Sociology and Sociological Perspective

Table of Content

The sociological perspective is the systematic study of human society, allowing us to recognize social patterns in individuals’ behavior and acknowledge that society influences our thoughts and actions.

C. According to Deuterium’s research, the suicide rate is significantly impacted by an individual’s level of social integration.

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D. Being socially marginalized can enhance one’s ability to use sociological perspective. Additionally, sociological thinking has the potential to promote social change, and vice versa.

II. Sociology emphasizes the importance of a global perspective. Sociologists seek to comprehend societal issues within a broader global context and evaluate our society’s position in this framework.

B. There are three types of nations worldwide: 1. Industrialized nations with high incomes for most people. 2. Nations with limited industrialization and moderate personal income. 3. Nations with little industrialization and poverty for most people.

4. Global thinking is crucial in the sociological perspective due to four reasons: a. Our lives are greatly influenced by our geographical location.

The increasing interconnectedness of societies worldwide diminishes the significance of conventional distinctions between “us” and “them”. In numerous other places, the societal challenges experienced in the United States are even more extreme. Embracing a global perspective allows us to gain a more profound comprehension of ourselves. Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

When employing the sociological perspective, we obtain various advantages:
A. Sociologists have had a substantial influence on shaping public policy.
B. Sociology is crucial for understanding and resolving social issues.

There are four distinct benefits to utilizing sociology: 1. It enables us to evaluate the validity of “common sense” through the sociological perspective. 2. It allows us to analyze the opportunities and limitations present in our lives using the sociological perspective. 3. It empowers us to actively engage in society as participants through the sociological perspective. 4. It assists us in navigating a diverse world by adopting the sociological perspective.

Sociology has also played a significant role in shaping public policy and law, making a background in sociology advantageous for various careers. Additionally, an increasing number of sociologists are pursuing employment in applied fields.

The Origins of Sociology

The birth of sociology resulted from powerful and complex social forces:

A. Social Change And Sociology

Three major social changes during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are important to the development of sociology:

  1. The rise of industrial technology
  2. The growth of cities
  3. Political change, including a rising concern with individual liberty and rights (e.g., the French revolution)

B. Science and Sociology

Augusta Comet believed that the major goal of sociology was to understand society as it actually operates.

Comet viewed sociology as the outcome of a progressive historical development: 1. The theological stage, where thoughts were influenced by religion. 2. The metaphysical stage, which served as a transition. 3. The scientific stage, guided by positivism – a scientific approach to knowledge grounded in factual evidence rather than speculation. Sociological Theory aims to elucidate the connection between specific facts and provide an understanding of social behavior in the actual world.

Theories are based on theoretical approaches, or basic images of society that guides thinking and research. Sociologists ask two basic questions: “What issues should we study?” and “How should we connect the facts?” There are three major sociological approaches:

A. 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. It asserts that our lives are guided by social structures (relatively stable patterns of social behavior).

Each social structure possesses social functions, attributed to this approach are Augusta Comet, Mile Druthers, Herbert Spencer, and Tailcoat Parsons. Robert Morton proposed three concepts regarding social function: 1. Manifest functions, which are the acknowledged and intended repercussions of any social arrangement. 2. Latent functions, which consist of largely unacknowledged and unintended consequences. 3. Social dysfunctions, encompassing the undesirable aftermaths of a social arrangement on the functioning of society. 4. Critical Review: The impact of this approach has waned in recent times. It prioritizes stability while disregarding disparities in social class, race, and gender.

The social-conflict approach and the gender-conflict approach are theoretical frameworks that concentrate on inequality, conflict, and societal change. Sociologists who endorse these approaches aim to comprehend society and diminish social inequality. Karl Marx is closely associated with the social-conflict approach, whereas the gender-conflict approach emphasizes the inequality and conflict between men and women. This approach is strongly connected to feminism, a movement advocating for equal rights for both genders.

The race-conflict approach is a significant form of social-conflict analysis that concentrates on the inequality and conflict among individuals with varying racial and ethnic backgrounds. This approach, along with other social conflict approaches, has experienced substantial growth in recent times. Nonetheless, these approaches have certain shortcomings, including neglecting the significance of social unity based on mutual interdependence and shared values. Moreover, due to their explicit political nature, these approaches cannot be deemed scientifically objective. Similar to the structural-functional approach, social conflict approaches comprehend society through overarching concepts.

