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Chapter 1 The Sociological Imagination Sociology is the study of human society. In the mid-twentieth century, sociologist C. Wright Mills argued that we need to use our sociological imagination to think critically about the social world around us. The sociological imagination is the ability to connect one's personal experiences to society at large and greater historical forces. Using our sociological imagination allows us to "make the familiar strange" or to question habits or customs that seem "natural" to us. What Is a Social Institution? A social institution is a group of social positions, connected by social relations, that perform a social role. Social institutions, such as the legal system, the labor market, or language itself, have a great influence on our behavior and are constantly changing. The interactions and meanings we ascribe to social institutions shape and change them. Social identity is how individuals define themselves in relationship to groups they are a part of (or in relationship to groups they choose not to be a part of). We all contribute to one another's social identity, which can also be thought of as a grand narrative constructed of many individual stories. The Sociology of Sociology The French scholar Auguste Comte , founder of what he called " social physics " or " positivism ," felt that we could better understand society by determining the logic or scientific laws governing human behavior. Harriet Martineau , the first to translate Comte's written works to English, was one of the earliest feminist social scientists. Historical materialism, a theory developed by Karl Marx , identifies class conflict as the primary cause of social change. Max Weber felt that culture and politics as well as economics were important influences on society, and his emphasis on subjectivity became a foundation of interpretive sociology . Emile Durkheim , considered the founding practitioner of positivist sociology, developed the theory that the division of labor in a given society helps to determine how social cohesion is maintained, or not maintained, in that society. Georg Simmel established what is today referred to as formal sociology , or a sociology of pure numbers. The Chicago School focused on empirical research with the belief that people's behaviors and personalities are shaped by their social and physical environments. Double consciousness, a concept developed by W. E. B. DuBois , refers to an individual's constant awareness of how others perceive them and how those perceptions alter their own behavior. Modern sociological theorie s include functionalism, conflict theory, feminist theory, symbolic interactionism, postmodernism, and midrange theory.
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