Chapter 1. An introduction to Sociology
Figure 1.1. Sociologists examine how society affects people and how people impact society. How does being in a crowd influence people’s behaviour? (Photo courtesy that PDerek Hatfield/wikimedia commons)

Learning Objectives

1.1. What Is Sociology?

Explain concepts main to sociologyDescribe the different levels of analysis in sociology: micro-sociology and also macro-sociologyUnderstand how various sociological perspectives have developed

1.2. The background of Sociology

Explain why sociology arised when it didDescribe the central ideas that the founders of sociologyDescribe how sociology came to be a separate scholastic discipline

1.3. Theoretical Perspectives

Explain what sociological theories are and how they space usedDescribe sociology together a multi-perspectival society science, i beg your pardon is separated into positivist, interpretive and an important paradigmsUnderstand the similarities and differences in between structural functionalism, vital sociology, and also symbolic interactionism

1.4. Why examine Sociology?

Explain why the is worthwhile to study sociologyIdentify methods sociology is used in the genuine world

Introduction come Sociology

Concerts, sports games, and political rallies have the right to have very big crowds. When you attend among these events, girlfriend may recognize only the civilization you came with. Yet you may experience a emotion of connection to the group. You are among the crowd. You cheer and applaud once everyone else does. You boo and yell together them. You relocate out that the method when someone needs to acquire by, and you say “excuse me” when you have to leave. Friend know how to act in this kind of crowd.

You are watching: Critical sociology can best be described as a(n) ________ approach.

It can be a an extremely different endure if you space travelling in a international country and also find yourself in a crowd moving down the street. Girlfriend may have actually trouble figuring the end what is happening. Is the crowd just the usual morning rush, or is that a politics protest of part kind? probably there was some sort of accident or disaster. Is it safe in this crowd, or should you shot to extract yourself? How can you discover out what is walking on? back you space in it, you might not feel choose you are part of this crowd. You might not understand what to carry out or just how to behave.

Even within one kind of crowd, different groups exist and different behaviours space on display. In ~ a rock concert, for example, some may enjoy to sing along, others may prefer to sit and also observe, while still others may join in a mosh pit or shot crowd surfing. On February 28, 2010, Sydney crosby scored the win goal against the United states team in the gold medal hockey game at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. 2 hundred thousand jubilant human being filled the roads of downtown Vancouver come celebrate and cap off two weeks the uncharacteristically vibrant, joyful street life in Vancouver. Simply over a year later, ~ above June 15, 2011, the Vancouver Canucks lost the saturday hockey game of the Stanley Cup finals versus the Boston Bruins. One hundreds thousand people had been watching the video game on outdoor screens. At some point 155,000 civilization filled the downtown streets. Rioting and looting led to thousands of injuries, scorched cars, trashed storefronts and property damage totaling an estimated $4.2 million. Why to be the crowd an answer to the two occasions so different?

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

A vital insight of sociology is the the straightforward fact of being in a group alters your behaviour. The team is a phenomenon the is more than the sum of that is parts. Why execute we feel and also act in different way in different types of social situations? Why might human being of a solitary group exhibit various behaviours in the very same situation? Why might human being acting likewise not feel connected to others exhibiting the very same behaviour? these are some of the many questions sociologists ask as they study people and also societies.

1.1. What Is Sociology?

Figure 1.3. Sociologists learn about society as a entirety while examining one-to-one and also group interactions. (Photo courtesy that Robert S. Donovan/flickr)

A dictionary defines sociology as the systematic study of society and social interaction. Words “sociology” is derived from the Latin word socius (companion) and the Greek native logos (speech or reason), which together average “reasoned speech about companionship”. How can the endure of companionship or togetherness be put into words or explained? while this is a starting point because that the discipline, sociology is actually much much more complex. The uses many different methods to research a wide variety of subject matter and also to apply these research studies to the actual world.

The sociologist Dorothy smith (1926 – ) defines the social together the “ongoing concerting and coordinating the individuals’ activities” (Smith 1999). Sociology is the systematic research of every those aspects of life designated by the adjective “social.” These facets of society life never simply occur; lock are organized processes. They deserve to be the briefest of day-to-day interactions—moving to the right to allow someone happen on a liven sidewalk, because that example—or the largest and also most enduring interactions—such together the billions of day-to-day exchanges the constitute the circuits of worldwide capitalism. If there room at the very least two human being involved, even in the seclusion of one’s mind, then there is a social communication that requires the “ongoing concerting and coordinating of activities.” Why does the human move come the best on the sidewalk? What collective process lead come the decision that moving to the right fairly than the left is normal? Think about the T-shirts in her drawer at home. What space the order of linkages and also social relationship that link the T-shirts in her chest of drawers to the dangerous and also hyper-exploitive garment factory in countryside China or Bangladesh? These room the type of questions that suggest to the distinctive domain and puzzles that the social that sociology looks for to explore and also understand.

