Chapter 1 : What is Sociology?
Developing a Sociological Perspective
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), Émile 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
functionalism, Marxism, feminism, rational choice approach,
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
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
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