Chapter 1. An introduction to Sociology
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Figure 1.1. Sociologists study how society affects people and also how people affect society. Just how does being in a crowd affect people’s behaviour? (Photo courtesy of PDerek Hatfield/Wikimedia Commons)

Learning Objectives

1.1. What Is Sociology?

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

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1.2. The history of Sociology

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

1.3. Theoretical Perspectives

Explain what sociological theories and also paradigms are and how they room used.Describe sociology together a multi-perspectival social science divided into positivist, interpretive and an essential paradigms.Define the similarities and also differences between quantitative sociology, structure functionalism, historic materialism, feminism, and also symbolic interactionism.

1.4. Why research Sociology?

Explain why that is worthwhile to study sociology.Identify means sociology is used in the real world.

Introduction come Sociology

Concerts, sporting matches and games, and political rallies deserve to have very big crowds. When you attend one of these events you may know only the people you come with, yet you may experience a feeling of connection to the group. You are among the crowd. Girlfriend cheer and also applaud as soon as everyone else does. You boo and yell together them. You relocate out that the way when someone needs to obtain by, and you to speak “excuse me” as soon as you have to leave. Girlfriend know just how to behave in this kind of crowd.

It deserve to be a an extremely different endure if you space travelling in a international country and also you uncover yourself in a crowd relocating down the street. You may have actually trouble figuring the end what is happening. Is the crowd just the usual morning rush, or is the a political protest of part kind? probably there to be some type of accident or disaster. Is it for sure in this crowd, or should you shot to extract yourself? How can you uncover out what is walk on? back you are in it, you may not feel like you are component of this crowd. You might not know what to execute or exactly how to behave.

Even in ~ one kind of crowd, different groups exist and also different behaviours room on display. In ~ a absent concert, for example, some might enjoy singing along, others might prefer come sit and observe, when still others may sign up with in a mosh pit or try crowd-surfing. ~ above February 28, 2010, Sydney crossby scored the to win goal versus the United claims team in the gold medal hockey game at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. 2 hundred thousand jubilant human being filled the roads of downtown Vancouver to celebrate and also cap off 2 weeks that uncharacteristically vibrant, joyful street life in Vancouver. Simply over a year later, top top June 15, 2011, the Vancouver Canucks lost the saturday hockey video game of the Stanley Cup finals against the Boston Bruins. One hundred thousand people had been watching the game on out screens. Eventually 155,000 world filled the downtown streets. Rioting and also looting led to thousands of injuries, burnt cars, trashed storefronts and property damage totaling an estimated $4.2 million. Why to be the crowd response to the two events so different?

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

A key insight the sociology is that the an easy fact of being in a group changes your behaviour. The group is a phenomenon the is an ext than the amount of that is parts. Why carry out we feel and act differently in different varieties of social situations? Why might people of a single group exhibit different behaviours in the same situation? Why might world acting likewise not feel connected to others exhibiting the very same behaviour? these are some of the numerous questions sociologists ask together they examine people and also societies.

1.1. What Is Sociology?

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

A dictionary defines sociology together the systematic research of society and social interaction. Words “sociology” is acquired from the Latin indigenous socius (companion) and the Greek native logos (speech or reason), which together median “reasoned decided or discourse about companionship”. How deserve to the experience of companionship or togetherness it is in put right into words or explained? while this is a beginning point for the discipline, sociology is actually much much more complex. The uses countless different theories and also methods to research a wide range of subject matter, and also applies these research studies to the genuine world.

The sociologist Dorothy blacksmith (b. 1926) defines the social as the “ongoing concerting and coordinating the individuals’ activities” (Smith, 1999). Sociology is the systematic research of all those aspects of life designated by the adjective “social.” They problem relationships, and they problem what happens when more than one human being is involved. These elements of society life never just occur; lock are organized processes. They have the right to be the briefest of daily interactions — relocating to the ideal to allow someone pass on a busy sidewalk, for instance — or the largest and also most enduring interaction — such together the billions of day-to-day exchanges the constitute the circuits of global capitalism. If there space at the very least two human being involved, also in the seclusion the one’s mind, then there is a social interaction that requires the “ongoing concerting and coordinating of activities.” Why does the human move to the right on the sidewalk? What collective processes lead to the decision that relocating to the right quite than the left is normal? Think around the T-shirts in your chest that drawers at home. What are the sequences of linkages, exchanges, and also social relationship that connect your T-shirts to the dangerous and also hyper-exploitative garment factory in landscape China or Bangladesh? These space the type of questions that point to the distinctive domain and puzzles of the social the sociology looks for to explore and also understand.

