability for the boom-and-bust economies of a previous time -- railroads, automobiles, and electric power.11

In times of large-scale societal change, not only are familiar ways of living overturned, but the patterns that are thereby created present new opportunities and constraints. The rapid pace of urbanization in recent times illustrates this dual tendency. The growth and changing complexion of cities has brought a different way of life for millions around the world -- opportunity and wealth for some, but hardship and poverty for others. It continues to serve as a stimulus for additional changes, many of them rapid and unpredictable.



Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web.
The Web was initially created as a tool for efficient collaboration among scientists. It has turned out that there are innumerable uses for this at-your-fingertips approach to accessing information and interacting with others -- whether they are down the hall or across the ocean.

 


In several books and articles, Saskia Sassen identifies a new kind of urban system, brought on by globalization, in which some cities have become centers of commerce and communication around the world. These global cities have developed stronger ties with one another than they have with many other cities in their own countries.12 Being a globally connected city brings rich benefits. Money flows to global cities, and innovative people move to them. Not all renowned cities are sharing in the advantages that come to the world's most prominent global cities, however, which number only a handful. Janet Abu-Lughod shows in America's Global Cities that Chicago, once a titan of manufacturing and finance, has been plagued recently by steep declines that began in the late 1960s.13 There tend to be both winners and losers in the process of massive social change, and the outcome for people in Chicago has been large-scale loss of jobs and increasing poverty rates.

Many additional forces also produce social change. Evolving cultural trends affect people's priorities and values, sometimes leading to intergenerational misunderstanding. The functions of families are shifting for large numbers of people, and relations between women and men continue to evolve. Political issues are constantly emerging within countries and among nations, many of which create tensions and even conflict. Sociological analysis is directed toward adding to our knowledge about these developments and identifying ways to manage change more effectively. We ask about its causes, its implications for individuals, and how it can be channeled as a force for human betterment rather than chaos. As I will show throughout this book, these are all huge questions without simple answers.

3. What are the personal and societal implications of cultural and ethnic variation?

The diversity of human societies is breathtaking. One woman can marry several men in some cultures, while in others, some men may have two or even ten wives. Our culture influences what we eat and how we dress, and it often shapes what we believe about life's most important questions. We have culturally-specific ideas about the meaning of friendship and contradictory views about what constitutes "the good life." These distinctive features of how we live are core elements of our personal identities and our priorities for living.

Around the world, different cultural patterns evolve in response to unique conditions, as we adapt to the geography, climate and resources that are available where we live. Through these adaptations, people create innovations that work to solve their special problems, and predictably these cultural products set one group of people apart from another. As a result, you see more than taste in food and clothes that distinguish people from one another. These features signify cultural diversity -- shared meanings among people with common experiences, interests and values. Often, these cultural variations are not only practical but also interesting to outsiders. Who among us doesn't enjoy glimpsing ways of life among groups that are different from our own -- taking in the art and music, the food and patterns of living among people in faraway places. Beyond question, the world is richer because of African art, European music and Asian cuisine.


Saskia Sassen: "A new class alignment is being shaped, and global cities have emerged as one of the main arenas for this development" (2001, p. 343).

 

Janet Abu-Lughod: "My argument throughout has been that common forces originating at the level of the global economy operate always through local political structures" (1999, p. 417).
Abu-Lughod was a recipient of the 1999 Robert and Helen Lynd Award from the American Sociological Association for distinguished lifetime contributions to the study of cities.

 

 

 

 

 



But contact between different cultural and ethnic groups can also have a negative side -- one that is seen repeatedly in the antagonisms and hostilities that engulf relations between "us" and "them." Cultural conflict probably began when the first human groups migrated far away enough from their origins, and for a long enough time, to develop different customs and outlooks from the group they left behind. When we find a group of people with behaviors that are unfamiliar to us and beliefs that diverge from our own, what do we conclude about them?

Very often, people have decided that those "other" groups were dangerous and somehow inferior. This human tendency to think negatively and act harshly toward people from other groups has been with us from the start, and it still continues to thrive around the world. We see it today in hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East, in the ethnic antagonisms within the United States, and in the centuries-old Balkan conflict. At the start of the twenty-first century, ethnic tensions are undiminished in many regions and countries.

Learning the Sounds of Tibetan Music
When Mao Zedong's Red Guard troops set out to eradicate Tibetan culture during the Cultural Revolution in China (1966-76), many temples were destroyed and Buddhist monks killed or imprisoned. The Dalai Lama fled to India along with many other Tibetans, and they set out to rebuild Tibetan culture in exile. (See Platt, 1999)
If you would like to learn more about Tibetan culture,
The government of Tibet in exile is a good place to start.


Several theories have been put forward to explain cultural and ethnic conflict. Some analysts hold the view that these antagonisms reflect a deep-seated tendency in human nature to identify closely with our own group's traditions and to show intolerance of others in times of uncertainty. In this vein, Harold Isaacs writes of "a massive retribalization" in which ethnic ties are being strengthened in times of trouble,14 and politicians, along with popular writers, often pick up the same theme in their interpretation of world events. In that vein, Bill Clinton spoke in his first inaugural address about "ancient hatreds" that still threaten the world, and speaking on television a few months later, Secretary of State Warren Christopher applied that interpretation to the Yugoslavia conflict that was then raging, when he stated, "In Bosnia, there are such ancient hatreds that evidently the ethnic groups want to try to divide it and be in separate enclaves."15






But a number of analysts, rather than finding the key to ethnic strife in historical animosities, point to the calculated use of an "ethnicity card" by political leaders when circumstances allow them to benefit by creating ethnic unrest. It was this kind of artificially produced ethnic antagonism that was found in Yugoslavia during the 1990s, according to Yahya Sadowski. Serb leader Slobodan Miloševic succeeded in stirring up ethnic nationalism through loud propaganda and street demonstrations in a move to enhance his own political fortunes.16 Contemporary researchers tend to favor Sadowski's "circumstantial" explanation for ethnic discord more than the "retribalization" theory, but the idea of ancient hostilities as an important cause has become increasingly popular among the public.17

Additional questions also stand out as we consider the implications of culture and ethnicity for societal relations. How do historical patterns of ethnic discrimination continue to influence behavior, even after the most obvious manifestations of prejudice have diminished? How does cultural misunderstanding develop, and how can improved relations be achieved among different cultural groups? How well are programs working that aim to promote more minority inclusion, and how can they be made more effective?

In his book Rituals of Blood, Orlando Patterson shows that historical trends have important ongoing consequences for ethnic relations. Analyzing patterns of interaction among African Americans today, Patterson finds that the entire society is paying a heavy price for 250 years of slavery in the United States and the widespread practice of discrimination that followed, but that African Americans continue to bear the greatest burden of these outcomes. The negative results of that period continue to be seen primarily in the black community, Patterson suggests, and we are now seeing "paradoxical economic integration and growth of the middle and stable working classes of Afro-Americans along with the growing segregation and isolation of the urban poor."18

Stuart Hall is one of many researchers who is exploring ways that ethnic groups adapt to minority status by consciously revising their identities and even creating new ones. It is a process that emphasizes rather than suppressing key differences between themselves and others around them. Creating identities is not such a simple matter, as I will show in a later chapter. Writing about the black experience in particular, Hall points out that blacks often actively take into account their history of slavery and forced emigration from Africa as they engage in a process of "hybridization", "recombination" and "cut-and-mix" that allows people to adapt inherited features of their "rich cultural 'roots'" to contemporary political and social circumstances. "There can . . . be no simple 'return' or 'recovery' of the ancestral past which is not re-experienced through the categories of the present," Hall suggests.19

Sociological research into ethnic group adaptation follows several paths that deepen our understanding of the role that ethnicity and culture play in human relations. I will highlight just two in this introduction. Michael Banton insists that even the importance of ethnic roles to individuals, relative to such other roles as religion, class and friendship, depends on the situation that a person or group is in. "Ethnic definitions can lose ground to other social definitions," he argues, if ethnicity happens not to be a prominent factor for sorting out relations in a particular time and place. One key factor is whether individualism is strongly encouraged in the society. If it is, then ethnic ties are likely to be weakened.20 And Deniz Kandiyoti points out that ethnicity affects women and men differently. "Women may be controlled in different ways in the interests of demarcating and preserving the identities of national/ethnic collectivities," she states -- observing that more restrictions are often placed on women then men in sexual behavior and in whether or not they can marry outside their group.21

A number of sociologists are working to promote programs that would help ensure more effective minority inclusion in mainstream social, economic and political life. In the book When Work Disappears, William Julius Wilson develops policy recommendations to address "the growing wage inequality in the United States" as it affects minority group members.22 Wilson contends that the economic and political needs of working-class and impoverished African Americans are the same as those of American whites in the same income groups. A solution is needed that will benefit all people who are not participating fully in the American Dream, Wilson argues -- not just minority ethnic groups. "My framework for long-term and immediate solutions is based on the notion that the problems of jobless ghettos cannot be separated from those of the rest of the nation," Wilson states.23 Thus ethnic issues are merged with questions that have broader policy implications.


