Groups and Aggregates: A Sociological Perspective

Groups versus aggregates:-

Aggregates = a simple collection of people who happen to be together in a particular place but do not significantly interact or identify with one another People who might share a setting for interaction, but not actually undertake it—they might practice civil inattention *

Groups = a collection of people who regularly interact with one another on the basis of shared expectations concerning behavior and who share a sense of common identity * Wait, why isn’t this just a miniature “society”? You have a shared sense of identity and people together! * The key: “…who regularly interact” * Do you “regularly interact” with everyone in American society?

Kinds of groups:-

How intense and emotional is the bond within the group? Primary groups are intense, emotional, and usually have face-to-face interaction and a strong sense of commitment (examples: family, church, rigorous sports team) Secondary groups are much less intense versions of primary groups (examples: distant relatives, abstract humanistic belief, “Red Sox nation”) In-groups and out-groups and reference groups:“Us” (in-group) versus “them” (out-group) distinction used to manufacture a sense of belonging to a group

Group Size:-

Paradox of group growth The bigger a group, the more stable it becomes, but the less intense any individual relationship within it! Example: One friendship versus a group of friends Example: “Independent Contractors” versus a corporation Example: An “artistic collaboration” (“Yeezy” and Chance the Rapper) versus an “artist’s collective” (the Wu-Tang Clan)

Coercion and Conformity

Groups exert enormous pressure to conform (think of shame and embarrassment!) Asch Experiments 30% of respondents (in one version of the experiment) would provide the obviously wrong answer (More positively, a version of this finding works for music taste as well!) Milgram Experiments

Core Concepts

An organization is a group with identifiable membership that engages in concerted collective actions to achieve a common purpose. Examples: A bowling league, ISIS Sometimes, organizations are formal, meaning they are designed to achieve their objectives, often by means of explicit rules, regulations, and procedures. Examples: Universities, Prisons, Hospitals


Max Weber: modern societies are becoming increasingly bureaucratized (i.e., rationalized and subject to the regulation of large organizations following very specific rules) Bureaucracies are enormously efficient and effective at specific things, but can be cumbersome They are the ways of organizing complex tasks in modern life

An “Ideal Type” of Bureaucracy

Defined jurisdictional areas Imagine if….Nick taught everything! Expert training Imagine if….Nick had no PhD! Clear-cut hierarchy Imagine if….Nick had no “real boss” Written rules governing conduct of officials Imagine if….Nick graded just on what he could remember about you! Full-time and salaried officials Imagine if….Nick did this and worked as a bricklayer and dentist! Separation between organizational and private life Imagine if….Nick just held class at his house! Organizational ownership of means of production Imagine if….Nick could buy and sell the job of teaching this class just like it was his property!

Formal Organizational (Dys)Functions?

Formal organizations can experience decoupling of their formal and informal procedures When “decoupled,” the organization may pay “lip service” to its stated goals but may do very different things informally Example: corruption in the judiciary When people are the objects of bureaucracies, those people can experience surveillance and various forms of disciplining Example: watching people while they work Example: tracing people’s “files” throughout their lives (like a criminal record) Example: the architecture of power * Michel Foucault: The “Panopticon


What’s a network? An array of any given connection among units “Any given connection” = anything of interest (most commonly social interaction or economic exchange) “Units” = anything of interest (most commonly people or organizations) Networks range from very simple to immensely complex! [N X (N-1) / 2] possible ties where N is the number of units in the network

Powerful Findings From Network Analysis

Network closure How did global trade emerge? (Merchant captains had an incentive to sail to new ports, connecting them to a global trade network;) Homophily Why do issues tend to get so polarized in political discussions? (Because “birds of a feather flock together!”;) Contagion How do emotions spread? (Along networks!;) Brokerage Why are certain actors in networks more powerful than others? (Because they stand along the only path to connect people in a network;)

Networks and/or Organizations?

Strength of weak ties “weak ties” (ties between friends-of-friends) that connect distant networks turn out to be crucial informal means of collecting information and getting exposed to opportunities

But wait…what exactly are networks?

