E many early north american sociologists combined the

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E.Many early North American sociologists combined the role of sociologist with that of social reformer. For example, University of Chicago sociologists Park and Burgess, studied many urban problems and offered suggestions on how to alleviate them. By the 1940s, as sociologists became more concerned with establishing sociology as an academic discipline, the emphasis shifted from social reform to social theory. 1.Talcott Parsons developed abstract models of society to show how the parts of society harmoniously work together. 2.Countering this development was C. Wright Mills, who urged sociologists to get back to social reform. He saw the emergency of the power eliteas an imminent threat to freedom. F.The debate over what should be the proper goals of sociological analysis—analyzing society vs. reforming society—continues today. 1.Applied sociology exists between these two extremes. One of the first attempts at applied sociology was the founding of the NAACP. 2.Today, applied sociologists work in a variety of settings, from business and hi-tech organizations to government and not-for-profit agencies. 3.Applied sociology is the application of sociological knowledge in some specific setting, rather than an attempt to rebuild society. Both sociologists who focus on social reform and those who emphasize basic sociology reject applied sociology.
6 | P a g e VIII.Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology A.Theory is a general statement about how some parts of the world fit together and how they work; it is an explanation of how two or more facts are related to one another. Sociologists use three different theoretical perspectives to understand social behavior. B.Symbolic interactionism views symbols, things to which we attach meaning, as the basis of social life. 1.Through the use of symbols, people are able to define relationships to others; to coordinate actions with others, thereby making social life possible; and to develop a sense of themselves. 2.A symbolic interactionist studying divorce would focus on how the changing meanings of marriage, family, and divorce have all contributed to the increase in the rate of divorce in U.S. society. C.The central idea of functional analysis is that society is a whole unit, made up of interrelated parts that work together. 1.To understand society, we must look at both structure (how the parts of society fit together to make up the whole) and function (how each part contributes to society). 2.Robert Merton used the term function to refer to the beneficial consequences of people’s actions to keep society stable and dysfunction to refer to consequences that undermine stability. Functions can be either manifest (actions that are intended) or latent (unintended consequences).

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