 


 



Orlando Patterson: "Today, there is still this thing called 'racial identity.' Americans place it on the same level as their gender identity. We have made race and racial identity one of the critical identities" (1999). Patterson's book Freedom in the Making of Western Culture won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 1991.


Stuart Hall: "Construction of cultural identity does not imply the mere rediscovery of cultural roots, but their reevaluation and reorientation toward the future through the process of assimilation, resistance and negotiation aimed at enriching cultural resources" (1995, p. 3).

Deniz Kandiyoti: "Women of minority communities retain their cultural separateness to a greater extent than men . . . [and] cultural difference is frequently signaled through the dress and deportment of women" more than of men (1996, p. 315).

 

Michael Banton: "It is by collective action that ethnic boundaries are maintained. The boundaries permit the practice of discrimination, which in turn reinforces the boundaries and sustains the feelings of solidarity necessary to intergroup bargaining. That bargaining can create the conditions in which the boundaries are more easily dissolved" (1995, p. 490).
William Julius Wilson: "The inner-city ghetto was not always plagued by low levels of employment and related problems" (1996, p. 55). In 1996, Wilson was named as one of Time magazine's "25 most influential Americans."

 

Theda Skocpol: "In recent decades, our national politics has veered off course . . . A "missing middle" has emerged in American social policy and political debates, as we argue about supposed trade-offs between helping young and old, while failing to address the values and needs of working parents" (2000, p. xi).

Arlie Hochschild: "The influx of women into paid work and her increased power raise a woman's aspi- rations and hopes for equal treatment at home. Her lower wage status at work and the threat of divorce reduce what she presses for and actually expects" (1997a, p. 252).
The Second Shift
was named a notable social science book of the year by the New York Times Book Review.
Daniel Chirot: "The progress made by Europe from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment was a function not of any inherent superiority among Europeans, but of a different structure of opportunity. There was more room for and more reward for independent thinkers" (1994, p. 68).



4. Why do some people, and also some societies, fare so much better than others?

Differences in basic measures of well-being, such as income and life expectancy, vary enormously among different countries and also among the people within a country. Per person incomes in the world's richest nations are nearly 400 times greater than in the poorest nations, and life expectancies are nearly twice as long (an average of 81 years, compared to 41 years).24 Worldwide, nearly half of the world's six-plus billion people live on less than two dollars a day while a few enjoy yearly incomes in the millions and even billions. There is also a huge income gap within countries, with CEO's in top US companies earning more than $13 million yearly in 2001, on average, while the minimum wage was $5.15 per hour.25 In some countries, the contrast between managers' and workers' incomes is even more striking.

The study of inequality is prominent in sociological research for two reasons. First, since income and social position are significant for many aspects of how people live, inequality is a key to understanding a broad range of social interactions. Also, this subject is central to sociology because several important determinants of inequality operate independently of personal motivation, training and ability. Some of these are characteristics that we possess as individuals, such as gender and ethnicity, that have visible implications for opportunity and social status. Others are features of economic and political life that are beyond any individual's control but can be critically important to personal success.

Although it is well-known that men usually make more than women, and that men are more likely to rise to the top of the corporate ladder, the reasons for this inequality are a subject of extensive ongoing research. The "glass ceiling" concept was coined in the 1970s to highlight the tendency for women to be excluded from top jobs in male-dominated professions, and later studies showed that even in fields where women predominate, males tend to rise faster and further up the management ladder than women.26 In The Second Shift, Arlie Russell Hochschild and Anne Machung show that women's traditional roles as wives and mothers have important career implications, and in a follow-up book The Time Bind, Hochschild finds that in today's world, where both men and women often have demanding jobs away from home, women have adapted to the workplace world more fully than men have adjusted to conditions in which their wives may be working as much away from home as men do. Thus, since work at home is typically not divided very equitably between the wife and the husband, women have come to the workplace "'on male terms.'"27 What is to be done about this situation, if career women are to ever have the opportunity to work away from home without having the extra burden of more work to do at home every day than their husbands? Hochschild offers several practical suggestions -- a topic to which I will return in the family chapter.


 

 

 

 



The study by William Julius Wilson that I mention above (When Work Disappears) illustrates the significance of larger economic forces for personal well-being. Wilson traces the loss of jobs in predominantly black inner-city neighborhoods to the relocation and downsizing of businesses that had employed large numbers of lower-skilled workers before they reorganized. Wilson's message is that unemployment often is not the fault of the unemployed, and that if solutions are to be found, we must look below the surface, beginning with the understanding that larger social forces have created the problem.
National Day of Action. Washington, D.C. March 5, 2002
Two thousand low-income leaders descend on the national capitol to make their voices heard on welfare and income redistribution.


Adding a more directly political dimension to this stream of inequality research, Theda Skocpol shows in her studies of middle-class families that it is not only the inner-city poor who are finding the American Dream unattainable. She finds that over time, governmental policies have worked against the economic interests of the middle class. In The Missing Middle, Skocpol identifies key political developments that have brought worsening living standards to millions of working people in the US, and she recommends political actions that could help improve the position of the middle class. Hers is a controversial point of view, and in presenting her argument Skocpol provides useful information for ongoing policy discussions.28






When we examine variations in wealth and poverty from one country to another, sociologists find a variety of explanatory factors. In How Societies Change, Daniel Chirot identifies historical factors that he believes are important in explaining extremes of wealth and poverty among countries today. Europe was politically fragmented during the Middle Ages -- a situation that, in Chirot's view, provided more freedom for experimentation with new ideas than most people had enjoyed in other times and places. Galileo could not pursue his astronomy studies in Catholic Italy without interference from Church leaders. But in Protestant England, Sir Isaac Newton made his stunning scientific discoveries unimpeded of the religious constraint that silenced Galileo.29 It was this freedom of inquiry, Chirot maintains, that led to unprecedented advances in science and an economic surge that propelled the West into its current position of global dominance.30 Manuel Castells brings the analysis of causes into the present, arguing in End of Millennium that global economic relations in today's world are widening the disparities between rich and poor countries. Access to technology is also a major factor. Although being without state-of-the-art Internet networks contributes to keeping poor countries impoverished, Castells believes that technology also offers hope. "The Internet is a fundamental instrument for development in the Third World," Castells writes, and many other analysts agree.31 The hard question is how low-income countries can get from here to there.

In sum, sociological research indicates that many factors must be taken into account to explain why some people are so much better off than others and why a few countries dramatically exceed all the rest in national prosperity. Analysts continue examining the reasons for inequality with an eye toward developing strategies to improve opportunities for achievement.


Manuel Castells: "A new world, the Fourth World, has emerged, made up of multiple black holes of social exclusion throughout the planet... In the current historical context, the rise of the Fourth World is inseparable from the rise of informational, global capitalism" (1998, pp. 164-65).

 

 

 



George H. Mead (1863-1931): "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" (1934, p. 135).
Max Weber (1864-1920): "One of the fundamental elements of the spirit of modern capitalism . . . was born . . . from the spirit of Christian asceticism. . . . Today the spirit of religious asceticism . . . has escaped from the cage. But victorious capitalism, since it rests on mechanical foundations needs its support no longer" (1958, pp. 180-82).
Mark Juergensmeyer: "For those in cultures of violence who experience both despair and defiance over what they perceive to be hopeless situations, religion provides a solution: cosmic war. As opponents become satanized and regarded as 'forces of evil' . . . , the world begins to make sense" (2000, p. 185).


Ann Swidler: "The way you develop motivations, the way you develop interpretations of your own feelings -- even the way you develop the kind of elaborate emotions that we call love, shame, resentment, or honor -- are specific to the culture in which you are raised" (2001a).




