Text of TOPIC 1 The Sociological Perspective. PUTTING SOCIAL LIFE INTO PERSPECTIVE
TOPIC 1 The Sociological Perspective
PUTTING SOCIAL LIFE INTO PERSPECTIVE
Putting Social Life Into Perspective Sociology is the systematic study of human society and social interaction. Sociologists study societies and social interactions to develop theories of : How human behavior is shaped by group life. How group life is affected by individuals.
Why Study Sociology? Helps us gain a better understanding of ourselves and our social world Helps us see how behavior is shaped by the groups to which we belong and our society Promotes understanding and tolerance by helping us look beyond personal experiences and gain insight into the larger world order
Society A society is a large social grouping that shares the same geographical territory and is subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations, such as the United States, Mexico, or Nigeria.
The Sociological Imagination The ability to see the relationship between individual experiences and the larger society Distinguishes between personal troubles and public issues
Personal Troubles Personal troubles are private problems that affect individuals and the networks of people with which they associate regularly. Example: One person being unemployed or running up a high credit card debt could be identified as a personal trouble.
Public Issues Public issues are problems that affect large numbers of people and require solutions at the societal level. Widespread unemployment and massive, nationwide consumer debt are examples of public issues.
Overspending as a Personal Trouble People may accummulate credit cards and spend more than they can afford, affecting all aspects of their lives, including health, family relationships, and employment stability. Sociologist George Ritzer suggests that people may overspend through a gradual process of easy credit.
Overspending as a Public Issue Between 1990 and 2000, credit card debt tripled in the United States. As corporations write off bad debt from those who declare bankruptcy or do not pay their bills, all consumers pay either directly or indirectly for that debt.
Overspending as a Public Issue Poverty is forgotten as a social issue when more affluent people are having a spending holiday and consuming all they can afford to purchase. Sociologist Robert D. Manning found that students are aggressively targeted by credit card companies even though it is accepted that some of the students will ruin their credit while still in college.
IMPORTANCE OF A GLOBAL SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION
Importance of a Global Sociological Imagination Although existing sociological theory and research provide a foundation for sociological thinking, we must develop a more global approach for the future. In the 21st century, we face important challenges in a rapidly changing nation and world.
A nation's place in the global economy depends on whether they are high-income, middle-income, or low-income. Poverty, political unrest, environmental pollution, and natural disasters are felt throughout the world.
High Income Countries Nations with highly industrialized economies; technologically advanced industrial, administrative, and service occupations. Examples: United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Western Europe. Have a high standard of living and a lower death rate due to advances in nutrition and medical technology. Personal debt may threaten economic even among middle- and upper income people.
Middle Income Countries Nations with industrializing economies, particularly in urban areas, and moderate levels of national and personal income Example: The nations of Eastern Europe and many Latin American countries.
Low Income Countries Primarily agrarian nations with little industrialization and low levels of national and personal income. Examples: Many of the nations of Africa and Asia, particularly the Peoples Republic of China and India, where people typically work the land and are among the poorest in the world.
Individual experiences and perceptions are influenced by: Race--groups of people distinguished by physical characteristics such as skin color. Ethnicity--the cultural heritage or identity of a group based on factors such as language or country of origin. Class--the relative location of a person or group within the larger society, based on wealth, power, prestige, or other valued resources.
Sex--the biological and anatomical differences between females and males. Gender--the meanings, beliefs, and practices associated with sex differences, referred to as femininity and masculinity.
THE ORIGINS OF SOCIOLOGICAL THINKING
The Origins of Sociological Thinking The first systematic analysis of society is found in the philosophy of the early Greeks. The scientific revolution of the seventeenth century inspired social thinkers to believe that advances could be made in the systematic study of human behavior.
In France, the Enlightenment was dominated by the philosophers, including Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Turgot. They believed human society could be improved through scientific discoveries. If people were free from the ignorance of the past, they could create new forms of political and economic organization, which would produce wealth and destroy the aristocracy.
Sociology and the Age of Revolution, Industrialization, and Urbanization The Enlightenment produced an intellectual revolution in how people thought about social change, progress, and critical thinking. Views of the philosophers regarding equal opportunity stirred political and economic revolutions in America and France. The Industrial Revolution occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries, when economic, technological, and social changes occurred as technology shifted from agriculture to manufacturing.
Sociology and the Age of Revolution, Industrialization, and Urbanization Industrialization is the process by which societies are transformed from dependence on agriculture and handmade products to an emphasis on manufacturing and related industries. Urbanization is the process by which an increasing proportion of a population lives in cities rather than in rural areas.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF MODERN SOCIOLOGY
August Comte (1798-1859) Considered the founder of sociology. Comtes philosophy became known as positivism a belief that the world can best be understood through scientific inquiry. Comte believed objective, bias-free knowledge was attainable only through the use of science rather than religion.
Comte's positivism had two dimensions: Methodological - the application of scientific knowledge to physical and social phenomena. Social and political - the use of such knowledge to predict the likely results of different policies so that the best one could be chosen.
Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) Translated and condensed Comte's work Studied the social customs of Britain and the United States Advocated for racial and gender equality
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) Spencers major contribution to sociology was an evolutionary perspective on social order and social change. Social Darwinism - the belief that those human beings, best adapted to their environment survive and prosper, whereas those poorly adapted die out.
Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) Stressed that people are the product of their social environment Important concepts Social facts--patterned ways of acting, thinking, and feeling that exist outside any one individual but that exert social control over each person Anomiea condition in which social control becomes ineffective because of the loss of shared values
Karl Marx (1818-1883) Viewed history as a clash between conflicting ideas and forces. Believed class conflict produced social change and a better society. Combined ideas from philosophy, history, and social science into a new theory.
Max Weber (1864-1920) Believed sociological research should exclude personal values and economic interests. Provided insights on rationalization, bureaucracy and religion.
Georg Simmel (1858-1918) Theorized about society as a web of patterned interactions among people. Analyzed how social interactions vary depending on the size of the social group. Distinguished between form and content of social interaction.
Jane Adams (1860-1935) Founded Hull House, one of the most famous settlement houses, in Chicago. One of the authors of a methodology text used by sociologists for the next forty years. Awarded Nobel Prize for assistance to the underprivileged.