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Full file at
The Sociological Imagination
Sociology and the Social Sciences
Sociology and Common Sense
Early Thinkers
Auguste Comte
Harriet Martineau
Herbert Spencer
Émile Durkheim
Max Weber
Karl Marx
W.E.B. Du Bois
Twentieth-Century Developments
Charles Horton Cooley
Jane Addams
Robert Merton
Pierre Bourdieu
IM – 1 | 1
Functionalist Perspective
Conflict Perspective
Interactionist Perspective
The Sociological Approach
Applied and Clinical Sociology
Theory in Practice
Research Today
Thinking Globally
The Significance of Social Inequality
Speaking across Race, Gender, and Religious Boundaries
Social Policy throughout the World
Research Today: Looking at the Gulf Coast Oil Spill from Four Theoretical Perspectives
Sociology in the Global Community: Your Morning Cup of Coffee
1. Define sociology.
2. Define “sociological imagination.”
3. Differentiate sociology from other
social sciences.
4. Differentiate sociology and
common sense.
5. Define the term “theory.”
6. Discuss the development of
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Excerpt from Where Am I Wearing?
A Global Tour to the Countries,
Factories, and People that Make Our
Clothes, by Kelsey Timmerman
Discussion of how researchers in
various social sciences would study
the effects of the 2010 earthquake in
Thinking Critically Exercise on social
and cultural capital
Research Today Box, “Looking at the
sociological thought.
7. Discuss the contributions of the
earliest sociological theorists.
8. Discuss developments in Sociology
Gulf Coast Oil Spill from Four
Sociological Perspectives”
Emphasis on the theme, “Taking
Sociology with You” in the last two
sections (Applied and Clinical
Sociology – and - Developing a
Sociological Imagination)
during the twentieth century.
9. Identify the major sociological
10. Compare and contrast functionalism,
conflict theory, interactionism, and
11. Define applied and clinical sociology.
12. Discuss key elements of the
“sociological imagination.”
Sociology is the scientific study of social behavior and human groups. In attempting to
understand social behavior, sociologists rely on a type of creative thinking referred to as the
sociological imagination – an awareness of the relationship between an individual and the wider
society. The key element of the sociological imagination is the ability to view one’s own society
as an outsider would. This is quite a challenge since most of us are accustomed to the norms and
values of only one culture.
Sociology, like many of the social sciences, is quite broad in scope. Sociologists put their
imagination to work in a variety of areas, including aging, criminal justice, economics, family
life, politics, human ecology, and religion. Sociology focuses on the scientific study of human
behavior and is distinct from common sense. Common sense, which is often based only on
hearsay, tradition, or intuition, is typically inaccurate and unreliable. Sociology, on the other
hand, is an empirical science, relying on systematic observations of social life.
Sociologists use theory to examine the relationships between observations or data that may
appear to be unrelated initially. Effective theory may have both explanatory and predictive
powers. Early European theorists made pioneering contributions to the development of
sociological theory. Auguste Comte (1798-1857) coined the term sociology to refer to the
science or study of human social behavior. Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) gave special attention
to social class distinctions, such as gender and race. Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), drawing on
IM – 1 | 3
the work of Charles Darwin, applied the evolutionary view to the development of societies.
Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) focused on understanding behavior within a larger social context,
rather than individualistic terms. One of Durkheim’s most famous and enduring works is
Suicide. Additionally, Durkheim is noted for his consideration of anomie, the loss of direction
felt in a society when control of behavior becomes ineffective. Max Weber (1864-1920)
advocated the use of verstehen as a means by which to understand human behavior. Karl Marx
(1818-1883) suggested society is divided between competing classes (bourgeoisie and
proletariat) that clash in pursuit of their own material interests. Marx’s most famous work is
The Communist Manifesto (1848).
Sociology continues to build on the developments of the early European thinkers. However,
sociologists from the United States have also helped advance sociological theory and research.
W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963), one of the founders of the NAACP, used sociological research to
study urban life for Black and White Americans in order to mitigate social problems experienced
by Blacks in the United States. Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929) preferred to first view
smaller units of intimate, face-to-face groups in understanding social behaviors. Jane Addams
(1860-1935) was an early female sociologist who combined intellectual inquiry with social
service work and political activism for the purpose of assisting the underprivileged. Robert
Merton (1910-2003) produced a theory to help explain deviant behavior and emphasized the
unity of macro-level and micro-level approaches in the study of society. French sociologist
Pierre Bourdieu theorized that capital includes accumulated knowledge, prestige, formal
schooling, and social connections that are passed on from one generation to the next.
Sociologists view society in different ways. The functionalist perspective views society as a
living organism in which each part contributes to its survival. Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) was
greatly influenced by the work of Durkheim, Weber, and other European sociologists. Parsons
was a key figure in the development of functionalist theory. The conflict perspective views the
social world as being in continual struggle. Karl Marx viewed the struggle as inevitable, given
the exploitation of workers under capitalism. The feminist perspective views inequality in gender
as central to all behavior and organization. Sociologists began embracing the feminist
perspective in the 1970s. The interactionist perspective is primarily concerned with the
fundamental or everyday forms of interaction, including symbols and nonverbal communication.
George Herbert Mead (1863-1931) first developed interactionism in the United States and is
regarded as the founder of the interactionist perspective. Sociologists make use of all the
perspectives since each offers unique insights into understanding of social behavior.
Applied sociology is the use of the discipline of sociology with the specific intent of yielding
practical applications for human behavior and organizations. Clinical sociology is dedicated to
altering social relationships or to restructuring social institutions. Both applied and clinical
sociology can be contrasted with basic or pure sociology, which seeks a more profound
knowledge of the fundamental aspects of social phenomena.
Focus Questions
1. What is sociology
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and what is the
What is sociological
How did sociology
develop as a
What are the major
perspectives in
Key Terms: sociology, sociological imagination, science, natural
science, social science
Box: “Where Am I Wearing?”
Visual Support: Photos of earthquake in Haiti; Table 1-1 Sections
of the American Sociological Association
Classroom Discussion Topics: 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, 1-5
Video Resources: The Promise of Sociology; Requiem for Detroit;
Streets of Plenty; Why Sociology?
Topic Index: Sociological Imagination
Key Terms: theory
Visual Support: Photo of Las Vegas welcome sign
Classroom Discussion Topics: 1-9, 1-13, 1-14, 1-15
Additional Lecture Ideas: 1-3, 1-4, 1-7, 1-8
Topics and Sources for Student Research: Identifying Theories;
Goffman and the Feminist Perspective; Contemporary Sociological
Video Resources: Karl Marx-The Massive Dissent; Marxism; The
Promise of Sociology; Sociological Perspectives
Key Terms: anomie, verstehen, ideal type, double consciousness,
macrosociology, microsociology, cultural capital, social capital
Visual Support: Photo of Harriet Martineau, photo of student
Figure 1-1: Contributors to Sociology (Durkheim, Weber, Marx,
Additional Lecture Ideas: 1-2, 1-5, 1-8
Classroom Discussion Topics: 1-9, 1-10, 1-11, 1-12
Video Resources: Karl Marx—The Massive Dissent; Marxism: The
Theory that Split the World; W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four
Key Terms: functionalist perspective, manifest function, latent
function, dysfunction, conflict perspective, feminist view, interactionist
perspective, nonverbal communication, dramaturgical approach
Box: Research in Action, “Looking at Sports from Three Theoretical
Visual Support: Photo of a sacred cow in India; photo of men with
tattoos; Photo of Ida Wells-Barnett; Table 1-2, Major Theoretical
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What are applied and
clinical sociology?