Are networks analytically or empirically different from organizations? Can any large, purposive group be treated as a network, or is the “network society” really undermining organizations? Examples: free software, “disruption” of industries, but what happens after the IPO?

What’s the Internet Doing to Organizations?

The internet allows telecommuting and working from home…. ….BUT it’s hard to do that well, and productivity is mostly gained from saved travel time. The internet allows communication with very sparse networks of interest… ….BUT that can be put to good purposes (video game enthusiast bulletin boards) OR ill (terrorisms and extreme political recruitment) The internet seems to provide for new forms of freedom and creativity… ….BUT can also enable even more systematic forms of discipline and surveillance ….AND is heavily dependent on forms of unequal access to it and to the technical skills necessary to succeed

Conceptual Background for Crime and Deviance

Every society is structured by norms (rules of conduct that specify appropriate behavior in a given range of social situations) Norms come from the connection among social structures, identities, and social interactions Hence they rely on interpretation and meaning Modern societies (both in the developing world and contemporary industrial societies) are characterized by subcultures Subculture = values and norms distinct from those of the majority, held by a group within a wider society Examples: Gangs, communes, live action role-playing

Central Concepts for Crime and Deviance

Norms rely on sanctions, any positive or negative reaction to a behavior These can be formal or informal, ranging from subtle social cues to physical restraint or even death Examples (negative): stinkface, shouting at someone, traffic ticket, prison, execution Examples (positive): smiling, pat on the back, praise, cash prize, public recognition, Presidential Medal of Freedom Crime = any actions that contravene the laws established by a political authority We all commit crimes all the time, but there are some (in the US, “felonies”) that are recognized as especially bad Examples (major): aggravated assault, (some) fraud, rape, murder Examples (minor): jaywalking, speeding, failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign

Central Concepts for Crime and Deviance (II)

Deviance = modes of action that do not conform to the norms and values held by most members of a group or society This is a weasel phrase! In modern societies, the problem of intersecting subcultures sometimes makes it very hard to know what the scale of reference is for deviance Is it “all” of society? Who is that? Is it your local group? How far does that extend? Much tension about crime and deviance today comes from the gap among… subcultural dynamics… the “dominant” culture in a society and its norms and values… and what the law allows and forbids Example: “gun culture” in the US

Example: Gun Culture

Gallup numbers (national sample) 41% have a gun in the home 55% want more strict gun control 33% want it about the same 11% want it less strict This is an example of value conflict, where the different subcultures (for and against gun ownership) are both large enough to be “dominant” In some settings, having or using a gun would be deviant and illegal, but in others it might even be expected (a family trip to the shooting range) In other settings, having a gun is normative but illegal Punchline: crime and deviance are not just issues of right or wrong; they intersection of deviance and crime shows us a lot about how social structures work!

Control Theory

“Rational actor” model of crime Baseline for what many of us would think as a starting point for why people commit crimes Crime is an imbalance between impulses toward criminal activity and controls that deter it. Thus fighting crime means decreasing opportunities to steal or commit violent crimes (“target hardening”) and punishing any crime aggressively (“zero-tolerance policing”) Extremely expensive and usually focuses on outgroup populations

Conflict Theory

Derivative of Marxist theories of class conflict * Deviance and crime are often political statements (even subtle ones) resisting the economic and social order as a whole * Meanwhile, laws are usually written by elite powers and groups, so crimes they are more likely to commit remain comparatively unpunished * Example: pensions for those convicted of public corruption (Sheldon Silver, Dean Skelos, “carried interest exemption” in tax code) * Focus is on how inequality shapes crime and on who writes the laws

Functionalist Theories

Durkheim Crime and deviance can come from “anomie,” or a lack of social regulation As the pressure of social norms weakens, people are more likely to break them HOWEVER, deviance is also an opportunity for society to reassert its values Example: Obama (after a mass shooting, in Hesston Kansas): “We cannot become numb to this.” Ohlin Crime is caused by the existence of subcultures where it is accepted “Deviance” from dominant cultural norms is “conformity” to local subculture Merton Society endorses overall values (“work hard and you’ll achieve”) but doesn’t provide equal means to achieve People can respond to this situation in one of five ways…