5. How are personal identities, images and meaning created through social interaction?

We know where it happens. In families and groups of all kinds we acquire "ways of seeing" and understandings that combine with our own individuality to create something new. George H. Mead termed the combination of external and internal influences the "self," and a large body of research is devoted to examining how the self is acquired during childhood and how this development leads us to play different roles in different situations.32

Sociologists examine the subject of identity formation at several levels. One is by exploring the process through which we are socialized into gender roles, looking also at how gender socialization varies from one society to another.33 We also study how meanings that are acquired in one sphere of activity often spill over into other settings, with implications that go well beyond their original intent. Religious beliefs provide a good example. In his classic work The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber suggests that the way of doing business in Protestant countries of the Western world was an outgrowth of religious anxiety -- a concern that developed from the strong belief in predestination that was a central component of Calvinism.34

Weber's Protestant Ethic was written at the beginning of the twentieth century. Sociologists and historians continue to study and debate Weber's ideas while also looking at religious influences on other dimensions of life -- for example, at how religious ideas can both inspire the selfless behavior of a Mother Teresa and serve as justification for the murderous schemes of an Osama bin Laden. In a recent study of religious terrorism in several countries, Mark Juergensmeyer examines the connection between faith and terrorism close up, with a series of case studies that probe the circumstances and backgrounds of terrorists acts that have been carried out by religious zealots who claimed to represent different faiths, from Christianity and Sikhism to Islam, Buddhism and Judaism. Jurgensmeyer describes the purpose of his research at the beginning of his book, Terror in the Mind of God: "In order to respond to religious terrorism in a way that is effective and that does not produce more terrorism in response, I believe it is necessary to understand why such acts occur."35 Such a need to understand by exploring below the surface of behaviors and events, is the reason for nearly all sociological research.

Sociologists want to know how we arrive at the meanings that are important to us -- in essence, how we gain the "knowledge" we have about the way the world works and what our priorities in life will be. It is obvious that our universe is infused with meaning. In all spheres of life, societies and groups hold to beliefs about the "right" way to think and behave. Our religious ideas tell us the purpose of life and the future that awaits us even after death. We have political views on how governments should be run and how leaders should be elected. Strong opinions prevail about what kind of economic system is the most desirable -- even to the point that nations have been willing to go to war in support of one kind of economic system over another. We attach significance to the way people dress, how they wear their hair, and whether or not they have pierced lips and tattoos. The list is almost endless of meanings that we create and that then hold sway over our values and our actions.






We not only create meanings, but we also manipulate images in the interest of influencing people's impressions of us. We have known since Shakespeare that "All the world's a stage," with entrances, exits and multiple roles. Erving Goffman applies this analogy to our daily routines in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, where he describes ways that we create roles for ourselves and attempt to manage how people see us.36 But we are often not fully in charge of this process or aware of all the ways that culture is influencing our actions, as Ann Swidler shows in her book Talk of Love. Swidler conducted lengthy interviews with 88 middle-class Americans to learn how cultural understandings about love had influenced their own day-to-day lives. She found that people draw on cultural meanings to make sense of personal experiences, and at the same time "they blame a culture that, in their view, purveys a false image of love."37 Swidler concludes that in love, as in social relations more generally, "people are often 'used by' their culture as much as they use it."38 The best way to address this problem, Swidler emphasizes, is to look at our own culture from a distance, with an analytical eye. Studying the fish bowl where we swim has practical value, because "The culture we fully accept does not seem like culture; it is just real life."39 I will begin describing procedures for analytical inquiry in chapter two.

Why are cultural understandings so central to who we are, in spite of the fact that they are easily manipulated and obviously vary greatly from one group and society to another? Meanings are guideposts in uncertain territory, and even if they are not stable themselves, they turn out to be the best we have. Being a species endowed with very little genetic programming to direct our course, we need some basis for confidence that we are doing the right thing -- making the right life choices in love, politics and war. But our understanding of how we come to the beliefs we often hold so resolutely leaves a great deal to be desired. When we survey the eternal struggles among the different systems of meaning that people live by, some of which bring groups into inevitable conflict with one another, can there be any doubt that we need more sociological insight into why people often see the world so differently?


Erving Goffman (1922-1982): "When an individual plays a part he implicitly requests his observers to take seriously the impression that is fostered before them. They are asked to believe that the character they see actually possesses the attributes he appears to possess . . . The performer can be fully taken in by his own act; he can be sincerely convinced that the impression of reality which he stages is the real reality. When his audience is also convinced, . . . only the sociologist or the socially disgruntled will have any doubts about the 'realness' of what is presented"
(1959, p. 17).

 

 




Macrosociology and Microsociology

You can tell from the five core questions I have sketched out above that sociological work combines close-up inquiry into everyday interaction and relationships with a focus on "the big picture" of life in society. Sociological research studies can be usefully categorized according to which of these two levels is being examined. Microsociology, from the Greek word meaning "small," directs our attention to ongoing, day-to-day relationships among people. It is concerned with behavior in face-to-face situations and small groups. A study of how family relations differ in one-parent and two-parent households with children, carried out through personal interviews, would be a microsociological research project.

At the macrosociological level, in contrast, a researcher might analyze how families change through time by looking at divorce rates and expanding employment opportunities for women. Macrosociology, based on the Greek word for "large," uses a broad canvas to examine overarching patterns and trends. Researchers doing macrosociological analysis study larger systems -- the political or the economic system, for example -- to learn how trends in one area are tied to changes in another. If we find that divorce rates climb as married women increasingly hold full-time jobs, this would tell us something significant about the way changes in the economy affect family life. Because macrosociological analysis makes use of averages and trends, it is well suited for comparing large units with one another -- organizations or countries, for example -- and for examining changes in these systems through time. It is worth noting that, although macrosociological findings tell us a great deal that is useful about "the big picture," they do not account for the behavior of specific individuals. Having more women with full-time jobs may be related to rising divorce rates through time overall, but this does not mean that Susan Roberts, who holds a full-time job, will ever divorce. Because macrosociological research can uncover important patterns and trends, it is especially useful for understanding societal changes (also sometimes global ones) and for policy analysis.

The microsociological and the macrosociological frames of reference complement each other. One view is through a microscope and the other through telescope. One is from the bottom up; its alternative is from the top down. Because each addresses its own distinctive questions, they are useful for different purposes. The examples below will illustrate this point.





Writing about the implications of globalization for jobs around the world, analyst Edward Luttwak takes a macrosociological approach in his book Turbo Capitalism. He uses statistical data to show that technological developments combined with globalization trends create efficiencies that eliminate jobs. Because more goods can be produced at lower costs with technological advances, supply begins to outstrip demand, further reducing the availability of jobs. "Unemployment is the global problem of our times," Luttwak concludes, and "a protracted tragedy."40

Luttwak describes a five-phase cycle in which demand leads to technological innovations that result in overproduction and unemployment. In the "big picture" that Luttwak sketches out, the cycle has repeated itself again and again. We are currently in a "surplus-of-everything" phase, Luttwak argues -- one that may not end quickly. "There is a very real danger," he cautions, that high rates of unemployment "will persist, even becoming a permanent lifetime condition" for many people in Europe.41

It's Lonely in Here

The pace of technological change in recent times has been so rapid and its reach so broad that no one knows how to estimate its implications for the future. Some analysts believe that technology will create more jobs than it eliminates in the long run. Others predict the opposite outcome. Is there a way out of this impasse? Because technology's effects are multidimensional, the "big picture" can be put in focus only by looking closely at its distinct but interrelated parts.



The situation in the United States is different, where unemployment has been lower than in Europe since the 1980s. But this benefit comes at a steep price, Luttwak observes -- with many people working part-time, others working below their ability, and a large number experiencing high levels of uncertainty about their economic futures. Luttwak believes that the "roaring turbo-capitalism" he describes with broad strokes will eventually pass. For now, he suggests, the policies of Western societies are increasingly serving economics rather than orienting the economy to work for people.






A different way of addressing the impact of globalization on employment is seen in Richard Sennett's book The Corrosion of Character. Sennett's is a microsociological analysis. Over the course of several months, he interviewed a number of former IBM managers and engineers who had been laid off when the company downsized to cover losses that resulted from increased competition in the globalizing economy. Sennett talked with these workers in the late afternoons at a local cafe, where they were coming together to share their experiences and feelings about being unemployed. He kept careful records of the conversations -- wanting to learn more about how job loss influences behavior and self-esteem and also how corporate restructuring can affect community life.

Sennett concludes that, although we should admire the "individual strength" of laid-off workers who make brave efforts to overcome their sense of failure, a larger problem remains. Sennett's view is that IBM is one of many corporations that has neglected its responsibility to serve civic interests. His view is that management should have considered the effects of their personnel actions on people and their communities. Sennett ends his study by suggesting that the globalized economy, with its tendency toward mergers, downsizing and layoffs, "radiates indifference." The result is that the system fails to provide people with "deep reasons to care about one another," and he wonders how long it will survive in its present form.42 Both Luttwak and Sennett reach similar conclusions, then, although their analyses were at different levels -- one macro, charting larger trends, and the other micro, focusing on people's personal experiences with unemployment.