Additional Lecture Ideas: 1-3, 1-4, 1-5, 1-7, 1-8
Classroom Discussion Topics: 1-10, 1-11, 1-12, 1-13, 1-14, 1-15
Topics and Sources for Student Research: Identifying Theories,
Goffman and the Feminist Perspective, Gender and Nonverbal
Communication, Contemporary Sociological Theory
Video Resources: Marxism, Sociological Perspectives, W.E.B. DuBois:
A Biography in Four Voices
Topic Index: Sociological Perspectives
Key Terms: applied sociology, clinical sociology, basic/pure sociology,
globalization, social inequality
Visual Support: Photo of community center in Colorado; globalization
Sociology in the Global Community: Your Morning Cup of Coffee
IN THE INSTRUCTOR’S MANUAL Topics and Sources for
Student Research: Goffman and the Feminist Perspective
Topics and Sources for Student Research: Careers in Sociology
What Is Sociology?
• The scientific study of social behavior and human groups.
The Sociological Imagination
The sociological imagination is an awareness of the relationship between an
individual and the wider society.
• C. Wright Mills described this type of creative thinking as the ability to view
one’s own society as an outsider. Example: What constitutes a normal sporting
event in Bali (i.e., cockfighting) is different than in the United States.
• It allows for a broader vision of society rather than a limited, personal
Sociology and the Social Sciences
• The term science refers to the body of knowledge obtained by methods based
on systematic observation.
• Natural science is the study of the physical features of nature. Astronomy,
biology, chemistry, geology, and physics are natural sciences.
• Social science is the study of the social features of human society. Sociology,
anthropology, economics, history, psychology, and political science are social
• In contrast to other social sciences, sociology emphasizes the influence that
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social factors have on people’s attitudes and behaviors, and examines the ways
in which people influence and are influenced by society. Example: How sociologists and
other social scientists study events such as the earthquake in Haiti.
Sociology and Common Sense
• Common sense information is not scientific. It is based on personal experience,
tradition, intuition, or hearsay. Therefore, it is often unreliable and inaccurate.
Example: Women are more talkative than men. [Researchers found that both
male and female college students spoke about 16,000 words per day.]
• Sociology tests, records, and analyzes information scientifically to describe and
understand a social environment.
What Is Sociological Theory?
• Theory is a set of statements that seeks to explain problems, actions, or behaviors.
Effective theory may be both explanatory and predictive. Example: Durkheim’s theory
on suicide.
• Durkheim’s research suggested that, while a solitary act, suicide is related to group life.
Suicide rates reflect the extent to which people are integrated into the group life of
society. Modern research show similar results. Example: Las Vegas has low
community cohesiveness and a high suicide rate compared to the rest of the U.S.
• An essential task in building sociological theory is to examine the relationship between
bits of data that are gathered through research and that may seem completely unrelated.
The Development of Sociology
• Several European theorists made pioneering contributions to the development of a
science of human behavior.
Early Thinkers
Auguste Comte (1798-1857)
• Coined the term sociology to apply to the science of human behavior.
• Comte believed a theoretical science of society and systematic
investigations of behavior were needed to improve society.
Harriet Martineau (1802-1876)
• Offered insightful observations of the customs and social practices of
both Britain and the United States. She emphasized the impact of
economy, law, trade, health, and population on social problems.
• She spoke in favor of the rights of women, the emancipation of slaves,
and religious tolerance.
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)
• Adapted Charles Darwin’s evolutionary view of the “survival of the
fittest” by arguing that it is natural that some people are rich while
others are poor.
• Spencer’s view appealed to those with a vested interest in the status quo,
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not in social change. This perspective is highly controversial and not
widely accepted in Sociology.
Émile Durkheim (1858-1917)
• Behavior must be understood within a larger social context, not just in
individualistic terms.
• Durkheim concluded that religion reinforces a group’s solidarity.
• Consequences of work were of interest to Durkheim. He suggested that
specialized labor in industrial societies leads to anomie.
• Durkheim was concerned about the dangers that alienation, loneliness, and
isolation might pose for modern industrial societies. He included this idea in his
study of suicide rates in Europe.
Max Weber (1864-1920)
• A German sociologist who suggested students should employ verstehen
(understanding) in their intellectual work. To fully comprehend behavior, we
must learn the subjective meanings people attach to their actions—how they
themselves view and explain their behavior.
• Weber is also credited with the concept of an ideal type. He described various
characteristics of an organizational model of bureaucracy as an ideal type.
Karl Marx (1818-1883)
• Suggested society is fundamentally divided between classes that clash in pursuit
of their own class and self-interests. He saw the factory as the center of conflict
between the owners of the means of production (bourgeoisie) and the exploited
labor forces (proletariat).
• Marx and his colleague Friedrich Engels argued that workers should unite to
overthrow capitalist societies, an act which would require a state of class
consciousness on the part of workers.
W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963)
• Du Bois, a Black sociologist, contended knowledge was essential to combat
prejudice and discrimination. He believed full political rights for Blacks was
key to economic and social progress.
• Because he challenged the status quo, he didn’t find a receptive audience in
either government or academia.
• Coined the term double consciousness, the division of a person’s identity into
two or more social realities, to describe the experience of being Black in White
Modern Developments
• Sociologists within the United States have contributed to the development of
new insights to better understand the workings of society.
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Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929)
• Preferred to use the sociological perspective to look first at smaller units,
such as intimate face-to-face groups. He saw these groups as the
seedbeds of society in the way they shape people’s ideals, beliefs, values,
and social nature.
• Cooley’s work increased understanding of small-sized groups.
Jane Addams (1860-1935)
• A social reformer, she co-founded Chicago’s Hull House.
• Working with Ida Wells-Barnett, she successfully prevented racial
segregation in Chicago public schools.
• Advocated for a more egalitarian society.
Robert Merton (1910-2003)
• Produced a theory that is one of the most frequently cited explanations
of deviant behavior. Noted different ways people achieve success.
• Emphasized sociology should strive to bring together the macro-level
and micro-level approaches to the study of society.
• Macrosociology concentrates on large-scale phenomena.
• Microsociology stresses the study of small groups.
Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002)
• Capital has many forms, including knowledge, prestige, culture, formal
schooling, and social connections.
• Sustains individuals and families from one generation to the next.
