Topics in Sociology


The 7 agencies of socialisation?

  • Family
  • School
  • Peer group
  • Mass Media
  • Religion
  • Work
  • Legal System
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How would most sociologists define culture?

Culture is the shared beliefs, values, norms, skills, roles, language that altogether make the life of a society. It is socially transmitted ie learnt and shared through socialisation. 

to challenge social norms is to go against what society has taught you in terms of behaviour and language 

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What are Subcultures?

They can be described as a culture operating within the mainstream, sometimes as a variation of the mainstream, other times in opposition or contrast to it. 


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Mac an Ghail 1994

  • Claims that many young working class men wish to follow in the footsteps of their fathers by earning respectable livings in manual labour jobs
  • However they cannot do so due to job shortages and as such are experiencing a 'crisis in masculinity' 
  • These boys see Education as not being able to provide them 'secure careers' and therefore rebel against the system and form delinquent subculture groups
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Examples of specialised subcultures?

Some subcultures require certain specific skills or interests in order for you to join:

  • Computer hacking groups
  • Sports
  • Religions

Subcultures can either be threatening or benign. Ones centered around hobbies are usually not dangerous

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6 types of Culture?

  • Mass Culture
  • Folk or Traditional culture 
  • High Culture
  • Low Culture
  • Popular Culture
  • Global Culture
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What is Mass Culture?

  • Often associated with types of consumption, as well as the affects of the media in perpetuating mass culture
  • Members of the Frankfurt School were concerned with the effects of mass culture on society. They felt that the culture industries of mass media entertainment were perpetuating capitalist values
  • Mass culture centerns around consumption of mass media and the effects things like soap operas have on us. Mass culture is usually associated with W/C members of society who are more likely to be more influenced by media messages
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What is Folk/Traditional culture?

  • Folk or Traditional culture is a rural culture and is associated with pre-industrial society where tales, songs, dances and medical remedies were passed on by word of mouth, through multiple generations 
  • An example is Scots playing the bagpipes, it is a tradition passed down
  • This type of Culture stems from the experiences of people that came before you, and that strongly influences your life and decisions now
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What is High culture?

  • High culture has class related connotations that would suggest this type of culture falls within the domain of the upper classes. 
  • It is considered to be more discerning, elite and is associated with things such as Shakespeares literature, gourmet eating, the opera, ballet, theatre and what is thought of as 'good taste'
  • Can be criticised for being dismissive of change, very traditional and elitist. 
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What is Low Culture?

  • Often regarded in a negative light and associated with Mass culture
  • Low culture is often seen to produce cultural products such as pop songs, soap operas, fast food, mass advertising and mass consumption. Difference between MC is that this culture creates it and that culture consumes it
  • Many Marxists dispute the existence of 'High' and 'Low' cultures. Bourdieu argues that the notion of a 'high culture' is a manipulative elitist ideology created by the bourgeoisie (ruling class) to divide society
  • Bourdieu- cultural capital- children from higher class backgrounds have social and economic advantages over children from lower class backgrounds
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What is Popular Culture?

  • This type of culture is based on the notion that society's members actively engage in the process of formulating and developing popular culture, to the extent that they can shape and change how the culture is presented, followed, transmitted and developed. Often some things that are regarded as part of the popular culture can fall into the category of sub culture- making the 'exclusivity of the culture' even more popular
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What is Global Culture?

  • There has been a social, economic and cultural trend that has become known as 'globalisation'
  • This is the trend towards cultural uniformity (sameness)
  • Through business, trade deals and online links, our world is becoming more together
  • We live in a world in which the industries or products that we rely on are sourced abroad, our dependency on other countries has grown 
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5 Functionalist Components of Culture within any s

  • Norms- social standards and or rules that regulate behaviour within a given society
  • Values- collective ideas and beliefs that set out what is considered acceptable (good/bad/right or wrong) thoughts and behaviour within a given society
  • Symbols- anything that carries a particular meaning recognized by people who share a culture (Macionis 2005) 
  • Language- a way of communicating using signs, symbols, vocalisation, written word that is significant to a given society and is what is said to be the element that seperates humans from animals
  • Material culture- any tangible thing that a given society produces
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How do Functionalists view Society

They see society as a system, a complex system; one with many parts but one which essentially works together. Therefore in terms of culture, a Functionalist perspective would regard it as the glue that holds society together and as such is a way of uniting people in a cohesive way that benefits society as a whole.

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How do Marxists view society?

They have conflict views of society, believing that it perpetuates economic inequality among the classes. Marx believed the ruling class (bourgeoisie) dominate and dictate the actions of the lower classes (proletariat) 

Economic activity is unequally divided into the W/C who do the manual labour and are poorly paid, and the upper classes who own the means of production and therefore benefit from the labour of the W/C 

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How do Feminists view society?

Feminist discussions on the role of culture in society focusses on power, particularly as distributed differently among men and women. Feminists would argue that we live in a society that through mainstream culture perpetuates the norms and values of a patriarchal society in which men have more power and status than women do, women therefore experience many disadvantages.

Inequalities of gender roles (such as unfair division of work between men and women, the nature of the work that both do in and outside of the family and the pay and social status they receive as a result) are fundamental to how society is ordered and thus to cultural expression.

