Sociology

What you’ll learn to do: define sociology and describe the historical and social context from which it emerged

Crowded escalator in the subway.

Figure 1. Sociologists study how society affects people and how people affect society. (Photo courtesy of Diego Torres Silvestre/flickr)

Sociology is the scientific study of social behavior and human groups. Sociology has many sub-sections of study—ranging from the analysis of conversations, to the development of theories, to explaining how the world works. This section will introduce you to sociology, give a brief history of the discipline, and demonstrate how sociology can help you understand the world around you using sociological theories. 

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe sociology and some of its central concepts
  • Describe the development of sociology through the work and theories of classical sociologists
  • Explain the value in studying sociology

What Is Sociology?

Large group of cheering fans in a stadium.

Figure 2. Sociologists learn about society as a whole while studying one-to-one and group interactions. (Photo courtesy of Gareth Williams/flickr)

What Are Central Concepts in Sociology?

Sociology is the study of groups and group interactions, societies and social interactions. A group is any collection of at least two people who interact with some frequency and who share some sense of aligned identity. A group of people who live in a defined geographic area, who interact with one another, and who share a common culture is what sociologists call a society.

Sociologists study all aspects and levels of society. Sociologists working from the micro-level study small groups and individual interactions, while those using macro-level analysis look at trends among and between large groups and societies. For example, a micro-level study might look at the accepted rules of conversation in various groups such as among teenagers or business professionals. In contrast, a macro-level analysis might research the ways that language use has changed over time or in social media outlets.

The term culture refers to the group’s shared practices, values, and beliefs. Culture encompasses a group’s way of life, from routine, everyday interactions to the most important parts of group members’ lives. It includes everything produced by a society, including all of the social rules. Sociologists often study culture using the sociological imagination, which pioneer sociologist C. Wright Mills described as an awareness of the relationship between a person’s behavior and experience and the wider culture that shaped the person’s choices and perceptions. It is a way of seeing our own and other people’s behavior in relation to history and social structure (1959).

One illustration of this is a person’s decision to marry. In the United States, this choice is heavily influenced by individual feelings; however, the social acceptability of marriage relative to the person’s circumstances also plays a part. It is important to remember that culture is produced by the people in a society, and therefore sociologists take care not to treat the concept of “culture” as though it were alive in its own right. Reification is the term used to describe this mistaken tendency, where one treats an abstract concept as though it has a real, material existence (Sahn 2013).

Try It

Watch It

Throughout this course, you will encounter video clips that explain and reiterate key concepts from the reading. They are strongly recommended. Please take the time to watch the videos. The following video gives an introduction to sociology and will give you a preview of many concepts that will be covered in the course.

Studying Patterns: How Sociologists View Society

All sociologists are interested in the experiences of individuals and how those experiences are shaped by interactions with social groups and society as a whole. To a sociologist, the personal decisions an individual makes do not exist in a vacuum. Cultural patterns and social forces put pressure on people to select one choice over another. Sociologists try to identify these general patterns by examining the behavior of large groups of people living in the same society and experiencing the same societal pressures.

Man pushing a baby stroller.

Figure 3. Modern U.S. families may be very different in structure from what was historically typical. (Photo courtesy of Tony Alter/Wikimedia Commons)

Changes in the U.S. family structure offer an example of patterns that sociologists are interested in studying. A “typical” family is now quite different than in past decades when most U.S. families consisted of married parents living in a home with their unmarried children. The percentage of unmarried couples, same-sex couples, single-parent and single-adult households is increasing, as is the number of expanded households, in which extended family members such as grandparents, cousins, or adult children live together in the family home (U.S. Census Bureau 2011).

While mothers still make up the majority of single parents, millions of fathers are also raising their children alone, and more than 1 million of these single fathers have never been married (Williams Institute 2010; cited in Ludden 2012). Increasingly, single men and women and cohabitating opposite-sex or same-sex couples are choosing to raise children outside of marriage through surrogates or adoption.

Sociologists study social facts, which are aspects of social life that shape a person’s behavior. How do social facts affect U.S. family structures? These can include the laws, morals, values, religious beliefs, customs, fashions, rituals, and all of the cultural rules that govern social life. These all may contribute to changes in the U.S. family structure. Do people in the United States view marriage and family differently than in earlier periods? Do employment status and economic conditions play a role? How has culture influenced the choices that individuals make in living arrangements?