Major Theoretical Perspectives
• The major perspectives provide an introductory look at the discipline of sociology.
Functionalist Perspective
• In the view of functionalists, society is like a living organism in which each part
of the organism contributes to its survival.
• Functionalism emphasizes the way that parts of a society are structured to
maintain its stability.
• Talcott Parsons dominated functionalist thought in sociology for over four
decades in the United States.
Manifest and Latent Functions
• Robert Merton described manifest functions as open, stated, conscious
functions which involve intended, recognized consequences.
• Latent functions are unconscious or unintended functions, which may
reflect a hidden purpose. Example: Encouraging college attendance for
young adults reduces levels of unemployment (by keeping this age group out of
the labor force temporarily). Schools also serve as meeting grounds for people to
form new relationships.
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• Refers to an element or process of a society that may disrupt the social
system or reduce its social stability.
• Dysfunctions are disruptive to societal functioning. Example: The
presence of weapons and gangs in schools inhibits the ability of teachers and
students to perform as expected.
Conflict Perspective
• Assumes that social behavior is best understood in terms of conflict or tension
between competing groups.
• Expanding on Marx’s work, conflict theorists are interested in how society’s
institutions maintain privileges for the upper classes and keep others in a
subservient position. Major social institutions are thought to reinforce and
sustain the status quo.
• Conflict approach has become increasingly persuasive since the late 1960s.
The Marxist View
• Exploitation of workers under capitalism.
• Emphasis on social change and redistribution of resources.
• Considered more radical and activist than functionalists.
The Feminist View
• Views inequality in gender as central to all behavior and organization.
• Often allied with the conflict perspective.
• Focus on macro-level relationships, like conflict theory.
• Views the subordination of women as inherent in capitalist societies.
• Radical feminists hold the oppression of women as inevitable in all
male-dominated (patriarchal) societies.
Interactionist Perspective
• Generalizes about everyday forms of social interaction in order to explain
society as a whole. It is a sociological framework that views human beings as
living in a world of symbols (i.e., meaningful objects). Example: Persons
holding certain titles or in various occupations are viewed and treated differently
than others due to the manner in which the occupation is defined.
• George Herbert Mead is regarded as the founder of interactionism.
• Symbols are critical in human communication. All human interaction is
symbolic. Even language itself is a set of symbols. Example: A salute or a
clenched fist. Nonverbal communications can include facial gestures,
expressions, and postures.
• Erving Goffman popularized the dramaturgical approach. Compares everyday
life to actors performing on a stage. Example: Projecting a serious image in
class and a party image with friends.
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The Sociological Approach
• Sociology makes use of all the perspectives. See Table 1-2.
• No one approach is the correct one. Perspectives may often overlap, and they
can also diverge.
Applied and Clinical Sociology
• Applied sociology is the use of sociology with the specific intent to yield practical
applications for human behavior and organizations. Example: Studying connections
between illegal drug use and the spread of HIV/AIDS.
• Applied sociology has led to specializations, such as medical and environmental
• Clinical sociology is dedicated to facilitating change by altering social relationships
(as in family therapy) or restructuring social institutions (as in the reorganization of a
medical center).
• Basic (pure) sociology seeks more profound knowledge or understanding of social
patterns. Example: Durkheim’s suicide research is intended to help us better understand
the social dynamics underlying suicide rates, not to treat those at risk for suicide.
Developing a Sociological Imagination
Theory in Practice
• Illustrates how the sociological perspectives are useful for understanding today’s
Research Today
• Reveals new information on social factors that influence human social behavior.
• Direct application to improving people’s lives.
Thinking Globally
• Globalization: The worldwide integration of government policies, cultures,
social movements, and financial markets through trade and the exchange of
• Globalization is increasing. Sociologists recognize that social behavior must be
viewed within a global context.
• Some view globalization as a natural result of advances in communication
(Internet). Others suggest the expansion of multinational corporations has
created a world without borders.
The Significance of Social Inequality
• Social inequality: A condition in which members of society have differing
amounts of (and levels of access to) wealth, prestige, and power.
• Sociologists often see behavior as shaped by social inequality.
Speaking across Race, Gender, and Religious Boundaries
• Both men and women, and people from a variety of ethnic, national, and
religious origins are included in research by sociologists.
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• Sociology today seeks to better understand the experiences of all people.
Social Policy throughout the World
• Examination of current social issues. Example: Government funding of
childcare centers; global immigration; religion in schools.
• Sociology is useful in evaluating the success of programs or the impact of
changes brought about by policy-makers and political activists. Sociologists will
play an increasing role in government by researching and developing public
Anomie Durkheim’s term for the loss of direction felt in a society when social control of
individual behavior has become ineffective.
Applied sociology The use of the discipline of sociology with the specific intent of yielding
practical applications for human behavior and organizations.
Basic sociology Sociological inquiry conducted with the objective of gaining a more profound
knowledge of the fundamental aspects of social phenomena. Also known as pure sociology.
Clinical sociology The use of the discipline of sociology with the specific intent of altering
social relationships or restructuring social institutions.
Conflict perspective A sociological approach that assumes that social behavior is best
understood in terms of conflict or tension between competing groups.
Cultural capital Noneconomic goods, such as family background and education, which are
reflected in a knowledge of language and the arts.
Double consciousness The division of an individual’s identity into two or more social realities.
Dramaturgical approach A view of social interaction popularized by Erving Goffman in
which people are seen as theatrical performers.
Dysfunction An element or a process of society that may disrupt a social system or reduce its
Feminist view A sociological approach that views inequity in gender as central to all behavior
and organization.
Functionalist perspective A sociological approach that emphasizes the way in which the parts
of a society are structured to maintain its stability.
Globalization The worldwide integration of government policies, cultures, social movements,
and financial markets through trade and the exchange of ideas.
Ideal type A construct or model for evaluating specific cases.
Interactionist perspective A sociological approach that generalizes about everyday forms of
social interaction in order to explain society as a whole.
Latent function Unconscious or unintended function that may reflect hidden purposes.
Macrosociology Sociological investigation that concentrates on large-scale phenomena or entire
Manifest function Open, stated, and conscious function.
Microsociology Sociological investigation that stresses the study of small groups, often through
experimental means.
Natural science The study of the physical features of nature and the ways in which they interact
IM – 1 | 12
and change.
Nonverbal communication The sending of messages through the use of gestures, facial
expressions, and postures.
Science The body of knowledge obtained by methods based upon systematic observation.
Social capital The collective benefit of social networks, which are built on reciprocal trust.
Social inequality A condition in which members of society have differing amounts of wealth,
prestige, and power.
Social science The study of the social features of humans and the ways in which they interact
and change.
Sociological imagination An awareness of the relationship between an individual and the wider
society, both today and in the past.
Sociology The systematic study of social behavior and human groups.
Theory In sociology, a set of statements that seeks to explain problems, actions, or behavior.
Verstehen The German word for “understanding” or “insight”; used to stress the need for
sociologists to take into account the subjective meanings people attach to their actions.
