Essay on Lecture: Sociology and Suicide Structural Functionalism

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Auguste Comte (1798?-1863?)

The Father of Sociology

1. Societies are more than all the people that make them up

2. Therefore we can treat society “like” like a thing so that Society can be studied scientifically – 1st person to make this observation

3. Came up with the name “Sociology”; originally he wanted to call it “social physics”

4. Science would be the new religion

1859 the only date you have to know in this course.

On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin is published in this year. In this work Darwin presented his theory of Biological evolution

The theory of evolution through natural selection

(Darwin’s Finches)

Darwin was familiar with the work of

1. Charles Lyell – the father of modern geology. Said that the planet earth changes slowly, constantly over a long period of time

2. Thomas Malthus- the “Grim parson” He was a Methodist minister and an economist. 1799 he published “An Essay on the Principles of Populations” – he said that population will outstrip resources (food), leading to an Apocalypse and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – famine, disease, war and death. This is known as the Malthusian Dilemma or problem. (Think China). He concluded that only some will survive in each generation born.

Herbert Spencer – Social Darwinism and “Survival of the Fittest”

Emile Durkheim (1863?-1917)

Father of Structural Functionalism

Major works (books) include:

1. Rules of Sociological Method

(“The Rules”)

2. The Division of Labor in Society

3. Suicide

4. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life

5. Suicide

Structural Functionalism

Functionalists look at society like a kind of biological organism where there are a bunch of parts that are inter-related to each other. Each part contributes to the survival of the whole organism

Durkheim argued that crime is functional for society

Functions of crime and deviance

Creates Jobs

Violation of norms (social rules) can cause people to

Join together – social cohesion

Make us feel good about ourselves

*Source of social change – perhaps one of its most important functions

Structural functionalists also talk about the functions of poverty.

Functions of Poverty

1. “Role models”

2. Consumers of “used goods”, day old bread

3. Marx: “The Reserve Army of the Unemployed”

Poor are the last hired, first fired

4. Make good “Cannon Fodder” (Fodder=cheap, bulk food)

Durkheim also states that the proper subject matter of sociology is the study of SOCIAL FACTS

External to each individual – no one person created them

1. Exist throughout society – everyone knows them

2. They are external to each individual – no one person made them up. Rather they are created by people acting together.

3. Are coercive – have power

As an example of how social facts influence people, Durkheim looked at suicide. He looked at different rates of suicide for marital status sex/gender and religion and found:

Marital Status Gender Religion

Single H Men H Catholics in between

Married L WomenL Jews L

Protestants H

(H=high rate; L=low rate of suicide)

Critical thinking question: What do the highs and lows have in common? Answer: Degree of attachment to society…