Sociological Prespective

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Chapter – 1: The Sociological Perspective
Summary

* Sociology offers a perspective that stresses the social contexts in which people live and how these contexts influence people’s lives. For C. Wright Mills, this is the interaction of biography and history.

* Sociology is the scientific study of society and human behavior, and, as such, is one of the social sciences, which study human behavior, in contrast to the natural sciences, which focus on nature.

* Sociology is different from the other social sciences because sociology focuses primarily on industrialized societies, does not look at only a single social institution, and focuses on factors external to the individual.

* Sociology emerged during the upheavals of the Industrial Revolution. Early sociologists such as Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Harriet Martineau focused on how the sweeping social changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution affected human behavior.

* Sociologists agree that sociological research should be value free but disagree concerning the proper purposes and uses of social research. Some believe its purpose should be only to advance understanding of human behavior; others feel that its goal should be to reform harmful social arrangements.

* Weber believed that sociologists must try to see the world from another's perspective in order to understand their behavior (Verstehen); Durkheim stressed the importance of uncovering the objective social conditions that influence behavior (social facts).

* In the early years of sociology, only a few wealthy women received an advanced education. Harriet Martineau was an Englishwoman who wrote about social life in Great Britain and the United States and published a book entitled Society in America.

* In North America, departments of sociology began to be established at the end of the nineteenth century. In the early years, the contributions of women and minorities were largely ignored.

* Pure sociology is research whose only purpose is to make discoveries, while applied sociology is the use of sociology to solve social problems in settings ranging from the work place to the family.

* A tension between social reform and social analysis has always run through sociology. The American Sociological Association is promoting public sociology to make politicians more aware of the sociological perspective.

* Globalization is also leaving its mark on sociology and will likely direct sociologists to give greater consideration to global issues.

I. The Sociological Perspective

A. This perspective is important because it provides a different way of looking at familiar worlds. It allows us to gain a new vision of social life.

B. This perspective stresses the broader social context of behavior by looking at individuals’ social location—employment, income, education, gender, age, and race— and by considering an individual’s external influences and experiences. We are able to see the links between what people do and the social settings that shape their behavior. C. This perspective enables us to analyze and understand both the forces that contribute to the emergence and growth of the global village and our unique experiences in our own smaller corners of this village.

II. Sociology and the Other Sciences

A. Science is the systematic methods used to obtain knowledge and the knowledge obtained by those methods. It can be divided into the natural sciences and the social sciences. Sociology is defined as “the scientific study of society and human behavior.”

B. The natural sciences attempt to comprehend, explain, and predict events in our natural environment.

C. Social sciences attempt to objectively study the social world. Like the natural sciences, the social sciences are divided into specialized fields based on their subject matter. * Anthropology attempts to understand culture (a people’s total...
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