Interactionist Theories

The line between deviance and normal behavior is constructed through interaction processes Over time (example: Marihuana) once- deviant behaviors can become normal Another example: prohibition (1920- 1933) People are socialized into deviant behavior The initial act of transgression is “primary deviation” To the extent people accept the label of “deviant” as part of their identity, it is “secondary deviation”

Crime and Deviance Today

Crime rates are falling in general (but have spiked again in the last two years), but we don’t really know why! Some attribute the decline to new “broken windows” policing or aggressive anti-gun measures Others attribute it to the decline of the crack epidemic BUT there is now the rise of the meth epidemic! Still others attribute it to relative improvements in the economy (at least in the 1990s) One thing it’s probably not a result of: more police or prisons (Some evidence: lengthening prison sentences doesn’t significantly deter crime.)

Crime and Deviance Today

Police, organizations, and population-control in “broken windows” policing Beginning with Commissioner Bill Bratton and Rudy Giuliani in the 1990s, the NYPD aggressively ticketed and arrested for crimes like panhandling, public intoxication, etc., in the hopes of “signaling” intolerance for more serious crimes This was replaced (by Bratton’s successor, Raymond Kelly) by “stop-and-frisk,” a policy of aggressively searching people suspected of minor violations Met with accusations of racial profiling, and one of the key running-platforms of Bill De Blasio (current mayor of NYC) Such police stops have subsequently massively declined This policing of small-scale crime had led to a rise of people subject to the criminal justice bureaucracy The populations subject to bureaucratic control are unequally distributed More than 25% of African-American men are either in prison or subject to the penal system In January 2020, New York eliminated cash bail for most offenses, but reinstated it in some cases in June 2020. The consequences of contact with the criminal justice system are enormous “The Mark of a Criminal Record” () How do call-back rates vary for job interviews? Two variables: race of job-seeker and whether they have a non-violent drug offense (listed on job application)

How Likely Are You to be Murdered? Three levels of precision in an answer:

(1) Simple probability (assuming random distribution) 21 murders in 2018/1.481 million population = 1 in about 70,000 (By comparison, the odds you will be struck by lightning in your lifetime [assuming 80 year lifespan]: 1 in 14,600) (2) But probability isn’t equally distributed! For example: you’re about twice as likely to be killed if you a man, rather than a woman (3) And likelihood of being killed is *strongly* dependent on having a concrete network “tie” “Murder by Structure” (American Journal of Sociology, 2009) Even in the case of gang murders (like MS-13), they are almost never “random”—there is some kind of preexisting relationship between murderer and victim

Basic Concepts (Background)

Much of the intersection of self and society is structured by your social position This helps determine your social identity People will treat you very differently depending on where they think you are located in the social structure! These social positions are distributed and provide a structure to social settings and social interaction.

Basic Concepts

In any given society, social positions are stratified, such that material or symbolic rewards are unequally distributed Put differently, given any scarce thing (money, status, space, expectations for social roles, etc.), who gets what is a critical social question Everyone could get an equal share, but that almost never happens Instead, there tend to be structured inequalities, meaning that patterns in social structures tend to feed unequal distribution.

Basic Concepts

Social stratification exists in every society, but it takes different forms historically Slavery Some people are literally owned by others, and their unfree labor is exploited Caste A system of lifelong social status sometimes tied to religious rituals and social duties (A significant part of life in some parts of contemporary South Asia) Ethnicity A group with a shared common cultural identity, in distinction from other ethnicities within a society (when a source of stratification) Class “A large-scale grouping of people who share common economic resources that strongly influence the type of lifestyle they are able to lead.” (The predominate system of stratification in the modern world, both developing and industrial)

A Closer Look at Class

Sociologists argue a lot about the “true” sources of social class…  …but they usually agree that it includes four things 1. Income Money received from paid wages and salaries or earned from investments 2. Wealth Money and material possessions held by an individual or group 3. Occupation What you do for a living 4. Education Usually measured by “years of schooling” or “highest degree earned” ….and disagree over one very important aspect: Lifestyle The way people behave (how they dress, what they eat, care for their bodies, or relax), things they consume, and strategies they pursue in work, childrearing, and education

