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Chapter 1 : What is Sociology? Developing a Sociological Perspective Sociology can be identified as the systematic study of human societies giving special emphasis to modern, industrialized systems. The subject came into being as an attempt to understand the far-reaching changes that have occurred in human societies over the past two to three centuries. Major social changes have also occurred in the most intimate and personal characteristics of people's lives. The development of romantic love as a basis for marriage is an example of this. The practice of sociology involves the ability to think imaginatively and to detach oneself as far as possible from preconceived ideas about social relationships. Modern Theoretical Approaches A diversity of theoretical approaches is found in sociology. The reason for this is not particularly puzzling. Theoretical disputes are difficult to resolve even in the natural sciences, and in sociology we face special difficulties because of the complex problems involved in subjecting our own behavior to study. Important figures in the early development of sociological theory include Auguste Comte (1798-1857), mile Durkheim (1858-1917), Karl Marx (1818-1883), and Max Weber (1864-1920). Many of their ideas remain important in sociology today. The main theoretical approaches in sociology are symbolic interactionism, functionalism, Marxism, feminism, rational choice approach, and postmodernism. To some extent, these approaches complement each other. However, there are also major contrasts between them, which influence the ways in which theoretical issues are handled by authors following different approaches. Levels of Analysis The study of face-to-face interaction is usually called microsociology-as contrasted to macrosociology, which studies larger groups, institutions, and social systems. Micro and macro analyses are in fact very closely related and each complements the other. How Can Sociology Help Us in Our Lives? Sociology is a science in that it involves systematic methods of investigation and the evaluation of theories in the light of evidence and logical argument. But it cannot be modeled directly on the natural sciences, because studying human behavior is in fundamental ways different from studying the world of nature. Sociology is a subject with important practical implications. Sociology can contribute to social criticism and practical social reformin several ways. First, the improved understanding of a given set of social circumstances often gives us a better chance of controlling them. Second, sociology provides the means of increasing our cultural sensitivities, allowing policies to be based on an awareness of divergent cultural values. Third, we can investigate the consequences (intended and unintended) of the adoption of particular policy programs. Finally, and perhaps most important, sociology provides self-enlightenment, offering groups and individuals an increased opportunity to alter the conditions of their own lives... View Full Document

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