What are society and Culture? Micro, Macro and an international Perspectives

Sociologists research all aspects and levels that society. A society is a team of world whose members interact, reside in a definable area, and share a culture. A culture includes the group’s shared practices, values, beliefs, norms, and artifacts. One sociologist might analyze video of world from various societies as they bring on everyday conversations to research the rules of polite conversation indigenous different world cultures. One more sociologist could interview a representative sample of world to see how email and also instant message have changed the means organizations are run. Yet one more sociologist might study how migration identified the way in which language spread and readjusted over time. A fourth sociologist might study the background of global agencies choose the United nations or the global Monetary fund to examine how the globe ended up being divided right into a very first World and a 3rd World after ~ the finish of the early american era.

These instances illustrate the methods in which culture and culture can be learned at different levels the analysis, indigenous the thorough study that face-to-face interaction to the examination of large-scale historical processes affecting whole civilizations. That is common to division these level of analysis into different gradations based on the range of communication involved. As questioned in later on chapters, sociologists rest the examine of society down into four separate level of analysis: micro, meso, macro, and also global. The simple distinctions, however, are in between micro-level sociology, macro-level sociology and global-level sociology.

The examine of cultural rules of politeness in conversation is an example of micro-level sociology. At the micro-level of analysis, the emphasis is top top the society dynamics the intimate, face-to-face interactions. Research study is carried out with a specific set of people such as conversational partners, family members members, work-related associates, or friendship groups. In the conversation study example, sociologists might try to identify how human being from different societies interpret each others’ action to see how various rules the politeness result in misunderstandings. If the exact same misunderstandings happen consistently in a variety of different interactions, the sociologists may have the ability to propose some generalizations around rules that politeness that would certainly be advantageous in reducing tensions in mixed-group dynamics (e.g., during staff meetings or worldwide negotiations). Other instances of micro-level research include seeing exactly how informal networks come to be a key source of assistance and advancement in official bureaucracies, or exactly how loyalty to criminal gangs is established.

Macro-level sociology focuses on the properties of large-scale, society-wide social interactions that extend past the instant milieu of individual interactions: the dynamics of institutions, class structures, gender relations, or totality populations. The example over of the influence of migrate on transforming patterns the language intake is a macro-level phenomenon because it describes structures or processes of social interaction that occur exterior or past the intimate one of individual society acquaintances. These incorporate the economic, political, and also other situations that lead to migration; the educational, media, and also other interaction structures that assist or hinder the spread of speech patterns; the class, racial, or ethnic departments that produce different slangs or cultures of language use; the family member isolation or integration that different communities within a population; and also so on. Other examples of macro-level study include assessing why ladies are much less likely than males to with positions of strength in society, or why fundamentalist Christian religious movements play a much more prominent role in American politics than they do in Canadian politics. In every case, the website of the evaluation shifts far from the nuances and detail the micro-level interpersonal life to the broader, macro-level organized patterns that structure social adjust and social cohesion in society.

In global-level sociology, the emphasis is ~ above structures and processes that extend past the boundaries of claims or details societies. Together Ulrich Beck (2000) has pointed out, in countless respects we no longer “live and act in the self-enclosed spaces of national states and also their respective nationwide societies.” worries of climate change, the arrival of brand-new technologies, the investment and also disinvestment of capital, the images of well-known culture, or the emphasize of cross-cultural conflict, etc. Increasingly involve our day-to-day life in the to work of the entire globe, by-passing traditional boundaries and, to some degree, distance itself. The example over of the means in i m sorry the world ended up being divided right into wealthy an initial World and impoverished 3rd World societies reflects social procedures — the formation of international organizations such together the joined Nations, the worldwide Monetary Fund, and also non-governmental organizations, for example — which are global in scale and global in your effects. V the boom and also bust the petroleum or other export commodity economies, the is clear to someone living in fort McMurray, Alberta, that their daily life is affected not just by your intimate relationships v the people about them, nor only by provincial and also national based corporations and also policies, etc., however by global markets that determine the price the oil and the an international flows of capital investment. The context of this processes needs to be analysed in ~ a worldwide scale that analysis.

