Memo_Sociology 6th Edition

Giddens A. Sociology 6th Edition[M]. Polity Press,2009

Preface to the sixth edition

The world has changed a great deal after this book first published in 1989. Nearly thirty years has passed. This book has been rewritten once by once.
As Xie Yu point out the concept of heterogeneity(The essence of society is variation), we have to study the heterogeneity sociologically, and set aside our personal beliefs and options when analyzing research findings and theories. 2016.8.11

Organization of the book

This book is just an introduction, so the chapters can be ignored or studied in any order. Just due to this circumstance, I can read this book to cultivate my English writing skills. 16.8.11

What is Sociology?

The sociological imagination

As Giddens’ definition,

“ Sociology is the scientific study of human life, social groups, whole societies dazzling and compelling enterprise, as its subject-matter is our own behavior as social beings.” (P6)
“It is the business of sociology to investigate the connections between what society makes of us and what we make of ourselves and society.” (P9)

It means that the private decision reflects his position within the wider society.
So the sociological mind, for I think, is realize that our individual lives reflect the contexts of our social experience (Individuals are individuals of society). Wright Mills points that the sociological imagination requires us to think ourselves away. Thus, Sociologists translate the personal trouble into the public issue, and they always remember the social structure and the structuration.
From my opinion, as the saying above, if we want to cultivate the sociological mind, we should have a liberal mind to imagine the no border world, and we need the sociological big picture to look our social state. Also, it requires us to think with the loving care, which Mills has said, “I tried to be objective, but I do not to be detached.”

Giddens takes an example from the familiar routines of our daily lives for us, the coffee.
For many westerners, coffee drinking is not just individual, but a social ritual. If we compare the western with China, may be Bian Yanjie’s ‘Eating Network’ is similar to coffee, the eating is not important, but the meeting is the first.

“In all society, drinking and eating provide occasions for social interaction.”(P7)

And we need to consider that, coffee is a socially acceptable drug compared with ecstasy, why these differences exist and how they came out?(合法化的coffee)
Also, coffee means the global order. In fact, coffee became widely consumed only from the late 1800s, the colonial legacy contribute a lot to the coffee trade development.
Besides, coffee links to the human rights and environmental destruction.

The development of sociological thinking

Cause we can’t just explain the surface, we have to develop theoretical thinking. But compare with natural science, due to the fact that our own behavior is quite complex. There is no discipline in sociology. So we will see there are many different theories, and even some of them are conflicting, but on the other hand, each of them also seems right, they are just different insights. (It is not the charm of sociology that there is always no definiteness among different schools?)
In fact, factual research and theories can never be completely separated, and all practical decisions have some theoretical assumptions behind them.

That means “we can only develop valid theoretical explanations if we are able to test them by means of factual research.”(P11)

“The background to the origins of sociology lies in the series of sweeping changes ushered in by the French Revolution and the mid-eighteenth-century Industrial Revolution in Europe.”(P12)

Our human beings want to know why is society structured the way it is, how and why do societies change? So from the early, the duty of sociology is to understand this world and what the future is likely to be.
Comte invented the word ‘sociology’ with the dream we can shape our destiny, which we can explain the laws of the social world just as natural science explained the functioning of the physical world. For the critics of early concepts of sociology (positivism etc.), u can consult this in Xie Yu’s sociological methodology and quantitative research.
After Comte, Durkheim studied the social facts, their thoughts were absorbed by the latter, especially in Functionalists. From my opinion, if we dip deeply in the positive studies, we can find the ecology’s heritage, for their view that see the society as the human body, and “analyzing the function of social item means showing the part it plays in the continued existence and health of a society.”(P23) But in fact, although Karl Marx was well known for his materialist conception of history, we can find the similar thinking in his own words. “To say that man’s physical and mental life is linked to nature simply means that nature is linked to itself, for man is part of nature.” Beside those famous founders, Max Weber studied the rationalization and other aspects influenced even deeper. I will refer more in the Chapter 3, so I just omit these founders here, if u have a strong interest in these figures, u could look for this book straightly. Giddens tells much more details.

