Society is a very broad field, so while sociologists are interested in society at large, many sociologists study just a small segment of society. Some examples of subfields within this discipline include the sociology of sports, religion, music, medicine, pop culture, and so on. If you are interested in seeing more examples, you can visit www.asanet.org, the American Sociological Association’s website, and look at their chapters. There you’ll get an idea of the kinds of things that interest contemporary sociologists! Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Times_Square_Panorama.jpg
C. Wright Mills wrote The Sociological Imagination in 1959. In Mills’s opinion, we can’t begin to understand our personal lives without thinking about the social context.
We generally think of institutions as stable entities that “just are,” but the reality is that these institutions are purposefully structured. Additionally, when we think of institutions, we tend to think that they “have always been this way,” but in fact, institutions change over time, reflecting the values of a society.
The different groups that you belong to help you tell others about your identity. You might say you are a daughter or son or a parent (your family is one of your groups). You might say you are a student (your school could be another group). You might also identify yourself by saying which groups you are not in (you’re not a college drop-out, for instance).
Sociology is a relatively new field of academic study; much of the early work in sociology was done as recently as the nineteenth century.
Each of these theories might look at the same kinds of social phenomena, but they might look for different things (for example, we could ask what the function of education is; if education is the result of conflict or if it causes conflict; what symbolic relationships are present in education, etc.) Having different theories is like having different pairs of glasses – you have one pair for reading, one for driving, one for seeing in the distance, sunglasses, safety glasses, and so on. Looking through the different pairs will help you see the same thing in different ways!
Sociology is a field within the social sciences, which are interested in different aspects of societies and social life. However, sociology is a very unique field.
For example, a sociologist might be interested in knowing how an individual makes the decision to go to college. It would be helpful to sit down with that person and talk. This would be a micro-level analysis, or an example of microsociology. On the other hand, if a sociologist wanted to know how a number of people made the decision to go to college last year, it would be impossible to sit down with each person and ask, so looking at statistical data would be more efficient. This would be an example of a macro-level study, or macrosociology.
You MayAskYourselfAn Introduction to Thinking Like a SociologistDalton ConleySECOND EDITIONChapter 1Sociological Imagination: AnIntroduction
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