The relationship between the micro, macro, and an international remains one of the key conceptual problems confronting sociology. What is the relationship in between an individual’s life and also social life? The at an early stage German sociologist Georg Simmel discussed that macro-level procedures are in reality nothing an ext than the amount of all the distinctive interactions between certain individuals at any type of one time (1908/1971), yet they have properties that their very own which would be to let go if sociologists only concentrated on the interaction of specific individuals. Émile Durkheim’s standard study of suicide (1897/1951) is a situation in point. While suicide is one of the many personal, individual, and also intimate plot imaginable, Durkheim prove that prices of self-destruction differed between spiritual communities — Protestants, Catholics, and Jews — in a way that might not be described by the individual factors involved in each details case. The different rates the suicide had to be explained by macro-level variables linked with the different spiritual beliefs and also practices of the belief communities; more specifically, the different levels of social integration of this communities. Us will go back to this example in an ext detail later. On the various other hand, macro-level phenomena like class structures, institutional organizations, legitimate systems, gender stereotypes, populace growth, and also urban methods of life administer the mutual context for day-to-day life yet do not describe its details nuances and also micro-variations an extremely well. Macro-level frameworks constrain the day-to-day interactions the the intimate circles in which us move, yet they are likewise filtered through localized perceptions and “lived” in a myriad the inventive and also unpredictable ways.

The Sociological Imagination

Although the range of sociological studies and also the approaches of transporting them out room different, the sociologists associated in them all have something in common. Every of lock looks at society using what pioneer sociologist C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) dubbed the sociological imagination, sometimes additionally referred to as the “sociological lens” or “sociological perspective.” In a sense, this was Mills’ means of addressing the situations of the macro/micro division in sociology. Mills identified sociological creativity as just how individuals understand their own and others’ resides in relation to history and social structure (1959/2000). It is the capacity to view an individual’s private troubles in the paper definition of the broader social processes that framework them. This enables the sociologist to study what Mills dubbed “personal problem of milieu” together “public worries of society structure,” and vice versa.

Mills reasoned that exclusive troubles prefer being overweight, being unemployed, having marital difficulties, or feeling purposeless or depressed can be purely an individual in nature. The is possible for them to be addressed and understood in regards to personal, psychological, or moral attributes — either one’s own or those of the world in one’s prompt milieu. In an individualistic society like our own, this is in reality the many likely method that people will to the the concerns they confront: “I have an addictive personality;” “I can’t obtain a rest in the project market;” “My husband is unsupportive,” etc. However, if personal troubles space widely common with others, they suggest that there is a usual social trouble that has its resource in the method social life is structured. At this level, the issues are not adequately interpreted as just private troubles. Lock are best addressed together public problems that require a collective an answer to resolve.

Obesity, for example, has been increasingly recognized as a farming problem because that both children and also adults in phibìc America. Michael Pollan cites statistics that three out of five Americans room overweight and also one out of five is obese (2006). In Canada in 2012, just under one in 5 adults (18.4%) were obese, increase from 16% of men and 14.5% of ladies in 2003 (Statistics Canada, 2013). Weight problems is therefore not just a private problem related to the clinical issues, diet practices, or exercise habits of certain individuals. The is a widely mutual social worry that puts civilization at risk for chronic illness like hypertension, diabetes, and also cardiovascular disease. It additionally creates significant social costs for the clinical system.

