Strangers to these Shores: Race and Ethnic Relations in the
United States
Culture and Social Structure
by Vincent N. Parrillo, Allyn & Bacon, 2000
Powerpoint Presentation by Ron L. Shamwell, Social Sciences Department,
Community College of Philadelphia, 2000
2.1 Social Structure: (Roles/Groups/Institutions/Status)
-organized patterns of behavior among the basic components of a social system-predictable social relationships among the different peoples in a society. Orientations
shape expectations about how groups fit into the society.
2.2 The Concept of Culture: (Patterns)
-Consist of the physical or material objects and values, attitudes, customs, beliefs, and
habits shared by members of a society and transmitted to the next generation, this can
either be material or non-material.
-Cultural attributes provide a sense of peoplehood and common bonds, so people can
relate to each other--most sociologist emphasize the impact of culture shaping
2.3 Basic Values
Achievement & Success
 Activity & Work
 Moral orientation
 Humanitarian Mores
 Efficiency& Practicality
 Progress
 Material Comfort
 Equality
 External Conformity
 Science & Rationality
 Nationalism
 Democracy
 Individualism
 Racism & Group
Superiority Themes
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-Norms are a culture’s rules of conduct, which are internalized and
embodied for fundamental expectations.
2.4 Reality Construct:
Our perception of reality is related to our culture, this helps us interpret
the sensory stimuli from our environment and tell us how to respond.
Therefore, culture intervenes between the human organism and its
environment to produce actions. “It is the screen through which we see.”
Figure#2.2 Culture Reality
observes the world
through SENSE
are evaluated in terms of
attitudes, customs, and
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2.5 Language and Other Symbols:
(System of Communication)
-Culture is learned behavior, acquired chiefly through verbal
communication, or language.
-A word is nothing more than a symbol--something that stands for
something else.
-The word represents a mental concept that is based on empirical reality.
Verbal Communication
Empirical Reality
-Social Location
-Words reflect culture, however, one word may have different meanings in
different cultures.
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-Because words symbolically interpret the world to us, the Linguistic Relativity of
language may connote both intended and unintended prejudicial meanings. For
example, black is the symbol for darkness or evil, but this idea can be transferred to
mean a persons of the Black race, or the word white, which symbolizes cleanliness
or goodness can be transferred to mean a person of the White race.
-Nonverbal communication, or body language, is highly important too. Body
movements, gestures, physical proximity, facial expressions (100-136), each of
which conveys a distinct meaning, and paralinguistic signals (sounds, but not words,
such as a sigh, a kiss-puckering sound, or the m-m-m sound of tasting something
good) all convey information to the observer-listener.
-Body language is important in inter-group relations, too, whether in conversation,
interaction, or perception.
Body language may support or belie one’s words; it may suggest friendliness,
aloofness, or deference.
-Although some forms of body language are fairly universal (e.g., most facial [120]
expressions), many cultural variations exist in body langPage 5.
uage itself and in the interpretation of its meanings.
-Human beings respond to their definitions of stimuli rather than to the
stimuli themselves. For example, when Whites define Blacks as inferior
and then offer them fewer opportunities because of that alleged inferiority,
Blacks are disadvantaged, which in turn supports the initial definition, this
may also apply to gender or male/female employment opportunities.
2.6 Culture establishes the framework through which an individual
perceives others, classifies them into groups, and assigns certain general
characteristics to them, which is based on prestige, power and influence.
-Vicious-Circle Phenomenon=as groups attitudes and actions to ward
others groups continue, in such instances, people create a culturally
determined world of reality, and their actions reinforce their beliefs.
(Social interaction or social change may counteract such situations,
however, leading to their redefinition).
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Cultural Transmission, each generation transmits its culture to the next generation,
which learns those cultural definitions at an early age. See the topic about the South
Pacific story on page 34.
Cultural Change, indicates discoveries, inventions, technological advances,
innovations, and natural disasters alter the customs, values, attitudes, and beliefs of
a society.
