1_The Sociological Perspective - The Sociological...

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Unformatted text preview: The Sociological Perspective Chapter 1 Sociology as a Point of View What is Sociology? Main focus It is the scientific study of human society and social interactions. Groups Seeks to: Understand forces that operate throughout society Understand forces that mold individuals and shape their behavior Determine social events Sociology and Science Sociology Commonly described as one of the social sciences Refers to a body of systematically arranged knowledge that shows operation of general laws Employs the same general methods of investigation that are used in the natural science Scientific Method A process by which a body of scientific knowledge is built through observation, experimentation, generalization, and verification. Social Sciences The Social Science disciplines that apply scientific methods to the study of human behavior. Sociology Anthropology Psychology Economics History Political Science Social Work Sociology vs. Other Disciplines Sociologist study groups and institutions within large, modern, and industrial societies using research methods that enable them to quickly gather specific information about large numbers of people. Cultural anthropologists immerse themselves in another society for a long time, trying to learn as much as possible about that society and the relationships among it. Sociologists look at patterns of behavior. Psychologists look at motivation, perception, cognition, creativity, mental disorders, and personality. Sociologists study social factors that influence a person’s economic decision. Economists study price availability factors. Sociologists look at historical events within their social contexts to discover why things happened and, more importantly, to assess what their social significance was and is. Sociology focuses on the present. Historians look at past events to attempt to learn what happened, when it happened, and why it happened. Sociologists focus on how political systems affect other institutions in society. Political science devotes more attention to the forces that shape political systems and the theories for understanding these forces. Sociologists try to understand why problems exist. Social workers help people solve problems. The Sociological Imagination Coined by C. Wright Mills Sometimes called The Sociological Perspective Refers to looking at people’s actions and attitudes and how they are shaped by societies forces How do we explain and understand our perspective? The The Sociological Imagination Social Context Three Levels • Broad Level – includes historical events such as war and economic cycles (booms and busts) • Narrow Level – includes gender, race & ethnicity, and social class • Intimate Level – our interpersonal relationships with family, friends, or co-workers Each level helps us see the “big picture” around us; shapes the way we look at life. Social The Sociological Imagination Location Where we are located in society • Physical locations – geographic region, state, city neighborhood • Personal characteristics – education level, race-ethnicity, age, sex, health, marital status Does not determine action Surrounded by certain ideas, beliefs, and expectations which influence our actions To be a sociologist, you have to: Develop a Sociological Imagination Change how you see the world Broaden your perspective on the world Make objective sense out of what’s going on around you Development of Sociology Emerged as a separate field of study in Europe during the 19th century Stimulated by the Industrial Revolution and the 18th-century American and French Revolutions. Key Sociologists Auguste Comte (1798-1857) Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) Karl Marx (1818-1883) Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) Max Weber (1864-1920) In the Beginning… Auguste Comte (1798-1857) Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) Auguste Comte (1798-1857) Envisioned a science of man Sought to develop a cohesive discipline that would: reveal the underlying principles of society through application of scientific method • Known as Positivism Coined the term sociology Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) Published Theory and Practice of Society is America in 1837. Emphasized observation of day-to-day life Encouraged social activism Traveled throughout the United States observing life everywhere from prisons to family gatherings Outspoken about treatment of women in the United States Translated Auguste Comte’s six volume Positive Philosophy to English Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) Believed that society was similar to a living organism Proponent of social Darwinism Charles Darwin’s notion of “survival of the fittest”—animals adapted to the environment survived and prospered while the poorly adapted died out. Provided support for social inequality Classical Sociological Theorists Karl Marx (1818-1883) Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) Max Weber (1864-1920) Karl Marx (1818-1883) Focused on human condition during Industrial Revolution Historical perspective of class conflict Bourgeoisie – the owners and controllers of the means of production (capitalists) Proletariat – the mass of workers and owners of the labor Provided foundations for modern conflict theory Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) Viewed individuals as the product of the social environment Society shapes people in every possible way Focused on forces that hold society together Concept of social variables Provided foundations for functionalist theory Durkheim cont. Studied/Identified Three Types of Suicide Egoistic Suicide comes from low group solidarity, and under-involvement with others. Altruistic Suicide derives from a very high level of group solidarity and over-involvement with others. Anomic Suicide results from a sense of feeling disconnected from society’s values (norms). Max Weber (1864-1920) Focused on understanding social actions Primary interest: Individual meanings people attach to the world around them Concentration on understanding human behavior Emphasized understanding rather than activism Pursued description and explanation of social truth or fact as means for influencing the social system Studied Beauracracy Protestant Work Ethic American Sociologists W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) Robert Merton (1910-2003) George Herbert Mead (1863-1931) Foundation of Sociology Classical Sociological Theories Functionalist Conflict Symbolic Interactionist Functionalism Views society as a system of highly interrelated structures or parts that function or operate together harmoniously Society viewed as organism in balance Emphasizes order and consensus Functionalism Three 1. 2. 3. Major Assumptions Social patterns provide stability Society is characterized by harmony Change and adaptation occur through evolution Macro Conflict Theory Envisions constant struggle to obtain maximum benefit Conflict viewed as the normal order Wealth, power, and prestige are focus of conflict Emphasis on who benefits from social division and control Struggle based on unequal power and control of means of production (resources) Conflict Theory Three 1. 2. 3. Major Assumptions Competition for scarce resources is central to all social relationships Some individuals or groups benefit from that competition more than others so inequality in reward and power are built into the system Change occurs through conflict not adaptation; revolution not evolution Macro Symbolic Interaction Subjective Interpretation Focuses on how individuals interpret the social world Seeks understanding of meanings of individual and social behavior—the social act The interpretation and meaning of: • Signs • Symbols • Language • Gestures • Objects Symbolic Interaction Three 1. 2. 3. Major Assumptions Symbols are important - symbols are gestures, language, behaviors. The interpretation of the symbols depends on the participants in the interaction. Meanings change as relationships change; relationships are constructed, terminated, reconstructed Meanings are negotiated. We constantly listen and attend to the 'doings' of others as we search for clarification or ulterior patterns Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology Questions? ...
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