Sociology 001: Exam 1
The scientific study of interactions and relations among human beings.
A sociologist in 1928 who came up with the Thomas Theorem.
The Thomas Theorem
“If people define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”
Articulated the sociological finding that had escaped many nonsociological
If one truly wants to understand why people do things the way they do, one
must take into account not only what is really going on in a particular
situation but also what people think is going on.
He did not think of himself as a sociologist, and indeed, he was contemptuous
of the sociologists whom he knew.
Born in Germany and studied philosophy and law.
The people of any society could be divided into two distinct classes: the
bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
Consisted of the workers – the people who survived by selling their labor to
Consisted of the people who owned the means of production – specifically,
the owners of the factories that produced the goods sold and distributed
All but economics is “epiphenomenal”
As far as Marx was concerned, everything else – ideas, values, social
conventions, art, literature, morals, law, and even religion – was
“epiphenomenal,” or secondary to and in the service of the economic realities
He said it was important to study society and social dynamics to find out
what was going on.
He wasn’t so sure individualism would be the undoing of society.
Published a book in 1893, The Division of Labor in Society, he explored the
sources of order and stability in the modern world.
How can society “stick together” when everyone is so different?
Likeness was important because it was what held people in premodern
Likeness allowed people to experience solidarity. Their similar circumstances led them to have shared ideas, values, and goals.
Durkheim called “collective conscience.”
Durkheim called this sort of solidarity mechanical because people in the
community functioned together like a simple machine.
Durkheim reasoned that dissimilarity would not mean an end to a group
solidarity. As people became more specialized and different, they grew more
dependent on one another. He called this sort of solidarity organic
solidarity, because society functioned as a complex entity that depended on
the proper functioning of a variety of parts, or organs.
Sociological method as we practice it rests wholly on the basic principle that
social facts must be studied as things, that is, as realities external to the
Social facts must be distinguished from individual biological or psychological
Sociology was to be the scientific study of social facts, or of those things in
society that transcend or are bigger than individuals.
English sociologist believed that society was governed by laws in much the
same way that the physical world was.
After Darwin’s work was published, Spencer’s ideas came to be known as
Those who adhered to social Darwinism to social Darwinism saw the world
as a jungle in which only the superior ought to prosper.
“Survival of the Fittest”
This principle summed up Spencer’s basic thesis that if we simply leave
people alone to compete, the best will survive and the inferior will perish.
The overall result of natural social evolution, according to Spencer, is that
society gets better over time.
Implications of the Poor
In the wrong hands, this principle could be deadly.
For example, it was used to justify the superior positions in society of whites
over blacks and rich over poor.
According to the Spencerian doctrine, if someone was rich, it was because he
or she was superior; if blacks had a difficult time thriving in white society, it
was because they were inferior.
Social facts (e.g. suicide rates) could be explained only by other social facts
(e.g., changes in industry or the economy), and not by individual facts.
C. Wright Mills
The American sociologist C. Wright Mills sharpened the sociological
perspective with his concept of the sociological imagination. The Sociological Imagination
The ability to look beyond what he called the personal troubles of individuals
to see the public issues of social structure – that is, the social forces operating
in the larger society.
People in modern Western societies have been taught to embrace the
principle of individualism
The idea that in life people pursue their own ends, that people follow their
Skepticism is an important foundation of scientific curiosity.
If one accepts everyday explanations for things, there is no reason to inquire
Understanding social things involves identifying both their manifest
(intended and obvious) and latent (unintended and frequently hidden)
consequences. Called these consequences functions.
Intended and obvious
The manifest function of the prison system is to protect society by locking up
Unintended and frequently hidden
One latent function