Sociologists are studying the consequences of these new patterns, such as the ways children are affected by them or by changing needs for education, housing, and healthcare. An example of the way society influences individual decisions can be seen in people’s opinions about and use of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP benefits. Some people believe those who receive SNAP benefits are lazy and unmotivated, though statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture show a more complex picture.

Map of the United States showing that some states have nearly 100% of eligible peoples participating in SNAP (Washington, Oregon, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, and Delaware). Other states show various levels of participation, with 14 at 80% or below, 12 between 81 and 87%, and 15 states having between 88-95% participation.

Figure 4. Percentage of eligible people who participate in SNAP.

To identify social trends, sociologists studied how some people use SNAP benefits and how other people react to their use. Research has found that for many people from all classes, there is a strong stigma, or an attribute that is deeply discrediting (Goffman 1963), attached to the use of SNAP benefits. This stigma can prevent people who qualify for this type of assistance from using the benefits. According to Hanson and Gundersen (2002), how strongly this stigma is felt is linked to the general economic climate. This illustrates how sociologists observe a pattern in society. The percentage of the population receiving SNAP benefits is much higher in certain states than in others. Does this mean, if the stereotype above were applied, that people in some states are lazier and less motivated than those in other states? Sociologists study the economies in each state—comparing unemployment rates, food, energy costs, and other factors—to explain differences in social issues like this. Sociologists identify and study patterns related to all kinds of contemporary social issues. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding gay and lesbian service members, the emergence of the Tea Party political faction, how Twitter has influenced everyday communication—these are all examples of topics that sociologists might explore.

Studying Part and Whole: How Sociologists View Social Structures

A key premise of the sociological imagination is the concept that the individual and society are inseparable. It is impossible to study one without the other. German sociologist Norbert Elias called the process of simultaneously analyzing the behavior of individuals and the society that shapes that behavior figuration. An application that makes this concept understandable is the practice of religion. While people experience their religions in a distinctly individual manner, religion exists in a larger social context. For instance, an individual’s religious practice may be influenced by governmental authority, traditional holidays, educational institutions, places of worship, well-established rituals, and so on. These influences underscore the important relationship between individual practices of religion and the social pressures that influence that religious experience (Elias 1978).

Individual-Society Connections

When sociologist Nathan Kierns spoke to his friend Ashley (a pseudonym) about the move she and her female partner had made from an urban center to a small Midwestern town, he was curious about how the social pressures placed on a lesbian couple differed from one community to the other. Ashley said that in the city they had been accustomed to getting looks and hearing comments when she and her partner walked hand in hand. Otherwise, she felt that they were at least being tolerated. There had been little to no outright discrimination. Things changed when they moved to the small town for her partner’s job. For the first time, Ashley found herself experiencing direct discrimination because of her sexual orientation. Some of it was particularly hurtful. Landlords would not rent to them. Ashley, who is a highly trained professional, had a great deal of difficulty finding a new job.

When Nathan asked Ashley if she and her partner became discouraged or bitter about this new situation, Ashley said that rather than letting it get to them, they decided to do something about it. Ashley approached groups at a local college and several churches in the area. Together they decided to form the town’s first gay-straight alliance. The alliance has worked successfully to educate their community about same-sex couples. It also worked to raise awareness about the kinds of discrimination that Ashley and her partner experienced in the town and how those could be eliminated. The alliance has become a strong advocacy group, and it is working to attain equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LBGT individuals. Kierns observed that this is an excellent example of how negative social forces can result in a positive response from individuals to bring about social change (Kierns 2011).

Try It

Think It Over

  • What do you think C. Wright Mills meant when he said that to be a sociologist, one had to develop a sociological imagination?
  • Describe a situation in which a choice you made was influenced by societal pressures.

The Development of Sociology

Figure (a) shows two ancient Greeks (Plato and Aristotle). Figure (b) shows an ancient Chinese man, Confucius. Figure (c) shows a statue of a man, Khaldun. Figure (d) shows a portrait of a Frenchman, Voltaire.

Figure 5. Since ancient times, people have been fascinated by the relationship between individuals and the societies to which they belong. Many topics studied in modern sociology were also studied by ancient philosophers in their desire to describe an ideal society, including theories of social conflict, economics, social cohesion, and power (Hannoum 2003). Plato and Aristotle, Confucius, Khaldun, and Voltaire all set the stage for modern sociology. (Photos (a),(b),(d) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; Photo (c) courtesy of Moumou82/Wikimedia Commons)

Creating a Discipline

Auguste Comte (1798–1857)

A portrait of August Comte.