A set of numbers precedes each additional lecture idea. The first number is the text chapter
number and the second number is the number of the additional lecture idea.
1-1: Émile Durkheim’s Analysis of Suicide
Émile Durkheim’s classic analysis of suicide distinguishes among three major forms of
this act: egoistic, anomic, and altruistic. This is a good topic for class discussion. When students
are asked to explain the cause of suicide, they focus on depression and stress. However, as
Durkheim would note, most people who are depressed or who experience stress do not commit
suicide. Only relatively small handfuls of people who experience these symptoms take their
lives. There must be some other factor that explains why a few depressed and stressed
individuals commit suicide and most do not.
At this point, students are ready to be introduced to the classic work of Durkheim.
Students rarely have difficulty understanding altruistic suicide, but the distinction between
anomic and egoistic suicide is more difficult for them to grasp. Use the following chart, which
may be amended with different examples, as the basis for a discussion. The discussion can have
two parts. First lead students through the chart, asking, for example, “Who is more likely to
commit suicide, a Catholic or a Protestant?” After the chart is completed, explain the difference
between the different types of suicide and then ask students to explain which of the illustrations
are examples of anomic suicide and which are examples of egoistic suicide. Note that people in
both columns commit suicide, but that the people in the left column are more likely to commit
suicide than people in the center column. Note, also, that women attempt to commit suicide more
often than men, but men succeed more often than women.
More Likely
to Commit Suicide
Less Likely
to Commit Suicide
Type of Suicide
Protestant (Reform Jew)
Divorced individual
Catholic (Orthodox Jew)
Married individual
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Divorced individual
Never married individual
Person living in a country at
Person living in a suburb
Army recruit
College freshman away from
Factory worker
Never married individual
Married individual
Person living in a country at
Person living in a ghetto
Student at local community
Student at local community
College student
See Émile Durkheim. Suicide. New York: Free Press, 1951. (Originally published in French in
1897.) See also K. D. Breault, “Suicide in America: A Test of Durkheim’s Theory of Religion
and Family Integration,” American Journal of Sociology 92 (November 1986): 628-656. See also
Bernice A. Pescosolido and Sharon Georgianna, “Durkheim, Suicide, and Religion: Toward a
Network Theory of Suicide,” American Sociological Review 54 (February 1989): 33-48.
1-2: Women Sociologists in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries
The dearth of female founding figures in sociology attests to the fact that women faced
strong barriers to entering academia in the past. What many students will not realize is that—in
sociology and in most other disciplines—women continue to face substantial barriers to
acquiring academic jobs, attaining tenure, and contributing to their fields. Lecturing on this issue
will make students more aware of the barriers that female sociologists still face, despite the
common impression that the academy is one of the few gender-neutral, bias-free institutions in
the work world. Moreover, it will give students a preview of the complicated sociological
processes through which gender inequalities are manifested in the work place. While in the past
it was common for women to be kept out of academics because of overt discrimination, today
family issues are a central obstruction to women’s advancement.
One excellent source of information about the trials of twentieth-century female
sociologists is the book Gender and the Academic Experience (Meadow and Wallace 1994). In
this book project, the first 20 women to receive Ph.D. degrees in sociology from the University
of California-Berkeley were invited to write essays describing their experiences in graduate
school and beyond. These women received their degrees between 1952 and 1972, a period during
which UC-Berkeley had already become a top breeding ground for research sociologists. Their
fascinating accounts of the female experience in the academy show numerous ways in which it
was often far more problematic for women of this era to complete the Ph.D. process than it was
for men.
Although some of the women describe sociology departments that were supportive of
them, others recount always feeling like unwelcome intruders in a man’s world—a message they
received from male students and faculty alike. Many had more difficulty acquiring graduate
funding than their male peers did. One woman (Harriet Presser) was actually taken out of
consideration for funding when the department chair discovered that she was a single mother,
IM – 1 | 14
and therefore not cut out for graduate study. A number of the other female students also had
children, and had to forge a difficult balance between academics and family—at a time when
outside childcare was not readily available. In part because of the very different gender
expectations of the time, graduate studies often strained their marital relations. One woman
(Dorothy E. Smith) experienced serious tension in her marriage when it became clear that she
was a more promising student than her husband, who was enrolled in the same department. He
ended their marriage within a few weeks after she completed her Ph.D. degree.
Women completing their Ph.D. degrees in more recent decades would no doubt write a
different book. But gender still poses a number of complications for women who decide to
become professors. The work-family balance is a central issue for today’s female academicians.
Given the long work hours that academic jobs demand and the strong American cultural norms
surrounding motherhood, female faculty often anticipate that raising children will make it
difficult for them to amass the publication and teaching record required for tenure. Moreover,
many believe that their departments will perceive them as lacking commitment to the job, should
they choose to have children before achieving tenure. For these reasons, more female than male
academicians remain childless. Among women who do have children, tenure becomes a more
difficult goal. Not surprisingly, studies have found that women with children are less likely to
attain tenure than women who do not have children are. By contrast, men with children are
actually more likely to achieve tenure than childless men are (Mason and Goulden 2002). This
very interesting gender pattern probably reflects the fact that mothers spend more time in
childcare than do fathers. Likewise, it may suggest that academic departments (unfairly) assume
that fatherhood makes a man more stable, responsible, and committed to his career, while
motherhood makes a woman less committed to her career.
Other studies indicate that women who complete the Ph.D. are more likely to drop out of
academia, to fall behind men in salary and post-tenure promotions, and to have appointments at
lower-ranked institutions (Caplan 1995; Williams 2000).
While these and other issues are sure to remain for some time in the future, more and
more departments are beginning to recognize the special barriers female academics face. In a
stunning acknowledgement, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently acknowledged
that an investigation had uncovered a pattern of long-term systemic gender discrimination in
salaries and other valued resources, and that it would implement a program to redress these
inequalities (Miller and Wilson 1999).
Sources used for this essay and additional reading ideas include: Paula J. Caplan. Lifting
a Ton of Feathers. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995; Constance Coiner and Diana
Hume George. The Family Track. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998; Mary Ann Mason
and Marc Goulden, “Do Babies Matter?” Academe 88 (November/December 2002); Kathryn P.
Meadow and Ruth A. Wallace (eds.). Gender and the Academic Experience. Lincoln: University
of Nebraska Press, 1994; D.W. Miller and Robin Wilson, “MIT Acknowledges Bias Against
Female Faculty Members,” The Chronicle of Higher Education 45 (April 2, 1999); Emily Toth.
Ms. Mentor’s Impeccable Advice for Women in Academia. Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 1997.
1-3: India’s Sacred Cow: A Functionalist View
To an American tourist in India, the Hindu prohibition against slaughtering cows may
appear to be an ignorant belief that stands in the way of progress. The cattle browse unhindered
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in street markets, eating oranges and mangoes while people compete for the meager food
Why is there such a devotion to the cow, or zebu, the large-humped species found
throughout Asia and Africa? The simple explanation is that it is an integral part of Hinduism. Yet
we know that many Indian people are often on the edge of starvation. Why has this practice,
which appears to be manifestly dysfunctional, persisted for centuries?