The symbolic-interaction approach is a framework for theory building that views society as the result of individuals’ everyday interactions. In comparison, both the stratospherically and the social-conflict approaches have a macro-level perspective, concentrating on societal structures that impact society as a whole. Conversely, symbolic-interactionism adopts a micro-level standpoint, examining patterns of social interaction within specific contexts. Notable contributors to the development of this approach are Max Weber, George Herbert Mead, Irving Coffman, George Humans, and Peter Blab.

Critical Review: Symbolic interactions provides a clearer understanding of how individuals experience society, but it has two weaknesses:

  1. Its micro-orientation sometimes fails to consider the influence of larger social structures.
  2. By highlighting individual uniqueness, it may overlook the impact of culture, class, gender, and race.

VI. Three Ways to Do Sociology

A. Scientific Sociology

One popular approach to sociological research is positivist sociology, which examines society through scientific observations of social behavior.

Scientific knowledge is derived from empirical evidence, which entails conducting experiments and making observations to validate facts. Sociological research challenges widely accepted notions about “human nature,” such as gender roles. The notion that the United States is a class-neutral society is contradicted by the fact that the top 5% of families control half of the nation’s wealth. Although love is often viewed as the primary motivation for marriage, sociological studies reveal that in most societies, marriages are not primarily driven by love.

In scientific inquiry, concepts serve as simplified mental representations of various aspects of the world. Variables are concepts that can differ between different cases or scenarios. Measurement involves determining the value of a variable within a specific case or situation. Researchers employ statistical measures to describe entire populations, necessitating precise definitions and corresponding values assigned to operationalize variables.

Sociologists use descriptive statistics, such as mean, median, and mode, to represent the average of a large population. Reliability ensures consistent measurements, while validity guarantees accurate measurement of the intended subject. The main goal of sociological research is to determine the relationship between variables, with correlation defined as a connection where two or more variables change at the same time.

The scientific ideal is to establish cause and effect by observing how changes in one variable lead to changes in another. However, it is important to note that simply because two variables change together does not necessarily imply a cause-and-effect relationship. Sociologists refer to this as a spurious correlation, where two variables change without one causing the other. To prove a true cause-and-effect relationship, we must demonstrate that: a) the two variables are correlated, b) the independent variable occurs before the dependent variable in time, and c) there is no evidence of a spurious correlation caused by some third variable.

The principle of objectivity plays a vital role in scientific research as it refers to personal neutrality. Sociologists strive for value-free research, following Max Weber’s approach of seeking truth based on objective reality rather than subjective perceptions. Some sociologists argue that science can be subjective since human beings engage in meaningful action instead of mere reaction.

Max Weber, who pioneered this framework, argued that sociology’s focus is interpretation. Interpretative sociology studies society by examining the meanings individuals attribute to their social environment. The role of an interpretative sociologist is not solely to observe people’s actions but to immerse themselves in their world of meaning and comprehend the reasons behind their behavior.

Critical Sociology emphasizes the significance of change. Karl Marx established this framework by rejecting the notion that society is a predetermined, “natural” system with an unalterable structure.

Critical sociology, which aims to bring about social change, differs from traditional sociology by not solely focusing on studying society as it currently exists. Rather, it seeks to actively transform it. On the other hand, scientific sociologists argue against taking sides and claim that critical sociology is inherently political and lacks objectivity. In terms of methods and theory, each of the three ways to approach sociology are connected to the theoretical approaches discussed earlier in the chapter. Furthermore, there are links between research orientations and theory, emphasizing their interconnectedness.

The positivist orientation and structural-functional approach are connected as they both aim to scientifically comprehend society as it exists. On the other hand, the interpretive orientation and symbolic-interaction approach are associated as they both center around the meanings individuals attribute to their social environment. Lastly, the critical orientation and social-conflict approach are linked together as they both strive to diminish social inequality. In relation to research, gender influences it in five ways, encompassing the personal characteristics and societal roles associated with being female or male. © 2011 Pearson Education, Inc.

The American Sociological Association, the professional organization of U.S. sociologists, has established guidelines for research ethics. These guidelines address various perspectives when approaching an issue, including anthropocentric or gender-specific viewpoints. Parallelizing involves using data from studying one sex to generalize about human behavior. Gender blindness refers to not considering gender as a variable, while double standards involve judging men and women based on different criteria. Interference occurs when the researcher’s sex influences the subject’s reaction.