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How do Post Modernists view society?

One result of Post Modernism is that categories such as social class, gender, or ethnicity become less important in favour of the media. For the post modern sociological analysis, it is the relationship of the individual to the media that matters. How they consume the media, what they think about it, how it shapes them. This matters rather than their social class, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. 

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2 types of Agencies of social control?

Informal- Informal agencies of social contro are not set up specifically to enforce rules but still transmit the norms/values of society through sanctions. We receive positive sanctions through aceptable, praise, inclusion ect. Mass media can be used as an informal means- transmits sanctions indirectly by showing how people are punished for breaking laws

Formal- Formal agencies of social control such as the police, justice system, schools, armed forces ect. Ensure that peple conform to insitutionalsised behavioural norms by enforcing laws.

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Members of society have either 2 identities?

Personal-  based on the notion of agency, making a conscious decision about how we see ourselves and how we want others to see us, both of which is based on personal choice

Social-  can be imposed eg society says you are either male or female and as such we should act a certain way, this also relates to how we present ourselves to the social world

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Erving Goffman's 3 factors causing stigmatisation?

1. Physical defects eg missing limb

2. Membership of religious or ethnic minority group

3. Personal weakness such as criminal records 

He also notes 3 ways people deal with such social stigma:

1. Attempts to hide stigma eg surgery

2. Recognising stigma and accepting treatment

3. Protesting against stigma eg gay rights activism 

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What is a Nuclear Family?

Known as 'typical' families. Consists of married parents and one or more children. Self contained family unit, whereby family members are expected to support each other, socially, physically and economically. 

(Our family)

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What is an Extended family?

They are 3 generations living together, consisting of grandparents, their children and their grandchildren 


X  Grandparents



N   Parents



D  Children

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What is a BeanPole family?

Nuclear families with 1 or 2 children that maintain close relationships with their grandparents. They are therefore horizontol, they maintain relationships through more than 2 generations

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What is a Reconsituted family/blended?

Those where one or both of the parents have had a previous marriage or relationship and so bring children from that old relationship into the new one. This introduces various combinations of step father and step mother etc 

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What is a Single parent family?

Also known as the lone parent family, are those with 1 adult parent and children residing in one household, under same roof. 

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What is an Empty nest family?

Where the children have moved out of the home and the parents still reside together, usually before retirement 

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What is a Symmetrical family?

Families where the roles of the husband and wife or cohabiting partners are alike or equal. Share housework etc 

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What are the 2 gender dominant households?

Patriarchal Family- a male dominated family where the male father is the head of the house

Matriarchal Family- a female dominated family where the female mother is the head of the house

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What are the 2 gender economical households?

Patrillineal Family- property and title inheritance passes down through the fathers side

Matrillineal Family- property and title inheritance passes down through the mothers side

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Family types based on relationships?

Monogamous Family- a husband has only one wife. Most typical form of marriage in western society

Polygamous Family- the husband has more than one wife at the same time

Polyandrous Family- consists of a wife with more than one husband

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Family types based on location?

Patrilocal Family- a married or cohabiting couple lives with or near the male partners family

Matrilocal Family- a married or cohabiting couple lives with or near the female partners family

Neo Local Family- when a couple sets up a home seperate from either side of their families 

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Diversity in family types?

As society has changed over time, there has been a decine of the nuclear family and this has subsequently contributed to more diverse family structures being found in society. Sociologists Robert & Rhona Rappaport (1982) were the first to indentify this decline.

The subsequent increase in family diveristy is seen as a positive change in society, that people have more freedom of choice in how they arrange their personal lives and feel that they no longer have to conform to the nuclear family stereotype 

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3 reasons for increase in single parent families?

  • Divorce/changes in law- 40% of UK marriages end in divorce. The Divorce law reform act of 1969 has made the process of divorce more attainable. Also more women are divorcing, due to not relying economically on men
  • Social Acceptance/social attitude change- no longer such a social taboo. Securalisation means religion has become less of an influence on how we live our lives/our attitude towards marriage
  • The Welfare State- women do not have to rely on men amd marriage to support themselves and their family anymore. Women have access to more jobs and work, can provide for families by themselves. Welfare state will support them now
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5 reasons for changing role of women?

  • Medical- the developments made in medicine, especially in contraception or abortions mean women have more freedom and control over their own fertility 
  • Intellectual- feminism as an intellectual and social movement has campaigned for significant changes to the law. **** within marriage is no longer legal, neither is discrimination on the grounds of sex. 
  • Social- as a result of feminism and womens changing social roles, women are more likely to desire a career outside the home, intellectual achievement or the types of success that were previously associated with male gender roles 
  • Sexual- a greater freedom in sexuality and sexual expression has made information on sex and sexuality more widely available, so women are no longer misinformed about their own sexual identities, biological processes etc 
  • Political- in the uk women achieved the vote in 1918, since then womens involvement in politics has increased 
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Reasons for increase in singletons?

Singleton- person who lives alone. According to Eurostat 2011 census, 13% of the population in England and Wales were living alone


  • Later marriages
  • 20's/30's women are more independent 
  • Less social stigma around living alone
  • Middle aged divorced men tend to live alone (divorce rates increased)
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