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The sociological Perspective

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1 The sociological Perspective
Unit 1

2 Sociology What is your definition of sociology? What do you think sociologists study or look at? What do you hope to get out of this class? Brainstorm with your group to come up with one answer you can all agree on. Sociology studies human social behavior. It assumes a group, rather than an individual, perspective. Sociologists look for the patterns in social relationships.

3 The Social Sciences Sociology
Investigates human social behavior from a group; concentrates on social relationships Anthropology Investigates culture, beliefs, and material traits of a group; concentrate on preliterate societies Psychology Investigates human mental and emotional processes; concentrate on the individual Economics Study of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services Political Science Investigates the organization, history, and theory of government History Examines past events in human history

4 The Nature of Sociology
As we go along through this class you will acquire a more precise understanding of sociology as the scientific study of social structure Sociologists do not focus on the behavior of individuals, but rather on the patterns of behavior shared by members of a group or society They look for social rather than personal explanations when they examine different situations: Young men join gangs because they have been taught by their society to be “masculine” Teens commit suicide because of peer group expectations of performance, material possessions, and physical appearance Concentrate on categories of people – young men, married women…not singulars

5 The Importance of Patterns
Sociologists assume that social relationships are not determined only by the particular characteristics of the people involved Emile Durkheim helped develop the sociological perspective and argued that a person’s behavior within a group setting cannot be predicted from their personal characteristics…something new is created when people come together Example) In 2005 the Patriots won the Super Bowl, following the game a few otherwise law-abiding citizens, as a group, disrupted the peace and challenged the police in ways they would not have done as individuals Besides joy, what other emotions or examples can you think of that represent this concept?

6 Why Do People Conform? Regardless of size, all groups encourage conformity Conformity within a group occurs, in part, because members have been taught to value the group’s ways. Members generally tend to conform even when their own preferences are not the same as the groups (ex: some teens start smoking only to gain group acceptance) Behavior within a group cannot be predicted simply from knowledge about its individual members

7 Acquiring Sociological Imagination
The sociological perspective enables us to develop a sociological imagination (the ability to see the link between society and self) The sociological imagination helps us to understand the effects of events, such as social pressures, on our daily lives. With this understanding we are in a better position to make our own decisions rather than to conform

8 The Origins of Sociology
Sociology is a relatively new science. It began in late nineteenth-century Europe when the social and economic effects of the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution were touching all aspects of life. People were moving from farms to factory life, losing a sense of community. Some intellects were fascinated and troubled by the sudden changes and began to grapple with ideas for bringing back a sense of community and restoring order.

9 European Origins In your groups you will be responsible for looking up the major contributions of one of the early European sociologists below. Use the texts in class, as well as your computers to help you find the information. A very short description will be presented to the class and turned in (1-2 paragraphs). Auguste Comte Harriet Martineau Herbert Spencer Karl Marx Emile Durkheim Max Weber

10 Auguste Comte Harriet Martineau
His main concern was the improvement of society He coined the term sociology Positivism: the belief that knowledge should be derived from scientific observation Also distinguished between social statics (social stability and order) and social dynamics (social change) Harriet Martineau Best known for her translation of Comte’s great book Despite being severely hearing impaired, she also made original contributions in the areas of research methods, political economy, and feminist theory She saw a link between slavery and the oppression of women, and was a strong supporter of the emancipation of both women and slaves

11 Herbert spencer Karl Marx
To explain social stability he compared society to the human body Society is composed of parts working together to promote its well-being and survival Social Darwinism – if left alone, natural social selection would ensure the survival of the fittest society He opposed social reform; “the poor deserve to be poor, the rich to be rich” Karl Marx Felt great concern for the poverty and inequality suffered by the working class Guided to change the world, not study it He predicted that at some point all industrial societies would contain only 2 social classes: 1. Bourgeoisie : class owning means for producing wealth 2. Proletariat : working class, labor for bourgeoisie

12 Emile Durkheim Max Weber
Prominent in developing methods to replace speculation with observation, to collect and classify data, and to use data for testing social theories Showed that human social behavior must be explained by social factors rather than psychological ones Max Weber “Human beings act on the basis of their own understanding of a situation” Sociologists must discover the personal meaning, values, beliefs, and attitudes underlying human social behavior Best way to understand personal intentions of people in groups is through verstehen (putting yourself in the place of others) Identified rationalism (mind-set of emphasizing knowledge, reason, and planning) as a key influence in the change from a preindustrial to an industrial society Pioneered research techniques that helped prevent personal biases from unduly affecting the results of sociological investigations

13 Sociology in America Although the early development of sociology occurred in Europe, the greatest development of sociology has taken place in the United States. Sociology has become a science largely through the efforts of American sociologists and the majority of all sociologists are from the US. Two early contributors are Jane Addams and WEB DuBois. Although neither of these remarkable people were researchers or scientists, both were greatly concerned with social problems in America.

14 Jane Addams 1860 – 1935 As a child, she saw many examples of government corruption and business practices that harmed workers, which she would never forget While on vacation in Europe she saw the work being done to help the poor in London. This example of social action led Addams to begin her life’s work seeking social justice She co-founded Hull House in Chicago, which provided help to people who needed refuge (immigrants, the sick, the poor, elderly) She was also active in woman’s suffrage and peace movements As a result of her tireless work for social reform, Addams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 – the first sociologist to receive this honor

15 W.E.B. Du Bois 1868 – 1963 An African American educator and social activist who greatly influenced the early development of sociology in the US Du Bois learned firsthand about racial discrimination while studying in Nashville and from there decided to attack the “Negro Problem” (said that African Americans were an inferior race) He conducted research to discredit this assumption and would continue to analyze the social structure of African American communities throughout the United States.

16 Theoretical perspectives
A theoretical perspective is a set of assumptions about an area of study, in this case the workings of society Sociology has three overarching theoretical perspectivces: functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionalism. Each of these perspectives provides a different slant on human social behavior. Either individually or in groups of no more than 3 you will research the three perspectives and answer the questions provided…answers are due by the end of class

17 Theoretical perspectives
Functionalism Define How does functionalism explain social change? Do all functions have a positive effect? Explain. How does functionalism view values? Conflict Perspective What is the role of conflict and constraint? How does the conflict perspective explain social change? Symbolic Interactionism What is the significance of symbols in symbolic interactionism? What are the basic assumptions of symbolic interactionism?

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