Chapter 1 Notes
What is sociology?
Sociology is the study of society, the term combining the Greek words socius (companionship) and ology (the study of) Social relationships can be very complex, and can encourage or discourage our sense of belonging to society. The layers of meaning we apply to these relationships can affect our sense of belonging to society, whether that be places such as the local shopping centre, your household or your workplace. There are various perspectives that provide new outlooks on the discipline of sociology e.g. Berger (1976) - 'seeing the general in the particular' Sociology posits the existence of new types of social 'furniture' that, once visible to us, can help to explain aspects of society that we couldn't before e.g. Our understanding on class or gender. Sociology, with it's mass of theories, perspectives and assembly of social facts, shares two major concerns with philosophy; ontology and epistemology (see definitions).
What does sociology study?
Attempts to understand human societies from a wholistic viewpoint i.e. what they're made of, how they are reproduced, how they differ from one another. Looks at the way societies are divided according to types of individuality and group identities. Examines the nature of inequality, and how individuals are both differentiated and accorded positions on the social hierarchy. Important markers in relation to the particular divisions that influence a person's access to social power and social identity are class, gender, race, ethnicity, age and sexuality. Concern to show how the patterning of power and inequality in society systematically e.g. Due to the reproduction of capitalist societies. However sociology cannot claim that all social phenomena comes from a system, rather they must also acknowledge more specific instances that form persons and groups into social structures. A crucial factor of sociology is that of social change. Sociologists can theorise the various aspects of society, but they must also strive to understand how these realities change over time.
How does sociology study? The sociological imagination
Founded by Auguste Comte in the 19th century as a science that would allow us to control historical and social reality. Comte: prevoir pour pouvoir, 'to be able to predict is to be able to control' Today's sociologists reject his notion of positivism, that is, the treatment of human beings as objects in the natural world. Sociological imagination, developed by C. Wright Mills, confronts the fact that societies and their individuals are transient, changing and situational. Mills acknowledged that a persistent reflexivity is needed in order for sociologists to understand how they themselves are being shaped by society, as they are as much subjects of their area of study as anyone else Mills explains sociological imagination as "the capacity to range from the most impersonal and remote transformations to the most intimate features of the human self - and to see the relations between these two" Sociological imagination is distinguished from other modes of inquiry as it studies individuals and the organisation of human experience, and not objects in the natural world The second feature of social enquiry is the fact it is interpretive (hermeneutic) and not instrumental i.e. it does not study meaning and action in order to regulate or control it. Max Weber emphasised the distinction between instrumental and interpretive reason. Instrumental is anti-philosophical, being preoccupied with achieving an objective according to a defined set of criteria. It will find the best technical means of coming up with a solution. Sociological imagination is different in that it is not guided by an end of knowledge, rather addressing a constraint-free world. It tries to investigate the outward appearance of social life. Difficult to prove that central organising ontologies are responsible for the diversity of experience we encounter and live....
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