The Sociological Perspective Chapter 1

The Sociological Perspective
Chapter 1
Sociology as a Point of View
Sociology is concerned with
the scientific study of human
organization and social
 Seeks to understand:
What is the nature of the
individual, and what are the
capacities of the individual to
act in the context of society?
what is it that holds societies
What are the circumstances or
conditions under which
societies change?
Development of Sociology
 Sociology
emerged as a separate field of
study in Europe during the 19th century
During this period, the social order was
shaken by the Industrial Revolution and the
American and French Revolutions.
Sociology in the 19th Century
Three scholars shaped sociology into a
relatively coherent discipline:
 Karl Marx
 Émile Durkheim
 Max Weber
 Their ideas were greatly shaped by
industrialization, capitalism, and socio-political
Karl Marx (1818–1883)
Believed the history of human societies could
be seen as the history of class conflict
The bourgeoisie, who own and control the means of
production, and
The proletariat, who make up the mass of workers.
A critique of capitalism (unequal playing field)
Karl Marx (1818–1883)
 Marx
believed that the starting point for the
analysis of any society should be two
questions about inequality:
First, who takes possession of surplus?
What means do they use to do so?
Émile Durkheim (1858–1917)
 Believed
that individuals were the product
of their social environment, and that
society shapes people in every possible
• What makes an American different from a French or an
Showed how a personal act, such as suicide
is really patterned by social forces
• Differences in suicide according to religious
• Differences in suicide according to group solidarity
Durkheim’s Three Types of Suicide
Egoistic suicide - derives from loneliness and a
commitment to personal beliefs over group values
single people, protestants who overemphasize individualism
Altruistic suicide - the individual is willing to die for
the sake of the community
Kamikaze pilots, suicide bombers
Anomic suicide - results from feeling disconnected
from society’s values
Suicide in the United States
Social factors:
 Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for
15- to 24-year-olds.
 Older adults account for 20% of suicide
deaths, but only 13% of the overall U.S.
 Suicide rates for Native Americans are 1.5
times the national rates.
Contemporary Sociology
What is a theory?
 A theory is a systematic explanation for the
observations related to a particular aspect of
Three Major
Symbolic Interactionist
Conflict Theory
The social order consists
of groups and individuals
trying to advance their own
interests over others.
In this sense, you could explain
things like poverty, politics,
discrimination and sexism as
the result of conflict between
those who have power and
wealth over those who do not.
Views society as a system of
highly interrelated structures or
parts that function or operate
together harmoniously
Society benefits from the
contributions of people to function
and survive
Just like an organism has parts
such as a heart, lungs, a liver,or a
kidney (which contribute to its
survival), society has policemen,
firefighters, teachers, or bankers to
contribute to its own survival.
If a behavior, belief, or
arrangement exists in society it
must contribute in one way or
another for society
Symbolic Interactionism
Concerned with the meaning that people place on their
own and one another’s behavior.
If a certain behavior is becomes defined as prestigious, people will
do it
Crime and deviance can be understood from the individual
reasoning of deviants and the specific situations in which they
• Chicago bank robbers