Chapter 1. An introduction to Sociology
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Figure 1.1. Sociologists examine how culture affects people and also how people affect society. How does gift in a crowd impact people’s behaviour? (Photo courtesy the PDerek Hatfield/Wikimedia Commons)

Learning Objectives

1.1. What Is Sociology?

Explain the concepts main to sociology.Describe the different levels of analysis in sociology: micro-level sociology, macro-level sociology, and global-level sociology.Define the sociological imagination.

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1.2. The background of Sociology

Explain why sociology emerged when the did.Describe the central ideas that the co-founder of sociology.

1.3. Theoretical Perspectives

Explain what sociological theories and also paradigms are and also how they room used.Describe sociology as a multi-perspectival social science split into positivist, interpretive and vital paradigms.Define the similarities and differences between quantitative sociology, structural functionalism, historical materialism, feminism, and also symbolic interactionism.

1.4. Why examine Sociology?

Explain why it is worthwhile to examine sociology.Identify methods sociology is used in the real world.

Introduction to Sociology

Concerts, sporting matches and games, and political rallies deserve to have very large crowds. When you attend one of these events you may understand only the civilization you came with, however you may experience a emotion of link to the group. Girlfriend are one of the crowd. Friend cheer and also applaud when everyone rather does. Girlfriend boo and yell alongside them. You move out of the way when someone needs to get by, and also you to speak “excuse me” as soon as you have to leave. Friend know exactly how to law in this sort of crowd.

It have the right to be a an extremely different suffer if you space travelling in a foreign country and also you find yourself in a crowd relocating down the street. Friend may have trouble figuring the end what is happening. Is the crowd just the usual morning rush, or is it a political protest of some kind? probably there to be some type of accident or disaster. Is it safe in this crowd, or should you shot to extract yourself? How have the right to you find out what is walk on? although you room in it, you might not feel choose you are component of this crowd. You may not recognize what to carry out or just how to behave.

Even in ~ one form of crowd, different groups exist and also different behaviours space on display. In ~ a rock concert, because that example, some might enjoy singing along, others may prefer to sit and observe, while still others may join in a mosh pit or try crowd-surfing. Top top February 28, 2010, Sydney crossby scored the win goal versus the United says team in the gold medal hockey video game at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Two hundred thousand jubilant people filled the roads of downtown Vancouver come celebrate and also cap off two weeks of uncharacteristically vibrant, joyful street life in Vancouver. Simply over a year later, on June 15, 2011, the Vancouver Canucks lost the seventh hockey video game of the Stanley Cup finals versus the Boston Bruins. One hundreds thousand world had been watching the game on outdoor screens. At some point 155,000 human being filled the downtown streets. Rioting and looting led to hundreds of injuries, charred cars, trashed storefronts and property damage totaling an approximated $4.2 million. Why to be the crowd an answer to the two events so different?

Figure 1.2. People’s experiences of the post-Stanley Cup revolt in Vancouver were an extremely different. (Photo courtesy of Pasquale Borriello/Flickr)

A vital insight that sociology is that the straightforward fact of gift in a group changes your behaviour. The team is a phenomenon the is much more than the amount of that is parts. Why carry out we feel and act in different ways in different types of society situations? Why might human being of a single group exhibit different behaviours in the exact same situation? Why might human being acting similarly not feel linked to others exhibiting the very same behaviour? this are some of the many questions sociologists ask as they examine people and also societies.

1.1. What Is Sociology?

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Figure 1.3. Sociologists discover about culture as a entirety while researching one-to-one and group interactions. (Photo courtesy that Robert S. Donovan/Flickr)

A dictionary specifies sociology as the systematic examine of culture and social interaction. Words “sociology” is derived from the Latin native socius (companion) and the Greek indigenous logos (speech or reason), i m sorry together typical “reasoned decided or discourse about companionship”. How deserve to the endure of companionship or togetherness be put right into words or explained? while this is a starting point for the discipline, sociology is actually much much more complex. The uses many different theories and methods to study a wide selection of subject matter, and applies these research studies to the real world.