Figure 6. Auguste Comte is considered by many to be the father of sociology. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

In 1838 Auguste Comte, a Frenchman, coined the term sociology, from the Latin socius (companion or associate) and the Greek term logia (study of speech). Comte believed sociology could unify other sciences and improve society. The French Revolution, which began in 1789, greatly impacted Comte, as did the Industrial Revolution in Europe (1760-1840). Questions related to economic class, social status, urbanization, and the dangers of factory work raised new issues about society and social interaction.

Like other thinkers influenced by the Enlightenment (a philosophical movement of the 17th and 18th centuries that emphasized reason and individualism), Comte believed society developed in stages. In The Course in Positive Philosophy (1830–1842) and A General View of Positivism (1848), Comte described The Law of Three Stages as follows:

  1. theological stage where people took religious views of society
  2. metaphysical stage where people understood society as natural (not supernatural)
  3. the scientific or positivist stage, where society would be governed by reliable knowledge and would be understood in light of the knowledge produced by science, primarily sociology.

Comte originally studied to be an engineer, but later became a pupil of social philosopher Claude Henri de Rouvroy Comte de Saint-Simon (1760–1825). They both thought that social scientists could study society using the same scientific methods utilized in the natural sciences. Comte also believed in the potential of social scientists to improve society. He held that once scholars identified the laws that governed society, sociologists could address problems such as poor education and poverty.

Comte named the scientific study of social patterns positivism. He believed that using scientific methods to reveal the laws by which societies and individuals interact would usher in a new scientifically oriented “positivist” age of history. In this view, rational claims are seen as scientifically and systematically verifiable, and are opposed to metaphysical and or supernatural explanations. Although much of Comte’s Courses, a six-volume treatise, has been discarded, particularly the highly simplified and under-examined approach to social development, Comte’s lasting contribution to sociology has been his classification of sciences. He presented a hierarchy of the sciences, with sociology at the top of a list that begins with mathematics, and then moves to astronomy, physics, chemistry, and biology. He argued that the sciences increase in complexity and decrease in generality as you move up the hierarchy, and that they build upon each of the foundational sciences below. Comte declared sociology the most complex science for its attempt to integrate all of the other sciences in order to explain natural laws of increasing complexity.

Harriet Martineau (1802–1876)

Harriet Martineau was a writer who addressed a wide range of social science issues. She was an early observer of social practices, including economics, social class, religion, suicide, government, and women’s rights. Her writing career began in 1931 with a series of stories titled Illustrations of Political Economy, in which she tried to educate ordinary people about the principles of economics.

Martineau was the first to translate Comte’s writing from French to English and thereby introduced sociology to English-speaking scholars. She is also credited with the first systematic methodological international comparisons of social institutions in two of her most famous sociological works: Society in America (1837) and Retrospect of Western Travel (1838). Martineau found the workings of capitalism at odds with the professed moral principles of the United States; she identified faults of the free enterprise system in which workers were exploited and impoverished while business owners became wealthy. She further noted that the belief in all being created equal was inconsistent with the lack of women’s rights. Much like Mary Wollstonecraft, Martineau was often discounted in her own time by the male domination of academic sociology.

Karl Marx (1818–1883)

A photo of Karl Marx.

Figure 7. Karl Marx was one of the founders of sociology. His ideas about social conflict are still relevant today. (Photo courtesy of John Mayall/Wikimedia Commons)

Karl Marx was a German social philosopher and economist. In 1848 he and Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) coauthored The Communist Manifesto, which is one of the most influential political manuscripts in history. It presents Marx’s theory of society, which differed from what Comte proposed.

Marx rejected Comte’s positivism. He believed that societies grew and changed as a result of the struggles of different social classes as they sought control over the means of production. At the time he was developing his theories, the Industrial Revolution and the rise of capitalism had led to great disparities in wealth between the owners of the factories and workers. Capitalism, an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of goods and the means to produce them, grew in many nations.

Marx predicted that inequalities of capitalism would become so extreme that workers would eventually revolt. This would lead to the collapse of capitalism, which would be replaced by communism. Communism is an economic system under which there is no private or corporate ownership of the means of production. Instead, economic resources are owned communally and are distributed as needed. Marx believed that communism was a more equitable system than capitalism.

