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UNIT 5. SOCIAL STRUCTURE AND INDIVIDUALITY

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Because society is an organized system, it is not surprising that social interaction is patterned. Society is, after all, built on countless interactions among individual human beings, and human beings have the capacity to act with almost infinite variety. In the absence of social patterns, people would indeed find social life confusing. Culture provides guidelines for human behavior in the form of values and norms.

The assertion that human behavior is socially patterned often provokes some initial resistance. Few human beings readily admit to being part of any kind of system, especially those who live in a culture that prizes individual autonomy. Americans, for instance, tend to emphasize individual responsibility for behavior and highlight the unique elements of their personalities. Behaving in patterned ways, however, does not threaten our individuality. On the contrary, individuality is encouraged by social structure.

First, and more generally, our humanity involves much more than physical existence. The great potential of human beings develops only thorough interaction with others. Within social life, distinct personalities emerge as people blend their unique qualities with the values and norms of the large culture from freely expressing ourselves. The social world can be disorienting, even frightening, to people who do not know the behavior guidelines. Without this knowledge, people feel too uncomfortable to express their unique personalities with confidence.

To illustrate, you may recall going alone to a party given by people you did not know well. Entering such a setting – and not knowing quite what to expect – is likely to cause some anxiety. At such times you generally feel self-conscious, try to make a favorable impression, and look to others for clues about what sort of behavior is expected of you. Once you understand the behavioral standards that apply to the setting, you are likely to feel comfortable enough to “act like yourself”.

Of course, social structure also places some constraints on human behavior. By guiding behavior within culturally approved bounds, established social patterns discourage behavior that is culturally defined as unconventional. Traditional values and norms in the United States and Canada, for example, still reflect the expectation that males will be “masculine” (physically strong, self-assertive, and rational) and the females will be “feminine” (physically weak, self-effacing, and emotional). The structure of society exerts pressure on individuals to fit into one or the other of these categories, ignoring the fact that most people have both “masculine” and “feminine” qualities. In this and many other ways, social structure can limit any individual’s freedom to think and act in ways that may be personally preferred. In addition, the failure to conform the established social patterns may lead to being defined by others as deviant.



Task 1. Transcribe the following words and learn their pronunciation:

Autonomy, category, comfortable, deviant, disorienting, individuality, rational, structure, unique

 

Task 2. Answer the following questions:

1. Why do we say that social interaction is patterned?

2. What does culture provide?

3. So, according to what is our behavior patterned?

4. What may this assertion provoke/

5. Through what does the potential of human beings develop?

6. In what cases do people feel uncomfortable?

7. What do you feel in an unfamiliar situation?

8. What does social structure place on human behavior?

9. What is understood by unconventional behavior?

10. What pressure does the structure of society exert on individuals?

11. What can social structure limit?

 

Task 3. State the general idea of each paragraph of the text.

 

Task 4. Express your opinion of the text. Use the following words for the characteristic:

important- inconclusive

essential – trivial

well-presented – muddle

interesting – dull

valid – inaccurate , wrong

 

Task 5. Summarize the text in 10 sentences.

 

Task 6. Translate the text in writing:

1. Sociology is more than a perspective; it is also a form of investigation that uses the logic of science to learn about the social world.

2. There are three basic requirements of sociological investigation: (1) being aware of the larger social world; (2) using the sociological perspective; and (3) being curious and asking questions about society.

3. The logic of science makes use of concepts and variables. Concepts are abstract ideas that represent elements of society. Concepts that vary in value are called variables. Measurement is the process of determining the value of a variable in any specific case. Sound measurement has the qualities of reliability and validity.

4. The logic of science demands objectivity on the part of a researcher. While issues chosen for investigation may reflect personal interests, personal values and biases must be suspended in conducting the research.

5. The logic of science was developed primarily through studying the natural world. Although science can be used to study social behavior, it has important limitations for doing so.

6. Curiosity and imagination, necessary for all successful research, spring from the human mind and not from the logic of science. Moreover, all human reality is based on patterns of meaning. The process of interpretation is therefore part of all sociological investigation.

 

Task 7. Find in the text “Social Structure and Individuality” English equivalents for:

бесчисленные взаимодействия; запутанный; с готовностью; например; напротив; сбивающий с толку; уверенно; окружение (среда); вызывать беспокойство; произвести благоприятное впечатление; принятые культурные рамки; мужские качества; женские качества; ограничить свободу; оказывать давление; кроме того

 

Task 8. Arrange the following words into groups of antonyms:

1. disorganized a) limited

2. chaos b) familiar

3. infinite c) quietly

4. in the presence d) difference

5. lose e) emerge

6. unfamiliar f) organized

7. leave g) in the absence

8. finish h) enter

9. noisily i) arrival

10. departure j) in other words

11. ordinary k) uncomfortable

12. similarity l) system

13. in the same way m) find

14. seldom n)begin

15. disappear o) unique

16. comfortable p) weak

17. strong q) often

Task 9. Make up sentences choosing an appropriate variant from the second column and translate them into Russian:

1. The scientist was guided by … .

2. The room was filled with … .

3. His theory is built on … .

4. Human behavior is defined by … .

5. Social interaction is patterned … .

6. His activity is encouraged by … .

7. He is in charge of … .

1) cultural values and norms.

2) the working team.

3) the latest scientific discoveries.

4) the Sociology Research Institute.

5) unfamiliar faces.

6) empirical investigation.

7) as society is an organized system.

 

Task 10. Make up dialogues according to the following situations:

1. An odd person comes to you. He says you were friends years ago. You have never met him before and you suspect his motives.

2. Your friend is acting very strangely. You feel he has a secret worry. Find out what is wrong with him.

Note: the following word-combinations may be helpful:


1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 |


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