Johnson Essay

Submitted By cfietsam
Words: 1736
Pages: 7

Section A:

Johnson repeats his point that everything in the world is somehow connected to everything else. This entire system can be broken down to just two things: Culture and Structure. He defines culture as what "contains words and ideas that people can use to name and interpret what they experience (39)." Culture is the way we construct reality through our beliefs, values, norms and attitudes within a social system using symbols to build up that meaning. Symbols are exactly what built this universal system in the first place therefore culture only exists because of it. Johnson states, "The words weave a reality, and they connect us to it (43)." This means that these words we use day-to-day keep us connected to the real world. They make storytelling possible and history possible or really anything that makes us who we are.
We only know who we are based on how we see other people around us. Words and symbols allow us to appreciate and recognize other cultures, providing us with something to compare to. Every day we unknowingly judge others and compare ourselves to them, which creates our own identity.
Another point Johnson emphasizes a lot are the main concepts including beliefs, values, and norms. These are exactly what make up our culture. Beliefs are just what society thinks is true defined by symbols. Due to sociological protocol, this does not include religious beliefs. One is not required to actually regard all beliefs to be true. Values are a belief in which we make something to be better or worse. For example, a value is if I say it is better to not leave the house with wet hair. On the other hand if I say that if you leave the house with wet hair then you will get sick, that would be a norm. Norms are what symbols say should be known or else there will be a consequence. Back to the example, the consequence would be getting sick; therefore that second statement is in fact a norm.
Throughout the book Johnson repeatedly mentions the idea of the paths of least resistance. Norms are one of the main causes of this. People know that if they do not follow the regular paths and do something out of the ordinary then it will likely result in a consequence. Therefore, people tend to follow usually regardless of their true opinions. A clear example of this would be the Holocaust. Hitler controlled may people just by making those paths of least resistance impossible to defy. People were scared to object to what they knew was wrong simply because defiance meant death. Johnson defines a stigma as to "when people are treated as deviant not because of something they've done, but because of who they are (57)." This directly relates to the Holocaust in that Jews were regarded as inferior and therefore exterminated.
Another concept is that of roles. Roles are influenced by culture and also create paths of least resistance. Culture is what shapes the roles linked to different statuses or positions in a social structure.
Johnson defines social structure as what "organizes social life around relationships that connect people to one another and to systems as well as connecting entire systems to one another (77)." Relationships and people are all connected and this is another example of why everything connects to everything else. Johnson mentions a structural position with the example that if one ends a relationship they may feel lost because their structural position in the system has changed. All the statuses people occupy are divided up but still ultimately connect to each other. Ones status is what Johnson defines as a position in an overall structure. Statuses are always being occupied unless it is a situational status where that status is only occupied during that sole situation.
Structure can also be viewed as the way power is distributed throughout its roles. Max Weber, the German sociologist, is mentioned in the book: "he correctly predicted that it would become the dominant form of