Here, I just want to emphasize two figures, which mostly textbooks would ignore them.
The first one is Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406). From Giddens’ introduction, it let me think about the history circulating theory, which was famous in the Chinese tradition. This history circulating theory is based on the malthusism.
Khaldun’s circulating theory mixed with a bit of conflict theory, he attempts to explain the rise and decline of Maghribian and Arab state, in this sense, he may be seen as one of the pioneers of the Western historical sociology. Giddens conclude his theory in a word.

“Groups and society with a strong group feeling were able to dominate and control those with weaker forms of internal solidarity …… However, the Bodouin then became settled into the more urbanized lifestyles and their previously strong group feeling and military force diminished, thus leaving them open to attack from external enemies once again.”(P22)

The next one is Harriet Martineau(1802-1876). We often called her the first woman sociologist. We all know Tocqueville studied the American society in the 1830s, but in fact, Martineau studied this subject in the meanwhile. I don’t know if they know each other, but we could imagine they meet each in a normal street in a normal day, and then smiles to each other. It even sounds a little cool. In fact, Martineau is famous for her acted in ways to benefit society. Martineau was an active proponent of both women’s rights and the emancipation of slaves.

Theories and Perspectives in Sociology


Families and Intimate Relationships


In the prior era of arranged marriages,romantic love was regarded as at best a weakness and at worst a kind of sickness. Until the century of 18 , romantic love involoed idealizing its object, spearding with the novel, romantic love was shaped by board social and historical influences today.And most people believe that a good relationship os based on emotional communication or intimacy.
But I doubt the authenticity of 60% of Gansu’s parents’ arranged marriage quoted in P377. Giddens did not give a clear source.


Famliy can divided into nuclear family and extended family,Marriage is divided into monogamy and polygamy,polygamy can also divided into polygyny and polyandry.The quotation of Giddens is interesting. In 1998, 84% of the 1231 societies in the world were polygyny.

Sexuality and Gender

Theories of gender inequality

Functional approaches

Feminist approaches

Feminism is concerned about sexism (male supremacy), patriarchy and capitalism。

Liberal feminism

1970 equal pay act.Liberal feminists try to reform through legal means, but critics believe that they have not touched root, the oppression.

Social and Marxist feminism

“Engels argued that under capitalism, patriarchy has its roots in private property…To Engels, capitalism exploited men by paying low wages and women by paying no wages.(P616)”

Neglecting domestic remuneration is an exploitation of women.

“Payment for housework is an important component of many feminists’ belief.(P616)”

Radical feminism

Shulamith Firestone(1971) is one of the early radicals,argues that men control women’s roles in reproduction and childrearing. This ‘biological inequality’ is socially organized in the nuclear family.
It emphasizes emancipate, abolition, assert and criticizes men’s image of women.

“The ‘objectification’ of women through the media, fashion and advertising turns women into sexual ovjects whose main role is to please and entertain men…Becaues patriarchy is a systemic phenomenon, they agrue, gender equality can only be attained by overthrowing the patriarchal order.(P617)”

Because of these discussions, the mainstream core issue is’women’s subordination’, and Family is the primary sources of women’s oppression in society.
Recent studies by scholars Walby, from private patriarchy to public patriarchy has shifed its form. Critics argue that it places too much emphasis on gender and neglects social structure.

“doing so risk biological reductionism - attributing all the complexities of gender inequality to simple distinction between men and women.(P619)”

Black feminism

According to black feminism, previous studies were dominated by white people, who oppressed black people on an equal footing with white women. In fact, there exists some ‘multiplt disadvantages’.

“Black women were discriminated against on the basis of their race and gender.”

Postmodern feminism

The recognition of difference is central to postmodern feminism, Differences break the essential core, emphasis otherness, deconstruction.

The epilogue of this memo

Recently I have always been struggling with myself. If I want to be the common views’ success, it seems that I must give up my dream. After I graduated from my high school, I nearly forget Zhang Zai’s words, “To ordain conscience for Heaven and Earth. To secure life and fortune for the people. To continue lost teachings for past sages. To establish peace for all future generations.”. Yep, it too hard for me, and it seems too remote for me. But sometimes one person needs the unrealistic dream to support him keep going. I just twenty, and there is a board future standing by. Just reading, writing, and going. 2016.8.27