Reading Guide for Exam #1
Sociologists study the forces outside us that shape our lives, interests, and
personalities (social forces). Sociologists also explore and analyze the ultimate
issues of our personal lives, of society and of the world.
The three basic assumptions are:
Individuals are, by their nature, social beings
. There are two fundamental
reasons for this assumption reasons for this assumption. First, human
babies enter the world totally dependent on other people for their survival.
A second basis for the social nature of human beings is that throughout
history people have found it to their advantage to cooperate with other
Individuals are, for the most part, socially determined
. During infancy, the
child is at the mercy of adults, especially parents. These people shape the
infant in an infinite variety of ways, depending on their proclivities and
those of their society. They parents transmit religious views, political
attitudes, and attitudes toward how other groups are to be rated. The
individual’s identity is socially bestowed. Who we are, how we feel about
ourselves, and how other people treat us are usually consequences of our
Individuals create sustain, and change the social forms within which they
conduct their lives.
Social groups of all sizes and types are made by
people. Interacting people create a social structure that becomes a course
of control over those individuals.
Social determinism is the assumption that human behavior is explained
exclusively by social factors. Human agency is when individuals acting alone or
with others, shape, resist, challenge and sometimes change the social
institutions that impinge on them.
C. Wright Mills wrote that the task of sociology was to realize that individual
circumstances are inextricably linked to the structure of society. The sociological
imagination involves (a) a willingness to view the social world from the
perspective of others; (b) focusing on the social, economic, and historical
circumstances that influence families, groups, and organizations; (c) questioning