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University of Toronto St. George
Sheldon Ungar

Introduction Sociology is the systematic study of human behavior in social context. Social causes are distinct form physical and emotional causes. French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1951 [1897]), demonstrated at the end of the 19 century that suicide is more than just an individual act of depression resulting from psychological disorder. He showed suicide rates are strongly influenced by social forces. Psychological disorders occurred most frequently when a person reached maturity. Suicide rates, though, increased steadily with age. Durkheim argued that suicide rates vary because of differences in the degree of social solidarity in different groups (the more a groups members share beliefs and values, and more frequently and intensely they interact, more social solidarity there is in the group). D expected groups with a high degree of solidarity to have lower suicide rates than groups with a low degree of solidarity did. D. stated suicide varies with the degree of integration of the social groups of which the individual forms a part. Unmarried adults, men, non-Jews, seniors more prone to suicide. Data today shows that suicide rates do not necessary increase steadily with age. Sociologists call relatively stable patterns of social relations social structures. One of the sociologists main tasks is to identify and explain the connection btw peoples personal troubles and the social structures in which people are embedded. 3 levels of social structure surround and penetrate us. Microstructures are patterns of intimate social relations. They are formed during face-to-face interaction. Families, friendship circles, and work associations are all examples of this. Macrostructures are patterns of social relations that lie outside and above your circle of intimates and acquaintances. Macrostructures include class relations and patriarchy, the traditional system of economic and political inequality btw women and men in most societies. The third level of society that surrounds and permeates us comprises global structures. International organizations, patterns of world-wide travel and communication, and the economic relations btw countries are examples. Increasingly important as many things allow all parts of the world to become interconnected culturally, economically, and politically these days. Wright Mills (1959) called the ability to see the connection btw personal troubles and social structures the sociological imagination half a century ago. Quote: What people need is a quality of mind that will help them to see what is going on in the world and what may be happening within themselves. It is this quality that may be called the sociological imagination. The sociological imagination was born when 3 modern revolutions pushed people to think about society in an entirely new way. 1. Scientific Revolution (began at about 1550) encouraged the view that sound conclusions about the working of society must be based on solid evidence, not just speculation. 2. Democratic Revolution (1750) suggested that people are responsible for organizing society and that human intervention can therefore solve social problems. 3. Industrial Revolution (1780) created a host of new and serious social problems that attracted the attention of many social thinkers. Core of the scientific method: using evidence to make a case for a particular point of view. When sociology emerged as a distinct discipline in the 19 th century, commitment to the scientific method was one firm pillar of the sociolondcal imagination. The 2 pillar of the sociological imagination is the realization that people control society and can change it. The American Revolution (1775-83) & the French Revolution (1789-99) helped to undermine the ideas that God ordained the social order. These democratic political upheavals showed that people control society. The implications for social thought were profound, for if it was possible to change society by human intervention, then a science of society could play a big role. Much of the justification for sociology as a science arose out of the democratic revolutions that shook Europe and North America. rd The 3 pillar of the sociological imagination was the Industrial Revolution that began in England about 1780. People under terrible working conditions reacted to the filth and poverty of their existence by means of strikes, crime, revolution, and war. The Scientific Revolution suggested that a science of society is possible. The Democratic Revolution suggested that people can intervene to improve society. The Industrial Revolution now presented social thinkers with a host of pressing social problems crying out for solutions. As a French social thinker in 1838, Auguste Comte coined the term sociology. He tried to place the study of society on scientific foundations and understand the social world as it is instead of what anyone imagined it should be. He wanted to test the validity of his ideas through careful observation of the real world rather than assuming that God or human nature determined the shape of society. Comte witnessed the democratic forces unleashed by the French Revolution, the early industrialization of society and the rapid growth of cities, all of which shocked and angered him cuz rapid social change was destroying many of the things he valued. He urged slow change and the preservation of much that was traditional in social life. Thus, at its very origin, sociological research was motivated by adherence to scientific methods of research and a vision of the ideal society. Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber lived in the period from 1820 to 1920. They witnessed various phases of Europes wrenching transition to industrial capitalism, and they wanted to understand and explain it. The ideas they developed are not just diagnostic tools from which we can still learn much but also, like many sociological ideas, prescriptions for combating social ills. Knowledge isnt always necessary right: based on tradition, authority, casual observation, overgeneralization, selective observation, qualification, illogical reasoning, ego-defense, premature closure of inquiry, mystification. Sociological ideas are generally stated in the form of theories. A theory is a tentative explanation of some aspect of social life that states how and why certain facts are related.
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