What Are culture and Culture?

Sociologists research all aspects and also levels of society. A society is a team of civilization whose members interact, reside in a definable area, and share a culture. A culture consists of the group’s shared practices, values, beliefs, norms and artifacts. One sociologist can analyze video clip of world from various societies as they carry on everyday conversations to examine the rule of polite conversation from different world cultures. Another sociologist might interview a representative sample of civilization to see just how email and instant message have readjusted the way organizations room run. Yet an additional sociologist could study exactly how migration established the method in i m sorry language spread out and readjusted over time. A 4th sociologist can study the history of worldwide agencies prefer the United nations or the worldwide Monetary money to examine just how the globe came to be divided right into a first World and also a 3rd World after ~ the end of the early american era.

These instances illustrate the ways society and culture can be studied at various levels the analysis, native the detailed study that face-to-face interaction to the examination of large-scale historic processes affecting whole civilizations. That is common to division these level of analysis into different gradations based upon the range of interaction involved. As debated in later chapters, sociologists rest the study of culture down into four separate level of analysis: micro, meso, macro, and global. The straightforward distinction, however, is in between micro-sociology and also macro-sociology.

The study of social rules of politeness in conversation is an instance of micro-sociology. At the micro-level that analysis, the emphasis is on the society dynamics the intimate, face-to-face interactions. Research study is carried out with a specific collection of people such as conversational partners, family members members, occupational associates, or friendship groups. In the conversation examine example, sociologists might shot to determine how civilization from different societies interpret each other’s plot to watch how different rules the politeness bring about misunderstandings. If the same misunderstandings occur consistently in a number of different interactions, the sociologists may have the ability to propose part generalizations about rules the politeness that would certainly be valuable in reduce tensions in mixed-group dynamics (e.g., during staff meetings or global negotiations). Other instances of micro-level research incorporate seeing exactly how informal networks become a crucial source of support and breakthrough in formal administrations or how loyalty to criminal gangs is established.

Macro-sociology concentrates on the nature of large-scale, society-wide society interactions: the dynamics of institutions, classes, or totality societies. The example above of the affect of hike on changing patterns of language intake is a macro-level phenomenon since it describes structures or processes of social interaction that occur external or past the intimate circle of individual society acquaintances. These include the economic and other situations that lead to migration; the educational, media, and other interaction structures that aid or hinder the spread out of decided patterns; the class, racial, or ethnic divisions that create different slangs or societies of language use; the relative isolation or integration that different neighborhoods within a population; and so on. Other instances of macro-level study include evaluating why ladies are much less most likely than guys to reach positions of strength in society or why fundamentalist Christian spiritual movements beat a more prominent duty in American politics than they carry out in Canadian politics. In every case, the website of the evaluation shifts away from the nuances and also detail of micro-level interpersonal life come the broader, macro-level methodical patterns that framework social readjust and society cohesion in society.

The relationship between the micro and the macro remains among the crucial problems confronting sociology. The German sociologist Georg Simmel mentioned that macro-level procedures are in truth nothing an ext than the amount of every the distinct interactions between specific individuals at any one time (1908), however they have actually properties of their own which would be to let go if sociologists only focused on the interaction of certain individuals. Émile Durkheim’s standard study of suicide (1897) is a case in point. When suicide is just one of the most personal, individual, and also intimate plot imaginable, Durkheim prove that prices of self-destruction differed between spiritual communities—Protestants, Catholics, and also Jews—in a method that might not be defined by the separation, personal, instance factors associated in each details case. The different rates that suicide had actually to be defined by macro-level variables connected with the different spiritual beliefs and also practices of the faith communities. We will return to this example in more detail later. On the other hand, macro-level phenomena like course structures, institutional organizations, legitimate systems, gender stereotypes, and also urban methods of life administer the mutual context for day-to-day life but do not describe its nuances and micro-variations very well. Macro-level structures constrain the daily interactions that the intimate one in which we move, but they are likewise filtered v localized perceptions and “lived” in a myriad that inventive and also unpredictable ways.

The Sociological Imagination

Although the range of sociological studies and also the approaches of transferring them out space different, the sociologists associated in castle all have actually something in common. Each of castle looks at culture using what pioneer sociologist C. Light Mills referred to as the sociological imagination, sometimes likewise referred to as the “sociological lens” or “sociological perspective.” In a sense, this was Mills’ way of addressing the crises of the macro/micro division in sociology. Mills defined sociological creativity as just how individuals recognize their own and also others’ pasts in relation to history and social structure (1959). That is the capacity to watch an individual’s personal troubles in the paper definition of the broader social procedures that structure them. This permits the sociologist to research what Mills referred to as “personal problem of milieu” as “public concerns of social structure,” and vice versa.

