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Unformatted text preview: Chapter 1: What is Sociology? Developing a Sociological Perspective Sociology can be identified as the systematic study of human social life, groups and 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. The practice of sociology involves the ability to think imaginatively and to detach oneself as far as possible from preconceived ideas about social relationships. In recent decades, sociology has incorporated a global perspective that makes us aware of our growing global interdependence and how our actions have consequences for others living outside our society. The Development of Sociological Thinking Theories are abstract interpretations that are used to explain a wide variety of situations or facts. 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. In its early years, the discipline reflected broader patterns of discrimination found within society. Individuals like Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) and W.E.B. DuBois (1868-1963) studied the conditions of women and African Americans but their contributions were largely ignored. 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. 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. Is Sociology a Science? 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....
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