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Principles of Sociology 1
The Sociological Perspective
Two Different Kinds of Science
• All sciences seek the highest possible
measure of objectivity in research through
the use of systematic observation.
• While this is the general rule for all sciences,
there is a difference in how this plays out in
the various disciplines.
• For this reason, science is divided into two
categories: the natural sciences and the
social sciences.
Natural Science
• natural science = disciplines that study the
physical features of nature.
 life forms = biology
 animals = zoology
 plants = botany
 human body = anatomy
 rocks = geology
 fossils = paleontology
 stars/planets = astronomy
Social Science
• Social sciences focus on the more abstract
social features of human interaction.
• Psychology
• Anthropology
• Sociology
• Political Science
• Economics
• History
• Sometimes called human sciences.
• There is considerable overlap, with social
scientists borrowing concepts and data from
one another.
Sociology
• sociology = “the systematic study of
human society” (Macionis, 3).
– systematic = uses both theoretical perspectives and
research methods.
– The focus is on how behavior is shaped by group life
and how group life is shaped by individuals.
• society = “people who live in a defined
territory and share a way of life” (Macionis,
3).
Sociologists are
concerned with
every aspect of
society …
C. Wright Mills defined the sociological
imagination as an ability to see the
relationships between particular experiences
and the general society.
The Sociological Perspective
• Mills’ “sociological imagination” and what your
textbook calls the sociological perspective are the same
thing: “sociology’s special point of view that sees
general patterns of society in the lives of particular
people” (Macionis, 3).
• This involves the ability to observe the links between
individuals and society in a detached way (stepping
back to gain more objectivity).
• This also involves being able to see with a broader
perspective that recognizes the wider social
implications of what is being observed.
Historical Development
• Since early times, several people throughout
history have recorded observations on society and
social behavior.
– Confucius
– Siddharta (the Buddha)
– Plato
– Aristotle
– The Apostle Paul
– St. Augustine
– Muhammed
– Machiavelli
– Thomas Aquinas
Aristotle was one of
many early thinkers
to make important
social observations.
Contemporary Translation:
“Human beings by nature are social
creatures.”
Historical Development
• The Middle Ages brought an emphasis on learning, and the Protestant
Reformation (16th century) opened the door to free thinking.
• The Reformation took out the middle-man of the Church, putting the
individual “face to face with God” (Weber) – in other words, the individual was
now burdened by ideas and choices that she/he did not have to worry about
previously: “Which church do I go to?,” “Is there a God?,” “What does God
require?,” etc.
• Ironically, Protestantism changed the West by bringing about the
Enlightenment, which in turn led to “free thinking,” and – eventually – to
secularization (secular priorities over religion) and rationalization (society is
restructured in rational ways).
Historical Development
• The shift from the Middle Ages to the
Enlightenment brought two changes that
allowed for the emergence of the various
academic disciplines (what you think of as
“courses” that you register for):
– A new class of people who are paid to think, write,
invent, and teach – this is why we see an explosion
of knowledge and technology in the last 500 years.
– New universities that exist apart from religious
authority, and are able to pursue knowledge
wherever it leads.
Historical Development
• Beginning with History and Economics, the
disciplines began to emerge as specialized
academic categories.
• The industrialization of Europe (1760-1800s)
brought a new awareness of society.
• These developments were also promoted by
urbanization = the process by which people
began to populate the emerging industrial
cities.
Historical Development
• The new growing cities created social problems
almost immediately: substance abuse, violence,
crime, unemployment & poverty, and
homelessness.
• Such issues demanded research and sociology
was originally a scientific attempt to locate
solutions.
• During the 19th century, several thinkers began to
originate what would eventually become the
discipline of sociology.
Early Thinkers
• Auguste Comte (1798-1857)
Philosopher interested in developing a
science of society.
 positivism = “a scientific approach to
knowledge based on ‘positive’ facts as
opposed to mere speculation” (Macionis,
13).
First to come up with “sociology” as a
concept.
Early Thinkers
• Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)
 Not an activist – Spencer only wanted to
observe and understand.
 Applied the theory of evolution to society and employed
“survival of the fittest” (Spencer’s term, not Darwin’s!) in
order to justify social inequalities.
Social Darwinism = the belief that inequalities in society
reflect a type of “natural selection.”
 This produced a type of fatalism – since Spencer’s social processes
were inevitable, why should anyone work to change things?
Your instructor at
Herbert Spencer’s
grave in London,
England (Summer,
2016).
