Sociology: Systematic study of human society and social interaction
The difference between sociology and common sense: common
sense is not systematic, based on individual experience, one sided,
tends to reflect prejudiced and mistaken interpretations
Society: A large social grouping that shares the same geographical
territory and is subject to the same political authority and dominant
Structure versus agency: Structures refer to pre-existing
arrangements that influence our behaviour, agency refers to choices
Sociological Imagination and C. Wright Mills: The ability to see
the relationships between individual experience and larger society. It
enables us to distinguish between personal troubles & public issues
Peter Berger talks about sociological perspective. It helps us to
• see the general in particular
• see the strange in the familiar
Sociological questions tend to be:
• factual: what happened?
• comparative: did this happen everywhere?
• historical: how this happened overtime?
• theoretical: what underlies this phenomenon Why? What factors
would explain this change?
There are multiple sociological perspectives that provide different
focus on various aspects of social reality and different main premises.
Paradigms/ perspectives: general frameworks, fundamental
assumptions about society that guides sociological thinking
Theories: a set of logically interrelated statements that attempts to
describe, explain, and (occasionally) predict social events.
What are general characteristics of multivariate theory, interpretive
theory, historical-comparative theory? (p.7)
Sociology emerged as a modern discipline in the 19 Century in
response to the intellectual efforts trying to understand the impacts of
social changes taking place during this era. These included: • Economic Changes: Emergence of the capitalist economy, rise
• Social Changes: Decline of rural life and communities,
urbanization, emergence of new social classes
• Political Changes: Decline of absolute monarchies- emergence
of democracy; liberalism and individualism; rise of ideas such as
liberty, equality, and fraternity; separation of state and church,
secularism; emphasis on reason and rationality; emergence of
nation state and nationalism
• The person who first used the term sociology
• Defended a perspective called positivism a belief that the world
can best be understood through scientific inquiry
• sociology as the science of society
• He observed that societies remain stable (order) yet change over
Emile Durkheim (multivariate theory, p. 8-9):
• People are products of their social environment.
• Emphasizes the role of consensus in values in maintaining order
• Points out to changes in division of labour - from simple to
complex; from mechanic solidarity (based on sameness) to
organic (based on interdependence);
Social facts: patterned ways of acting, thinking, and feeling that are
external and constraining upon the individual -exert social control over
Anomie: a condition of normlessness in which social control becomes
ineffective as a result of the loss of shared values and of a sense of
purpose in society
Durkheim's study of suicide: relationship between level of social
integration and suicide
Karl Marx (historical comparative tradition p. 12-13):
• Emphasizes the role of class conflict in bringing social change.
• Marx focused on factors that led to the emergence of capitalist
society and forms of inequality and exploitation unique to
• Marx explains the difference between price and value. He
believed that value is created through labour. For him exploitation meant appropriation of the unpaid labour (surplus)
by those who owned the means of production
alienation: a feeling of powerlessness and estrangement from other
people and from oneself. He argued that in capitalist societies workers
are alienated from:
• the means of production
• from the work process
• from the products of their labour
• from each other
W.E. B. Du Bois – Colour Line theory
Most of early sociology does not pay enough attention to concerns
and issues of women, racialized groups and ethnic minorities. Du
Bois was one of the pioneers in race relations and looking at the
significance of race in stratification, discrimination and
internalization of oppression by the subjects.
Max Weber (interpretive tradition p. 9-11)
• He believed that rationality was the most important change in
• He argued that modern societies were also characterized by
legal-rational authority, unlike earlier societies where traditional
and charismatic authority prevailed.
• Weber believed that capitalism was an unintended consequence
of the Protestant Reformation. Religious values were the cause of
capitalism in Europe.
• Modern capitalism created a new middle class of professionals,
technicians, and office employees who were paid higher salaries
and given more autonomy at work.
• Weber’s focus on class, status, and power suggested that a