Richard Sennett: "To accept life in its disjointed pieces is an adult experience of freedom, but still these pieces must lodge and embed themselves somewhere, hopefully in a place that allows them to grow and endure"(2000).

 

 

 




Of course, the interpretations of both Luttwak and Sennett have been challenged by a number of analysts, who have conducted other studies that examine the same issues from different perspectives. The value of social scientific inquiry, as distinguished from "opinion pieces" on the same topics in newspapers and magazines, or "Crossfire" and "Hardball" discussions on television, is that researchers in the social sciences usually furnish detailed evidence for their conclusions, often building on prior research, and they also give readers information about the guiding assumptions in their research -- thus providing a solid basis for evaluating the merits of a study. I will show in the second chapter how the theories and methods that predominate in sociological research help to produce studies that can move debates forward about the pros and cons of competing points of view on contentious subjects. People can argue endlessly out of logic or personal conviction, but a more scientific approach is required if those discussions are to produce more knowledge than heat.

RESEARCH ISSUE: Is micro-to-macro explanation possible?

Sociologists disagree about whether or not it is reasonable to infer macro-level patterns and trends from micro-level data. Some analysts argue that macro-level processes operate according to their own principles, and that they do not merely reflect an aggregation of individual actions and beliefs. James Coleman underscores this viewpoint when he writes, "The principal task of the social sciences lies in the explanation of social phenomena, not the behavior of single individuals. In isolated cases the social phenomena may derive directly, through summation, from the behavior of individuals, but more often this is not so."43 But Randall Collins takes a very different position, insisting that all macro phenomena can be translated "into combinations of micro-events."44

There are well-developed analytical traditions that support each of these viewpoints, and in succeeding chapters I will discuss this issue in the context of specific subjects, such as crime, family life and ethnic relations.45


 

 

 

 

 

 





What Are Social Systems?

The Individual and Social Systems

We all know that human life is not just an individual matter. Take away society, and we would lack the knowledge we require to live -- information that has been passed down through the generations and is continually being updated. We would be without the advanced technology that makes our lives better. We would have no channels to enter into the relations with others that we require for warmth and support. The happiness that we find in being with others is no small thing, either. Human life is anything but solitary and self-sufficient. As Allan Johnson notes, "We are always participating in something larger than ourselves."46 Sociological inquiry involves studying our connections with the world around us -- the rules, habits and arrangements of all kinds that help us better understand the nature of life in societies.

Any type of system is a cluster of elements and processes that are so clearly connected with one another that we say they are interdependent and also distinct from other systems in the larger environment.47 Systems of various types are studied extensively in scientific work. Physicists study particle systems, for example, and biologists and chemists inquire into the nature and functioning of organic systems. A social system can be defined as any enduring arrangement in which relationships among the component parts are relatively close and are ordered in ways that are somewhat unique to that particular system -- thus different in key respects from relations that can be found in other social systems.

Political systems are different from economic systems, for example. Each functions according to its own rules, and although these two types of systems overlap, legislatures and presidents obviously have closer ties to one another than to banks or stock exchanges. Similarly, the US political system is separate from that of Canada or Mexico. There are systems within systems, also. Colorado's state government has more in common with the US Congress than with the European Parliament.

The key components that define a social system are statuses, roles, social structures and institutions.


 

 


 

 



Statuses

A status is a position in a social system that carries with it a set of expectations, rights, and duties. A particular status exists and derives its meaning only in relation to other statuses. Being a 25 year-old means one thing if people typically live into their 70s or 80s. It meant quite another when life expectancies of 30 or 35 years were the norm. With a projected life expectancy of 30, people could have hardly been expected to still be preparing for a career well into their 20s! All social statuses acquire their meaning in relation to other features of the system in which they are found. In this example, a key feature is the distribution of ages in the system. We will see later that many other features of social systems come into play, also, when we set out to identify the significance of a particular status relative to others.

In some cases, you achieve the statuses that you have, often through your own effort and ability. Being a successful surgeon is an achieved status, as is being named the Most Valuable Player in the Super Bowl. Ascribed statuses, on the other hand, are socially meaningful categories that you did not choose for yourself. Your position as a daughter or son in your family has obligations attached to it, and also rights. Unlike the situation with achieved statuses, you did not decide to have that position. It is ascribed, along with your ethnicity, nationality and many other ascribed statuses that you hold. The sociologically important thing about both achieved and ascribed statuses is that they have a bearing on other aspects of your life -- often accounting for some of the rewards that you receive, and also opportunities that are available to you.

Figure 1.1 illustrates that ascribed status is more than an abstract concept. It has a great deal to do with how well people fare in everyday life. U.S. Census Bureau data show that white men have higher incomes than black or Hispanic men, and that men in each of these categories have higher incomes than women. Among women, also, incomes vary systematically according to ethnicity.

What do these findings tell us? Do white men earn more because of their achievements alone, or do their higher salaries come from their gender and their ethnicity, at least in part? And why do black and Hispanic women earn consistently less money than white women? Do women make less than men because they more often choose part-time work? Or is discrimination the key? How can we be sure? This is the stuff of both fair play and lawsuits, of self-esteem and financial security. Untangling the separate effects of ascribed and achieved status requires a great deal more than commonsense speculation. Bringing in additional information and evaluating it through a sociological lens will allow us to address each of these questions -- a topic to which I will return below and also in the gender and ethnicity chapters.



 

 

achieved status: A position that a person attains voluntarily -- often through effort and personal ability.

ascribed status: A position that a person did not choose to adopt but which, once acquired, has social implications.

Figure 1.1: U.S. Median Personal Income, 2005
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Historical Income Tables-People, tab. P-2.



Roles

A role is a set of behaviors that are seen as being appropriate to a particular status, or to a cluster of statuses. There is a "young father" role that can be distinguished clearly from a "middle-age grandmother" role. "Older sisters" and "young brothers" play quite different roles, some of the time -- as each of you knows well if you are one! Students perform different roles from trial lawyers, and success in one can ultimately lead to prominence in the other.

Because everyone participates in a variety of social systems, from families to work organizations, each of us also performs a number of different roles. Your role as a student is not as well defined as the role of Hamlet, but there is a script of sorts that accompanies each one. Different expectations are attached to your role as a child of your parents, as a brother or a sister, as a friend, as a restaurant goer, and perhaps as a scuba diver. Imagine playing the same role on a Saturday night date as when you visit your grandmother. Did someone say "Last date"?

Bringing a measure of creativity and spontaneity into the way you perform a role can be refreshing and fun. I saw an intriguing production of Hamlet not long ago that was set in the 1940s rather than in Shakespeare's day. Hamlet carried a pistol rather than a sword and sported a double-breasted suit. But too much deviation in carrying out a role can cause real trouble. If you're at the wheel of your Honda in Kansas, it's a good idea to drive on the right side of the road. But please don't try it in London!



 



Social Structures

A social structure is something like the layout of a building. When we are inside an office complex we have no choice but to follow the paths that were designed by the architect. The plan of every building was created with particular activities in mind. Churches and mosques have layouts that are different from the houses where people live or the offices where we work. The features of each design help ensure that when people are inside, their activities will fit the building's purpose. You are not likely to cook a full dinner in your office, but living in a house with an inviting and well-equipped kitchen sometimes brings on an urge to grill steaks or broil some swordfish.

Social structures are patterns we find in societal life that reflect the workings of social systems. A simple social structure sketches out the range of statuses or roles in a system. A population pyramid showing the age distribution of males and females in a country, for example, is an age structure (see Figure 1.2). More complex social structures are built on interrelations among statuses and roles in a social system. And social systems are connected to one another through additional social structures.

A country's age structure says a great deal about the challenges and opportunities that society faces.





Figure 1.2: Three Population Pyramids
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, IDB Population Pyramids, 2007.
 


The population pyramids in Figure 1.2, with the age distributions for males and females on separate sides of the pyramids, indicate that the age structures of Kenya, Sweden and the U.S. are notably divergent from one another. The differences can be explained by several factors that have accounted for unique family patterns in these three countries.

There are two reasons why Kenya has the largest proportion of children among these three countries. Infant mortality rates have dropped sharply in recent decades because of advances in medical and sanitation technology. The tradition of having large families, which was once a key to offsetting high rates of infant death, has not kept pace with the changed conditions. The U.S., in contrast, has a population "bulge" among 30-40 year-olds -- the children of the World War Two "baby boomers." Sweden did not have a baby boom because of a different national experience in World War Two, which accounts for that country's nearly cylindrical pattern from birth well into the 50s age range.





In short, the age structure of a country reveals a great deal about the life of its people, both today and historically. Based on these data, where would you expect to find the greatest population growth in the next fifty years? Which country is likely to have the most difficulty adjusting to fluctuations in the size of different age groups? Which is likely to have the most vocal senior citizens' lobby in the first quarter of the twenty-first century? In which of these nations are young adults the most likely to have trouble finding good jobs?
Children in Ilumán, Ecuador
Children and young adults make half of the population in most Latin American countries. Unemployment rate among young people in all countries of the region, is two or three times higher than for the rest of the population; in some countries it is as high as five times the rate for adults over age 45.


Your own country's age structure influences you directly in several ways. It helps determine how much tax money is collected from your paycheck and how tax revenues are spent. (A country with a large proportion of old people has greater demands on its health system than others.) It affects the availability of jobs. (There is more competition for jobs among young workers if a large proportion of the population is young.) It influences the kinds of jobs that are available, and how much they pay. (The more school-age children there are, the more teachers are needed; and the higher their salaries are likely to become if teachers are in short supply. The more elderly people there are, the more retirement homes and physicians are needed.)

Age structure also has an impact well beyond a country's borders. The fact that Mexico has a disproportionately large number of young people is currently having widespread effects on life in the United States, as you will see when I take up the subjects of immigration and ethnicity later in the book.

Age distributions are not as complex as many other broad structural features that characterize a country, such as its wage structure. Just as a population of people can be described by classifying different statuses, so too can people's earnings. But here the plot thickens, as you saw above in the discussion of earnings and ascribed statuses. Remember Figure 1.1, which indicates that whites typically earn more than blacks, and blacks usually make more than Hispanics. The first step toward understanding the wage structure in a society is to figure out how incomes vary according to such statuses as ethnicity and gender. That will tell us quite a lot about the roles that tend to accompany particular ascribed and achieved statuses. As is the case with age distributions, the wage structure of one country can be vastly different from that of another, as you will see in the chapter on global inequality.

Income is related to education as well as to gender. Among full-time workers in the U.S., more education helps, but it benefits men more than women (see Figure 1.3). Not only are male-female differences in income not eliminated through education, but they actually widen with increasing educational achievement. A similar pattern can be found in all of the world's most economically developed countries -- one that can be traced back at least 200 years.48

Figure 1.3: Median Earnings of Male and Female Workers (in dollars),
by Educational Attainment (2005)*
*Full-time, year-round workers 25 years old and over.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Historical Income Tables - People, tab. P-24.

There are many more social structures that reflect status and role characteristics of a country, and also their interrelationships. Taken together, these social structures tell us a great deal about what that country is like, in comparison with other countries. One reason for studying social structures is that the information they provide helps us to understand trends that are important for personal planning and public policy decisions. If we want to reduce the gender gap in earnings, we first need to understand how the system works.





Institutions and the "Rules of the Game"

You cannot tell by examining social structures by themselves why they take the particular forms that you can see -- why women and African Americans typically earn less money than white males, for example. Economic roles and statuses in the United States produce both homelessness and great wealth, side by side. In Sweden, there is virtually no homelessness, and extremes of wealth and poverty there are less pronounced than in the US. We can sketch out those patterns when we compare wage structures and household living conditions in the US and Sweden, but examining these structural features alone provides few clues to the question of why these differences are evident. To take this next step, we must bring institutions into the picture.

An institution is a complex and enduring social structure whose rules and rewards make the pattern of relations relatively stable. To describe a social structure is to specify in what way roles and statuses are interrelated in a particular area of human activity, and to describe an institution is to add an explanation for why these relationships are maintained.

The traditional American "nuclear" family is an institution comprising a married couple and children that carries expectations about the activities and responsibilities of each family member. ("Nontraditional" American families have a different set of members, and these social structures, too, have become institutionalized in recent years.) There are rewards for following the rules of traditional families, along with penalties for breaking them. So it is with all institutions -- in education, religion, politics, a country's economic system, the military, and other areas as well where patterns of association are institutionalized. The "rules of the game"49 that make institutionalized activity possible are both formal (for example, laws) and informal (e.g., norms of behavior that are enforced through social approval and disapproval). Sometimes, when we find ourselves in unfamiliar surroundings, these institutional rules are anything but obvious.





I once came across a desperate American traveler at an Air France ticket office in Moscow. He was searching around for someone -- anyone -- who could help him communicate with one of the Russian-speaking ticket agents behind the counter. He had just spent the most disastrous week of his life in that unfamiliar city, he told me, and he had lost a huge amount of money. He had come to Russia to set up a business, but he had failed totally. The Moscow business environment was entirely alien to him, he had discovered. He not only was unable to speak the language, but he also had no clear sense of what rules were being used in business dealings there. By the time we met, he was at the end of his rope. As he put it to me, "Please ask them if they can give me a ticket to anywhere, as long as it's away from here. I don't care where!"

It was not the unfamiliarity of the city, with a clearly foreign feel, that had most disoriented this unhappy entrepreneur. Even the language barrier was not his main problem. (Until the day I met him, he had been working with a translator.) His main difficulty was something else. He knew very little about the way of life in the place where he had been trying to operate. Not knowing the rules that people followed in their dealings, he did not know how to make sense of the roles that were being played, and the expectations that others had, as he went from one business appointment to another.

Ancient Tea ceremony (Tokyo, Japan)
The Tea ceremony (Chado) is a unique Japanese institution -- one based on ideas from Zen Buddhism and illustrating the emphasis in Japanese culture on integrating beauty and courtesy into the routines of daily life.

Japanese people of all social groups practice the tradition of tea ceremonies. The ceremony includes a large number of rituals that people know by heart. Almost no movements of the hand are spontaneous. All have meaning, and most are a part of the prescribed ritual. Every participant has a unique role to play in the ceremony. There is so much to learn that many people take tea ceremony lessons with a teacher. The tea ceremony provides a welcome diversion and focus of attention during both work and leisure. For an introduction to Japanese Tea Ceremony visit Chado: The Way of Tea web site.


"People are people, everywhere," you have heard. It is true, but people everywhere do not live by the same rules. The roles they perform as business people, neighbors and friends do not show the same patterns from one place to another or follow the same principles. These divergences are the main source of misunderstanding between people from different cultures.






Institutions and the Social Order

Most of our relations with other people are fairly predictable, following patterns that we know well. When you meet a stranger on the street, you can usually be confident that he will not rob you, hit you or insist that you step aside. If everyday encounters with strangers become unpredictable, you are probably in a war zone or an area where criminals have taken control. It happens, but not in normal life.

If relations among people did not follow patterns that endured over time, there could be no economic system, no political governance, and ultimately no society. It would not be possible to buy, sell or produce goods, because people would lack confidence. We all need assurance that we will be paid for our work, that stores will be open during business hours, that the police will protect and the military will defend us. We know that friends will stick with us and help us when we have problems. Institutions create order when there would otherwise be chaos. Life in societies is always a game in the sense that we live by rules that are imposed by others. We learn these rules from many sources, including our families, schools, religious groups, and TV -- all of which we will take up later as we explore how social systems operate.






Innovation and Social Change

We are not just conformists. If you have seen old movies, you have probably noticed small ways that our behaviors change over time. That process is what makes a film from the 1950s seem "dated" -- not to mention Elvis and the Beatles! The way we think changes, too, as cultural priorities are reshaped. You don't see many cigar and pipe smokers today, and it was not until the 1970s that the environmental movement stared to capture widespread attention. Only at that time did "biodegradable," "endangered species" and "global warming" find a place in everyday conversations.

Then there are the explosive upheavals that transform people's lives in an instant. Wars and revolutions can have that effect, as can new technologies. We have only a vague sense today of how and in what ways developments in communication technology, genetic engineering and a wide range of other areas will affect our lives. In just sixty-six years, we went from the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk to Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. And who was anticipating, just a few decades ago, the top-to-bottom transformations that have been brought on by computers? Then, computers were exotic and expensive machines for specialized uses. No one really expected to own one.

The analysis of these processes is one of the most intriguing windows we can open to the world, as I will try to show throughout this book.

RESEARCH ISSUE:

To what extent are individuals influenced
and shaped by social institutions?