Okay, the next three people are super-important and you will
hear their names over and over again throughout this course:
Durkheim
Marx
Weber
We call them the “Classical Theorists” because these three men
provide the foundation for the discipline of sociology – they are
the “Big 3.”
Their ideas remain so influential that today, a century later, you
can still buy their books brand new at your local bookstore!
What follows are simply brief resumes for the Big 3, so that you
can begin getting familiar with them. We will look at them in
greater detail in other chapters.
Classical Theorists
• Émile Durkheim (1858-1917)
 Early sociology professor in France.
 Rejected the idea that human
behavior could be understood in individualistic
terms, instead insisting that it must be understood
within its wider social context.
 Passionately committed to the scientific method.
 Key Ideas: social cohesion, anomie, social density,
sacred & profane, social facts.
Your instructor at Durkheim’s grave in
Paris, France (Summer, 2009).
Classical Theorists
• Karl Marx (1818-1883)
 Had a pessimistic view of western
capitalist societies.
 Focused on economics, theorizing that those with the
power and ownership dominated and manipulated the
common worker. Thus, society is marked by class conflict.
 Wrote the Communist Manifesto with Engels.
 Key Ideas: economic determinism, false consciousness,
ideology, class consciousness, socialism.
Your instructor at
Marx’s gravesite in
London, England
(Summer, 2016).
Classical Theorists
• Max Weber (1864-1920)
 German sociology professor.
 Believed that sociologists must incorporate the
subjective perspectives and experiences of their
subjects (verstehen) into their research.
 Emphasized class, status, and power.
 Key Ideas: verstehen, multi-factored approach,
ideal type, Protestant ethic as the origin of
capitalism, rationalization, elective affinities.
Sociology in the U.S.
• The Chicago School (1890-1920)
Began at the University of Chicago with researchers like
Robert E. Park, Ernest W. Burgess, and Louis Wirth.
Relied heavily on George Herbert Mead’s idea of
symbolic interactionism.
Urban Sociology – focused on the city (layout, migration,
etc.).
In reaction to the typical (subjective) sociology of the
day, this perspective used systematic data collection.
The Macro/Micro Debate
• An ongoing debate within sociology concerning
where one should begin in order to adequately
understand society.
• macrosociology = begins with the big picture by
focusing on large-scale features of society.
• microsociology = attempts to understand society
by beginning at the bottom – i.e., with smaller
factors like small groups or the interaction
between individuals.
Major Approaches
• Structural-Functional
 A macro approach that regards everything as
functional.
 Society functions like a living organism made up
of parts called institutions.
 Society’s parts are structured in such a way that
society remains generally stable.
 Individuals are socialized to perform societal
functions and operate non-rationally.
Major Approaches
• Social-Conflict
 Another macro approach that sees all of
society as characterized by tension/struggle
between groups.
 As a result, society is marked by
inequality.
 Major Theorists: Marx; Weber; C. Wright
Mills; W.E.B. DuBois.
Major Approaches
• Social-Conflict (cont’d):
 Marxism (Marx & Engels):
– Individuals are manipulated by the system in the interest of the status
quo.
– Conflict is based on class and economics is all that matters.
– Capitalism is bad.
– Social order is preserved by force.
 Max Weber:
– Marxism is too simplistic.
– The conflict in society occurs on many levels and is based on 3 factors:
class, status, and power.
– Capitalism is ok.
Major Approaches
• Symbolic Interactionist
 A micro approach that emphasizes
human interaction as the key to both individual
and social development.
 Especially interested in symbols: language; body
language; gestures; facial expressions; status
symbols.
 Individuals are constantly interpreting and
manipulating symbols, creating their social world
through interaction.
Major Approaches
• Rational/Utilitarian
 Basic ideas show up in British philosophy (1700’s-1800’s),
ethics (Bentham), political theory (Locke; Mill), and
economics (Adam Smith).
 Shows up in sociology in the 1950s as a micro perspective.
 Basic Premise: people are motivated by what produces
pleasure (“good”) and repelled by what produces pain
(“bad”). Individuals will act within their own self interest.
 Society results from individuals making exchanges based
on rational cost/benefit analyses.
Major Theorists: Homans; Blau; Coleman.
Major Approaches
Theoretical Tradition Macro/Micro Human Behavior
Structural-Functional Macro
Individuals function
according to non-rational
values instilled through
socialization.
Social-Conflict Macro
Individuals are manipulated
by elite powers and kept
from thinking for themselves.
