Introduction to Sociology: Key Concepts and Historical Development

Sociology: The Study of Human Society

Sociology examines human behavior within the context of a post-industrial society.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research

Qualitative Research: Describes phenomena based on observations and experiences.

Quantitative Research: Describes phenomena using numerical data, facts, and statistics.

Micro and Macro Levels of Analysis

Micro Level (Interactional): Focuses on small-scale interactions, such as face-to-face encounters.

Macro Level (Structural): Examines larger societal structures and institutions, such as education or the economy.

Social Location and Reflexivity

Social Location/Reflexivity: Explores how societal forces and changes impact individuals and groups based on factors like race, religion, gender, and historical context (e.g., pre-9/11 vs. post-9/11).

Sociological Imagination

Sociological Imagination: The ability to understand one’s personal experiences within the broader historical and social context.

Historical Foundations of Sociology

The Renaissance and Enlightenment

Renaissance: A period marked by cultural exchange and the blending of Eastern and Western ideas.

Reformation: A time of questioning authority, particularly within the Church, leading to shifts in religious and social structures.

Age of Enlightenment: Emphasized reason and logic, challenging traditional ways of thinking and paving the way for revolutions like the American and French Revolutions.

Perspectives on Human Nature

Thesis (Traditional View): Humans are inherently flawed or sinful (e.g., Adam and Eve in Christian theology).

Antithesis: Humans are inherently good.

Synthesis: Human nature is neither inherently good nor bad; it is shaped by social factors like family, education, and societal influences.

Tabula Rasa: John Locke’s concept of the mind as a”blank slat” at birth, shaped by experiences.

The Industrial Revolution

Industrial Revolution (Late 18th-19th Centuries): A period of significant social and economic change, characterized by urbanization and the rise of factories.

Pioneers of Sociology

Auguste Comte (1798-1857)

Considered the”Father of Sociology” Comte sought to identify the fundamental elements of society.

  • Static Elements: Unchanging aspects of society, such as family and marriage.
  • Dynamic Elements: Aspects of society that are constantly evolving, such as technology.

Comte believed that human understanding of the world progressed through three stages:

  1. Theological: Explanations based on faith and religion.
  2. Metaphysical/Philosophical: Explanations based on reason and logic.
  3. Scientific: Explanations based on empirical observation and scientific methods.

Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)

Durkheim focused on social solidarity, integration, and the impact of social forces on individuals.

  • Social Solidarity: The bonds that unite individuals within a society, promoting stability and order.
  • Social Integration: The process of individuals becoming connected to and part of a social group or society.
  • Anomie: A state of social normlessness and instability, often associated with rapid social change.

Durkheim’s Study of Suicide

Durkheim’s work on suicide explored the relationship between social integration and suicide rates.

  • Egoistic Suicide: Occurs when individuals feel isolated and disconnected from society.
  • Altruistic Suicide: Motivated by a belief that one’s death will benefit the group (e.g., suicide bombers).
  • Anomic Suicide: Results from a lack of social regulation and moral guidance during times of rapid change.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)

Spencer applied evolutionary principles to society, coining the term”survival of the fittes” in a social context.

  • Social Darwinism: The belief that societies evolve through competition and that the fittest individuals and groups will thrive.

Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Marx focused on economic inequality and class conflict as the driving forces of social change.

  • Capitalism: An economic system characterized by private ownership and the pursuit of profit, which Marx believed led to exploitation and inequality.
  • Bourgeoisie: The capitalist class, who own the means of production.
  • Proletariat: The working class, who sell their labor to the bourgeoisie.

Max Weber (1864-1920)

Weber emphasized the importance of understanding subjective experiences and the role of ideas in shaping society.

  • Verstehen: German for”to understand” emphasizing the importance of empathy and understanding the subjective meanings individuals attach to their actions.
  • Three Factors of Stratification: Weber identified property (economic), prestige (social), and power (political) as key dimensions of social inequality.
  • Rationalization: The process by which traditional ways of thinking and acting are replaced by more rational and bureaucratic systems.

American Sociology

:Born in Gilded Age (post-civil war/Industrial Age),Very pragmatic,Problem solving,Social reform

Jane Addams:Social Worker,Gave aid to immigrants in Chicago

Social Work:An individual who is hired to make assessments about the protection of it’s citizens

3 Types of Norms:Folkways,Mores,Laws

Folkways:Simple Customs (i.e. What/how/when to eat?)

Mores: Moral Conduct (especially sexual conduct)

Sanctions:What happens what you break one of he norms, Formal vs Informal

Formal Sanctions:Applies to violating morals and laws(i.e. Exposing ones self)

Informal Sanctions]:Applies to violating folkways(i.e. Eating spaghetti with fingers)

3 Perspectives Functionalism,Structural Functionalism, Symbolic Interactionism

Functionalism:Durkheim (father of this)Functional=Positive, Dysfunctional=Negative

Structural Functionalism:Society Functions to promote pre-social structure

Symbolic Interactionism:The “Micro level” of face-to-face relationsThe presentation of self in everyday life

Sociobiology:Biology dictates all behavior.DNA provides us for who we are

Deconstructionism:Breaking down words are reconstructing their meaning (i.e. Firemen vs Fire fighter- Less gender specific)

Semiotics:How signs/symbols/words/images are perceived

Typology:Defining everything into categories (i.e. types of religion)