Economists, agronomists, and social scientists working from a functionalist perspective
have found that cow worship is highly functional for Indian society. For example, the zebus
perform two essential tasks: plowing the fields and producing milk. If eating zebu meat were
permitted, families might be tempted to slaughter their cows for immediate consumption, leaving
themselves susceptible to eventual ruin. In addition, zebus produce dung, which is recovered as
fertilizer and as a fuel for cooking. (American scientists are even attempting to replicate this
practice to help our society meet its needs for more energy sources.) Finally, the prohibition
against slaughtering cows serves the function of assisting India’s poor. Untouchables (India’s
lowest-status group) eat zebu beef in the secrecy of their homes. Thus, the prohibition against
eating beef restricts consumption by most of the population while allowing the poorest sections
to obtain vitally needed nutrients otherwise missing from their diet.
The tourist returns to the United States with stories about the “ignorant” Indians. In
reality, the tourist is ignorant of how functional cow worship is for Indian culture—and of how
the West fails to learn from the wisdom of Indian traditions. See Marvin Harris. Cows, Pigs,
Wars and Witches: The Riddles of Culture. New York: Random House, 1978, pp. 11-32. See also
Harris, Human Nature 1 (February 1990): 28-36.
1-4: Functionalist and Conflict Views of Popular Music
We generally think of the functionalist and conflict perspectives as being applied to
“serious” subjects such as the family, health care, and criminal behavior. Yet even popular music
can be analyzed using these sociological approaches.
Functionalist View: Although intended primarily to entertain people, popular music
serves definite social functions. For example, such music can bring people together and promote
unity and stability. While Iran held 53 Americans as hostages during 1979 and 1980, people
across the nation remembered them with yellow ribbons, and Tony Orlando’s song “Tie a
Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree” achieved a new surge of popularity. Yellow ribbons
continued to serve as a patriotic symbol when the United States greeted returning Desert Storm
soldiers in 1991. Moreover, Bette Midler’s song “From a Distance” expressed solidarity with
troops serving in the Persian Gulf.
From a functionalist perspective, popular music also promotes basic social values. The
long tradition of gospel music suggests that faith in Jesus Christ will lead to salvation. In the
1960s, the Beatles told us “All You Need is Love.” Then, during the era of the Vietnam War,
they asked that we “Give Peace a Chance.”
Conflict View: Popular music can reflect the values of a particular age group and
therefore intensify the battle between the generations. In the 1960s, folksinger Bob Dylan’s “The
Times They Are A-Changin’“ warned older people to get out of the way of the younger
generation if they couldn’t understand it. More recently, much of punk rock and alternative
music (and costumes) is designed to shock conventional society and reflect the sense of
alienation and outrage that its enthusiasts feel.
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Popular music can also represent a direct political assault on established institutions. The
Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K.” and the Smiths’ “The Queen Is Dead” attack the British
monarchy. Many of the reggae songs of Bob Marley and the Wailers, such as “Burnin’ and
Lootin’,” endorsed a revolution in Jamaica. Similarly, certain rap songs, among them Public
Enemy’s “Fight the Power” and Ice-T’s “Cop Killer,” challenge the established social order of
the United States.
Finally, whereas functionalists emphasize that popular music promotes social values that
bring people together, conflict theorists counter that popular music often focuses on injustices
and on how certain groups of people are victimized by others. In this regard, Midnight Oil’s
“The Dead Heart” laments the mistreatment of Australia’s native Aborigines, while Suzanne
Vega’s “Luka” and Garth Brooks’s “The Thunder Rolls” both focus on the ugly reality of
domestic violence.
Clearly, there is more to popular music than simply entertainment. Most songs have
lyrics that carry explicit messages of one sort or another. From the functionalist approach,
popular music reinforces societal values, while conflict theorists see popular music as another
reflection of the political and social struggles within a society.
Sources used for this essay include: B. Lee Cooper, “Popular Songs, Military Conflict,
and Public Perceptions of the United States at War,” Social Education 56 (March 1992): 160168; R. Serge Denisoff and Rhys H. Williams. An Introduction to Sociology. New York:
Macmillan, 1983, pp. 23-26; John Leland, “Rap and Race,” Newsweek 119 (June 29, 1992): 4652.
1-5: W.E.B. Du Bois—The Sociologist
Social scientists are gradually recognizing William Edward Burghardt Du Bois as a
sociologist rather than as a figure in historical events. It is certainly understandable, given his
fascinating life. He was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, on February 23, 1868. A Phi
Beta Kappa graduate of both Fisk and Harvard Universities, Du Bois actually received two
bachelor’s degrees. In his graduate work at Harvard, he arranged to spend two years studying
with Max Weber in Germany and eventually became the first Black person to be awarded a
Ph.D. from Harvard (1895). Upon graduating, he found that no White college would hire him,
and he received his first academic appointment at all-Black Wilberforce College outside Dayton,
Ohio. This was the first of many times during his life that Du Bois felt he received second-class
treatment from White academe in general and the sociology establishment in particular.
During his career, Du Bois wrote more than 20 books and 100 scholarly articles. He was
a pioneer both in historical studies of the black experience and in sociological explorations into
African-American life. His argument, expressed with passion in The Souls of Black Folk (1903),
that an educated Black elite, “the talented tenth,” should lead Blacks to liberation, contrasted
sharply with the ideas of his contemporary Booker T. Washington. Washington put his emphasis
on industrial training for Blacks and maintained virtual silence on the questions of social and
political equality. It is clear that in both his sociological perspective and his actions he typified
the conflict perspective.
One of Du Bois’s first major works was The Philadelphia Negro, which was the result of
two years of funded research that allowed him to have the somewhat trivial title “assistant in
sociology” at the University of Pennsylvania. The purpose of his research was to enlighten the
powerful movers and shakers of Philadelphia on the plight of Black people. He clearly had a
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social reformer goal not unlike that of Jane Addams, who is also often overlooked as a
sociologist. While it would not be regarded as that novel today, Du Bois sought to show that the
problems were not rooted in the heredity of the Black people, but in their social environment.
Although he was critical of the rich of Philadelphia, he did believe with some reservations that
they had the capacity for benevolence. He conducted the entire study personally, collecting the
data and walking the streets of Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward. He felt that the problems of Blacks
stemmed from their past servitude, and in this early work he was unwilling to look at the
capitalistic system as being responsible for the continuation of the subordinate position of
African Americans in urban America.
Clearly, Du Bois became impatient for White movers and shakers to bring about change.