While his economic predictions may not have come true in the time frame or in the locations he predicted, Marx’s idea that economic, class-based conflict leads to changes in society is still one of the major theories used in modern sociology.

Émile Durkheim (1858–1917)

Durkheim helped legitimize and define sociology as a formal academic discipline by establishing the first European department of sociology at the University of Bordeaux in 1895 and by publishing his Rules of the Sociological Method (1895). In another important work, Division of Labour in Society (1893), Durkheim articulated his theory of how societies transform from a primitive state into a capitalist, industrial society. According to Durkheim, people rise to their proper levels in society based on merit.

Durkheim believed that sociologists could study objective “social facts.” He also believed that through such studies it would be possible to determine if a society was “healthy” or “pathological.” He saw healthy societies as stable, while pathological societies experienced a breakdown in social norms between individuals and society.

In 1897, Durkheim attempted to demonstrate the effectiveness of his rules of social research when he published a work titled Suicide. Durkheim examined suicide statistics in different police districts to research differences between Catholic and Protestant communities. He attributed the differences to socioreligious forces rather than to individual or psychological causes.

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Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931)

Ida B. Wells in an old photograph.

Figure 8. Ida B. Wells was a revolutionary teacher and journalist who brought many sociological issues to light, particularly racial and gender inequalities.

Ida B. Wells was born into slavery in Mississippi to parents were freed after the Civil War and who went on to be politically active during Reconstruction (1865-1877). Wells’ parents and younger brother died during a yellow fever epidemic in 1878 when she was just 16 years old. She became a teacher in a black elementary school (Wells attended some college prior to her parents’ deaths) so that her five other siblings would not be separated and sent to foster homes[1]. She relocated from Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee to earn higher wages, and to pursue further education. 

In 1884, when Wells was just 24 years old, she refused to give up her seat in a first-class ladies train car and was subsequently dragged from the car by the conductor and two men. After being criminally charged, Wells fought the case all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court, based on the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which banned racial discrimination in public accommodations. Although Wells lost after the Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s decision, her passion for equality and social justice only became stronger and more influential. (Her direct action would be echoed by Rosa Parks’ civil disobedience 71 years later.) In 1891, she was fired from her teaching job for criticizing the quality of blacks-only schools in Memphis and thus began a new career in journalism, starting at the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight newspaper, which she later co-owned.

After the lynching of three of her friends in 1892, Wells became one of the nation’s most vocal anti-lynching activists. She launched an extensive investigation of lynching and published her findings in a pamphlet titled “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in all its Phases,” in 1892[2]. Wells exposed lynching as a barbaric practice of whites in the South used to intimidate and oppress African Americans who represented economic and political competition—and a subsequent threat to entrenched, hierarchical power—for whites. A white mob eventually destroyed her newspaper office and presses, though this did not stifle her voice or prevent her investigative reporting from finding a national audience, particularly through a distribution network of black-owned newspapers.

Wells was one of the founding members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1908, but her name was left off the list of founding members. She also worked to have full inclusion for black women in the Women’s Suffrage Movement and participated in the 1913 Suffrage March in front of the White House. Although not formally trained as an academic sociologist, Wells was the epitome of a public sociologist because she examined racial and gender inequalities and made them public issues. In Southern Horrors:  Lynch Laws in All Its Phases she stated, “The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press” (1892). This forward-thinking statement is one of her many legacies in sociology. 

Max Weber (1864–1920)

Prominent sociologist Max Weber established a sociology department in Germany at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich in 1919. Weber wrote on many topics, including political change in Russia and social forces that affect factory workers. He is best known for his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904). The theory that Weber sets forth in this book, which describes how religious belief shapes work habits and thus affects the larger social, political, and economic world, is still controversial. Some believe that Weber argued that the beliefs of many Protestants, especially Calvinists, led to the creation of capitalism. Others interpret it as simply claiming that the ideologies (i.e., belief systems) of capitalism and Protestantism are complementary.

