Chapter 1: Sociological Perspective
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Explain the sociological perspective: what it is, what it offers, and why C. Wright Mills referred to it as “the intersection of biography (the individual) and history (the social factors that influence the individual).”
Sociological Perspective (or imagination): focuses on the groups and social contexts that influence the ways in which people live, enabling us to grasp the connection between history and biography. By history, Mills meant that each society is located in a broad stream of events. By biography, Mills referred to each individual's specific experiences.
How does Sociological Perspective use social location? And how it helps people define themselves and others define them?
Sociological Perspective stresses the broader social context of behavior by looking at individuals' social location—employment, income, education, gender, age, and race—and by considering external influences—people's experiences—which are internalized and become part of a person's thinking and motivations. We are able to see the links between what people do and the social settings that shape their behavior.
What four social sciences does the author cite as those that are most closely aligned with sociology? What is the fundamental emphasis of each?
The four disciplines are anthropology, economics, political science, and psychology. Anthropology focuses on tribal peoples and culture, a total way of life. Economics studies the production and distribution of goods and services of a society. Political science focuses on politics and its influence on governments, the way they are formed, and how they relate to other institutions in society. The focus of psychology is on the processes that occur within the individual, inside the "skin bound organism."
Identify, understand, and make distinctions between the natural sciences and the social sciences.
The natural sciences attempt to comprehend, explain, and predict events in our natural environment. Social sciences attempt to objectively study the social world. Like the natural sciences, the social sciences are divided into specialized fields based on their subject matter.
Identify and explain the goals of science.
1. explain why something happens.
2. make generalizations by looking for patterns, recurring characteristics, or events.
- 3. predict what will happen in the future, given current
To achieve these goals, scientists must move beyond common sense and rely on conclusions based on systematic study.
Briefly describe the four factors that contributed to the emergence of sociology as a discipline in the 19th century.
- 1. The social upheaval in Europe as a result of the Industrial Revolution, which led to changes in the way people lived their lives;
- 2. The political revolutions in America and France, which encouraged people to rethink their ideas about social life;
- 3. The development of imperialism—as the Europeans conquered other nations, they came in contact with different cultures and began to ask why cultures varied;
- 4. The success of the natural sciences, which created a desire to apply scientific methods in order to find answers for the questions being raised about the social world.
Identify and critique the sociological contributions of the following mid-to-late nineteenth and early-twentieth-century European sociologists: Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber.
coined the term "sociology" and suggested the use of positivism—applying the scientific approach to the social world—but he did not utilize this approach himself. Comte believed that this new science should not only discover sociological principles, but should then apply those principles to social reform.
viewed societies as evolutionary, coined the term "the survival of the fittest," and became known for social Darwinism. Spencer was convinced that no one should intervene in the evolution of society and that attempts at social reform were wrong.
- Karl Marx, whose ideas about social classes and class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat was the foundation of the conflict perspective, believed that class conflict was the key to human history. Marx believed that the conflict and
- struggle would end only with a revolution by the working class.
played an important role in the development of sociology. One of his primary goals was to get sociology recognized as a separate academic discipline. His second concern was interested in understanding the social factors that influence individual behavior; he studied suicide rates among different groups and concluded that social integration—the degree to which people are tied to their social group—was a key social factor in suicide. Durkheim's third concern was that social research be practical; sociologists should not only diagnose the causes of social problems but should also develop solutions for them.
was one of the most influential of all sociologists, raising issues that remain controversial even today. Disagreeing with Karl Marx, Weber defined religion as a central force in social change (i.e., Protestantism encourages greater economic development and was the central factor in the rise of capitalism in some countries).
- 1. The Protestant belief system encouraged its members to embrace change.
- 2. Protestants sought “signs” that they were in God’s will; financial success became a major sign. The more money they made, the more secure they were about their religious standing.
- 3. Weber called this behavior the Protestant ethic; he called their readiness to invest capital in order to make more money the spirit of capitalism.
Explain the role of values in social research as prescribed by Max Weber, and the ensuing controversies over whether sociological research can be and/or should be value free.
Weber advocated that sociological research should be value free (personal values or biases should not influence social research) and objective (totally neutral).
Distinguish between Verstehen, as envisioned by Max Weber, and “social facts,” as defined by Emile Durkheim; and explain how, despite their differences, both can be used together in social research.
(Refer to the subsection "Verstehen and Social Facts," which includes "Weber and Verstehen," "Durkheim and Social Facts," and "How Social Facts and Verstehen Fit Together.") The subjective meaning of Verstehen as it was intended by Weber involves understanding or "grasping by insight," based on someone who has "been there." The objective meaning of "social facts" as intended by Durkheim involves long-term and consistent patterns of behavior that characterized a social group. The two concepts go hand in hand. Sociologists need both the "cold facts" as well as the understanding of human nature, emotion, and behavior as well as the influence of groups.
Discuss why there were so few women sociologists in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, and how the contributions of women sociologists, such as Harriet Martineau,during this time period were received and evaluated by their male counterparts.
In the early years of sociology, the field was dominated by men because rigidly defined social roles prevented most women from pursuing an education.
1. Women were supposed to devote themselves to the four K's: Kirche, Küchen, Kinder, und Kleider (church, cooking, children, and clothes).
2. At the same time, a few women from wealthy families managed to get an education. A few even studied sociology, although the sexism in the universities stopped them from earning advanced degrees, becoming professors, or having their research recognized.
Harriet Martineau studied social life in both Great Britain and the United States, publishing Society in America decades before Durkheim and Weber were even born. While her original research has been largely ignored by the discipline, she is known for her translations of Comte's ideas into English.
Identify some of the early female sociologists who were forgotten.
What were the first departments of sociology in the United States?
the University of Kansas (1890), the University of Chicago (1892), and Atlanta University (1897); the first in Canada was at McGill University (1922).
W.E.B. Du Bois
- First African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard. He conducted extensive research on race relations in the United States, publishing one book a year on this subject between 1896 and 1914.
- 1. Despite his accomplishments, he encountered prejudice and discrimination in his professional and personal life. When he attended professional sociologists’
- meetings, he was not permitted to eat or stay in the same hotels as the white sociologists.
- 2. Frustrated at the lack of improvements in race relations, he turned to social action, helping to found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) along with Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, and others from Hull-House.
- 3. Until recently, his contributions to sociology were overlooked.
An example of a sociologist who was able to combine the role of sociologist with that of social reformer.
1. In 1889, she founded Hull-House, a settlement house for the poor, and worked to bridge the gap between the powerful and powerless.
2. Sociologists from nearby University of Chicago visited Hull-House frequently.
3. She is the only sociologist to have won the Nobel Peace Prize; she was awarded this in 1931.
Trace the history of sociology in North America from the late 1800s to the present time, identifying the specific sociological contributions of the following American sociologists:Jane Addams, W.E.B. Du Bois, Talcott Parsons, and C. Wright Mills.
- 1. Talcott Parsons developed abstract models of society to show how the parts of society harmoniously work together.
- 2. Countering this development was C. Wright Mills, who urged sociologists to get back to social reform. He saw the emergence of the power elite as an imminent threat to freedom.
- G. The debate over what should be the proper goals of sociological analysis—analyzing society vs. reforming society—continues today.
- 1. Applied sociology exists between these two extremes. One of the first attempts at applied sociology was the founding of the NAACP.
- 2. Today, applied sociologists work in a variety of settings, from business and hitech organizations to government and not-for-profit agencies.
- 3. Applied sociology is the application of sociological knowledge in some specific setting, rather than an attempt to rebuild society. Both sociologists who focus on social reform and those who emphasize basic sociology reject applied sociology.
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