He quickly sought to empower the talented tenth of which he wrote. With the aim of ending
racial discrimination, Du Bois founded the Niagara Movement in 1905. This was a forerunner of
the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which he helped
organize in 1909 and for which he edited the periodical The Crisis from 1910 to 1934. For
decades, this was essential reading for all those interested in the fate of the African-American
people. Du Bois resigned from the NAACP in 1934, following a dispute in which he argued that
Blacks should expect segregated schools and other institutions to serve them even as Blacks
struggled to eliminate the racism that had created these institutions. Du Bois’s view that
Africans, freed from their colonial status, should help determine the world’s destiny was scarcely
more appealing to civil rights leaders in the United States than his pragmatic approach to
segregation. He returned to the NAACP in 1944 after a 10-year absence, but was forced to resign
in 1948 when his association with the cause of world peace, his expressed admiration for the
U.S.S.R., and his articulate condemnation of racial oppression at home and abroad made him a
liability to the organization in a time of political reactionism and anticommunist hysteria.
It is difficult now to imagine that Du Bois became a pariah in many quarters of the Black
community (and that he remained unknown to Whites) throughout the 1950s. Du Bois spent his
last years in virtual exile, but he lived to see advances in racial relations in the United States and
the coming of independence, which he had helped to make possible, to much of Africa. In 1963,
at the age of 93, Du Bois joined the U.S. Communist party before renouncing his U.S.
citizenship and becoming a citizen of the West African nation of Ghana. He was at work on a
monumental study of African culture, the Encyclopedia Africana, at the time of his death. Du
Bois’s principal scholarly works, other than those already mentioned, include The Suppression of
the African Slave Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870 (1896), The Philadelphia
Negro (1899) (see the fine new edition with an introduction by Elijah Anderson published in
1996 by the University of Pennsylvania Press), and Black Reconstruction in America (1935). His
autobiography appeared in 1957.
1-6: Breaching Experiments
Understanding and discussing theory can be difficult for many students. A good,
educationally sound ice-breaking discussion can be based on norm-breaching experiments. Ask
students to do a norm-breaking activity outside of class. Then ask them to report to the class on
the impact that the norm violation had on social interaction. Norm-violating activities might
include taking an item out of someone else’s grocery cart in the supermarket, staring at a stranger
in an elevator, loudly burping in a public place, interjecting a comment in a discussion that is
being held in an adjoining table in a restaurant, stopping in front of someone who says “Hi! How
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are you?” and answering their question in great length while blocking their escape route, or
wearing formal evening attire to a class. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that these
experiments are within the range allowed by your institution’s IRB (Institutional Review Board).
1-7: Interactionist View of Sidewalk Etiquette
Erving Goffman (Relations in Public. New York: Basic Books, 1971, pp. 9-18) offers a
new look at sidewalk behavior, drawing on the interactionist approach.
When we sit behind the wheel of a car and begin driving, we are confronted immediately
with many rules that govern our behavior. Society provides us with reminders of these rules—
traffic lights, stop signs, speed-limit signs, white lines marking lanes, and, ultimately, police
officers. Interestingly, pedestrians also abide by a certain mutual understanding of proper
behavior in traffic. We may not have read a book of “rules of the sidewalk” or been formally
taught them, and we do not need to worry about getting a ticket for “walking too fast.”
Nevertheless, we have learned certain social standards for pedestrian behavior that are part of our
Traffic on the sidewalk sorts itself into two sides going in opposite directions. The
dividing line is near the middle of the sidewalk, yet it can shift quickly when traffic bunches in
one direction. As in vehicular traffic in the United States, pedestrian movement tends to stay to
the right side of the dividing line. Those who are walking more slowly generally stay nearer the
buildings, while those in a hurry are nearer the curb.
The workability of such lane rules and of rules for passing is based on two subtle
practices, “externalization” and “scanning.” When we externalize, we use body gestures to show
people the direction in which we are heading. Scanning involves moving our line of sight to
observe people coming in our direction and to confirm the forward progress of pedestrians
immediately ahead of us. A person’s scanning range is usually three or four sidewalk squares if
the street is crowded, and more if few walkers are present.
In order to avoid small objects and unpleasant or contaminated spots, we practice
“sidestepping.” George Orwell (Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays. New York: Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich, 1950, p. 15) observed an interesting example of this practice in Burma. An
Indian prisoner was walking between two guards on the way to his execution. He came near a
small puddle and sidestepped out of the path for a moment in order to avoid it. This little act
points out the often unconscious nature of sidestepping.
If a collision with another pedestrian seems imminent, we attempt to create immediate
eye contact. The hope is to quickly indicate a new route and avoid a collision. This is a common
practice when people are crossing a street at a busy intersection. It can be argued that, given such
pedestrian routing customs, the individual effectively becomes a vehicular unit. He or she is
expected to conform to many unstated, yet socially agreed upon, standards.
1-8: Sociologists and Their Theoretical Preferences
One hundred sixty-eight U.S. members of the American Sociological Association were
each asked to identify his or her primary theoretical perspective. The conflict perspective had the
most adherents. Few respondents regarded biological factors (i.e., sociobiology) as important.
Grouping the responses yields the following results:
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All other
24.7% (40)
20.4% (33)
17.9% (29)
33.9% (55)
3.1% (5)
The conflict, functionalist, and interactionist perspectives cover about 60 percent of sociologists’
primary theoretical approaches. See Stephen K. Sanderson and Lee Ellis, The American
Sociologist 23 (Summer 1992): 26-42.
Stimulating Class Discussion about Where Am I Wearing: A Global Tour to the
Countries, Factories, and People that Make Our Clothes. Each chapter in the text has
an opening section that highlights an exciting sociological study. These opening sections
are complemented by a “Classroom Discussion Topics” section that suggests some
appropriate questions for developing a class discussion related to the opening unit.
Questions about Timmerman’s work could include: Which sociological research
methodology did he use? Could he have learned as much if she used a different
sociological research methodology? Which theoretical perspective could be most
usefully applied to his findings? Was this study ethical? What are the social policy
implications of such research?
Stimulating Class Discussion about Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in
America: Present a summary of the book Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search
for the American Dream by Adam Shepard (2007). Have students examine how
differences in labor available to a young, white male might differ from that available to
Barbara Ehrenreich based upon her experiences in Nickel and Dimed. Note the cover
photo—hitchhiking as a method of transportation—and discuss possible gender-related
factors that might have affected the outcome of Shepard’s foray into the working-class
world. This topic also would work well after chapter 12 (Stratification by Gender) or
chapter 13 (Stratification by Age).
The Sociology of Tattooing: On the first day of class, ask for a show of hands from
students who have tattoos. Lead into a discussion about how tattooing today has become
trendy and is no longer just associated with social outcasts. Explain why tattooing can be
a topic of sociological research, and use it to give the class an overview of what the
discipline of sociology entails.
First Day of Class: For an unusual activity for the first day of class, see Paul Higgins,
“Unconventional First Days: Encouraging Students to Wonder about Social Life and
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Social Learning,” Teaching Sociology 27 (July 1999): 258-263.