Sociologists should strive to possess technical skills and maintain impartiality in their work, while also giving priority to the safety of research participants. It is crucial for researchers to disclose any sources of financial support in their published findings and adhere to global research protocol. The selection of a research method depends on the subject under study and the desired understanding. Experimentation, a frequently employed method, involves the examination of cause-and-effect within highly regulated conditions. Experiments are devised to test particular hypotheses that suggest potential associations between two or more variables.

Hypotheses are unverified statements of a relationship between variables. Experimenters gather the evidence needed to accept or reject the research hypothesis in three steps: measuring the dependent variable (the “effect”), exposing the dependent variable to the independent variable (the “cause” or treatment”), and measuring the dependent variable again to see if the predicted change took place.
1. Illustration of an Experiment: The “Stanford County Prison” Phillip Zanzibar devised a fascinating experiment in which he tested the hypothesis that once inside a prison, even emotionally healthy people are prone to violence.

The findings confirmed Sombrero’s hypothesis, but the study also demonstrated how research can affect the physical and mental health of participants. B. Investigating Queries: Survey Research involves subjects answering a set of statements or questions in a questionnaire or an interview. Survey research generally aims to describe rather than explain phenomena. Surveys target populations, the individuals who are the main focus of the research. Typically, a sample is studied, representing the entire population. Random sampling is frequently utilized to ensure a representative sample.

There are two ways to conduct surveys: through questionnaires or interviews. Questionnaires consist of written sets of questions given to participants, which can be closed-ended or open-ended. Protecting surveys is important. On the other hand, interviews involve a researcher personally asking respondents a series of questions. An example of survey research is sociologist Lois Benjamin’s study, where she used surveys to analyze how racism affects accomplished African American individuals.

Benjamin was surprised by how willing many people were to be interviewed. She concluded that despite African Americans’ improving social status, they still face racial hostility in the United States. In terms of research methods, participant observation involves descriptive and exploratory research. An example of participant observation is William Foote White’s study of social life in a rundown section of Boston called “Cornelia.” White became a participant observer and even married a local woman. He discovered that the neighborhood did not fit the stereotype of a slum, highlighting the tensions and contrasts involved in participant observation. Additionally, sociologists can save time and money by using existing data sources for their research rather than collecting new data.

Illustration of the use of existing sources: A Tale of Two Cities Dig Ballet’s study of Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia showcases the clever utilization of available data. Ballet’s research employed scientific logic, while also demonstrating the interpretive aspect by highlighting people’s understanding of their surroundings. This study serves as a reminder that sociological investigations frequently involve blending different methodologies and utilizing a sociological imagination. Putting It All Together: Ten Steps in Sociological Research The subsequent ten questions will assist you in conducting a sociology research project: 1.

1. What is your topic and what are your specific questions?
2. What have others already learned about this topic?
3. What will you need to carry out research on your topic?
4. Are there any ethical concerns related to your research?
5. What method or methods will you use for your research?
6. How will you record the data collected from your research?
7. What insights or conclusions can be drawn from the data?
8. How can you share what you have learned with others?

Everyone, including sociologists, makes generalizations, but sociological generalizations differ from impel stereotypes, which are exaggerated descriptions that are applied to every person in some category.
Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc.

All rights reserved. 7 Chapter Objectives After reading Chapter 1, students should be able to: 1. Define sociology and analyze the components of the sociological perspective. 2. Emphasize the significance of a global perspective for sociology. 3. Recognize and explain four advantages of adopting the sociological perspective. 4. Identify and engage in a discussion on three social changes particularly crucial for the development of sociology. 5. Highlight the importance of theory in sociology. 6. Sum up the fundamental assumptions of the three major theoretical approaches in sociology. 7.

In this discussion, we will explore the benefits of utilizing the scientific approach to acquiring knowledge. Moreover, we will analyze how scientific evidence challenges our commonly held beliefs. Additionally, we shall define the terms “concepts,” “variables,” and “measurement.” Furthermore, we will differentiate between the concepts of reliability and validity. Next, we will examine the disparities between cause-and-effect research in sociology while suggesting methods for researchers to maintain objectivity. Lastly, we will summarize the three methodological approaches within sociology: scientific, interpretive, and critical. Lastly, we will highlight five ways in which gender-based issues can potentially distort sociological research.

List ethical guidelines to follow in sociological research. Summarize the four major methods by which sociologists conduct research and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each method. Understand the basic logic of experimental research. Outline the ten steps involved in carrying out sociological investigation. Supplementary Lecture Material Sociology and the Other Social Sciences Sociology is only one of a number of interrelated ways of attempting to understand and account for human behavior. Most earlier attempts were humanistic; that is, they were not guided by the principles of scientific methodology.