Symbolic Interactionist Micro
Individuals interpret the
symbols around them and
construct their own reality.
Rational/Utilitarian Micro
Individuals make rational
decisions out of self-interest
through cost/benefit
analyses.

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Week 1: Sociological Perspective revised

  • 1. Principles of Sociology 1 The Sociological Perspective
  • 2. Two Different Kinds of Science • All sciences seek the highest possible measure of objectivity in research through the use of systematic observation. • While this is the general rule for all sciences, there is a difference in how this plays out in the various disciplines. • For this reason, science is divided into two categories: the natural sciences and the social sciences.
  • 3. Natural Science • natural science = disciplines that study the physical features of nature.  life forms = biology  animals = zoology  plants = botany  human body = anatomy  rocks = geology  fossils = paleontology  stars/planets = astronomy
  • 4. Social Science • Social sciences focus on the more abstract social features of human interaction. • Psychology • Anthropology • Sociology • Political Science • Economics • History • Sometimes called human sciences. • There is considerable overlap, with social scientists borrowing concepts and data from one another.
  • 5. Sociology • sociology = “the systematic study of human society” (Macionis, 3). – systematic = uses both theoretical perspectives and research methods. – The focus is on how behavior is shaped by group life and how group life is shaped by individuals. • society = “people who live in a defined territory and share a way of life” (Macionis, 3).
  • 7. C. Wright Mills defined the sociological imagination as an ability to see the relationships between particular experiences and the general society.
  • 8. The Sociological Perspective • Mills’ “sociological imagination” and what your textbook calls the sociological perspective are the same thing: “sociology’s special point of view that sees general patterns of society in the lives of particular people” (Macionis, 3). • This involves the ability to observe the links between individuals and society in a detached way (stepping back to gain more objectivity). • This also involves being able to see with a broader perspective that recognizes the wider social implications of what is being observed.
  • 9. Historical Development • Since early times, several people throughout history have recorded observations on society and social behavior. – Confucius – Siddharta (the Buddha) – Plato – Aristotle – The Apostle Paul – St. Augustine – Muhammed – Machiavelli – Thomas Aquinas
  • 10. Aristotle was one of many early thinkers to make important social observations. Contemporary Translation: “Human beings by nature are social creatures.”
  • 11. Historical Development • The Middle Ages brought an emphasis on learning, and the Protestant Reformation (16th century) opened the door to free thinking. • The Reformation took out the middle-man of the Church, putting the individual “face to face with God” (Weber) – in other words, the individual was now burdened by ideas and choices that she/he did not have to worry about previously: “Which church do I go to?,” “Is there a God?,” “What does God require?,” etc. • Ironically, Protestantism changed the West by bringing about the Enlightenment, which in turn led to “free thinking,” and – eventually – to secularization (secular priorities over religion) and rationalization (society is restructured in rational ways).
  • 12. Historical Development • The shift from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment brought two changes that allowed for the emergence of the various academic disciplines (what you think of as “courses” that you register for): – A new class of people who are paid to think, write, invent, and teach – this is why we see an explosion of knowledge and technology in the last 500 years. – New universities that exist apart from religious authority, and are able to pursue knowledge wherever it leads.
  • 13. Historical Development • Beginning with History and Economics, the disciplines began to emerge as specialized academic categories. • The industrialization of Europe (1760-1800s) brought a new awareness of society. • These developments were also promoted by urbanization = the process by which people began to populate the emerging industrial cities.
  • 14. Historical Development • The new growing cities created social problems almost immediately: substance abuse, violence, crime, unemployment & poverty, and homelessness. • Such issues demanded research and sociology was originally a scientific attempt to locate solutions. • During the 19th century, several thinkers began to originate what would eventually become the discipline of sociology.
  • 15. Early Thinkers • Auguste Comte (1798-1857) Philosopher interested in developing a science of society.  positivism = “a scientific approach to knowledge based on ‘positive’ facts as opposed to mere speculation” (Macionis, 13). First to come up with “sociology” as a concept.
  • 16. Early Thinkers • Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)  Not an activist – Spencer only wanted to observe and understand.  Applied the theory of evolution to society and employed “survival of the fittest” (Spencer’s term, not Darwin’s!) in order to justify social inequalities. Social Darwinism = the belief that inequalities in society reflect a type of “natural selection.”  This produced a type of fatalism – since Spencer’s social processes were inevitable, why should anyone work to change things?
  • 17. Your instructor at Herbert Spencer’s grave in London, England (Summer, 2016).
