Sociology: The Core, 6/e
Developing a Sociological Consciousness
The Sociological Perspective
Sociology is the scientific study of social interaction and social organization.
New Levels of Reality. The sociological perspective
encourages us to examine aspects of our social environment in ways that delve
beneath the surface. As we look beyond the outer appearances of our social world,
we encounter new levels of reality.
The Sociological Imagination. The essence of
the sociological imagination is the ability to see our private experiences
and personal difficulties as entwined with the structural arrangements of our
society and the times in which we live.
Microsociology and Macrosociology.
Microsociology is the detailed study of what people say, do, and think
moment by moment as they go about their daily lives. Macrosociology focuses
upon large-scale and long-term social processes of organizations, institutions,
and broad social patterns.
The Development of Sociology
Auguste Comte: The Founder
Auguste Comte is commonly credited as being
the founder of sociology. He emphasized that the study of society must be scientific,
and he urged sociologists to employ systematic observation, experimentation,
and comparative historical analysis as their methods. He divided the study of
society into social statics and social dynamics.
Harriet Martineau: Feminist
Harriet Martineau wrote the first book
on social research methods and was among the first to do systematic, scientifically
based, social research. Her comparative analysis of slavery and the position
of women in the Western world paved the way for feminist scholarship and the
further pursuit of gender equality.
Herbert Spencer and Social Darwinism. Herbert
Spencer depicted society as a system, a whole made up of interrelated parts.
He also set forth an evolutionary theory of historical development. Social
Darwinism is Spencer's application of evolutionary notions and the concept
of survival of the fittest to the social world.
Karl Marx: The Role of Class Conflict.
Karl Marx focused his search for the basic principles of history on
the economic environments in which societies develop. He believed that society
is divided into those who own the means of producing wealth and those who do
not, giving rise to class conflict. Dialectical materialism is Marx's
theory that development depends on the clash of contradictions and the creation
of new, more advanced structures out of these clashes.
Émile Durkheim: Social Integration and Social Facts. Émile
Durkheim was especially concerned with social solidarity, distinguishing between
mechanical and organic solidarity. He contended that the distinctive subject
matter of sociology should be the study of social facts.
Max Weber: Subjectivity and Social Organization. Max
Weber said that a critical aspect of the sociological enterprise is the study
of the intentions, values, beliefs, and attitudes that underlie people's behavior.
He used the word Verstehen in describing his approach and contributed
his notions of the ideal type and a value-free sociology.
American Sociology. In the United States, sociology
and the modern university system arose together. The first department of sociology
was established at the University of Chicago in 1893, and Chicago served as
a "social laboratory" at the beginning of the century. Midcentury
sociologists crafted survey techniques and refined models of society. "New
breed" sociologists in the 1960s and 1970s refined Marxism and established
new research approaches and perspectives.
Contemporary Sociology. Contemporary movements
in sociology include critical theory, feminism, and postmodern social theory.
Contemporary sociologists acknowledge three general theoretical perspectives,
or ways of looking at how various social phenomena are related to one another.
These are the functionalist, the conflict, and the symbolic interactionist perspectives.
The Functionalist Perspective. The structural-functional-or,
more simply, functionalist-perspective sees society as a system. Functionalists
identify the structural characteristics and functions and dysfunctions
of institutions, and distinguish between manifest functions and latent
functions. Functionalists also typically assume that most members of a society
share a consensus regarding their core beliefs and values.
The Conflict Perspective. The conflict approach
draws much of its inspiration from the work of Karl Marx and argues that the
structure of society and the nature of social relationships are the result of
past and ongoing conflicts.
The Interactionist Perspective.
Symbolic interactionists contend that society is possible because human
beings have the ability to communicate with one another by means of symbols.
They say that we act toward people, objects, and events on the basis of the
meanings we impart to them. Consequently, we experience the world as constructed
The Logic of Science. Sociology is a social science.
Science assumes that every event or action results from an antecedent cause-that
is, cause-and-effect relationships prevail in the universe. These causes and
effects can be observed and measured, and sociologists look for correlations
among variables as a way of doing so.
How Do Sociologists Collect Data?
Four major techniques of data collection are available to sociologists:
experiments, surveys, observation, and archival research. In the experiment,
researchers work with an experimental group and a control group
to test the effects of an independent variable on a dependent variable.
Interviewing and questionnaires constitute the primary techniques used in surveys,
using random or stratified random samples. Observation can take
the form of participant observation or unobtrusive observation.
Other techniques include archival research and feminist methodology.
Steps in the Scientific Method:
A Close-up Look. The scientific method includes selecting
a researchable problem, reviewing the literature, formulating a hypothesis,
creating an operational definition, choosing a research design, collecting
the data, analyzing the data, and stating conclusions.
Research Ethics It is important that sociologists
observe the ethics of their discipline in carrying out research. They have an
obligation not to expose their subjects to substantial risk or personal harm
in the research process and to protect the rights and dignity of their subjects.