The social sciences offer a more effective means of comprehending the origins of human behavior compared to humanistic approaches due to their reliance on meticulous processes for collecting and evaluating empirical data. However, it is important to acknowledge the significance of insights gained through nonscientific methods. These insights often serve as the foundation for scientific investigations. Sociology is just one of several interconnected social sciences that will be discussed in the following discourse, which will also explore its connections with each of these disciplines.

Psychology, sociology, and cultural anthropology have a common interest in comprehending different forms of human behavior. However, they diverge in focus, with psychology primarily emphasizing individual behavior and sociologists often exploring group behavior and the impact of group membership (e.g., race, class, and gender) on individual actions. Psychology includes both academic and applied branches. The applied branch aims to assist individuals in understanding their own behavior and managing personal challenges.

Academic psychology is closely related to sociology, as it focuses on understanding various aspects of human behavior such as learning, thinking, personality development, intelligence, memory, and motivation. It originated from biology and remains heavily focused on conducting experimental research. Certain academic psychologists study animal behavior and brain physiology, which differs significantly from sociological studies. However, others explore similar questions as sociologists, but with a particular emphasis on individual behaviors.

The fields of social psychology, psychology, sociology, and anthropology all converge in the study of the social environment. Social psychology is commonly taught in curricula for psychology and sociology. Anthropology, like psychology, shares some concerns with sociology but also focuses on distinct subjects. Physical anthropology and cultural anthropology are the main subfields, but archeology and linguistics are also addressed. Physical anthropology employs natural science research methods to explore topics such as human biological evolution and racial distinctions.

Cultural anthropology and sociology have several similarities in topics, but there are two major distinctions: (1) Anthropology focuses on small, preliterate, and traditional societies, while sociology primarily examines modern industrial societies. (2) Anthropology examines cultures as a whole, whereas sociology tends to analyze smaller systems within complex societies, such as groups or institutions.

However, sociology and cultural anthropology are more similar to each other than they are to the other social sciences. Additionally, as traditional societies that anthropologists traditionally studied are becoming less common, cultural anthropologists are now focusing more on studying contemporary aspects of society such as street gangs, immigrant life, and ethnic subcultures. These topics are often studied by sociologists as well.

Cultural anthropologists and sociologists employ similar research methods, but anthropologists tend to create detailed ethnographies of social scenes through extended periods of participant observation, while sociologists typically gather narrower and more quantitative data using surveys. Economics is a more focused discipline than sociology, psychology, or anthropology, concentrating on the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

Economists are focused on measurable phenomena like interest rates, taxes, economic production rates, and unemployment. As a result, they have developed the most advanced statistical techniques among all the social sciences for analyzing and presenting data. However, this precision can sometimes hinder economists’ ability to effectively address the broader issues that many people find more intriguing and significant.

Sociologists studying economic behavior, unlike economists, examine the connection between economics and various elements of social reality. They explore how value orientations, such as backing for the environmental movement, can impact institutional patterns, the organization and evolution of corporations, and individuals’ subjective experience of the work environment. Similarly, political science, similar to economics, concentrates on a specific aspect of human social behavior—power and authority issues.

Traditionally, political science was primarily concerned with political philosophy. However, with the emergence of political sociology, political scientists have expanded their interests to include topics such as political colonization, social influences on voting behavior, the power dynamics within local communities, and the origins and growth of political protest movements. These areas of study are also of interest to sociologists working in this field.

The two disciplines have similar research methods, with political scientists playing a significant role in developing opinion polling and survey research techniques. Two other disciplines, although only marginally compatible with the basic definition of a social science, also deserve mention. History straddles the line between the humanities and the social sciences. Traditionally, this field studied unique historical developments rather than viewing them as examples of general categories or patterns.

Recently, historians have shown a growing interest in the social forces that shape historical events and in developing theories of broader patterns of stochastic change. They are also utilizing more quantitative and precise data. These trends indicate that history is moving towards becoming a true social science. Social work is similar to applied psychology as its main objective is not to comprehend human behavior, but rather to assist individuals, groups, and communities in effectively managing their personal and social problems. However, it is crucial to understand the causes of these issues, and social workers heavily rely on sociological and psychological research and theory. Nonetheless, the field distinguishes itself from sociology and academic psychology due to its practical orientation.

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