Pollan suggests that excessive weight is in part a product the the significantly sedentary and stressful way of life of modern, capitalist society. More importantly, however, it is a product that the industrialization the the food chain, which because the 1970s has produced increasingly cheap and abundant food through significantly much more calories as result of processing. Additives choose corn syrup, i beg your pardon are much cheaper and also therefore more rewarding to create than herbal sugars, led to the tendency of super-sized rapid foods and soft drinks in the 1980s. As Pollan argues, make the efforts to discover a handle food in the supermarket without a cheap, calorie-rich, corn-based additive is a challenge. The sociological imagination in this example is the capacity to check out the exclusive troubles and also attitudes connected with gift overweight as an worry of just how the industrialization the the food chain has altered the human/environment relationship — in particular, through respect to the species of food us eat and also the method we eat them.

By looking in ~ individuals and also societies and how they connect through this lens, sociologists room able to research what impacts behaviour, attitudes, and also culture. By using systematic and scientific methods to this process, they try to execute so without letting their very own biases and also preconceived principles influence your conclusions.

Studying Patterns: exactly how Sociologists see Society

All sociologists space interested in the experiences of individuals and also how those experiences are shaped through interactions through social groups and culture as a whole. Come a sociologist, the an individual decisions an separation, personal, instance makes carry out not exist in a vacuum. Social patterns and social pressures put press on world to choose one selection over another. Sociologists shot to recognize these general patterns by examining the action of big groups of human being living in the same society and experiencing the exact same societal pressures. When basic patterns persist v time and also become habitual or routinized at micro-levels the interaction, or institutionalized at macro or an international levels of interaction, castle are described as society structures.

As we noted above, understanding the relationship between the individual and society is among the most difficult sociological problems. Partly this is due to the fact that of the reified way these 2 terms are used in everyday speech. Reification refers to the means in which summary concepts, complicated processes, or mutable society relationships come to be thought of together “things.” A prime example of reification is when human being say the “society” led to an individual to perform something, or to turn out in a details way. In composing essays, first-year sociology students sometimes refer come “society” as a cause of social behaviour or as an entity with independent agency. On the other hand, the “individual” is a being that seems solid, tangible, and also independent of anything walk on exterior of the skin sack that includes its essence. This conventional difference between culture and the individual is a product that reification, as both society and the individual appear as live independence objects. A concept the “the individual” and a concept of “society” have actually been offered the status of real, substantial, elevation objects. Together we will watch in the chapters to come, culture and the individual space neither objects, nor space they elevation of one another. One “individual” is inconceivable there is no the relationships to others that specify their internal, subjective life and also their external, socially-defined roles.

One difficulty for sociologists is the these ideas of the individual and society, and also the relationship in between them, room thought of in terms established by a really common moral frame in modern democratic societies — namely, that of individual responsibility and individual choice. The separation, personal, instance is morally responsible for their behaviours and also decisions. Frequently in this framework, any kind of suggestion that an individual’s behaviour requirements to be taken in regards to that person’s society context is dismissed together “letting the individual off” for taking an individual responsibility for their actions. Talk about culture is akin to being morally soft or lenient.

Sociology, together a society science, stays neutral ~ above these varieties of moral questions. For sociologists, the conceptualization of the individual and society is lot more facility than the moral structure suggests and also needs to be examined v evidence-based, quite than morality-based, research. The sociological problem is to be able to see the individual together a thoroughly social being and, yet, together a being who has firm and cost-free choice. People are beings who perform take on individual duties in their daily social roles, and also risk social aftermath when they fail to live approximately them. However, the way in which individuals take top top responsibilities, and sometimes the compulsion to execute so, room socially defined. The sociological problem is to have the ability to see culture as: a measurement of experience defined by regular and predictable trends of behaviour that exist independently of any particular individual’s desires or self-understanding. In ~ the same time, a culture is nothing but the ongoing social relationships and tasks of details individuals.

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A key basis of the sociological perspective is the ide that the separation, personal, instance and society are inseparable. That is difficult to examine one there is no the other. German sociologist Norbert Elias (1887-1990) called the procedure of simultaneously examining the action of individuals and the culture that shapes that action figuration. He described it with a an allegory of dancing. There can be no run without the dancers, but there can be no dancers there is no the dance. Without the dancers, a run is simply an idea around motions in a choreographer’s head. Without a dance, there is just a team of civilization moving approximately a floor. Similarly, there is no culture without the individuals that make it up, and also there are also no people who are not impacted by the culture in which they live (Elias, 1978).