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Chapter 5. Social Interaction and Social Structure. Social Interaction and Reality. Social Interaction : Sociologists use the term social interaction to refer to the ways in which people respond to one another , whether face to face or over the telephone or computer.

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chapter 5

Chapter 5

Social Interaction and Social Structure

social interaction and reality
Social Interaction and Reality
  • Social Interaction: Sociologists use the term social interaction to refer to the ways in which people respond to one another, whether face to face or over the telephone or computer.
  • Social structure:refers to the way in which a society is organized into predictable relationships. These concepts are central to sociological study; they focus on how different aspects of behavior are related to one another.
Defining and Reconstructing Reality

The distinctive characteristic of social interactions among people, according to Herbert Blumer, is that “human beings interpret or ‘define’ each other’s actions instead of merely reacting to each other’s action.’’

Reality is shaped by our perceptions, evaluations, and definitions. The ability to define social reality reflects a group’s power within a society. Indeed, one of the most crucial aspects of the relationship between dominant and subordinate groups is the ability of the dominant or majority group to define a society’s values.
Negotiated Order
    • Negotiation refers to the attempt to reach agreement with others concerning some objective. Negotiation does not involve coercion, it goes by many names including bargaining, compromising, trading off, mediating, exchanging, ‘wheeling and dealing’ and collusion.
Negotiated order refers to a social structure that derives its existence from the social interactions through which people define and redefine its character. Negotiation is a cultural universal; all societies provide guidelines or norms in which negotiation takes place.
elements of social structure
Elements of Social Structure
  • Statuses: We normally think of a person\'s "status" as having to do with influence, wealth, and fame. However, sociologists use status to refer to any of the full range of socially defined positions within a large group or society—from the lowest to the highest position. Clearly, a person holds more than one status simultaneously.
Ascribed (歸屬) and Achieved Status (成就地位)

An ascribed status is “assigned” to a person by society

without regard for the person’s unique talents or characteristics.

Generally, this assignment takes place at birth; thus, a person’s

racial background, gender, and age are all considered ascribed

statuses. Unlike ascribed statuses, an achieved status is

attained by a person largely through his or her own effort. One

must do something to acquire an achieved status— go to

school, learn a skill, establish a friendship, or invent a new


Master Status (主要地位)

A master status is a status that dominates others

and thereby determines a person’s general

position within society.

Social Roles
    • What are social Roles?

A social role is a set of expectations for people who occupy a given social position or status.

    • Role Conflict (角色衝突)

It occurs when incompatible expectations arise from two or more social positions held by the same person.

    • Role Strain (角色緊張)

Describe difficulties that result from the differing demands and expectations associated with the same social position.

Role Exit (角色退出)
    • Describe the process of disengagement from a role that is central to one’s self-identity and reestablishment of an identity in a new role.
    • Four stage model of role exit:
      • Doubt
      • Search for alternatives
      • Action stage or departure
      • Creation of a new identity

In sociological terms, a group is any number of people with similar norms, values, and expectations who regularly and consciously interact. Groups play a vital part in a society’s social structure. Much of our social interaction takes place within groups and is influenced by their norms and sanctions.

Social Networks and Technology
    • Social network is a series of social relationships that links a person directly to others and therefore indirectly to still more people. Social networks may constrain people by limiting the range of their interactions, yet these networks may also empower people by making available vast resources.
Technology:with advances in technology, we can now maintain social networks electronically. We don’t need face-to-face contacts for knowledge sharing anymore. It is not uncommon for those looking for employment or for a means of identifying someone with common interests to first turn to the Internet.
Social Institutions (社會制度):The mass media, the government, the economy, the family, and the health care system are all examples of social institutions found in our society. Social Institutions are organized patterns of beliefs and behavior centered on basic social needs, such as replacing personnel (the family) and preserving order (the government).
Functionalist View:

One way to understand social institutions is to see how they fulfill essential functions. Social scientists have identified five major tasks, or functional prerequisites, that a society or relatively permanent group must accomplish if it is to survive. These are:

    • replacing personnel – any group or society must replace personnel when they die, leave or become incapacitated
    • teaching new recruits – no group can survive if many of its members reject the established behaviour and responsibilities of the group; the group must encourage recruits to learn and accept its values and customs.
(3) producing and distributing goods and services – any relatively permanent group or society must provide and distribute desired goods and services for its members.

(4) preserving order – a critical function of every group or society is: preserving order and protecting itself from attack.

(5) providing and maintaining a sense of purpose – people must feel motivated to continue as members of a society in order to fulfill the previous four requirements.

Conflict View:

While both the functionalist and the conflict perspectives agree that social institutions are organized to meet basic social needs, conflict theorists object to the implication inherent in the functionalist view that the outcome is necessarily efficient and desirable. From a conflict perspective, major institutions help to maintain the privileges of the most powerful individuals and groups within a society, while contributing to the powerlessness of others. Social institutions also operate in gendered or racist environments, as conflict theorists, as well as feminists and interactionists, have pointed out. In schools, offices, and governmental institutions, assumptions are made about what people can do that reflect the sexism and racism of the larger society.

Interactionist View:

Interactionist theorists emphasize that our social behavior is conditioned by the roles and statuses that we accept, the groups to which we belong, and the institutions within which we function.

social structure in global perspective
Social Structure in Global Perspective
  • Tönnies Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft:
    • According to sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies, the Gemeinschaft(共同社會) community is typical of rural life. It is a small community in which people have similar backgrounds and life experiences. Virtually everyone knows one another, and social interactions are intimate and familiar, almost as one might find among kinfolk.
There is a commitment to the larger social group and a sense of togetherness among community members. People relate to others in a personal way, not just as ‘clerk’ or ‘manager’.
  • Social control in the Gemeinschaft is maintained through informal means such as moral persuasion, gossip, and even gestures.
By contrast, the Gesellschaft(利益社會) is an ideal type characteristic of modern urban life. Most people are strangers and feel little in common with other community residents. Relationships are governed by social roles that grow out of immediate tasks, such as purchasing a product or arranging a business meeting. Self-interests dominate, and there is generally little consensus concerning values or commitment to the group.
As a result, social control must rely on more formal techniques, such as laws and legally defined punishments.
Lenski\'s Sociocultural Evolution Approach:Sociologist Gerhard Lenski sees human societies as undergoing change according to a dominant pattern, known as sociocultural evolution. This term refers to the "process of change and development in human societies that results from cumulative growth in their stores of cultural information." In Lenski\'s view, a society\'s level of technology is critical to the way it is organized. There are three types of preindustrial societies, which are categorized according to the way in which the social institution of the economy is organized: the hunting-and-gathering society, the horticultural society, and the agrarian society.
As the industrial revolution proceeded, a new form of social structure emerged. An industrial society is a society that depends on mechanization to produce its goods and services. Industrial societies relied on new inventions that facilitated agricultural and industrial production and on new sources of energy such as steam.
Post-industrial society:

is a society whose economic system is engaged primarily in the processing and control of information. The main output of a post-industrial society is information and services rather than manufactured/material goods.

Post-modern society:
    • is a technologically sophisticated society that is preoccupied with consumer goods and media images. Such societies consume goods and information on a mass scale.
    • take a global perspective and note the ways that aspects of culture cross national boundaries.