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What Is Sociology?
Chapter 1
What is Sociology?
2
What is Sociology?
• The admissions process at major American
universities has:
– (a) always favored prettier or more handsome
people.
– (b) always favored minorities.
– (c) always favored athletes.
– (d) undergone serious revision across time.
3
Basic Concepts
• Sociological Imagination
– C. Wright Mills
4
Basic Concepts
• Sociological Imagination:
– The application of imaginative thought to the
asking and answering of sociological
questions.
5
Basic Concepts
• Social structure
– the underlying regularities or patterns in how
people behave in their relationships with one
another.
6
Basicthat
Concepts
There are four key questions
orient the discipline
of sociology:
• How are things that we take to be natural
actually socially constructed?
7
Basic Concepts
• Social Construction:
– an idea or practice that a group of people
agree exists
• It is maintained over time by people taking its existence for
granted.
• What people think and do are products of culture and history.
8
Basic Concepts
• How is social order possible?
9
Basic Concepts
• Social Order
– Socialization:
• the social processes through which people develop an awareness
of social norms and values and achieve a distinct sense of self.
10
Basic Concepts
• Does the individual matter? (Agency and
Structure)
• Sociologists recognize that individuals, although
constrained by social forces, have the capacity to behave
or think in ways that fall outside of established patterns.
11
Basic Concepts
• How are the times in which we are living
different from the times that came
before? (Social Change)
12
The Development of Sociological
Thinking
13
The Development of Sociological
Thinking
• Key Figures in Sociology
14
The Development of Sociological
Thinking
• Auguste Comte
15
The Development of Sociological
Thinking
• Émile Durkheim
16
The Development of Sociological
Thinking
• Émile Durkheim:
– Social facts:
• The aspects of social life that shape our actions as individuals.
• Durkheim believed that social facts could be studied scientifically.
17
The Development of Sociological
Thinking
• Émile Durkheim:
– Organic solidarity:
• The social cohesion that results from the various parts of a society
functioning as an integrated whole.
18
The Development of Sociological
Thinking
• Émile Durkheim:
– division of labor:
• the specialization of work tasks by means of which different
occupations are combined within a production system.
19
The Development of Sociological
Thinking
• Émile Durkheim:
– anomie:
• a situation in which social norms lose their hold over individual
behavior.
20
The Development of Sociological
Thinking
• Karl Marx
21
The Development of Sociological
Thinking
• Karl Marx:
– materialist conception of history:
• the view developed by Karl Marx according to which material, or
economic, factors have a prime role in determining historical
change.
22
The Development of Sociological
Thinking
• Karl Marx:
– capitalism:
• an economic system based on the private ownership of wealth,
which is invested and reinvested in order to produce profit.
23
The Development of Sociological
Thinking
• Max Weber
24
The Development of Sociological
Thinking
• Max Weber:
– bureaucracy:
• A type of organization marked by a clear hierarchy of authority and
the existence of written rules of procedure and staffed by full-time,
salaried officials.
25
Neglected Founders
• Harriet Martineau
26
Neglected Founders
• W. E. B. Du Bois
– Argued that the color line persisted after slavery
– Connected race to social and economic
stratification
27
The Development of Sociological
Thinking
• Theories and Theoretical Approaches
28
Modern Theoretical Approaches
29
Modern Theoretical Approaches
• Symbolic Interactionism:
– a theoretical approach in sociology developed
by George Herbert Mead that emphasizes the
role of symbols and language as core
elements of human interaction.
30
Modern Theoretical Approaches
• Functionalism:
– a theoretical perspective based on the notion
that social events can best be explained in
terms of the functions they perform.
31
Modern Theoretical Approaches
• Functionalism
– manifest functions:
• The functions of a type of social activity that are known to and
intended by the individuals involved in the activity.
– latent functions:
• functional consequences that are not intended or recognized by
the members of a social system in which they occur.
32
Modern Theoretical Approaches
• Marxism and Class Conflict
– Marxism:
• a body of thought deriving its main elements from the ideas of Karl
Marx.
– power:
• the ability of individuals or members of a group to achieve aims or
further the interests they hold.
– ideologies:
• shared ideas or beliefs that serve to justify the interests of
dominant groups.
33
Modern Theoretical Approaches
• Feminism and Feminist Theory
– feminist theory:
• a sociological perspective that emphasizes the centrality of gender
in analyzing the social world and particularly the uniqueness of the
experience of women.
34
Modern Theoretical Approaches
• Rational Choice Theory
– rational choice approach:
• the theory that an individual’s behavior is purposive. Within the
field of criminology, rational choice analysis argues that deviant
behavior is a rational response to a specific social behavior.
35
Modern Theoretical Approaches
• Postmodern Theory
– postmodernism:
• the belief that society is no longer governed by history or progress.
Postmodern society is highly pluralistic and diverse, with no “grand
narrative” guiding its development.
36
Modern Theoretical Approaches
• Theoretical Thinking in Sociology
37
Modern Theoretical Approaches
• Levels of Analysis: Microsociology and
Macrosociology
– microsociology:
• the study of human behavior in the context of face-to-face
interaction.
38
Modern Theoretical Approaches
• Levels of Analysis: Microsociology and
Macrosociology
– macrosociology:
• the study of large-scale groups, organizations, or social systems.
39
How Can Sociology Help Us?
• Awareness of cultural differences
• Assessing the effects of policies
• Self-enlightenment
40
Modern Theoretical Approaches
41
Discussion Question: Thinking
Sociologically
Coffee drinking is a cultural fixture that says as
much about us as it does about the bean itself.
Coffee is more than a simple product designed to
quench a person’s thirst and fend off drowsiness.
Discuss five sociological features of coffee
consumption that show its “sociological” nature.
42
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