Cultural Diffusion, these are ideas, inventions, and practices spread from one
culture to another, albeit at different rates of diffusion, negative attitudes and a
large distance between groups can pose formidable barriers, and sometime cultural
diffusion occurs only under temporarily favorable conditions.
Note: Anthropologist Ralph Linton calculated that any given culture contains about
90 percent borrowed elements. Read the “100 percent American” male on page 35
of text.
Cultural Contact, culture can also undergo change through people of different
cultures coming into contact with on another, sometimes
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but not always this can lead to Cultural Shock, which is characterized by
feelings of disorientation and anxiety and a sense of being threatened.
2.7 Subcultures:
Chain Migration, settling in an area already containing family, friends, or
compatriots who located there earlier.
Parallel Social Institutions, their own clubs, organizations, newspapers,
stores, churches, and schools duplicating those of the host society---appear,
creating cohesiveness within the minority subculture, whether it is an
immigrant or native-born grouping.
Ethnic Subcultures, evolve in response to conditions within the host
society, the immigrants sometimes develop a group consciousness, many
first-generation Americans possess a village orientation toward their
homeland rather than a national identity, may speak different dialects, feud
with others, and have different values.
Ethnogenesis, shaped partly by the core culture in selectively
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absorbing some elements and modifying others, the group also retains,
modifies, or drops elements from its cultural heritage as it adapts to its new
Marginality, the subculture is undergoing change, its members may
experience problems--living under stress in two cultures simultaneously.
Refer here to the Dubios article on Double Consciousness.
-Older Generation wants to maintain
-Young Generation wants to achieve full acceptance by the
dominate society.
Persistent Subcultures, not all subcultures assimilate, some do not even
desire to do so; and others, particularly nonwhite groups, face difficulties
in assimilation.
Structural Conditions, the nature of the social structure influences not only
the distribution of power resources (economic, political, and social), but
also the accessibility of those resources to groups who seek upward
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2.8 Structural Conditions:
-The nature of social structure influences not only the distribution of power
resource economic, political, and social) but also the accessibility of those
resources to groups who seek upward mobility.
-Factors:Economy, Degree of Change, and Industrialization
2.9 Stratification:
-Is the hierarchical classification of the members of society based on the
unequal distribution of resources, power, and prestige?
stratified layers
ability to influence
-The form of stratification affects how groups within the various strata of
society view one another. For example, people believe that a group’s low
socioeconomic status is due to its values and attitudes rather than to such
structural conditions racism, economic stagnation, and high urban
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2.10 Social Class:
-Categorization sociologists use to designate people’s place in the
stratification hierarchy; people in a particular social class have a similar level
of income, amount of property, degree of power, and type of lifestyle. Other
influences are race, religion, and status group. Review the reputational
method on page 42 of class text.
2.11 Class Consciousness:
-John Leggett found that class consciousness depends on the ethnic factor: the
lower a group’s ethnic status in the society, the higher the level of class
consciousness. Other studies have shown that working-class ethnic groups
tend to view their class as hostile to, and under the political control of, the
higher-status classes.
2.12 Ethnic and Social Class:Differences in stratification among various
groups cannot be explained by a single cause, although many observers have
tried to do so. For example, Stephen Steinberg, Thomas Sowell, and Colin
Greer. Review page 43 of class text.
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2.l3 Blaming the Poor or Society
-Culture of Poverty view that emerged in the 1960’s. Daniel P.
Moynihan and Oscar Lewis sparked the intense debate that continues to
resonate today. This government report, “The Negro Family: The Case
for National Action--pg.44 of class text.
2.14 Inter-group Conflict
-Robert Parks argued that a universal, irreversible, possibly slowlyevolving cycle of events made conflict and subsequent resolution by
assimilation inevitable. He saw four stages in the “race relations cycle”
A. contact between the groups B.competition C. adjustment or
accommodation and D. assimilation and amalgamation.
2.15 Cultural Differentiation
-The greater the differentiation is the greater the conflict will occur
2.16 Structural Differentiation
-Functionalist see the need for adjustments in the social system, but
conflict theorists emphasize purposeful actions of the dominant groups
to maintain systems of inequality.
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Chapter 2 - Sociology 233