Weber believed that it was difficult, if not impossible, to use standard scientific methods to accurately predict the behavior of groups. This view stood in opposition to positivism, which applied systematic, scientific interpretive frameworks to social phenomena in the same sense that one might apply them to natural phenomena.  Instead, Weber proposed a more empathic interpretive method that would take into account one’s own cultural biases and orientations. With fellow sociologist Wilhelm Dilthey,  Weber introduced the concept of verstehen, a German word that means to understand in a deep, empathetic way. In seeking verstehen, outside observers of a social world—an entire culture or a small setting—attempt to understand it from an insider’s point of view.

In his book The Nature of Social Action (1922), Weber described sociology as striving to “interpret the meaning of social action and thereby give a causal explanation of the way in which action proceeds and the effects it produces.” He and other like-minded sociologists proposed a philosophy of antipositivism whereby social researchers would strive for subjectivity as they worked to represent social processes, cultural norms, and societal values. This approach led to some research methods whose aim was not to generalize or predict (as is traditional in science), but to systematically gain an in-depth understanding of social worlds.

The different approaches to research based on positivism or antipositivism are often considered the foundation for the differences found today between quantitative sociology and qualitative sociology. Quantitative sociology uses statistical methods such as surveys with large numbers of participants. Researchers analyze data using statistical techniques to see if they can uncover patterns of human behavior. Qualitative sociology seeks to understand human behavior by learning about it through in-depth interviews, focus groups, and analysis of content sources (like books, magazines, journals, and popular media).

Further Research

Many sociologists helped shape the discipline. To learn more about prominent sociologists and how they changed sociology check out Profiles of Powerful Sociologists.

Try It

Think It Over

  • What do you make of Karl Marx’s contributions to sociology? What perceptions of Marx have you been exposed to in your society, and how do those perceptions influence your views?
  • Ida B. Wells emphasized the importance of the press 100 years ago as an educational tool. In what ways does this statement hold true today? How might one disagree that no teacher can compare with the press?

Why Study Sociology?

Photo (b) shows the sociologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark.

Figure 9. The research of sociologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark helped the Supreme Court decide to end “separate but equal” racial segregation in schools in the United States. (Photo courtesy of public domain)

When Elizabeth Eckford tried to enter Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in September 1957, she was met by an angry crowd. But she knew she had the law on her side. Three years earlier in the landmark Brown vs. the Board of Education case, the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned twenty-one state laws that allowed blacks and whites to be taught in separate school systems as long as the school systems were “equal.” One of the major factors influencing that decision was research conducted by the husband-and-wife team of sociologists, Kenneth and Mamie Clark. Their research showed that segregation was harmful to young black schoolchildren, and the Court found that harm to be unconstitutional.

Since it was first founded, many people interested in sociology have been driven by the scholarly desire to contribute knowledge to this field, while others have seen it as way not only to study society but to improve it. Besides desegregation, sociology has played a crucial role in many important social reforms, such as equal opportunity for women in the workplace, improved treatment for individuals with mental handicaps or learning disabilities, increased accessibility and accommodation for people with physical handicaps, the right of native populations to preserve their land and culture, and prison system reforms.

The prominent sociologist Peter L. Berger (1929– ), in his book Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective (1963), describes a sociologist as “someone concerned with understanding society in a disciplined way.” He asserts that sociologists have a natural interest in the monumental moments of people’s lives, as well as a fascination with banal, everyday occurrences. Berger also describes the “aha” moment when a sociological theory becomes applicable and understood:

[T]here is a deceptive simplicity and obviousness about some sociological investigations. One reads them, nods at the familiar scene, remarks that one has heard all this before and don’t people have better things to do than to waste their time on truisms—until one is suddenly brought up against an insight that radically questions everything one had previously assumed about this familiar scene. This is the point at which one begins to sense the excitement of sociology. (Berger 1963)

Sociology can be exciting because it teaches people ways to recognize how they fit into the world and how others perceive them. Looking at themselves and society from a sociological perspective helps people see where they connect to different groups based on the many different ways they classify themselves and how society classifies them in turn. It raises awareness of how those classifications—such as economic and social status, education, ethnicity, or sexual orientation—affect perceptions.

Sociology teaches people not to accept easy explanations. It teaches them a way to organize their thinking so that they can ask better questions and formulate better answers. It makes people more aware that there are many different kinds of people in the world who do not necessarily think the way they do. It increases their willingness and ability to try to see the world from other people’s perspectives. This prepares them to live and work in an increasingly diverse and integrated world.

Watch It

Watch this video to review the basics of sociology and to see examples of how sociology plays an important role in your daily life.

