What is sociology?

ANT 121
Introduction to Sociology
What is sociology?
The scientific and systematic
study of society, social
interaction and human
What is the focus of sociology?
• The social consequences of activities, behaviours and
• Questioning how and why people act in the ways they do.
• The recognition that human behaviour is social in nature.
• Culture - beliefs, values, norms & language.
• The entire society and ALL social institutions.
• The external & structural factors that influence people.
• Industrialised, developed societies & globalization.
The Sociological Perspective
• Looks beyond the limitations of individual view of the world - develop
an understanding of society as a whole.
• Understands the importance of cultural influences upon our lives. To
understand those from different race, ethnic or class backgrounds.
• C. Wright Mills (1959) coined the term, ‘the sociological imagination’,
also known as the sociological lens or perspective.
• Provides an in-depth examination of social organization & behaviour.
• Develops a framework for analyzing the social world in broader
context transcending personal experience or “common sense”.
Sociology versus Common sense
• The example of suicide shows how sociological findings contradict ‘common
sense’ beliefs & ideas.
• People assume suicide is linked to being unhappy & those living in desperate
circumstances & poverty would be more likely to commit suicide. The opposite is
true - wealthy, developed countries have the highest suicide rates, whereas in
Africa the rates remain relatively low.
• Similarly, in South Africa, the suicide rate among whites is higher than among
blacks. You would also expect the suicide rate to decrease after apartheid ended,
yet the opposite is true.
• You may assume that the suicide rate would decrease during an economically
prosperous period, but the suicide rate increases when there is a sudden change
in people’s lives, even if positive like an economic boon, or winning the lottery.
• Is a lifelong interactive process of cultural learning
involving different types of social actors.
• The individuals, groups & institutions that facilitate
this process are the agents of socialisation
• They ensure that individuals learn & incorporate the
values & norms of their culture as well as their
various positions in the social structure in such terms
as class, race and gender.
Agents of socialisation
•Primary Agent: The Family
•Secondary Agents: Peer groups,
schools, religious institutions &
the mass media.
Uses of sociology / What sociologists do
• Sociology graduates can lecture & do research at universities.
• Offer collection of skills - good oral & written communication, critical
thinking, interpersonal skills & problem solving ability.
• Able to deal effectively with a wide range of social issues & problems.
• Apply expertise to issues like urbanization, homelessness, violence,
crime, over population, AIDS and the formulation of social policy.
• Work in government departments, research institutes, trade unions,
business world. Consultants, advisors in prisons, hospitals & NPOs.
• Specialize to further increase career prospects. If you are interested
in health issues, medical sociology is recommended.