Chapter 1 - Understanding the Sociological Imagination
The Sociological Perspective
Sociology: The systematic study of human groups and their interactions.
Sociological Perspective:A view of society based on the dynamic relationships between
individuals and the larger social network in which we all live.
- any decision made by an individual have social significances
Charles Wright Mills and The Sociological Perspective
- C. W. Mills suggested people who do not recognize the social origins and character of
their problems may be unable to respond to such problems effectively
- failing to appreciate how problems are influenced by larger social forces diminishes a
person's ability to understand and solve them
- Mills believed that the individual and the social are linked, and one cannot fully
understand one without the other; explained through personal troubles and social issues
Personal Troubles: Personal challenges that require individual solutions.
ex. Only you failing the math midterm.
Social Issues: Challenges caused by larger social factors that require collective
ex. Entire class fails the math midterm.
- when people face personal failure, they often do not ask for help because of their
quality of mind
Quality of Mind: Mills' term for the ability to view a personal circumstance within a
ex. You fail the math midterm, but you see if other people in the class struggled
as well. You find out that the entire class has failed the math midterm, and you
attribute it to confusion over which chapters were on the midterm.
- by not letting others know about personal troubles, larger social issues would never be
brought up to light
- to improve quality of mind, sociologists must expose to individuals what he calls the
Sociological Imagination: The ability to understand the dynamic relationship
between individuals lives and the larger society. To see oneself as the product of the
society they live in.
Cheerful Robots: The people unwilling or unable to see the social world as it truly
Peter Berger: Sociological Perspective
- Berger defines the sociological perspective as the ability to view the world from two
distinct yet complementary perspectives: seeing the general in the particular and seeing
the strange in the familiar
- seeing the general the particular is the ability to look at seemingly unique events and
then recognize the larger or more general features involved
ex. Seeing a beggar ask for change, and then knowing that there are many more
beggars around the world that you cannot see but know exist.
- seeing the strange in the familiar is to question why we do the things we do What Makes You, You? Engaging the Sociological Imagination
Agency: The assumption that individuals have the ability to alter their socially
Structure: The network of relatively stable opportunities and constraints influencing
ex. Being gay/lesbian or having an interracial relationship presents its own
challenges and opportunities.
- agency vs structure is highly debated in sociological field; does one have the power to
change their lives, or does society dictate the way one's life runs?
- 5 factors that have the most influence on one's life: minority status, gender, socio-
economical status, family structure, urban-rural differences
- people who are part of a minority face various forms of discrimination that may alter the
way they think or behave in society
- society treats men and women differently; most human societies are a patriarchy
Acombination of variables (income, education, occupation) used to tank people into a
- people that come from a higher socio-economical status have an advantage over those
who do not; known as ascribed status
Ascribed Status:Attributes that are both advantageous or disadvantageous that are
automatically assigned at birth, examples include gender or race
Achieved Status:Attributed developed throughout life as a result of effort and skill
- children's well being have almost always been associated with the household income of
- regardless of age, higher income leads to better physical, social, emotional, cognitive
and emotional well-being
- people who live in small towns describe that as a important defining feature of who they
- subtle differences in urban and rural communities exist The Origins of Sociology
The Scientific Revolution
- the Renaissance in the 14 - 17 centuries gave birth to radical thoughts that gained
acceptance despite resistance from the church
- Auguste Comte, the father of sociology, believed that techniques used in hard science
can and should be applied to the social world as well
- Comte is known for his Law of Three Stages, defines how advances of the mind created
three different types of societies
Theological Stage: Longest period of human thinking, began with earliest ancestors,
ended during MiddleAges. It is characterized by a religious outlook that explains the
world and human society as a part of God's Will, and views science as a means to
discover God's intentions.
Metaphysical Stage: The period of time during the Renaissance when people began
to question the power and teachings of the church; people believed that things could
be explained their own universe through their own insight and reflection (ex.
Emotion, beauty, music).
Positive Stage: The stage that began to emerge through Comte's lifetime; he believed
the world would be interpreted through a scie