Sociology in the Workplace

Employers continue to seek people with what are called “transferable skills.” This means that they want to hire people whose knowledge and education can be applied in a variety of settings and whose skills will contribute to various tasks. Studying sociology can provide people with this wide knowledge and a skill set that can contribute to many workplaces, including

  • an understanding of social systems and large bureaucracies
  • the ability to devise and carry out research projects to assess whether a program or policy is working
  • the ability to collect, read, and analyze statistical information from polls or surveys
  • the ability to recognize important differences in people’s social, cultural, and economic backgrounds
  • the ability to prepare reports and communicate complex ideas
  • the capacity for critical thinking about social issues and problems that confront modern society (Department of Sociology, University of Alabama)

Sociology prepares people for a wide variety of careers. Besides actually conducting social research or training others in the field, people who graduate from college with a degree in sociology are hired by government agencies and corporations in fields such as social services, counseling (e.g., family planning, career, substance abuse), community planning, health services, marketing, market research, and human resources. Even a small amount of training in sociology can be an asset in careers like sales, public relations, journalism, teaching, law, and criminal justice.

Please “Friend” Me: Students and Social Networking

The phenomenon known as Facebook was designed specifically for students. Whereas earlier generations wrote notes in each other’s printed yearbooks at the end of the academic year, modern technology and the Internet ushered in dynamic new ways for people to interact socially. Instead of having to meet up on campus, students can call, text, and Skype from their dorm rooms. Instead of a study group gathering weekly in the library, online forums and chat rooms help learners connect. The availability and immediacy of computer technology has forever changed the ways in which students engage with each other.

Now, after several social networks have vied for primacy, a few have established their place in the market and some have attracted niche audiences. While Facebook launched the social networking trend geared toward teens and young adults, now people of all ages are actively “friending” each other. LinkedIn distinguished itself by focusing on professional connections and served as a virtual world for workplace networking. Newer offshoots like Foursquare help people connect based on the real-world places they frequent, while Twitter has cornered the market on brevity.

The widespread ownership of smartphones adds to this social experience. The Pew Research Center (2012) found that the majority of people in the United States with mobile phones now typically have “smart” phones with Internet capability. Many people worldwide can now access Facebook, Twitter, and other social media from virtually anywhere, and there seems to be an increasing acceptance of smartphone use in many diverse and previously prohibited settings. The outcomes of smartphone use, as with other social media, are not yet clear.

These newer modes of social interaction have also spawned harmful consequences, such as cyberbullying and what some call FAD, or Facebook Addiction Disorder. Researchers have also examined other potential negative impacts, such as whether Facebooking lowers a student’s GPA, or whether there might be long-term effects of replacing face-to-face interaction with social media.

All of these social networks demonstrate emerging ways that people interact, whether positive or negative. They illustrate how sociological topics are alive and changing today. Social media will most certainly be a developing topic in the study of sociology for decades to come.

Try It

Think It Over

  • How do you think taking a sociology course might affect your social interactions?
  • What sort of career are you interested in? How could studying sociology help you in this career?

Glossary

antipositivism:
the view that social researchers should strive for subjectivity as they worked to represent social processes, cultural norms, and societal values
culture:
a group’s shared practices, values, and beliefs
figuration:
the process of simultaneously analyzing the behavior of an individual and the society that shapes that behavior
generalized others:
the organized and generalized attitude of a social group
group:
any collection of at least two people who interact with some frequency and who share some sense of aligned identity
positivism:
the scientific study of social patterns
qualitative sociology:
in-depth interviews, focus groups, and/or analysis of content sources as the source of its data
quantitative sociology:
statistical methods such as surveys with large numbers of participants
reification:
an error of treating an abstract concept as though it has a real, material existence
significant others:
specific individuals that impact a person’s life
society:
a group of people who live in a defined geographical area who interact with one another and who share a common culture
sociological imagination:
the ability to understand how your own past relates to that of other people, as well as to history in general and societal structures in particular
sociology:
the systematic study of society and social interaction
verstehen:
a German word that means to understand in a deep way

  1. "Ida B. Wells biography," accessed September 10, 2018, A&E Television Networks. https://www.biography.com/people/ida-b-wells-9527635
  2. Steptoe, Tyina (2007). Ida Wells Barnett. BlackPast. Retrieved from https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/barnett-ida-wells-1862-1931/