Mills reasoned that private troubles prefer being overweight, being unemployed, having actually marital difficulties, or feeling purposeless or depressed can be purely an individual in nature. The is feasible for castle to it is in addressed and also understood in terms of personal, psychological, or moral attributes, either one’s own or those that the civilization in one’s immediate milieu. In one individualistic culture like ours own, this is in reality the most likely way that civilization will for the worries they confront: “I have an addictive personality;” “I can’t acquire a break in the task market;” “My husband is unsupportive;” etc. However, if private troubles room widely common with others, they indicate that there is a typical social difficulty that has actually its resource in the way social life is structured. At this level, the concerns are not adequately construed as just private troubles. They are ideal addressed as public issues that need a collective response to resolve.

Obesity, because that example, has actually been progressively recognized together a growing problem because that both children and adults in north America. Michael Pollan cites statistics that three out of five Americans space overweight and one the end of five is obese (2006). In Canada in 2012, simply under one in 5 adults (18.4 percent) were obese, increase from 16 percent of men and also 14.5 percent of women in 2003 (Statistics Canada 2013). Weight problems is therefore not just a exclusive trouble concerning the clinical issues, diet practices, or exercise behavior of specific individuals. The is a widely common social issue that puts people at threat for chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and also cardiovascular disease. It also creates far-ranging social expenses for the medical system.

Pollan says that excessive weight is in part a product the the increasingly sedentary and stressful way of life of modern, capitalist society, but much more importantly the is a product of the industrialization of the food chain, which due to the fact that the 1970s has developed increasingly cheap and abundant food through significantly more calories due to processing. Additives like corn syrup, i beg your pardon are much cheaper to create than natural sugars, led to the tendency of super-sized rapid foods and also soft drink in the 1980s. As Pollan argues, do the efforts to find a processed food in the supermarket without a cheap, calorie-rich, corn-based additive is a challenge. The sociological creative thinking in this instance is the capacity to view the private troubles and attitudes linked with gift overweight together an worry of just how the industrialization that the food chain has transformed the human/environment relationship, in specific with respect to the species of food us eat and the means we eat them.

By looking in ~ individuals and societies and also how they communicate through this lens, sociologists are able to study what influences behaviour, attitudes, and also culture. By using systematic and also scientific techniques to this process, they try to carry out so there is no letting their own biases and also pre-conceived concepts influence your conclusions.

Studying Patterns: just how Sociologists view Society

All sociologists space interested in the experience of individuals and how those experiences room shaped by interactions v social teams and society as a whole. To a sociologist, the personal decisions an individual makes perform not exist in a vacuum. Cultural patterns and social forces put press on people to pick one choice over another. Sociologists try to determine these basic patterns by examining the plot of large groups of people living in the same society and suffering the same societal pressures.

Understanding the relationship between the separation, personal, instance and society is among the most daunting sociological problems, however. Partially this is since of the reified way these two terms are supplied in daily speech. Reification refers come the way in which summary concepts, complicated processes, or mutable social relationships pertained to be thought of as “things.” A prime example of this is when world say the “society” led to an separation, personal, instance to execute something or to revolve out in a certain way. In writing essays, first-year sociology students sometimes refer to “society” as a cause of social behaviour or together an entity with independent agency. ~ above the other hand, the “individual” is a gift that seems solid, tangible, and independent of anything walk on exterior of the skin sack that has its essence. This conventional difference between society and the individual is a product of reification in so much as both culture and the individual appear as elevation objects. A concept of “the individual” and a concept that “society” have actually been offered the condition of real, substantial, live independence objects. Together we will view in the chapters come come, society and the individual are neither objects, nor are they live independence of one another. One “individual” is inconceivable there is no the relationship to others that specify his or her internal subjective life and his or her external socially identified roles.

The trouble for sociologists is the these concepts of the individual and culture and the relationship between them room thought that in terms created by a very common moral structure in modern democratic societies, namely the of individual responsibility and also individual choice. Regularly in this framework, any suggestion that an individual’s behaviour needs to be taken in terms of that person’s society context is dismissed as “letting the individual off” that taking personal responsibility for your actions.

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Talking about culture is akin come being ethically soft or lenient. Sociology, as a social science, remains neutral on these type of ethical questions. The conceptualization the the separation, personal, instance and culture is much more complex. The sociological trouble is to be able to see the individual together a completely social being and also yet together a being that has agency and free choice. People are us who perform take on individual obligations in their day-to-day social roles and risk social after-effects when they fail come live up to them. The path in which they take it on responsibilities and also sometimes the compulsion to carry out so room socially defined however. The sociological problem is to be able to see society as a measurement of experience defined by regular and also predictable fads of behaviour that exist independently of any particular individual’s desires or self-understanding. However at the exact same time a culture is nothing but the ongoing social relationships and tasks of particular individuals.