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.
Sociology Chapter 1 - Your Social Identity
What Is Sociology?
Sociology is the study of human society.
The Sociological Imagination
Coined by C. Wright Mills, this tool helps us to:
• connect our personal experiences to society at large and
greater historical forces.
• “make the familiar strange,” or to question habits or customs
that seem “natural” to us.
What Is a Social Institution?
Social institutions are networks of structures in
society that work to socialize the groups of people
the legal system
the labor market
the educational system
What Is Social Identity?
The way individuals define themselves in relationship to
groups they are a part of (or in relationship to groups they
choose not to be a part of).
What groups are you in? Or not in? Write down a list of
groups that you define you.
Think about you own backgrounds, including
their race, gender, religion, and economic class.
How larger social forces—the economy, civil rights, religious
movements, and so on—have shaped what it means to be a person
someone with the same list of traits—in society today.
The History of Sociology
Auguste Comte — society is better understood by determining
the logic or scientific laws governing human behavior, called
social physics or positivism.
Karl Marx — theory of historical materialism, which
identifies class conflict as the primary cause of social change
The History of Sociology
Functionalism, conflict theory, feminist theory, symbolic
interactionism, postmodernism, and midrange theory are all
modern sociological theories.
The Chicago School is best known for its urban sociology and for the
development of the symbolic interactionist approach.
Sociology and Its Cousins
Sociology focuses on making comparisons across cases
to find patterns and create hypotheses about how
societies work now or how they worked in the past.
Sociology looks at how individuals interact with one
another as well as at how groups, small and large,
interact with one another.
Divisions within Sociology
Microsociology understands local
interactional contexts, focusing on faceto-face encounters and gathering data
through participant observations and indepth interviews.
Macrosociology looks at social
dynamics across whole societies or large
parts of them and often relies on
statistical analysis to do so.
Guys: Are you normal? Take this quiz..