What do sociologists mean when they talk about the sociological perspective or the sociological imagination? What is unique or special about this perspective?
The Sociological perspective is how we view social phenomena. When I think of sociological perspective; C. Wright Mills comes to mind. The "Sociological Imagination" describes a sociological mindset in regards to being able to connect individual experiences and societal relationships. In other words it is the ability to analyze groups, social events and social problems from a societal perspective rather than an individual perspective.
Emile Durkheim believed that individuals influence our behavior. His “Suicide” studies showed suicide as a functional part of societal integration. Groups take on characteristics independent of their members (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts).Sociologists also focus on behavioral patterns of groups (difference based on race, sex, age, class, etc.).There's also Cooley's "Looking glass self" in which an individual gains identity through how they are perceived by society. The sociological perspective is generally tied to one of the main paradigms of Sociology: conflict, functional, and symbolism.
The sociological imagination involves viewing a given situation in its social context. For a really general example, when you see people who are dressed strangely at school, you could simply assume that they are "weird." However, a sociologist would look at what social group these kids belong to, if they are well-liked, and how they interact with other kids who dress in unusual attention-getting clothing. They would not simply assume that there is something wrong with kids who dress differently, but that they're reacting to the social environment to which they belong through the way they dress and possibly trying to make a certain statement to the rest of their peers.
In more simple terms, using the sociological perspective...
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