Connecting Sociology and YOU!

Chapter 1: Introduction – Understanding Sociology

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– Sociological Perspectivethe process of understanding and explaining how individuals and groups interact within society

– Social Structuresthe distinctive and stable arrangements of social patterns that form the society as a whole

– Social Problems: societal conditions that harm segments of society 

– Sociological Imaginationthe 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

–  Social Changethe forces that change society’s organization and social structures

Auguste Comte- society could be studied using the same scientific methods in natural sciences (physics, chemistry, etc.)

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

– ConflictFunctionalist, and Symbolic Interactionism.

– Vineyard w workers working from sunup to sundown for the wealthy landowners 

– Village- People walking on cobblestone streets and exchanging goods with each other 

– Couple picnicking in the meadow- watched them begin dating, fall in love, get engaged, and get married in that same meadow

– Vineyard and village represent macro sociology: a level of analysis focusing on social systems and populations on a large scale.

– Meadows: micro sociology represents a level of analysis focusing on individuals and small groups within the larger social system


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

– bourgeoisthe small minority who were the wealthy class 

– conflict theory (macro)a sociological perspective emphasizing the role of political and economic power and oppression as contributing to the existing social order. Focuses on class struggles and exploitation within society, institutions, and organizations. 

– Functionalist Theory (Macro) focuses on how the parts of society serve to maintain stability. Each part serves a function within society such as the role of government, education and religion. 

– Symbolic Interaction (Micro) focuses on how society is the product of interactions between people, which occur via symbols such as language, gestures, and other subjective actions that have distinct meaning. 

– Émile Durkheim

– functionalist theory, a macro view of how the parts of society serve to maintain stability

– manifest functionsintentional and formally sanctioned functions of social institutions and society

–  Latent functionsunintentional and informally sanctioned functions of social institutions and society

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

– George Herbert Mead

–  socialized self, which states that the self cannot develop apart from society

– symbolic interactiona micro view of how society is the product of interactions between people, which occur via symbols that have distinct meanings



–  Conflict theorists focus on exploitation in society, and functionalists are more concerned with the parts of society and how each functions. Symbolic interaction theorists analyze individual interactions to better understand society as a whole. 

–  Marx’s view was motivated by a desire to change and improve the social conditions for the oppressed members of society. Durkheim was more interested in explaining the rapid social changes occurring within Europe and the accompanying impacts on society. Mead was not interested in the plight of the oppressed and how society functioned but was keenly interested in how social interactions played a role in the development of individuals.


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

– Mead:

– college party life and behaviors at parties


– Max Weber

– protestantism and catholicism (how religion influenced economics)

– verstehen (vûrst e hen), an empathetic approach to understanding human behavior, loosely translated as understanding or interpretation.

– observation and explanation, interpretation is required 

– feminist theorya view on anti-oppression, gender relations, and gender inequality

– applied sociologythe use of sociological theory, research, and methodologies to find solutions to problems in society

– queer theorya critical view that rejects the traditional categories of gender, sex, and sexuality in contemporary society

– postmodern social theorya critical view rejecting the historical, scientific, and structured means of investigating and interpreting the social world

– French sociologists Michel FoucaultJean Baudrillard, and Jean-Francois Lyotard are largely responsible for promoting this new social theory that rejects the idea of positivism and the structured and systematic approaches found within traditional sociological theories

– Sociological theory is simple, understandable, and very practical



– rationalization of societythe replacement of traditional values and personal connections with bureaucracy, efficiency, and a means-end approach

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

examples of social structures: 

– family 

– capitalism 

– government 

– private ownership of the means of production and free enterprise


Harriet Martineau: detailed American social structures  such as political systems, government, economy, and religion

–  focused on gender, racial, and class tensions with goal of helping subordinate groups

– An \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’outsiders\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’ view of America 

Jane Adams: recognized that the social structures within Chicago, including the government, education, and healthcare systems, were not supportive of the needs of poor immigrants

– established a safety net of social services

–  the Hull House offered educational classes for preschoolers and adults, a library, a gym, a coffee house, and clubs for older children 

– first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize 

W.E.B. Du Bois: challenged the social structures within American society that perpetuated racism and discrimination in social institutions such as workplace, military, and education 

– Civil rights activist and scholar 

Robert Merton: defining and categorizing bureaucratic structures

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

– red tape — adherence to excessive regulation and conformity that prevents decision-making and change

– functionalist sociology 


– Social Theory and Social Structure 


– Personal troublesmatters experienced at the individual level

 – public issue, a matter that impacts society as a whole

– anomiethe breakdown of social values, norms, and order resulting in social instability

           – leaves people feeling uncertain and uncertainty breeds fear and anxiety

– societal conditions can contribute to some individuals\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’ actions (covid)

– Durkheim\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’s book Suicide is considered the first major sociological study 

– social conditions that can impact peoples lives: 

  • social distancing and isolation
  • barriers to mental healthcare
  • constant and pervasive collective anxiety
  • long-term effects on frontline workers
  • effects of “long haul” COVID-19 symptoms on some infected individuals


–  globalizationthe worldwide integration of our cultural, economic, and political lives that results from ever-increasing levels of business, trade, and technology


– Job opportunities and global economic development

– Developments in innovation and technology, as well as knowledge sharing between businesses and countries

– Societies sharing culture and developments in innovation and technology, as well as knowledge sharing between businesses and countries

– applied sociologythe use of sociological theory, research, and methodologies to find solutions to problems in society

–  Examples:

  • Criminology and law enforcement
  • Marriage and family counseling
  • Business and workplace relations
  • Public health services
  • Federal and state agencies
  • Sales and marketing
  • Advocacy and community organization
  • Market research
  • Public policy

– Sociology Majors:

  • Reverend Martin Luther King
  • Former First Lady Michelle Obama
  • President Ronald Reagan
  • Comedian and Actor Robin Williams
  • Corey Booker, U.S. Senator from New Jersey
  • Gabrielle Union, Actress
  • measuring objective conditions — the scope of a problem
  • measuring subjective concerns — people’s feelings about a problem (C-19)
  • evaluating the context within which the problem exists
  • identifying potential policy solutions to the problem


– Global estimates are that 40-50 million people make their living from cocoa, with many farmers earning less than $2 per day

– Fair Tradean 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

– sustainabilitythe idea that current and future generations should have equal or greater access to social, economic, and environmental resourcesbecause the farms and cooperatives involved seek greater equity in international trade by eliminating the intermediary broker or “middleman.”

–  sustainable developmentdevelopment that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs