Sociology is the scientific study of social interaction and social organization.
New Levels of Reality. The sociological perspective encourages us to examine aspects
of our social environment in ways that delve beneath the surface. As we look beyond the
outer appearances of our social world, we encounter new levels of reality.
The Sociological Imagination. The essence of the sociological imagination is the
ability to see our private experiences and personal difficulties as entwined with the
structural arrangements of our society and the times in which we live.
Microsociology and Macrosociology.
Microsociology is the detailed study of what people say, do, and think moment by
moment as they go about their daily lives. Macrosociology focuses upon large-scale and
long-term social processes of organizations, institutions, and broad social patterns.
The Development of Sociology
Auguste Comte: The Founder of Sociology.
Auguste Comte is commonly credited as being the founder of sociology. He emphasized
that the study of society must be scientific, and he urged sociologists to employ
systematic observation, experimentation, and comparative historical analysis as their
methods. He divided the study of society into social statics and social dynamics.
Harriet Martineau: Feminist and Methodologist.
Harriet Martineau wrote the first book on social research methods and was among the
first to do systematic, scientifically based, social research. Her comparative analysis of
slavery and the position of women in the Western world paved the way for feminist
scholarship and the further pursuit of gender equality.
Herbert Spencer and Social Darwinism. Herbert Spencer depicted society as a
system, a whole made up of interrelated parts. He also set forth an evolutionary theory
of historical development. Social Darwinism is Spencer's application of evolutionary
notions and the concept of survival of the fittest to the social world.
Karl Marx: The Role of Class Conflict.
Karl Marx focused his search for the basic principles of history on the economic
environments in which societies develop. He believed that society is divided into those
who own the means of producing wealth and those who do not, giving rise to class
conflict. Dialectical materialism is Marx's theory that development depends on the
clash of contradictions and the creation of new, more advanced structures out of these
Émile Durkheim: Social Integration and Social Facts. Émile Durkheim was
especially concerned with social solidarity, distinguishing between mechanical and
organic solidarity. He contended that the distinctive subject matter of sociology should be
the study of social facts.
Max Weber: Subjectivity and Social Organization. Max Weber said that a critical
aspect of the sociological enterprise is the study of the intentions, values, beliefs, and
attitudes that underlie people's behavior. He used the word Verstehen in describing his
approach and contributed his notions of the ideal type and a value-free sociology.
American Sociology. In the United States, sociology and the modern university system
arose together. The first department of sociology was established at the University of