Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Quick tour of sociology

Melinda Messineo, associate professor of sociology, gave us a short course in her discipline, from social class to structural functionalism and symbolic interactionism.

Augusta Comte helped found the study of sociology, believing that scholars could use the scientific method to study human groups.

Comte’s ideas became what the social sciences now refer to as positivism – described by anthropologist Edmund Leach as “the view that serious scientific inquiry should not search for ultimate causes deriving from some outside source but must confine itself to the study of relations existing between facts which are directly accessible to observation.”

In regard to creativity, we talked about the idea of periphery, one’s relationship to a social network. One idea, Messineo said, is that artists and creative types are frequently found on the periphery of society – not in the “connected core.”

“They are aware that change is occurring because they’re not constrained by the rules,” she said.

Some of the best work in that area has been done by sociologist Michael P. Farrell, who studied the French Impressionists, among others, in his landmark “Collaborative Circles: Friendship Dynamics and Creative Work.”

We discussed the relationship between social class and parenting styles. People of higher socioeconomic status use more affirming statements to their children than reprimands; they read more to them and ask more complex, abstract, critical-thinking questions when talking to children about what they’ve read.

Messineo talked about social capital, the non-financial assets that involve educational, social and intellectual knowledge that are part of the socialization process.

“Your family is your primary source of social capital when you’re young,” she said. “The higher amount of social capital you have, the more opportunities you have and the higher likelihood for creativity in your life.”

- By John Strauss, jcstrauss@bsu.edu

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