Using examples discussed by sociological studies, explain how sociology helps us to see beyond common sense views of society.

Topics: Sociology, Gender, Émile Durkheim Pages: 5 (1901 words) Published: January 20, 2014
Using examples discussed by sociological studies, explain how sociology helps us to see beyond common sense views of society. The notion of common sense is something many people take for granted; a part of life which everyone ‘innately’ understands. It is the knowledge of those who live in the heart of society who spend years living, growing, working and building upon their experiences, constructing a natural ability of common sense values. Many people believe it is an instinctive quality (something we all know about) acquired by the human race and that society would fail to function in its inexistence. (American Sociological Review). Common sense is largely qualitative, it cannot be measured or quantified and is centred on meanings and statements which tie us together as a whole, keeping us in check and conforming to the ‘norm’. Shared values in society can be defined as common sense and this in turn can be very destructive to society as some people inherently discriminate on other cultures such as; sex, gender, race, ethnicity and social class. Therefore many sociologists would argue that common sense is not something which is relevantly “common” or of much sense to some people. Many statements which we regard to be common sense aren’t particularly universal or applied to everyone in a specific society, e.g. “opposites attract”, this statement does not reflect everyone universally and so people require a wider understanding of society and thus turn to scientific beliefs. (Cliff Notes) Within sociology there are two very diverse approaches; positivism and interpretivism. “Positivists believe that sociologists should use quantitative methods and aim to identity and measure social structures”. (Abbott, D 2010). They also believe that people’s behaviour is governed by external stimuli; that their ideas, feelings and emotions are irrelevant, thus sociology can construct and base theories on direct observation of human behaviour. (Durkheim, E) In contrast to this view, Interpretivists take on an entire different outlook; they believe that because humans think and reflect, it is impossible to scientifically measure human behaviour. Interpretivists want to delve deeper than the behaviour of humans, they are more concerned with the reasons and meanings that govern behaviours. Emilie Durkheim, a positivist sociologist begun a study of suicide in Europe (1897) in order to validate sociology’s scientific status and that suicide did not occur on the basis of shared ‘common sense’ opinions. At the beginning of his study Durkheim assumed that suicide was considered equally immoral in all countries (Douglas 1967); however Bayet (1922) argues this and found that in France there was a variation of attitudes towards suicide. Through official statistics Durkheim found that common sense views of suicide can be rejected and that suicide actually occurs from social facts which are tied to social structures. He believed that suicide was a result of social causes. Durkheim explored suicide rates among different groups and societies and argued that strengths of social control influenced whether people committed suicide or not. He found that among Catholics with a higher level of social control it resulted in lower levels of suicide rates and among Protestants where there is a lower level of social control it therefore resulted in higher rates of suicide. He also found that suicide rates were higher amongst single people, men and those without children. Durkheim was one the first people to argue that suicide was the cause of social facts and not down to individual personalities. Durkheim introduced four types of suicide on the basis of ones relationship with its society. ( Egoistic suicide defines when a man becomes socially isolated from his society and feels he no longer has a place in the world he lives in, he is cut off from the outside. On the other side of the scale Altruistic suicide is when social integration is too...
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