Sociological Perspective

Chapter 1

The Sociological Perspective

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I - Sociological Perspective introduction. The Sociological Perspective.
A.Sociology is the systematic study of human society.
B.The sociological perspective helps us to see general social patterns in the behavior of particular individuals. C.It also encourages us to realize that society guides our thoughts and deeds — to see the strange in the familiar. D. Sociology also encourages us to see personal choice in social context.

1.For example, Emile Durkheim’s research showed that the suicide rate was strongly influenced by the extent to which people were socially integrated with others. 2.WINDOW ON THE WORLD—Global Map 1–1: Women’s Childbearing in Global Perspective. A look around the world shows that childbearing is not a personal choice. Women living in poor countries have many more children than women living in rich nations.

E. The greater people’s social marginality, the better able they are to use the sociological perspective. Just as social change encourages sociological thinking, sociological thinking can bring about social change.

II. The Importance of a Global Perspective.
A.Sociologists also strive to see issues in global perspective, defined as the study of the larger world and our society’s place in it.
1.THINKING CRITICALLY—The Sociological Imagination: Turning Personal Problems into Public Issues. The power of the sociological perspective lies not just in changing individual lives but in transforming society.

B.There are three different types of nations in the world. 1. The world’s high-income countries are industrialized nations in which most people have relatively high incomes. 2. The world’s middle-income countries have limited industrialization and moderate personal income. 3. The world’s low-income countries have little industrialization and most people are poor.

4. THINKING GLOBALLY—The Global Village: A Social Snapshot of Our World. Think of the population breakdown if the world were a village of one thousand people. 5. Global thinking is an important component of the sociological perspective for four reasons: a. Where we live makes a great difference in shaping our lives. b. Societies the world over are increasingly interconnected, making traditional distinctions between “us” and “them” less and less valid. c. Many human problems faced in the United States are far more serious elsewhere. d. Thinking globally is a good way to learn more about ourselves.

6. APPLYING SOCIOLOGY BOX─Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. Sociologist Barbara Ehrenreich took a low-wage job in order to find out more about life for people who hold these jobs.

III. Applying the Sociological Perspective.
A.Applying the sociological perspective is useful in many ways.
1.It helps guide many of the laws and policies that shape our lives.
2.It leads to important personal growth and expanded awareness.
3. It serves as excellent preparation for the world at work.
B. Sociologists have helped shape public policy.
C. Sociology and personal growth
1.The sociological perspective helps us assess the truth of “common sense.” 2.The sociological perspective helps us assess both opportunities and constraints in our lives. 3.The sociological perspective empowers us to be active participants in our society. 4.The sociological perspective helps us to live in a diverse world.

D. The “sociology advantage.” A background in sociology is also good preparation for the working world. An increasing number of sociologists work in all sorts of applied fields.

IV. The Origins of Sociology.
A.Three major social changes during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are important to the development of sociology. 1. The rise of a factory-based industrial economy.
2. The emergence of great cities in Europe.
3. Political changes, including a rising concern with individual liberty and rights. The French Revolution symbolized this dramatic break with political and social tradition. B. Auguste Comte believed that the major goal of sociology was to understand society as it actually operates. Comte favored positivism—a way of understanding based on science. He saw sociology as the product of a three-stage historical development: 1.The theological stage, in which thought was guided by religion. 2.The metaphysical stage, a transitional phase.

3. The scientific stage.
C. Auguste Comte and Karl Marx are well-known political pioneers of sociology.

V. Sociological Theory.
A. A theory is a statement of how and why specific facts are related. The goal of sociological theory is to explain social behavior in the real world. For example, SEEING OURSELVES—National Map 1–1 shows suicide rates across the United States. B. Theories are based on theoretical approaches, basic images of society that guide thinking and research. Sociologists ask two basic questions: What issues should we study? How should we connect the facts? There are three major sociological paradigms: 1.The structural-functional approach is a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability. a. It asserts that our lives are guided by social structures (relatively stable patterns of social behavior).

b. Each social structure has social functions, or consequences, for the operation of society as a whole. c. Key figures in the development of this approach include Auguste Comte, Emile Durkheim, Herbert Spencer, and Talcott Parsons. d. Robert Merton introduced three concepts related to social function: 1)manifest functions, the recognized and intended consequences of any social pattern 2)latent functions, largely unrecognized and unintended con-sequences 3)social dysfunctions, undesirable consequences of a social pattern for the operation of society e. Critical review: The influence of this approach has declined in recent decades. 1)It focuses on stability, thereby ignoring inequalities of social class, race, and gender. 2.The social-conflict approach is a framework for building theory that sees society as an arena of inequality that generates conflict and change. Most sociologists who favor the conflict approach attempt not only to understand society but also to reduce social inequality.

a. Key figures in this tradition include Karl Marx, Harriet Martineau, Jane Addams, and W. E. B. Du Bois. b. One important type of conflict analysis is the gender-conflict approach: a point of view that focuses on inequality and conflict between men and women. The gender-conflict approach is closely linked to feminism, the advocacy of social equality for women and men. c. THINKING ABOUT DIVERSTIY: RACE, CLASS, & GENDER BOX─An Early Pioneer: Du Bois on Race. William Edward Burghardt Du Bois desribed race as the major problem facing the United States in the twentieth century. d. Another important type of social-conflict analysis is the race-conflict approach, a point of view that focuses on inequality and conflict between people of different racial and ethnic categories. e. Critical review: This approach has developed rapidly in recent years. It has several weaknesses. 1) It ignores social unity based on mutual interdependence and shared values. 2) Because it is explicitly political, it cannot claim scientific objectivity.

3)Like the structural-functional paradigm, it envisions society in terms of broad abstractions. 3.The symbolic-interaction approach is a framework for building theory that sees society as the product of the everyday interactions of individuals. a. The structural-functional and the social-conflict approaches share a macro-level orientation, meaning that they focus on broad social structures that shape society as a whole. In contrast, symbolic-interactionism has a micro-level orientation; it focuses on patterns of social interaction in specific settings. b. Key figures in the development of this approach include Max Weber, George Herbert Mead, Erving Goffman, George Homans, and Peter Blau. c. Critical review: Symbolic interactionism attempts to explain more clearly how individuals actually experience society. However, it has two weaknesses: 1) Its micro-orientation sometimes results in the error of ignoring the influence of larger social structures. 2) By emphasizing what is unique, it risks overlooking the effects of culture, class, gender, and race. VI.

Applying the Approaches:The Sociology of Sports.

A. The functions of sports. A structural-functional approach directs attention to the ways sports help society to operate.
B. Sports and conflict. A social-conflict analysis points out that sports are closely linked to social inequality.
C. Sports as interaction. The symbolic-interaction paradigm sees sports less as a system than as an ongoing process. 1.THINKING IT THROUGH BOX—Is Sociology Nothing More Than Stereotypes? In contrast to stereotypes, good sociology involves making Generalizations, but with three important conditions. a. Sociologists do not indiscriminately apply any generalization to all individuals. b. Sociologists are careful that a generalization squares with available facts. Sociologists offer generalizations fair-mindedly, with an interest in getting at the truth.

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