The sociologist Dorothy smith (b. 1926) defines the social together the “ongoing concerting and coordinating that individuals’ activities” (Smith, 1999). Sociology is the systematic research of every those elements of life designated through the adjective “social.” They issue relationships, and they worry what happens when more than one person is involved. These aspects of social life never simply occur; they are arranged processes. They have the right to be the briefest of daily interactions — relocating to the best to let someone happen on a busy sidewalk, for instance — or the largest and also most enduring interactions — such as the billions of everyday exchanges the constitute the circuits of worldwide capitalism. If there room at the very least two people involved, also in the seclusion the one’s mind, climate there is a social interaction that requires the “ongoing concerting and also coordinating the activities.” Why go the human being move to the ideal on the sidewalk? What cumulative processes cause the decision that moving to the right fairly than the left is normal? Think about the T-shirts in your chest that drawers at home. What are the sequences of linkages, exchanges, and also social relationships that affix your T-shirts come the dangerous and also hyper-exploitative garment factories in landscape China or Bangladesh? These are the kind of questions that point to the distinct domain and also puzzles that the social that sociology seeks to explore and understand.

What are culture and Culture? Micro, Macro and global Perspectives

Sociologists research all aspects and also levels that society. A society is a team of human being whose members interact, reside in a definable area, and share a culture. A culture includes the group’s common practices, values, beliefs, norms, and also artifacts. One sociologist could analyze video clip of civilization from different societies together they lug on everyday conversations to research the rule of polite conversation indigenous different world cultures. An additional sociologist might interview a representative sample of human being to see how email and instant messaging have readjusted the means organizations are run. Yet an additional sociologist might study exactly how migration identified the method in i m sorry language spread out and readjusted over time. A fourth sociologist might study the history of worldwide agencies favor the United countries or the international Monetary fund to examine how the globe became divided into a very first World and also a 3rd World after the end of the early american era.

These instances illustrate the ways in which culture and culture can be studied at different levels that analysis, native the in-depth study that face-to-face interaction to the examination of large-scale historical processes affecting entire civilizations. The is usual to divide these level of analysis into different gradations based upon the range of communication involved. As questioned in later chapters, sociologists break the examine of society down into 4 separate levels of analysis: micro, meso, macro, and global. The an easy distinctions, however, are in between micro-level sociology, macro-level sociology and global-level sociology.

The study of cultural rules the politeness in conversation is an example of micro-level sociology. At the micro-level of analysis, the focus is on the social dynamics that intimate, face-to-face interactions. Research study is carried out with a specific collection of people such as conversational partners, family members members, work associates, or friendship groups. In the conversation study example, sociologists might try to recognize how human being from different cultures interpret every others’ action to watch how different rules that politeness result in misunderstandings. If the same misunderstandings take place consistently in a number of different interactions, the sociologists may have the ability to propose some generalizations around rules of politeness that would be useful in to reduce tensions in mixed-group dynamics (e.g., during staff meetings or international negotiations). Other instances of micro-level research encompass seeing exactly how informal networks come to be a key source of support and breakthrough in officially bureaucracies, or just how loyalty to criminal gangs is established.

Macro-level sociology focuses on the nature of large-scale, society-wide society interactions the extend past the immediate milieu of separation, personal, instance interactions: the dynamics of institutions, class structures, gender relations, or totality populations. The example above of the affect of hike on an altering patterns that language intake is a macro-level phenomenon since it refers to structures or procedures of social interaction that occur outside or past the intimate one of individual social acquaintances. These incorporate the economic, political, and other circumstances that bring about migration; the educational, media, and other communication structures that help or hinder the spread out of speech patterns; the class, racial, or ethnic departments that develop different slangs or societies of language use; the family member isolation or integration the different communities within a population; and so on. Other examples of macro-level study include assessing why ladies are far less likely than men to reach positions of power in society, or why fundamentalist Christian spiritual movements beat a much more prominent function in American politics than they execute in Canadian politics. In every case, the website of the evaluation shifts away from the nuances and detail of micro-level interpersonal life come the broader, macro-level systematic patterns that framework social readjust and social cohesion in society.

