Part 1: Using Your Sociological Imagination 01/23/2009 Chapter 1: Sociological Imagination: An Introduction Sociology: The study of human society. Sociological imagination: The ability to connect the most basic, intimate aspects of an individual’s life to seemingly impersonal and remote historical forces. High school diploma v. college degree. Social institution: A group of social positions, connected by social relations, performing a social role; also defined in a narrow sense as any institution in a society that works to socialize the groups or people within it. Social identity: How individuals define themselves in relationships to groups with which they affiliate (or disassociate from). French scholar Auguste Comte invented social physics or Positivism. One can determine right and wrong without reference to higher powers or other religious concepts. Theological stage – When society seemed to be the result of divine will. Metaphysical stage – Vision that humankind’s behaviour is governed by natural, biological instincts. Scientific stage – Discovery of scientific laws to govern human behaviour. Comte was convinced that he could understand how social institutions worked, how people relate to each other, and the overall structure of societies through equations or underlying logic. Harriet Martineau addressed topics ranging from the education of children to the relationships between federal and state governments. Karl Marx believed that it was primarily the conflicts between classes and drove social change throughout history, that history was an account of man’s struggle to gain control of and later dominate his natural environment. Historical materialism: A methodogical approach that looks for the causes of developments and changes in human societies in the way in which humans collectively earn a living, thus emphasizing, through economic analysis, everything that coexists within the economic base of society. Verstehen: German; to interpret and understand the social world through experience. Interpretive sociology: The study of social meaning. Max Webber stressed that in order to truly understand why people act the way they do, a sociologist must understand the meanings people attach to their actions. Emile Durkheim argued that the division of labour did not just affect work and productivity but had social and moral consequences as well. Positivist sociology: A strain within sociology that believes the social world can be described and predicted by certain describable relationships (akin to social physics). Georg Simmel established formal sociology. Formal sociology: Sociology of pure numbers. W.E.B. DuBois used Durkheim’s theory of anomie to explain crime rates among African Americans. Anomie: A sense of aimlessness or despair that arises when we can no longer reasonably expect life to be predictable; too little social regulation. Jane Addams founded the first American settlement, Hull House, which offered educational services and aid, and promoted sports and the arts. Functionalism: The theory that various social institutions and processes in society exist to serve some important (or necessary) function to keep society running. Conflict theory: The idea that conflict between competing interests is the basic, animating force of social change and society in general. Feminist theories emphasize equality between men and women and want to see women’s lives and experiences represented in sociological studies. Symbolic interactionism: A micro-level theory in which shared meanings, orientations, and assumptions form the basic motivation behind people’s actions. Postmodernism: A condition characterized by a questioning of the notion of progress and history, the replacement of narrative within pastiche, and multiple, perhaps even conflicting, identities resulting from disjointed affiliations. Social construction: An institutionalized entity or artifact in a social system “invented” or “constructed” by participants in a particular culture or society that exists because people agree to behave as if it exists, concur on following certain conventional rules, or behave as if such an agreement or rules exist. Deconstruction: The process of showing how certain social phenomena are arbitrary and devised by social actors with varying degrees of power. Midrange theory: A theory that attempts to predict how certain social institutions tend to function. Sociology, unlike history, is generally not concerned with the uniqueness of a phenomenon but rather with the commonalities that can be abstracted across cases. In comparison to anthropology, sociology as a whole has a wider array of methods to answer questions, such as experimentation and statistical data analysis. Sociology also tends more toward comparative case study, whereas anthropology is more like history in its focus on particular circumstances. Psychologists focus on the individual to explain the phenomenon under consideration, examining how urges, drives, instincts, and the mind can account for human behaviour, whereas sociologists examine group-level dynamics and social structures. Economics assumes that people are rational utility maximizers. Sociology, on the other hand, has a more open view of human motivation that includes selfishness, altruism, and simple irrationality. Microsociology: Seeks to understand local interactional contexts; its method of choice are ethnographic, generally including participant observation and in-depth interviews. Macrosociology: Generally concerned with social dynamics at a higher level of analysis – that is, across the breadth of a society.