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 ), demonstrated at the end of the
19th 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 group’s 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
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 sociologist’s main tasks is to identify and explain the connection btw
people’s personal troubles and the social structures in which people are
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 19th
century, commitment to the scientific method was one firm pillar of the
The 2nd 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.
The 3rd 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
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
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
Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber lived in the period from 1820 to
1920. They witnessed various phases of Europe’s 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 isn’t 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.
After theories are formulated, the sociologist can conduct research. Research is
the process of carefully observing social reality to assess the validity of a theory.
It’s cuz research can call the validity of a theory into question that theories are
said to be only “tentative” explanations.
Before sociologists can formulate a theory they must decide which problems are
important enough to study and how the parts of society fit together. If they are
going to recommend ways of improving the operation of some aspect of society,
they must have an opinion about what the ideal society ought to look like. Values
are ideas about what is right and wrong, good and bad.
Incorporates 4 features
1. They stress that human behavior is governed by relatively stable patterns of
social relations or social structures.
2. Underlines how social structures maintain or undermine social stability.
3. Emphasize that social structures are based mainly on shared values.
4. Suggests that re-establishing equilibrium can best solve most social problems.
A conservative response to widespread social unrest in 19th century France.
Took deep root in North American sociology during the Great Depression of
Sociologist Talcott Parsons was the foremost proponent of functionalism. Best
known for identifying how various institutions must work to ensure the smooth
operation of society as a whole.
Parsons was criticized for exaggerating the degree to which members of society
share common values and social institutions contribute to social harmony, this
led to other leading functionalist, Robert Merton, to propose that social structures
may have different consequences for different groups of people. Stated that some
of those consequences might be disruptive or dysfunctional, and though some
functions are manifest (visible and intended), others are latent (invisible and
Emphasizes the centrality of conflict in social life and incorporates 4 features.
1. Generally focuses on large, macrolevel structures, such as relations btw or
2. Shows how major patterns of inequality in society produce social stability in
some circumstances and social change in others.
3. Stresses how members of privileged groups try to maintain their advantages
while subordinate groups struggle to increase theirs.
4. Leads to the suggestion that eliminating privilege will lower the level of
conflict and increase the sum total of human welfare.
Marx observed the destitution and discontent produced by the Industrial
Revolution and proposed a sweeping argument about the way societies develop.
He argued that owners of industry are eager to improve the way work is done to
produce more efficiently, earn higher profits, and drive inefficient competitors
out of business.