In global-level sociology, the emphasis is on structures and also processes that extend beyond the borders of states or details societies. As Ulrich Beck (2000) has pointed out, in many respects us no much longer “live and act in the self-enclosed spaces of national states and also their respective nationwide societies.” issues of climate change, the advent of new technologies, the investment and disinvestment the capital, the pictures of famous culture, or the stress of cross-cultural conflict, etc. Increasingly involve our day-to-day life in the to work of the entire globe, by-passing traditional borders and, to part degree, distance itself. The example above of the way in i m sorry the world came to be divided into wealthy first World and impoverished 3rd World societies mirrors social procedures — the formation of international establishments such together the united Nations, the international Monetary Fund, and non-governmental organizations, for instance — which are worldwide in range and an international in their effects. With the boom and bust the petroleum or other export commodity economies, that is clear to someone life in fort McMurray, Alberta, that their everyday life is influenced not only by their intimate relationships through the people approximately them, nor only by provincial and national based corporations and also policies, etc., but by global markets that recognize the price that oil and also the worldwide flows of resources investment. The context of these processes needs to be analysed in ~ a global scale the analysis.

The relationship in between the micro, macro, and global remains one of the key conceptual problems confronting sociology. What is the relationship in between an individual’s life and social life? The beforehand German sociologist Georg Simmel mentioned that macro-level procedures are in fact nothing an ext than the sum of every the distinctive interactions between details individuals at any one time (1908/1971), yet they have properties of their own which would certainly be to let go if sociologists only focused on the interaction of certain individuals. Émile Durkheim’s classic study of self-destruction (1897/1951) is a instance in point. When suicide is just one of the most personal, individual, and also intimate plot imaginable, Durkheim prove that rates of self-destruction differed between religious communities — Protestants, Catholics, and Jews — in a method that might not be described by the separation, personal, instance factors affiliated in each details case. The different rates the suicide had actually to be defined by macro-level variables connected with the different religious beliefs and practices the the confidence communities; much more specifically, the different levels of social integration of these communities. We will go back to this example in much more detail later. On the various other hand, macro-level phenomena like course structures, institutional organizations, legit systems, gender stereotypes, population growth, and urban ways of life carry out the shared context for everyday life but do not explain its particular nuances and also micro-variations really well. Macro-level structures constrain the daily interactions that the intimate one in which us move, but they are also filtered v localized perceptions and also “lived” in a myriad the inventive and unpredictable ways.

The Sociological Imagination

Although the range of sociological studies and also the techniques of moving them out room different, the sociologists affiliated in them all have something in common. Every of castle looks at culture using what pioneer sociologist C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) dubbed the sociological imagination, sometimes also referred to as the “sociological lens” or “sociological perspective.” In a sense, this was Mills’ means of addressing the crises of the macro/micro divide in sociology. Mills characterized sociological creative thinking as just how individuals understand their own and also others’ stays in relationship to background and social structure (1959/2000). It is the capacity to view an individual’s exclusive troubles in the paper definition of the wider social procedures that structure them. This allows the sociologist to examine what Mills dubbed “personal problem of milieu” as “public worries of society structure,” and also vice versa.

Mills reasoned that exclusive troubles prefer being overweight, being unemployed, having actually marital difficulties, or emotion purposeless or depressed can be purely personal in nature. It is possible for lock to be addressed and also understood in terms of personal, psychological, or ethical attributes — either one’s own or those the the people in one’s instant milieu. In an individualistic society like our own, this is in truth the many likely way that civilization will for the issues they confront: “I have actually an addictive personality;” “I can’t get a rest in the project market;” “My husband is unsupportive,” etc. However, if private troubles room widely shared with others, they show that there is a common social trouble that has actually its source in the means social life is structured. At this level, the issues are no adequately understood as just private troubles. They are best addressed as public worries that call for a collective response to resolve.

Obesity, for example, has actually been increasingly recognized together a cultivation problem because that both children and adults in north America. Michael Pollan cites statistics that three out of 5 Americans room overweight and one out of five is obese (2006). In Canada in 2012, simply under one in 5 adults (18.4%) to be obese, up from 16% of men and 14.5% of ladies in 2003 (Statistics Canada, 2013). Excessive weight is thus not merely a private concern related to the clinical issues, dietary practices, or exercise actions of specific individuals. It is a widely common social issue that puts world at threat for chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and also cardiovascular disease. It likewise creates far-reaching social expenses for the clinical system.