There is widespread disagreement among sociologists about the extent to which societal rules influence individual behavior. According to one perspective, we are at the mercy of larger social forces -- being so responsive to others' opinions and societal values that we tend to blindly follow what is expected of us in every situation. At the other extreme are analysts who suggest that we are primarily rational beings who usually operate in our own self interest. Sometimes economics and sociology are contrasted according to these two conceptions. In this vein, one researcher has suggested tongue-in-cheek that "economics is all about how people make choices," whereas sociology's perspective is that "they don't have any choices to make."50

It is beyond question that institutions influence human behavior, but it is also obvious that we are creative individuals. We exert initiative, and we innovate. We even change institutions, sometimes very quickly. The French monarchy disappeared overnight, as did the Soviet Union. When we take into account the diversity of human behavior, from conformist to innovative, there is reason to conclude that we are all unique individuals partly because we do exercise free will some of the time and partly because each of us is involved in somewhat different clusters of social systems.

Although sociologists typically see mutual influences in the individual-society relationship, there is disagreement about the extent to which we have individual freedom to choose our own course. In the chapters that follow, I will outline a number of factors that constrain us and also others that support creativity and innovation.


Mahatma Ghandi

Mahatma Ghandi was an exceptional leader, in no small part because he achieved an unusual balance of both conformity and innovativeness throughout his life. A revolutionary who advocated and practiced nonviolence, he led the Indian nationalists against British rule and was so effective in that struggle that he is considered the father of India. Ghandi's influence has extended around the world, shaping a wide range of nonviolent movements since his day -- from Martin Luther King's civil rights activity to Greenpeace campaigns for environmental protection.

Albert Einstein said of Ghandi, "Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



An unanswered question for all of the social sciences is whether our economic, political and social institutions can match the accelerating pace of developments in science and technology. Assessments among today's experts vary widely, and I will explore the range of them with you in the chapters that follow.

On one side are Worldwatch Institute director Lester Brown and mainstream environmentalists, who argue that today's economic priorities are destroying our ability to sustain human life on the planet, and that they must be radically transformed if we are to survive.51 Taking the opposite position are Reason editor Virginia Postrel and many "mainstream" economists, who believe that the future can be bright if we give individuals the freedom to innovate and develop creative solutions to yet-unforeseen problems. In sum, their message is that we should leave the economy to follow its own rules. If we don't, they say, innovativeness will be stifled and progress will be held back -- often by "solutions" that don't fit the realities of ever-changing environmental and technological conditions.52

The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (University of Pennsylvania, 1946)
The world's first general purpose electronic computer had 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighed 30 tons. The author of a 1949 Popular Mechanics article about the ENIAC computer optimistically predicted that "computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1.5 tons." (Grover, 1999) Today, the computing power of that 30-ton machine can be put on a single fingernail-size computer chip.


But a number of analysts see a chilling downside of technological advance and globalization that goes beyond environmental issues. Zygmunt Bauman maintains, for example, that technology and globalization make not only jobs but also entire communities obsolete, and that personal security is not to be found in this new setting. "Thrown into a vast open see with no navigation charts," Bauman writes, "we have only two choices left: we may rejoice in the breathtaking vistas of new discoveries -- or we may tremble out of fear of drowning."53 With our technologically-driven mentalities, Theodore Roszak argues, we are rapidly casting aside traditional restraints that keep social relations civil. Now, he suggests, we are losing the discipline that accompanied earlier scarcities -- a condition that bestowed a sense of balance and purpose. Increasingly, we pursue unrestrained appetites and aspirations "to produce and devour without limit, to build big, kill big, control big."54

To other researchers, the future is likely to be, if not ideal, at least exhilarating. In their book A Future Perfect, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wolldridge write about globalization's efficiency and promise -- cautioning that one of its chief liabilities is the "psychic energy" it generates. That, too, has advantages. It makes us perform better and become even more efficient.55

In short, there are more questions than answers about globalization. Does globalization promise a democratic future or one dominated by ever more powerful global elites? Can the pattern of rising inequality that has accompanied global restructuring be turned around? Will national identities be preserved in an increasingly "connected" world? And what of those people and places that are being left out? The way we resolve the issues surrounding such questions as these will determine the character of societal life in the twenty-first century, and these subjects are prominently addressed throughout this book.

As researchers inquire into change processes and prospects they sometimes cross swords over the purpose of sociological inquiry itself. The way this question is answered by different researchers has a great deal to do with the kinds of research questions they choose to ask, the theoretical approaches they take in their studies, and the methodological procedures they use in gathering data for analysis.

RESEARCH ISSUE: What is the purpose of sociological inquiry?

Some analysts favor an analytical approach that is directed primarily toward increasing our knowledge about "what is" and explaining it. Other researchers are more oriented toward a normative sociology (sometimes discussed in the context of "critical inquiry" and "action sociology") that may challenge existing policies and dominant values. Normative sociology tends to take a position about what "should be" and work to achieve particular outcomes in society. Because sociological inquiry often focuses on prominent issues, the divergent priorities of these two perspectives can lead to heated public controversy about the purpose of sociological work.56

Discord about the most useful approaches to studying social life is nothing new. During the time of Plato and Aristotle, scholars tended to be more interested in making moral judgments and formulating prescriptions for social living than inquiring analytically into processes and patterns of social relations. One of the first thinkers to challenge this normative approach to social inquiry was Montesquieu (Charles de Secondat, Baron de la Brčde et de Montesquieu,1689-1755)-- a French philosopher, and a judge, who lived more than 2000 years after the classical Greek period.

Instead of advocating a "correct" type of political system, for example, Montesequieu suggested that different societies needed their own distinctive political approaches, adapted to their particular culture. In each society could be found its own "natural law of development," Montesquieu believed, and the task of analysts was to gain knowledge of these varying principles that shape human activity.57 This was a revolutionary view for Montesquieu's day, and it marked the beginning of an approach to the study of society that would become increasingly prominent as the social sciences started to establish their own place among analysts of society in the late nineteenth century, most of whom until that point were social philosophers rather than sociologists or political scientists.58

Throughout this book, I will highlight the perspectives of researchers who have followed Montesquieu on the path toward understanding social relations in a new way. At the same time, I will balance this approach with discussions of those who favor more active involvement by researchers in social policy advocacy -- analysts who agree with Karl Marx that "philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways," but that "the point, however, is to change it."59






Social Identities and a "Collective We"

From the eighteenth century onward in the West, and more recently in other world regions, cultural traditions that formerly went virtually unquestioned have increasingly been scrutinized and sometimes rejected by a large number of people. It is usual today for individuals to actively work at constructing unique social identities that reflect self-conscious choices about how to live.

In forming social identities that diverge from what might have been expected in earlier times, people are often creating systems of meaning for themselves that are distinct from the dominant ideas and values of the larger culture. This is not a new phenomenon, but with the advance of globalization, it is increasingly widespread.

Of course, social identities do not arise from nowhere. It is noteworthy that the identities we create for ourselves connect us with a larger group of people with whom we choose to identify.

 

Friends (Vienna, Austria).
To hold a social identity is to consciously affirm a self-definition that is a feature of a larger group of people with whom you want to be in some way connected. Social identities say something significant about who you are -- not just about your personality, but also about the way your personality interacts with the identity that you have arrived at for yourself.


The importance of collective social identities in today's world could hardly be exaggerated. A number of groups that have historically experienced discrimination -- women, ethnic minorities and gays, for example -- have managed to pursue their interests effectively in recent times by organizing around their sense of collective identity. Some elements of this process are not new. Interest groups have historically operated in every sphere of life -- from friendship cliques to business associations and political pressure groups. Sociological analysis pays close attention to the workings of interest groups in all areas of human activity -- some overtly political and others that are more oriented toward helping individuals create their own networks of association in a world of increasing autonomy.

At their core, identity issues reflect a revolution in societal priorities and ways of seeing. Sociologist Alain Touraine argues that the struggle over identity that is widespread today has largely taken the place of the historic class struggle between owners and workers.60 There was a time when working class solidarity spilled out into the street, in demonstrations against ruling elites. These were revolutions that toppled empires. But in recent years, "identity politics" has become an increasingly frequent basis for organizing "us" against "them."

Today's expressions of group identity are more voluntary than before, and more a result of conscious choice among a multiplicity of alternatives. Workers had few alternatives when societal forces came together in pitting the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. In contrast, today's network society offers a heretofore unimagined range of possibilities for constructing social identities and for establishing connections with groups of every sort. In later chapters, we will see how these trends are tied to recent developments in culture, politics, religion and family life.

Values We Live For

Living in society teaches us not only what we must do to fare well, but also what we should value. These conceptions about what is desirable and good are the central components of any culture. If language is culture's mechanism for communicating ideas and knowledge, values are the most cultural-specific content that is communicated through language.



interest group: A collec-tivity that tries to promote rules or outcomes that will be in some way favorable to the group's well-being or to its priorities.