Introducing the Sociological Perspective: This imaginative first-day discussion uses a
seemingly trivial issue (toilet paper etiquette), to open students up to the sociological way
of thinking. Edgar Alan Burns, “Bathroom Politics: Introducing Students to Sociological
Thinking from the Bottom Up,” Teaching Sociology 31 (January 2003): 110-118.
Personal Experiences and the Sociological Imagination: The author provides a
thought-provoking illustration of how instructors can use their personal experiences to
illustrate the sociological imagination and elicit classroom responses. See Walter R.
Jacobs, “The Teacher as Text: Using Personal Experience to Stimulate the Sociological
Imagination,” Teaching Sociology 26 (July 1998): 222-228.
The Sociological Imagination through Photographs: The author describes a
fascinating activity through which Depression-era photographs are used to teach the
concept of the sociological imagination. Chad M. Hanson, “A Stop Sign at the
Intersection of History and Biography,” Teaching Sociology 30 (April 2002): 235-242.
Sociological Imagination: See John R. Brouillette and Ronny E. Turner, “Creating the
Sociological Imagination on the First Day of Class: The Social Construction of
Deviance,” Teaching Sociology 20 (October 1992): 276-279. See also Kathleen
O’Flaherty, “Introducing Students to the Concept of the Sociological Imagination: A
Written Assignment,” Teaching Sociology 20 (October 1992): 326-328.
Using Maps to Understand Sociological Theory: Although designed as an out-of-class
assignment, this exercise can easily be transformed into an in-class activity for
discussion. Barbara Trepagnier, “Mapping Sociological Concepts,” Teaching Sociology
30 (January 2002): 108-119.
1-10. Founders of Sociology: This activity was developed by Dick Colvard of Southern
Oregon State College to help students see that the early masters of sociology were real
people. See Technique No. 20 in Edward L. Kain and Robin Neas, (eds.). Innovative
Techniques for Teaching Sociological Concepts. Washington, DC: American
Sociological Association, 1993.
1-11. Talcott Parsons and the FBI: An interesting anecdote about the celebrated theorist is
explored in Mark F. Keen, “No One above Suspicion: Talcott Parsons under
Surveillance,” The American Sociologist (Fall/Winter 1993): 37-44.
1-12. Talking with the Experts: Some sociology classes have been successful in arranging
telephone hookups with contemporary “giants” in sociology. Students find it fascinating
to ask these people why they chose to study certain subjects, what problems confront the
discipline, and so forth.
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1-13. Revisiting Functionalism: Consult N.J. Demarath III, “Who Now Debates
Functionalism? From System, Change, and Conflict to ‘Culture, Choice, and Praxis,’“
Sociological Forum 11(June 1996): 333-345.
1-14. The Perspectives—A College Education: There are never enough examples to illustrate
the three sociological perspectives as students try to learn them. Here is another example
that is relevant to college students because it focuses on colleges. Functionalism: The
manifest function of a college is to educate people and to teach them job skills. A latent
function of a college is to be a place to make friends and find dates. A dysfunction of
colleges is that they are expensive and that you might graduate without learning useful
skills. Conflict: A college education may be expensive and access may be difficult or
impossible for poorer individuals. Schools in wealthy communities may do a better job of
preparing individuals for admission to prestigious colleges. Graduation from a prestigious
private college more readily opens up prestigious and well-paying career paths than
graduation from many public colleges and two-year schools. Interactionism: A
professor’s teaching style may determine the likelihood of a successful classroom
discussion. A professor frequently serves as a role model for students. Student diversity
in a classroom may have repercussions for classroom interaction. How do students “tell”
a teacher not to call on them when a question has been asked?
1-15. Theory Triumvirate: Have students form three panels to analyze some topic or social
problem using the three sociological perspectives introduced in Chapter 1. After the
presentations, have the class evaluate the different insights that emerge from using all
three approaches.
1-16. Using Humor: Joseph E. Faulkner has produced a monograph that includes funny
examples that could be incorporated into lectures associated with Chapter 1. See Chapter
1 in Faulkner, Sociology Through Humor. New York: West, 1987. This book is out of
print, but used copies are readily available.
Have students analyze an article from the daily newspaper from a sociological
perspective, using a sociological imagination. What differences in their conclusions result
from using a sociological imagination?
Discuss why students might wear clothing with certain logos or insignias, and ask
students to analyze their choices using the three major sociological perspectives.
Have students conduct their own study of the national origins of their most well-worn
clothing items. Ask them to research popular retail chains to find out their policies
regarding child or slave labor.
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Ask students to compare the number of male professors at your college or university with
the number of female professors, and have students factor in salary disparities for both, if
access to salary information is possible. Then discuss gender inequality using the conflict
and feminist perspectives.
Discuss the shift in social attitude toward smoking over the last 50 years, and ask students
to analyze the change in attitude using the three major sociological perspectives.
Ask students to analyze the creation of seat belt laws using all three sociological
Why would poverty be of interest to sociologists?
What did C. Wright Mills mean by the “sociological imagination?” How could it be
applied to, for example, watching people running in a marathon, where our children
attend school, or where we shop for groceries?
Distinguish between sociology and other social sciences identified in the text.
How are sociology and “common sense” similar? How are they different?
Why is theory an important part of sociology as a social science discipline?
Summarize Émile Durkheim’s findings on suicide.
How did Auguste Comte view the discipline of sociology?
What contributions did Harriet Martineau and Herbert Spencer make to sociology?
Explain why Max Weber felt that it was important for researchers to employ verstehen.
Describe Karl Marx’s contribution to sociology and other social sciences.
Describe the contributions Charles Horton Cooley, Jane Addams, and Robert Merton
made to sociology.
Distinguish between the two levels of analysis used in sociology (macro-level and microlevel).
Distinguish between manifest and latent functions, and dysfunctions.
Distinguish between the functionalist and conflict approaches to the study of society.
Explain which sociological perspective best reflects the approach taken by Karl Marx,
and why.
How did W.E.B. Du Bois contribute to conflict theory?
How does the feminist view differ from other views inspired by the conflict perspective?
What contributions did George Herbert Mead make to sociology?
Why is nonverbal communication important to interactionist theory?
Explain what is meant by the dramaturgical approach and identify the sociological
approach with which it is associated.
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Select one of the three approaches to sociology (conflict, functionalist, or interactionist),
describe it, and identify a social thinker associated with it.
Summarize the major differences across the functionalist, conflict, and interactionist
How can the functionalist, conflict, and interactionist views be used to interpret sports?
Discuss the place of social inequality within the discipline of sociology.
Summarize career opportunities with a B.A. or B.S. degree in sociology.
Explain why the concept of globalization is important for sociologists to address.
Using the functionalist perspective, discuss the various reactions of the American people
in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Using the interactionist perspective, discuss the increased number of people buying flags
in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Using the conflict perspective, discuss the various methods that businesses and
corporations have used to profit from the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Using Goffman’s dramaturgical approach, discuss the reaction students would likely have
when observing one of their college professors swimming nude in a lake.