(On Your) Marx  Social class is determined by people’s relationship to the means of production—the stuff that it takes to make a living People are either owners (capitalists) of the means of production or workers  Capitalism revolves around the sale and purchase a very special kind of thing: people’s labor-power Capitalists purchase this labor, extract a little more than they paid for, and then realize the profit This profit is called surplus value, and for Marx it is the ultimate source of all “return on investment” and “interest payments” in capitalism Over time, the gap between rich and poor will widen, and conditions for workers will become increasingly miserable The first part of this sentence has generally been substantiated by Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century

Weber Class locations are structured by economic position, but it is more complicated than that! Difference economic positions also have very different sets of skills (examples: welders, managers) that get them privileges and rewards compared to other members of their class People are also stratified by status (the social honor or prestige that other accord them), so that someone can be relatively “high class” and still not a capitalist (example: member of the clergy) Class is therefore a composite of objective and subjective judgments

Other Theories Davis and Moore Society is stratified because we need to reward rare and socially important talents better than more common ones (This is basically the view still held by economists today.) For doctors or engineers, sure, but how well does this work for Kanye West or Evan Spiegel, the guy who invented Snapchat? Erik Olin Wright Economic resources are threefold • Investments or money capital Physical means of production Labor power  White-collar and professional employees (much of the “new economy”) are in contradictory class locations, in that they share aspects with both labor and capital

Income Usually best measured in real income, adjusted for inflation Inflation means that under typical modern economic conditions, the same amount of money loses its purchasing power over time That’s over 300% inflation in about 40 years! This matters for calculating inequality, but also can be a source of inequality

Wealth Measurement sources: national Survey of Consumer Finances Usually measured in “Net worth” Total assets (house, car, stock, retirement funds) minus liabilities (consumer debt, student loans, mortgage, health care bills, etc.) Huge disparity (2012 numbers) Top 10% median family net worth: $1,194,300 Bottom 25%: $6,200 (192 times less) For many families, the key asset buoying net worth is a home  Long term earning potential—which contributes to wealth—is also affected by other important factors

Debt A key source of wealth can, ironically, be debt 980.1 million Visa and Mastercard credit accounts in the US in 2009 That’s ~3.2 credit accounts per capita People can appear to be of very similar social classes in their consumption and lifestyle patterns, but can rack up very high rates of debt Debt can be used to obtain assets and education for future wealth But also a “hidden” source of stratification, because its costs vary so much Occupation Race Age  Education

Education Now Cuts Both Ways  Education increased income, but… Student loan debts are at an all-time high (Just below $1.4 trillion total debt)

Occupation Occupations have very different levels of prestige, no matter the details of how you ask people to rank them

Lifestyle (Anette Lareau)  There is a difference in how working class and middle class parents behave towards their children Working class parents practice “the development of natural growth” In non-school time, kids help out around the house of play with friends  Children are not expected to “reason” or negotiate when talking to their parents Middle class parents practice “concerted cultivation” In non-school time, kids take extra lessons, do organized sports, and develop skills From an early age, children “reason” and negotiate with their parents  Guess which of these two styles of childrearing is better suited for social mobility and success in “new economy” adult institutions!

Lifestyle (Pierre Bourdieu)  The cultural “taste” people express is heavily class-dependent  Social class, in turn, is determined both by how much money you have (“economic capital”) and how much of a connoisseur you are (“cultural capital”)  Example of high cultural capital but low economic capital: your annoying college hipster friend who knows that one band which is simultaneously the G.O.A.T. and no one’s heard of it but they play in this one speakeasy in Brooklyn and OMG you have to check them out but don’t tell anyone because then they’ll get popular and sure they sound like a toilet flushing amplified through a garbage can but maybe you JUST DON’T GET post-experimental garage rock  This kind of distinction can be drawn in any field of consumption  A key way cultural capital works in the contemporary US: are you an “omnivore” equally comfortable with all kinds of music/film/etc., or do you mostly really like “what you were raised on”?