  • 18. Okay, the next three people are super-important and you will hear their names over and over again throughout this course: Durkheim Marx Weber We call them the “Classical Theorists” because these three men provide the foundation for the discipline of sociology – they are the “Big 3.” Their ideas remain so influential that today, a century later, you can still buy their books brand new at your local bookstore! What follows are simply brief resumes for the Big 3, so that you can begin getting familiar with them. We will look at them in greater detail in other chapters.
  • 19. Classical Theorists • Émile Durkheim (1858-1917)  Early sociology professor in France.  Rejected the idea that human behavior could be understood in individualistic terms, instead insisting that it must be understood within its wider social context.  Passionately committed to the scientific method.  Key Ideas: social cohesion, anomie, social density, sacred & profane, social facts.
  • 20. Your instructor at Durkheim’s grave in Paris, France (Summer, 2009).
  • 21. Classical Theorists • Karl Marx (1818-1883)  Had a pessimistic view of western capitalist societies.  Focused on economics, theorizing that those with the power and ownership dominated and manipulated the common worker. Thus, society is marked by class conflict.  Wrote the Communist Manifesto with Engels.  Key Ideas: economic determinism, false consciousness, ideology, class consciousness, socialism.
  • 22. Your instructor at Marx’s gravesite in London, England (Summer, 2016).
  • 23. Classical Theorists • Max Weber (1864-1920)  German sociology professor.  Believed that sociologists must incorporate the subjective perspectives and experiences of their subjects (verstehen) into their research.  Emphasized class, status, and power.  Key Ideas: verstehen, multi-factored approach, ideal type, Protestant ethic as the origin of capitalism, rationalization, elective affinities.
  • 24. Sociology in the U.S. • The Chicago School (1890-1920) Began at the University of Chicago with researchers like Robert E. Park, Ernest W. Burgess, and Louis Wirth. Relied heavily on George Herbert Mead’s idea of symbolic interactionism. Urban Sociology – focused on the city (layout, migration, etc.). In reaction to the typical (subjective) sociology of the day, this perspective used systematic data collection.
  • 25. The Macro/Micro Debate • An ongoing debate within sociology concerning where one should begin in order to adequately understand society. • macrosociology = begins with the big picture by focusing on large-scale features of society. • microsociology = attempts to understand society by beginning at the bottom – i.e., with smaller factors like small groups or the interaction between individuals.
  • 26. Major Approaches • Structural-Functional  A macro approach that regards everything as functional.  Society functions like a living organism made up of parts called institutions.  Society’s parts are structured in such a way that society remains generally stable.  Individuals are socialized to perform societal functions and operate non-rationally.
  • 27. Major Approaches • Social-Conflict  Another macro approach that sees all of society as characterized by tension/struggle between groups.  As a result, society is marked by inequality.  Major Theorists: Marx; Weber; C. Wright Mills; W.E.B. DuBois.
  • 28. Major Approaches • Social-Conflict (cont’d):  Marxism (Marx & Engels): – Individuals are manipulated by the system in the interest of the status quo. – Conflict is based on class and economics is all that matters. – Capitalism is bad. – Social order is preserved by force.  Max Weber: – Marxism is too simplistic. – The conflict in society occurs on many levels and is based on 3 factors: class, status, and power. – Capitalism is ok.
  • 29. Major Approaches • Symbolic Interactionist  A micro approach that emphasizes human interaction as the key to both individual and social development.  Especially interested in symbols: language; body language; gestures; facial expressions; status symbols.  Individuals are constantly interpreting and manipulating symbols, creating their social world through interaction.
  • 30. Major Approaches • Rational/Utilitarian  Basic ideas show up in British philosophy (1700’s-1800’s), ethics (Bentham), political theory (Locke; Mill), and economics (Adam Smith).  Shows up in sociology in the 1950s as a micro perspective.  Basic Premise: people are motivated by what produces pleasure (“good”) and repelled by what produces pain (“bad”). Individuals will act within their own self interest.  Society results from individuals making exchanges based on rational cost/benefit analyses. Major Theorists: Homans; Blau; Coleman.
  • 31. Major Approaches Theoretical Tradition Macro/Micro Human Behavior Structural-Functional Macro Individuals function according to non-rational values instilled through socialization. Social-Conflict Macro Individuals are manipulated by elite powers and kept from thinking for themselves. Symbolic Interactionist Micro Individuals interpret the symbols around them and construct their own reality. Rational/Utilitarian Micro Individuals make rational decisions out of self-interest through cost/benefit analyses.