Discuss how the predictive power of sociology could be used to influence social policy
and improve the quality of social life.
Annual Views of Sociology: While it sometimes provides very sophisticated analysis,
the Annual Review of Sociology, produced by Annual Reviews, Inc., of Palo Alto,
California, also provides “state-of-the-field” articles on specialties within sociology.
Companion volumes cover other disciplines, such as anthropology and psychology. Topic
and author listings, abstracts, price lists, and a searchable 12-year bibliographic database
for the entire series can be accessed at
Identifying Theories: Have students find an example of published social research in the
literature specific to sociology. For example, suggest American Journal of Sociology,
American Sociological Review, Social Problems, and Social Forces. The student should
use these more “difficult” journals both to gain familiarity with the field’s literature and
to obtain good results with this project. Have the students locate an article containing a
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theory. They should describe the theory briefly and then classify it according to whether
it is functionalist, interactionist, or conflict.
Goffman and the Feminist Perspective: While Erving Goffman did not frequently
make explicit reference to gender issues in his scholarship, his perspective contributed to
our understanding of women’s experiences. See Candace West, “Goffman in Feminist
Perspective,” Sociological Perspectives 39 (June 1996): 353-369.
Interaction in Public Space: See Nicholas H. Wolfinger, “Passing Moments: Some
Social Dynamics of Pedestrian Interaction,” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 24
(October 1995):323-340.
Gender and Nonverbal Communication: Gender differences in nonverbal
communication are considered in Nancy J. Briton and Judith A. Hall, “Beliefs About
Female and Male Nonverbal Communication,” Sex Roles 32 (July 1995): 79-90.
Contemporary Sociological Theory: Students can use this book to research ways that
contemporary theory in sociology compares and contrasts to classical theory presented in
the textbook. Jonathan Turner, ed. Handbook of Sociological Theory. New York: Kluwer
Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2001.
Careers in Sociology: What is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ view of the job market for
sociologists (and social workers)? Refer to Occupational Outlook Handbook,
Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, published annually. This document
is available online at
NOTE: For an interesting discussion of the use of feature films in a sociology class, see
James J. Dowd, “Waiting for Louis Prima: On the Possibility of a Sociology of Film,”
Teaching Sociology 27 (October 1999): 324-342.
Fashion and Clothing (Films for the Humanities & Sciences, 2000-2001, 52m). In this program,
experts, including historian Valerie Steele of the Fashion Institute of Technology,
interpret the history of humankind through the intriguing context of costume. Topics
include symbolism associated with clothing, and body piercing and tattoos as a form of
contemporary personal expression.
I, Doll: The Unauthorized Biography of America’s 11-1/2” Sweetheart (Women Make Movies,
Inc., 1996, 57m). An unusual and thought-provoking way to start a semester by
employing the sociological imagination to examine a cultural icon: the Barbie doll. An
instructor can return to the topics introduced in the film throughout the semester when
socialization, popular culture, gender, and social institutions are discussed.
Karl Marx—The Massive Dissent (Films, Inc., 1977, 60m). John Kenneth Galbraith explores the
life, work, and thought of Karl Marx. He contends that Marx was a brilliant, learned man
who excelled in sociology, economics, his The Promise of Sociology tory, political
philosophy, and journalism, and that censorship, police persecution, and political
upheavals in nineteenth-century Europe (especially France) gradually changed him from
a reformer to a revolutionary.
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Marxism: The Theory That Split a World (Coronet/MTU Films and Videos, 1970, 26m).
Through animation and dramatization of people who knew him, Marx’s contributions
come to life.
The Promise of Sociology (Dallas Community College, 1981, 30m). Using as a point of
departure C.W. Mills’s concept of sociological imagination, this lesson introduces the
discipline of sociology as one that examines the many groups and relationships in which
individuals participate. Several well-known sociologists define sociology and discuss the
areas in which the science applies.
Requiem for Detroit (Films for the Humanities and Sciences, 2010, 60 minutes). This film
explores major social trends and milestones in U.S. history using Detroit as a microcosm
example. Topics include industrialization, suburbanization, White flight, consumerism,
gentrification, and community renewal.
Sociological Perspectives (Insight Media, 2002, 30m). This video gives an overview of major
theoretical perspectives in sociology and of the research methods sociologists use in their
Streets of Plenty: Inside the World of the Homeless (Films for the Humanities and Sciences,
2010, 65 minutes). This video explores the connection between poverty, homelessness,
and addiction and raises the issue of when (and whether or not) personal responsibility
factors into the equation.
W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four Voices (Insight Media, 1995, 116m). A review of the life
of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois through the voices of writer-scholar-activists
Wesley Brown, Thulani Davis, Toni Cade Bambara, and Amiri Baraka.
Why Sociology? (Insight Media, 2002, 30m). This film provides a basic overview of the field of
sociology, including its history.
Du Bois, W.E.B. 1996. The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study. Philadelphia: Temple
University Press. With a new introduction by Elijah Anderson. The reissuing of this classic
work, which first appeared in 1899, documents the timelessness of Du Bois’s observations.
Fine, Gary Alan. 1996. Kitchens: The Culture of Restraint. Berkeley: University of California
Press. A sociological view of the backstage world of contemporary restaurants, including the
social patterns of dishwashers, servers, cooks, managers, and even restaurant critics.
Glassner, Barry. 1999. The Culture of Fear. New York: Basic Books. Glassner looks at how
people’s fears of crime, drug use, and other social problems are growing, even though the social
reality often does not match the public’s perceptions.
Ingraham, Chrys. 1999. White Weddings: Romancing Heterosexuality in Popular Culture. New
York: Routledge. A sociologist considers how weddings today have as much to do with
marketing and economics as lasting social relationships.
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Lengermann, Patricia Madoo, and Jill Niebrugge-Brantley. 1998. The Women Founders:
Sociology and Social Theory 1830–1930. New York: McGraw-Hill. A comprehensive
examination of the many contributions that women made to early sociological thinking in the
United States and Europe.
Levin, Jack. 1999. Sociological Snapshots 3: Seeing Social Structure and Change in Everyday
Life. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press. The sociological imagination is employed to look at
everything from elevator culture and television soap operas to religious cults and the death
McCarthy, George. E. Classical Horizons: The Origins of Sociology in Ancient Greece. Albany:
State University of New York Press. Links classical, nineteenth-century sociologists to Greek
McDonald, Lynn. 1994. Women Founders of the Social Sciences. Ottawa, Canada: Carlton
University Press. The author examines the important but often overlooked contribution of such
pioneers as Mary Wollstonecraft, Harriet Martineau, Beatrice Webb, Jane Addams, and many
Steur, Max. 2003. The Scientific Study of Society. Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
This book gives a useful overview of the approach to various social issues across five social
science disciplines: sociology, economics, political science, social psychology, and
Tilly, Charles. 1999. Durable Inequality. Berkeley: University of California Press. A theoretical
look at the persistence of social inequality between Black/White, male/female, and citizen/noncitizen.
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