Rey Ty’s Notes
Source: Jonathan H. Turner. (2006). Sociology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, pp. 27-28.
1. Sociology is the study of human behavior, interaction, and social organization.
2. Sociology is relevant to each of our daily lives because it provides a vehicle for understanding
the sources of constraint in our thoughts, perceptions, and actions.
3. Sociology emerged under conditions of change associated with: (a) the decline of feudalism and
the emergence of commerce, industry, and urbanization; (b) the intellectual movement known
as The Enlightenment in which science and secular thought about the physical, biological, and
social worlds could flourish; and (c) the traumatic shock over the violence and sudden change
associated with the French Revolution of 1789.
4. The name, sociology, was proposed by the French thinker, Auguste Comte, who believed that a
science of society could emulate the natural sciences. Comte also felt that discovery of the laws
of human social organization could be used to reconstruct society in a more humane way.
5. Harriet Martineau not only translated Comte’s great work, but she took sociology to the larger
public and argued that it should address issues and problems of the real world.
6. Herbert Spencer in England argued that laws of human organization could be developed. These
laws would focus on the growing size and complexity of (page 27) society as these forces
created pressures for (a) increased exchange and interdependence among people and
organizations of society and (b) increased use of power to regulate, control, and coordinate
activities of people and organizational units. Spencer founded a sociological approach known as
functionalism, where the effects of a social pattern on the maintenance of society are
7. Emile Durkheim Comtean and French tradition of emphasizing the importance of cultural ideas
for the integration of society. Like Spencer, he was a functionalist and believed that laws of
human organization could be discovered, but he added to Spencer’s approach the importance of
discovering the causes and functions of cultural symbols for integrating society.
8. Karl Marx, a German who was expelled from his homeland and eventually settled in England,
emphasized the conflictual nature of society, founding an approach known as conflict theory or
conflict sociology. In Marx’s view, inequalities in the distribution of resources set the stage for
the transformation of society as those without resources to organize and engage in conflict with
those who control production, who possess power, and who manipulate cultural symbols to
legitimate their privilege. Unlike Comte, Spencer, and Durkheim, Marx did not believe that the
general laws of human organization, transcending historical epochs, could be developed.
9. Max Weber, the other major German founder of sociology, engaged in a life-long but silent
dialogue with Marx, emphasizing that inequality is multidimensional and not based solely upon
the economy, that conflict is contingent on historical conditions and is not the inevitable and
inexorable outcome of inequality, and that change could be caused by ideas as well as the
material and economic base of society. He also stressed that sociology must look at both the
larger scale structure of society and the meanings that individuals give to these larger scale
forces. Like Marx, he doubted if there were general laws of human organization, but unlike
Marx, he felt that it is necessary to be value-free and objective in the description and analysis of
10. Early American sociology adopted European ideas to specific problems associated with
urbanization and industrialization, but it did initiate two important trends: (a) the widespread
use of quantitative, statistical techniques and (b) the theoretical approach that was to become
known as interactionism, where concern is with the processes by which society is sustained and
changed by the behaviors of individuals in micro face-to-face encounters.
11. Early American sociology also exhibited an agenda for helping people in need, creating a
concern for “practice” and “applied sociology” where sociological inquiry seeks to rebuild
problematic social structures.
12. Sociology is now a large and diverse field analyzing all facets of human culture, social structure,
behavior and interaction, and social change.” (page 28)
“Law of the Three Stages: Auguste Comte’s view that ideas, and society as a whole, pass through three
stages: (a) the theological, where religious ideas dominate; (b) the metaphysical, where systematic
thought is stressed; and (c) the positivistic, where science comes to dominate” (Turner, 2006, p 29).