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Chapter 1

SOC 100 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Auguste Comte, Jane Addams, Scientific Method

Course Code
SOC 100

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Chapter 1: The Sociological Perspective
The sociological perspective examines how the social contexts in which people live
affect their lives, or in other words, how people are influenced by their society
o Society: a group of people who share a common culture and territory
Social Location: the groups people are a part of because of their location in society
Sociologists look at how jobs, income, education, gender, race-ethnicity, and age affect
people’s behavior and ideas
Origins of Sociology
Sociology requires testing social theories using a scientific method. This is known as
o This approach to analyzing society began in the middle of the 19th Century,
around the time of the Industrial Revolution. The scientific method was being
applied in chemistry and physics, and applying this method to social questions
shortly followed.
o Auguste Comte(1798-1857) is credited with the founding of sociology and
Comte decided that sociology would be used to discover social principles, and to then
reform society with them
o Comte came to his conclusions through informal observations, not through
research. He is credited with the founding of sociology, but his theories have
been abandoned.
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) is considered the second founder of sociology
o Spencer believed that sociologists should not interfere with society
o He created the theory of survival of the fittest, otherwise known as social
Darwinism. This is the belief that as generations pass societys most capable
members will survive, while the less intelligent will not.
o Much like Comte, Spencer did not conduct scientific research
Karl Marx (1818-1883), while not a sociologist, greatly influenced many in the field
o Marxs theory of class conflict:
The bourgeoisie (those who own the means of production, the capitalists)
are the exploiters of the proletariat (those who do not own the means of
o He believed that social change was only possible through revolution, and that
this was inevitable. The result would be a classless society, free of all exploitation
o “People will work according to their abilities and receive goods and services
according to their needs”(Marx and Engels 1848/1967)
o Communism is a later application of Marxist ideas
o Marx also introduced conflict theory

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Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) is responsible for sociology being recognized as a separate
academic discipline
o Durkheim conducted rigorous research to show how social forces affect peoples
o Durkheim identified social integration, which is the degree to which people are
tied to their social groups
He did this while researching the social factors to suicide
He found that people with less social integration were more likely
to commit suicide. His theory is still applicable today.
o The central principle in Durkheims research is that:
Human behavior cannot be understood only in terms of the individual; we
must always examine the social forces that affect peoples lives
If we do not do this, we will miss social bias
Sociologists consider patterns of behavior (recurring characteristics or events) to predict
future events
Max Weber (1864 1920) believed that religion is the central force in social change
o He theorized that the Roman Catholic faith taught followers to hold on to
traditional values and way of life, while the Protestant faith encouraged
followers to embrace change
o He believed that the Calvinists were responsible for the birth of capitalism
He said that Calvinists saw financial success as a sign that they were in
Gods will, and so they invested capital in order to make more money. He
called this the spirit of capitalism. This self-denying approach to life was
termed the Protestant ethic
o Weber found that capitalism was more likely to flourish in Protestant countries
over Roman Catholic countries.
Sociology in North America
Early female sociologists generally saw sociology as a path to social reform
o They attempted to find ways to stop lynching, integrate immigrants into society,
and improve the conditions of workers.
o The men of that time distanced themselves from these women, as they were
afraid that advocating for social causes would tarnish sociologys reputation
o Due to sexism, most of these women were not acknowledged as important until
o Jane Addams was the most successful of the early female sociologists
Addams strove to bridge the gap between the powerful and the
She wrote books on poverty, democracy, and peace
Addams founded the Hull-House, which provided refuge to immigrants,
the sick, the aged, and the poor
It was also difficult for African American professionals to gain any recognition in the
sociology community, because of the prevalence of racism
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