Chapter 4 Society • Society is people who interact in a defined territory and share a culture. • The concept of society is very simple however the dynamics that make society can be very complicated.
Gerhard Lenski • Lenski's theory begins from the insights of T. Robert Malthus. From Malthus Lenski borrows the observation that human societies are part of the world of nature. Human societies are subject to natural law. • Sociocultural systems can only be fully understood as being responsive to the interactions of populations to their environments. • Lenski's perspective lies the relationship between population and production. Like many life forms humans have a reproductive capacity that substantially exceeds the necessary subsistence resources in the environment.
Lenski Continued • Thus, Lenski concludes, human populations tend to grow until they come up against the limits of food production, and then they are checked. • The capacity for population growth, Lenski asserts, has been a “profoundly destabilizing force throughout human history and may well be the ultimate source of most social and cultural change.” • Lenski's ecological-evolutionary theory successfully integrates and synthesizes a variety of theoretical perspectives and ideals.
Lenski Society and Technology • Hunting and gathering societies use simple tools to hunt animals and gather vegetation. • Horticultural and pastoral societies use technology that supports the development of tools to raise crops, and domesticate animals. • Agrarian societies are based on agriculture and the use of technology for large scale cultivation, plows harnessed to animals, and energy. • These societies initiated irrigation, the wheel, writing, and numbers. • Industrial societies based on the production of goods using advanced sources of energy. • Post industrial societies based on technology and information based economy.
Lenski Continued • He highlights the importance of technology. • It is the defining character of any society. • How has technology changed our way of thinking and dealing with people on a day to day basis? • Are we better off than our parents or grandparents? • When is technology and the latest gadget all too much? • Do you think the Amish might have had a point?
Karl Marx – Social Conflict • Marx understood that human societies are a complex and always changing. • The story of society spins around the idea of social conflict. • This conflict arises from how people produce material goods, and who controls the distribution of those goods. • Marx felt that real change in society and culture comes from this struggle/conflict.
Marx Continued • “The Mechanisms of Change,” reproduces several parts of Marx's analysis of the mechanisms by which contradictions develop in capitalism and generate group conflicts. • Included is an analysis of competition and its effects on the various classes, a discussion of economic crises and their effects on workers. • Marx's perspective of the historical specifics of the class struggle.
Marx – Society and Conflict • Society and production, profit-oriented capitalists, people who own factories and other productive enterprises. • The Proletarians, people who provide labor needed to operate factories and other productive enterprises. • Marx believed that conflict between these two classes was unavoidable, and this would only change when people changed capitalism itself. • All societies are composed of social institutions which define major spheres of life.
Marx Continued • Marx’s approach is based on materialism, which asserts that the production of material goods shapes all aspects of society. • Also according to Marx most people in modern societies do not pay much attention to social conflict, because they are trapped in a false consciousness, which is the explanations of social problems that blame the shortcomings of individuals rather than on the flaws of society.
Marx Continued • Capitalism and alienation, was how Marx condemned capitalism for promoting alienation, the experience of isolation resulting from powerlessness. • Marx argued that industrial capitalism alienated workers in four ways; • 1. Alienation from the act of working. • 2. Alienation from the products of work. • 3. Alienation from other workers. • 4. Alienation from human potential. * Marx was certain a socialist revolution would overthrow a capitalist system.
Max Weber – The Rationalization of Society • This power or control of ideas can also shape society in a tremendous way. • Weber’s work reflects the idealist perspective that human ideas shape society. • Weber contrasted the traditional thinking of simple societies with the concept of rational thought which he argued dominates our modern way of life. • The concept that ideas can influence society was a very different way of analyzing societies as a whole, and in contrast to Marx.
Weber Continued • Two world views, Traditional and Rationality. • Weber wrote that members of preindustrial societies embrace tradition, beliefs passed down from generation to generation. • Meanwhile industrial societies were characterized by rationality. • Deliberate, matter of fact calculation of the most efficient means to accomplish a particular task.
Weber Continued • The Industrial Revolution and the rise of capitalism both reflect the rationalization of society, the historical change from the tradition to rationality as the dominate mode of human thought. • Countries with traditional cultures cannot afford to ignore, or resist technological innovation, nations with highly rationalized ways of life quickly embrace such change.
Weber Continued • Is Capitalism rational? Weber considered industrial capitalism the essence of rationality. • Since capitalists pursue profit in whatever ways they can. • Marx however believed capitalism was irrational because it failed to meet the basic needs of most of the people. • Weber’s great thesis: Protestantism and capitalism-Weber traced the roots of modern rationality to Calvinist Protestantism, which preached the notion that success in one’s calling testified to one’s place among the saved.
Weber Continued • Weber identified seven characteristics of rational social organizations: • 1. Distinctive social institutions • 2. Large scale organizations • 3. Specialized tasks • 4. Personal discipline • 5. Awareness of time • 6. Technical competence • 7. Impersonality Final note Weber feared that the rationalization of society carried with it a tendency toward dehumanization or alienation. He felt that this was unavoidable.
Emile Durkheim – Society and Function • Society is a collective organism far more than the sum of its parts. • Society shapes individuals’ behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. • The concept of social fact, rather than the experience of individuals. • Social fact extends beyond it effect on individuals and helps society itself function as a complex system. • People build personalities by internalizing social facts.
Durkheim Continued • Durkheim warned of anomie, a societal condition in which individuals receive little moral guidance. • The division of labor, or specialized economic activity, has increased throughout human history. • Traditional societies are characterized by a strong collective or mechanical solidarity, social bonds, based on shared moral sentiments that unite members of preindustrial societies. • In modern societies mechanical solidarity declines and is partially replaced by organic solidarity, social bonds, based on specialization that unite members of industrial societies. • This shift is accompanied by a decline in the level of trust between members of the society.
Emile Durkheim • Helped us to see the different ways that traditional and modern societies hang together.
Final Thoughts and Questions • What do you think about the Information Revolution? • What would Durkheim have thought? • How do you think Lenski, Marx, Weber, and Durkheim influenced our thinking about societies today? • What hold societies together? • How have societies changed? • Why do you suppose societies change over the course of time? • Is society getting better or worse? • What societies gain through technological advances may offset the loss of human community? Explain
Chapter 4 Society Terms • Society-people who interact in a defined territory and share a culture. • Socioculturalevoluton-Lenski’stermfor the changes that occur as a society acquires new technology. • Hunting and gathering-use of simple tools to hunt and gather vegetation. • Horticulture-the use of hand tools to raise crops. • Pastoralism-the domestication of animals. • Agriculture-large scale cultivation using plows harsessed to animals or larger energy sources. • Industrialism-the production of goods using advanced sources of energy to drive large machinery. • Postindustrialism-technology that supports an information-based economy. • Social conflict-the struggle between segments of society over valued resources.
Chapter 4 Society Terms • Capitalists-people who own and operate factories and other businesses in persuit of profits. • Proletarians-people who sell their productive labor for wages. • Social institutions-the major spheres of social life, or societal subsystems, organized to meet human needs. • Class conflict-conflict between entire classes over the distribution of a society’s wealth and power. • Alienation-the experience of isolation and misery resulting from powerlessness. • Tradition-sentiments and beliefs passed from generation to generation.
Websites • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aP137QgYKvQ • http://wps.prenhall.com/hss_macionis_sociology_10/19/4867/1246149.cw/index.html • http://www.gwu.edu/~ccps/