Pollan argues that weight problems is in component a product of the significantly sedentary and also stressful way of life of modern, capitalist society. More importantly, however, it is a product the the industrialization that the food chain, which since the 1970s has produced increasingly cheap and also abundant food with significantly more calories as result of processing. Additives favor corn syrup, i beg your pardon are lot cheaper and therefore more financially rewarding to produce than herbal sugars, resulted in the trend of super-sized quick foods and soft drinks in the 1980s. As Pollan argues, make the efforts to find a processed food in the supermarket there is no a cheap, calorie-rich, corn-based additive is a challenge. The sociological imagination in this example is the capacity to check out the personal troubles and also attitudes associated with gift overweight as an issue of exactly how the industrialization that the food chain has altered the human/environment relationship — in particular, v respect come the varieties of food we eat and the means we eat them.

By looking at individuals and societies and also how they interact through this lens, sociologists are able to research what influences behaviour, attitudes, and culture. By using systematic and scientific methods to this process, they try to execute so there is no letting their very own biases and preconceived concepts influence your conclusions.

Studying Patterns: exactly how Sociologists check out Society

All sociologists room interested in the experiences of individuals and also how those experiences space shaped through interactions with social teams and society as a whole. Come a sociologist, the personal decisions an separation, personal, instance makes execute not exist in a vacuum. Cultural patterns and social forces put push on civilization to select one selection over another. Sociologists shot to determine these general patterns by evaluating the action of huge groups of people living in the same society and experiencing the exact same societal pressures. When general patterns persist through time and also become habitual or routinized at micro-levels the interaction, or institutionalized at macro or worldwide levels that interaction, they are described as social structures.

As we detailed above, expertise the relationship between the separation, personal, instance and culture is among the most complicated sociological problems. Partially this is due to the fact that of the reified means these two terms are offered in daily speech. Reification refers come the way in which abstract concepts, complicated processes, or mutable society relationships concerned be assumed of together “things.” A prime instance of reification is when civilization say that “society” caused an separation, personal, instance to execute something, or to revolve out in a details way. In creating essays, first-year sociology students periodically refer to “society” as a cause of social behaviour or together an entity through independent agency. On the other hand, the “individual” is a gift that appears solid, tangible, and independent that anything walk on external of the skin bag that has its essence. This conventional distinction between society and the individual is a product the reification, as both culture and the individual appear as elevation objects. A concept that “the individual” and also a concept that “society” have actually been given the condition of real, substantial, independent objects. As we will watch in the chapters come come, society and the individual room neither objects, nor are they live independence of one another. One “individual” is inconceivable there is no the relationships to others that specify their internal, spatu life and their external, socially-defined roles.

One trouble for sociologists is the these principles of the individual and also society, and also the relationship in between them, room thought the in terms developed by a an extremely common moral structure in contemporary democratic societies — namely, that of separation, personal, instance responsibility and individual choice. The individual is ethically responsible for their behaviours and also decisions. Regularly in this framework, any suggestion the an individual’s behaviour demands to be taken in terms of that person’s social context is dismissed together “letting the separation, personal, instance off” for taking personal responsibility for your actions. Talking about society is akin to being morally soft or lenient.

Sociology, together a society science, remains neutral on these species of ethical questions. Because that sociologists, the conceptualization the the separation, personal, instance and society is much more complex than the moral frame suggests and needs to it is in examined v evidence-based, fairly than morality-based, research. The sociological trouble is to be able to see the individual as a thoroughly social gift and, yet, as a being who has agency and totally free choice. People are us who carry out take ~ above individual duties in their daily social roles, and risk social after-effects when castle fail come live up to them. However, the path in which people take on responsibilities, and also sometimes the compulsion to perform so, room socially defined. The sociological problem is to be able to see society as: a dimension of experience identified by regular and also predictable patterns of behaviour that exist separately of any particular individual’s desires or self-understanding. At the same time, a culture is nothing yet the ongoing social relationship and activities of specific individuals.

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A an essential basis of the sociological perspective is the ide that the individual and culture are inseparable. That is difficult to research one without the other. German sociologist Norbert Elias (1887-1990) referred to as the process of simultaneously evaluating the behaviour of individuals and the society that shapes that action figuration. He explained it v a an allegory of dancing. There deserve to be no run without the dancers, but there can be no dancers without the dance. There is no the dancers, a dance is simply an idea about motions in a choreographer’s head. Without a dance, over there is just a group of human being moving around a floor. Similarly, there is no society without the individuals that make it up, and there are likewise no people who room not affected by the society in which lock live (Elias, 1978).