 

Headgear (Fort Worth, Texas)
Why are these men wearing ten-gallon hats indoors, far removed from the scorching sun? And how many items in your own wardrobe serve primarily as "markers" signifying that we are connected to one group rather than another? My collection of neckties surely does . . .



Disagreements about policies that should be adopted and priorities that should be followed in society ultimately center on values. Organizations of all types seek our loyalty, and a key resource in this process is their appeal to overarching values.61 In politics, values are key debating points as proposed legislation is being discussed. Values are presented as the main reason for favoring both tax cuts and tax increases, for wanting both universal health care, on the one hand, and a private medical system, on the other. Values are brought into advertising to sell products, and they are a the keystone of arguments against consumerism.62
Remembering Vietnam (Washington, DC).
"...this memorial is for those who have died, and for us to remember them." - Maya Ying Lin, designer, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.


Because values are summoned for a wide variety of purposes, a prominent question for sociological inquiry concerns how much overall value consensus is needed for a social system to operate effectively. There are sharply divergent views about this question among social scientists. The debate can be summarized by contrasting the long-standing consensus doctrine, on the one hand, and the doctrine of private interest, on the other. Few issues in the social sciences are more important to both self-awareness and a deeper understanding of the larger social forces that influence both personal life and public policy making.


values: conceptions about what is desirable and good. Values are the central component of culture.

 

 



RESEARCH ISSUE:

How much value consensus is needed for a society or any other social system to function well?

The focus of the consensus doctrine is the shared values and beliefs that tie individuals to the social systems in which they participate. From this viewpoint, what holds societies and groups together depends critically on their shared perspectives. The consensus doctrine draws on the legitimating power of tradition and history. National anthems, holiday celebrations and religious observances provide ongoing occasions for people to share a collective memory and purpose. A common language is also often emphasized. For governments to persuade citizens to make sacrifices, whether of time or income, requires that people see themselves as part of a larger whole, it is thought -- to hold a set of common values about national identity. Hitler's Nazism showed the world how dangerous this identity can become, however, when it is directed against others.

The doctrine of private interest appeared as an argument to support the initiatives of individuals who wanted to break free from traditional constraints on their activity, especially in commerce. At the core of this orientation is the belief that individuals should pursue their own personal interests, relatively free from the collective consciousness that can stifle individual initiative. The doctrine of private interest is a cornerstone of the social contract doctrine, which holds that people whose interests are in conflict can still work together by agreeing on rules to govern their relations. It is also consistent with free market ideas that now predominate in much of the world -- a perspective that supports individualism and limited government.






Controversy and Agreement in Sociology

Why Sociologists Disagree among Themselves

The four research issues that I have highlighted in this chapter show that there are basic disagreements among sociologists over how the world works, the kinds of analytical strategies that are the most useful for studying social relations, the desirability of policy advocacy as a major component of sociological inquiry, and the importance of shared values for societal well-being.

Our views often differ on these core issues for obvious reasons. Human behavior is bewilderingly complex -- with an unpredictable mix of personal motivations and divergent approaches to nearly every aspect of life and interaction. If chemists had to concern themselves with helium and zinc atoms that had not only atomic weights but also creative intellects, the periodic table of the elements would not be laid out so systematically. And how different would biology be if plants and flowers were more influenced by the environments in which they grew than by genes? It should be no wonder, then, that advances in sociological understanding have come slowly and with many turns and twists along the way.

The uniqueness of human relations has led some analysts to argue that the approach of physics and biology is not adequate for the social sciences -- that the nature of social interaction requires an approach that draws from the arts as much as from science.63 There is a lively debate about the applicability of the scientific method to social inquiry, and I will address this question more fully in chapter two.64

Key Areas of Consensus

Although disagreements among sociologists are profound, there is a high degree of consensus in the field on many key questions. On these subjects, our differences are modest in comparison to the wide divergence of viewpoints among the general public. Put differently, there is a distinctly sociological perspective from which you can draw to gain insight about social relations.

Nearly all sociologists believe that to adequately understand social life, it is important to examine the interplay between individuals and society, and to place our own situations in a broader historical context.65 Most subscribe to the idea that sociology's central task is to make connections among diverse aspects of social life -- "from examination of a single family to comparative assessment of the national budgets of the world," as C. Wright Mills put it in his classic work The Sociological Imagination.66 A large number of sociologists emphasize the need to study the subjective meanings that people attach to their own actions and the behaviors of others.67 Social interaction is so important to the creation of meaning that, as Peter Berger describes it in Invitation to Sociology, "Individuals who change their meaning systems must, therefore, change their social relationships."68 Sociologists also typically share the notion that important insight can be gained through the analysis of social structures69 and that research is strengthened through comparisons of different places and time periods as we work to acquire better knowledge about the workings of social systems.70 And there are additional areas of widespread agreement, as you will see in every chapter that follows.





The Plan of the Book

I have written the first two chapters to give you an overall sense of what sociology is and how sociologists go about studying and interpreting the social world. My principal aim in these early chapters is to help you begin developing your own sociological world view -- one that you can expand and apply as you examine social relations in this book and in everyday living.

Beginning with chapter three, the main emphasis will be on what we have learned and continue to explore through sociological inquiry. Our knowledge is advancing rapidly, and I hope to convey both the substance of these developments and the excitement of the ongoing search for better understanding. The early chapters take up fundamental societal processes -- population change, cultural learning, urbanization, resource use and patterns for allocating wealth and esteem. Then, I discuss core political and economic features of societies and the shape of social relations in both small and large groups. Among the defining features of life as the twenty-first century begins, globalization stands out above most others. In writing this book, I have paid close attention to the implications of globalization for the main subjects of every chapter.

We're beginning an intriguing journey -- one that I hope will capture your imagination and introduce you to a new way of seeing the world. And who can guess what may come of that?






Glossary

achieved status: A position that a person attains voluntarily -- often through effort and personal ability.

ascribed status: A position that a person did not choose to adopt but which, once acquired, has social implications.

consensus doctrine: The focus of the consensus doctrine is the shared values, beliefs and experiences that tie individuals to the groups in which they live.

doctrine of private interest: At the core of this orientation is the belief that different people have their own distinct interests, and that societal relations can be efficiently worked out if individuals are allowed to rationally work to achieve their own self interest.

institution: A complex and enduring social structure whose rules and rewards make the pattern of relations relatively stable. To describe a social structure is to specify in what way roles and statuses are interrelated in a particular area of human activity, and to describe an institution is to add an explanation for why these relationships are maintained.

interests: Wants, hopes, wishes, and claims that are associated with outcomes that are seen as being personally significant (or important to a larger group). You may have an interest in seeing laws passed that would reduce taxes, for example, or that would redistribute wealth. You may have an interest in seeing land turned back to Native Americans, or in seeing more restrictions on immigration. Such interests could be associated with your personal well being, in financial or other terms, or they could result from your values, whether or not you would benefit by seeing the interests realized. Interests may be related to any sphere of life, whether political, economic or cultural.

interest group: A collectivity that tries to promote rules or outcomes that will be in some way favorable to the group's well-being or to its priorities. The National Rifle Association is an interest group, as are Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the American Civil Liberties Union.

macrosociology: Uses a broad canvas to examine overarching patterns and trends. Researchers doing macrosociological analysis often study larger systems -- the political or the economic system, for example -- to learn how trends in one area are tied to changes in another.

microsociology: Directs our attention to ongoing, day-to-day relationships among people. It is concerned with behavior in face-to-face situations and small groups.

role: A set of behaviors that are seen as being appropriate to a particular status, or to a cluster of statuses.

scientific method: An approach to inquiry that centers on theories and the process of testing theories through systematic data collection and analysis. It demands a level of detachment on the part of the investigator that is intended to eliminate the distorting effects of personal bias in the research process.

social contract doctrine: Holds that people with conflicting interests can work together by agreeing on rules that will govern their interaction

social identities: Self-definitions and decisions about how to live that are consciously made to distinguish ourselves from others around us and from our larger culture.

social structures: Patterns we find in societal life that reflect the workings of social systems. A simple social structure reflects the range of statuses or roles in a system. A population pyramid showing the age distribution of males and females in a country, for example, is an age structure. More complex social structures are built on interrelations among these statuses and roles. And social systems are connected to one another through additional social structures.

social system: Any enduring arrangement in which relationships among the component parts are relatively close and are ordered in ways that are somewhat unique to that particular system -- thus different in key respects from relations that can be found in other social systems. The key components that define a social system are statuses, roles, social structures and institutions.

sociology: The scientific study of arrangements that give structure and continuity to human relations and also of forces that produce change.

status: A position in a social system that carries with it a set of expectations, rights, and duties that are recognized both by the holder of the position and by others.

values: Conceptions about what is desirable and good. Values are the central components of culture.




