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Chapter 1: Introduction – Understanding Sociology

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Chapter 1:

 Sociological Perspective- the process of understanding and explaining how individuals and groups interact within society

Positivism – authentic and valid knowledge of the social world is found only through scientific and empirical pursuit. 

Sociology. is the study of social relationships , institutions and societies. Study of people. Is a science 

Sociological imagination – the ability to see the details of our own lives in the context of larger social structures as opposed to merely personal choices or personal troubles 

Sociological Theory –  a set of interrelated ideas that provide a systematic understanding of the social world

Macro Sociology –  a level of analysis focusing on social systems and populations on a large scale. (vineyard / village views)

Micro Sociology. – a level of analysis focusing on individuals and small groups within the larger social system.

Proletariat –  the majority, who were the poor, property-less industrial working class.  

Bourgeoisthe small minority who were the wealthy and business owners.

These opposing social classes resulted in the distinction between the haves and have-nots or the poor and the rich.

Conflict theory -(Marx) a sociological perspective emphasizing the role of political and economic power and oppression as contributing to the existing social order. Focusses on the macro Level of analysis  and on class struggles and exploitation within society, institutions, and organizations.

Functionalist Theory-(Durkheim) a sociological perspective emphasizing the role of political and economic power and oppression as contributing to the existing social order the theory focuses on the various parts of society and how each functions independently and as a whole concerning stability. Education, government, and families are considered parts of society. Focuses on the macro Level 

Manifest Functions – intentional and formally sanctioned functions of social institutions and society. Within education, the manifest function is to teach students reading, math, and science. 

Latent Functions – unintentional and informally sanctioned functions of social institutions and society, that occur in education include learning social skills, finding romantic partners, and even negative functions, such as bullying and learning how to cheat on exams. 

Dysfunction – the undesirable disruptions of social patterns resulting in negative consequences within society

Socialized Selfstates that the self cannot develop apart from society (Miller 1973; Morris 1934). In other words, you are who you are due to your social interactions and environment. 

Symbolic Interaction (Mead) – a micro view of how society is the product of interactions between people, which occur via symbols that have distinct meanings  society is the product of interactions between people

Social Facts – social patterns that are external to individuals and greatly influence our way of thinking and behaving in society

Verstehen (Webber) an empathetic approach to understanding human behavior, loosely translated as understanding or interpretation

Sacred Canopy- Religion permitted everything in society. You couldn\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’t escape it , it was in everything you did. family school etc.

NONES – they don\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’t have any religions affiliation. 

 Social Media plays a big part in Society. It mold and shapes us. influenced by big corporations 

Feminist Theorya view on anti-oppression, gender relations, and gender inequality, evolved from the conflict theory and is an important contemporary sociological perspective.  Much of the work by sociologists in this area has concentrated on issues such as sexism in education, politics, and the workplace (Delamont 2003). 

A key element of feminist sociology is a focus on social and political reform, which represents the concept of applied sociologythe use of sociological theory, research, and methodologies to find solutions to problems in society. Focuses on women\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’s issues/rights

Queer Theory – a critical view that rejects the traditional categories of gender, sex, and sexuality in contemporary society.Address both macro and micro issues. Challenges conventional view points.  In general, this theory challenges the cultural boundaries of gender, sexuality, and sexual activity and argues that who we are and how we are defined in relationship to others should not be based on our sexual orientation. 

Postmodern Social Theory – a critical view rejecting the historical, scientific, and structured means of investigating and interpreting the social world.  This theory questions our views about every aspect of social life and argues that our social assumptions are based on a theoretical analysis of the past that was biased because multiple perspectives were not included in the discussion. Developed in then 60s due to complex socioeconomic , cultural , political and technological transformation. Michel FoucaultJean Baudrillard, and Jean-Francois Lyotard are largely responsible for promoting this new social theory

Rationalization Of Society – the replacement of traditional values and personal connections with bureaucracy, efficiency, and a means-end approach

It is no coincidence that sociology was developed in the early 1800s as the Industrial Revolution caused rapid social changes, which resulted in social problems, such as child labor, poverty, and crime in the new and growing cities. (CONNECTIONS)

 A defining element of a social structure is that the social patterns must be outside a formal organization(Stinchcombe 2000). This eliminates formal organizations like the American Red Cross and the United Nations (UN). Both are formal organizations with offices, programs, and people around the world, but neither produces distinctive and stable arrangements that form a society as a whole.

Common characteristics and functions of social structures:


  • organizes behaviors of large groups of people
  • capable of coercing individuals and groups
  • provides norms, rules, and practices
  • assigns roles and powers to individuals and groups
  • encompasses large geographical areas

Harriet Martineau (1802-1876), an Englishwoman and the first female sociologist, visited the U.S. for a period of two years and later published Society in America (1837), which detailed American social structures, such as the political system, government, economy, and religion.Her research on social structures in America was significant, especially since she provided an “outsider’s” look at the American culture  Martineau focused on gender, racial, and class tensions with the goal of helping subordinate groups.

Jane Addams – founded the HULL HOUSE which was a settelment that provided social services mainly for immigrants in Chicago .  Addams recognized that the social structures within Chicago, including the government, education, and healthcare systems, were not supportive of the needs of poor immigrants. To remedy this, Addams established a safety net of social services. 

W.E.B Du Bois – co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909 He taught at Atlanta University until age 76 and remained a civil rights activist and scholar into his 90s. Du Bois challenged the social structures within American society that perpetuated racism and discrimination in social institutions His work is associated with conflict theory

Robert Merton – one of America’s most influential social scientists and sociologists and is noted as instrumental in formalizing the functionalist theory in his writings. In 1949, he published Social Theory and Social Structure (Merton 1968), which partly focuses on defining and categorizing bureaucratic structures

Bureaucracy a hierarchical authority structure that uses task specialization, operates on the merit principle, and behaves with impersonality

Social problems – the societal conditions that harm segments of society


Objective Conditions –  the scape of a problem 

Subject concerns –peoples feelings about a problem 

  • evaluating the context within which the problem exists
  • identifying potential policy solutions to the problem

Anomie =the breakdown of social values, norms, and order resulting in social instability, offers an effective tool to understand New Yorkers’ experience from a sociological perspective. Anomie occurs when there is a lack of social control and regulation due to the deterioration of the connection between the individual and society; it is what individuals experience when society seems in disarray. 

Applied Sociology – the use of sociological theory, research, and methodologies to find solutions to problems in society

Fair Trade –an organizational movement and certification process to help producers in developing countries receive a fair price for their products with the goals of reducing poverty, providing for the ethical treatment of workers and farmers, and promoting environmentally sustainable practices