 


Hot Links

SocioSite: Sociological Theories and Perspectives. This link takes you to the theory section of a large and intriguing listing of resources in sociology. Maintained at the University of Amsterdam.

The SocioLog. A useful general compilation of sociology web sites by Julian Dierkes, a professor at the University of British Columbia.

WWW Virtual Library: Sociology. You'll find links here to sociological resources under several categories: theories, journals, software, LISTSERVs, and more...

A Sociological Tour through Cyberspace. You'll find lots of good links here to information sources on several key sociological topics. The site is managed by Professor Michael C. Kearl at Trinity University.

A Sociology Timeline from 1600. Need names and dates? They're here!





Supplementary Web Reading

Peter L. Berger, Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective: Chapter 1: "Sociology as an Individual Pastime."

Anthony Giddens, "Runaway World" (BBC, Reith Lectures, 1999). A series of five lectures about globalization by one of the world's most eminent sociologists. The lectures are available both in print and as streaming audio files.





Summary Study Questions

Core Questions from the Chapter

1. As with the physics of flight and of architecture, sociological knowledge helps us to better understand our world by taking us _____.

2. The chapter speaks about " society's principal institutions that build cooperation and solidarity." Are these institutions relatively unchanging from generation to generation, or are they being rapidly transformed?

3. (T/F) Social change predictably leads to disruption at many levels.

4. In several books and articles, Saskia Sassen identifies a new kind of urban system, brought on by _____, in which some cities have become centers of commerce and communication around the world.

5. Why is the study of inequality prominent in sociological research?

6. Please address this question that is posed in chapter one: "Why are cultural understandings so central to who we are, in spite of the fact that they are easily manipulated and obviously vary greatly from one group and society to another?"

7. Sociological work combines a focus on "the big picture" with ______. How are macrosociology and microsociology fundamentally different from one another?

8. Writing about the implications of globalization for jobs around the world, analyst Edward Luttwak takes a ______ (macrosociological/microsociological) approach in his book Turbo Capitalism.

9. In carrying out the research for his book The Corrosion of Character, Richard Sennett book interviewed interviewed a number of former IBM managers and engineers over the course of several months. These were people who had been laid off when the company downsized to cover losses that resulted from increased competition in the globalizing economy. This study is an example of ______ (macrosociological/microsociological) analysis.

10. Do sociologists generally take the view that micro-to-macro explanation is possible?

11. What are social systems, and how do they change?

12. Some statuses are achieved and some are ascribed. What is the difference between the two?

13. What is a social structure? Give examples of three or four different types of social structure.

14. Distinguish between institutions and organizations.

15. Institutional influences can be either formal or informal. Distinguish between these two kinds of institutional factors.

16. Why is it useful to know something about social structures in society?

17. In forming social identities that diverge from what might have been expected in earlier times, people are ______.

18. What are interest groups?

19. What are significant areas of consensus in sociology?

Broader Question for Further Thought

1. A friend says, "I hear that you're taking introductory sociology. You know, I've always wondered, What is sociology, anyway? What's the point in studying it?" Answer your friend. In the process, give an example or two of questions, issues or problems that can be usefully approached through sociological analysis. Describe as best you can what the value of sociological analysis could be in such cases, based on your reading of this chapter.

2. Please discuss and illustrate this statement from chapter one: "In times of large-scale societal change, not only are familiar ways of living overturned, but the patterns that are thereby created present new opportunities and constraints."

3. Sociologists study ethnicity from several different vantage points. Discuss two or three different approaches that are found in sociological writing.

4. Discuss the statement by Douglass North that institutions are "the constraints that human beings impose on themselves." Think about the discussion of institutions in chapter one, and try to answer these questions, drawing on your own experiences and knowledge that you have acquired about human behavior from various sources: Why do we impose institutional constraints on ourselves? How do we do it? And when do we do it? Give examples to illustrate your conclusions.

5. How do institutions help to maintain the social order?

6. It is suggested in this chapter that analysis of key structural features in a society can have clear implications for many kinds of business and public policy planning, and even for the pursuit of your own personal objectives. Give a couple of examples to illustrate this point, perhaps discussing a structural characteristic that might be important in the personal sphere, and then identifying one that could be significant for business or public policy planning. Include enough detail in your discussion to make it clear how analysis of these structural features can be worthwhile.

7. What are the clearest strengths of the consensus doctrine and of the doctrine of private interests? Explain the reason for what you say. As you think about the differences in these two perspectives, illustrate how each of these points of view can help inform a particular question or problem.





Recommended Books

Babbie, Earl. R. What Is Society? Reflections in Freedom, Order, and Change. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 1994.

Berger, Peter L. Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective. New York: Anchor Books, 1963.

Charon, Joel M. Ten Questions: A Sociological Perspective. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1995.

Johnson, Allan G. The Forest and the Trees: Sociology as Life, Practice, and Promise. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1997.

Mills, C. Wright. The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press, 1959.


 

 




Footnotes

1Stacey, 1996, p. 2. See also Stacey, 1998, p. 17.
2Wolfe, 1998, p. 297.
3Farrell, 1999, p. 165.
4Durkheim, 1915, pp. 464-66.
5See Dobbelaere, 1999.
6Stark, 1999.
7Stark and Bainbridge, 1985.
8Marx and Engels, 1930, p. 28.
9See Mills, 1956.
10Beck, 1999, pp. 39, 91-108.
11See, for example, Alston, Grove & Wheelock, 1990; Pearlstein, 2000, p. A6.
12See, for example, Sassen, 2001; and Sassen, 1994.
13Abu-Lughod, 1999.
14Isaacs, 1975, p. 30. See also Scott, 1990; and Stack, 1986.
15Clinton, 1993; Christopher, 1993.
16Sadowski, 1998, p. 151.
17See Sadowski, 1998, p. 149; and Lipschutz and Crawford, 1996.
18Patterson, 1998, p. 271.
19Hall, 1992, p. 258.
20Banton, 1994, p. 6.
21Kandiyoti, 1996, p. 315.
22Wilson, 1996, p. 234.
23Wilson, 1996, p. 238. See also Wilson, 1987.
24World Bank, 2000. pp.10-12; 106-8.
25Peirce, 2001.
26Williams, 1992.
27Hochschild, 1997b, p. 247.
28Skocpol, 2000.
29It was not that Protestantism was more open to scientific advance than the Catholic Church, but rather than early Protestant leaders had less political power than their Catholic counterparts. See Kuhn, 1959, p. 191.
30Chirot, 1994.
31Castells, 2001, p. 5.
32Mead, 1934.
33See, for example, Abu-Lughod, 1998; and Atwood, 1990.
34Weber, 1958.
35Juergensmeyer, 2001, p. 18.
36Goffman, 1959.
37Swidler, 2001b, p. 15.
38Swidler, 2001b, p. 24.
39Swidler, 2001b, p. 19.
40Luttwak, 2000, p. 102.
41Luttwak, 2000, p. 106.
42Sennett, 1998, p. 148.
43Coleman, 1990, p. 2.
44Collins, 1994., p. 985.
45See Nee, 1998, p. 4; Coleman, 1990, p. 6; and Ritzer, chap. 10.
46Johnson, 1997, p. 13.
47Luhmann, 1982, p. 70.
48See United Nations, 2000.
49North, 1990, p. 3. See also North, 1998, p. 248.
50Duesenberry, 1960, p. 233.
51See Brown, 2000.
52See Postrel, 1998.
53Bauman, 1998, p. 85.
54Roszak, 1972, p. xvi.
55Micklethwait and Wooldridge, 2000.
56For example, see Crotty, 1998, pp. 157-82.
57Fletcher, 1971, p. 117
58See Collins, 1994, pp. 194-96.
59Marx wrote these words in his Theses on Feuerbach, and they are engraved on his tombstone as the defining summary of his ideas and life's work.
60See Castells, 1996, p. 23.
61For an excellent discussion of this subject, see Coser, 1974.
62Schudson, 1984, especially chapter 7.
63See O'Brien, 1999, pp. 22-33; Nisbet, 1976.
64See Crotty, 1998, pp. 157-82.
65See, for example, Mills, 1959, p.5; Berger, 1963, p.128; Johnson, 1997, p.13
66Mills, 1959, p. 7.
67Weber, 1964, p. 88; also Berger, 1963, pp. 26-27.
68Berger, 1963, p. 64.
69Lemert, 1997, p. 127.
70Mills, 1959, p. 251; see also Alford, 1998, p. 40.


 

 




References

NOTE: The references for chapters are listed in Appendix B.