Sociological Imagination

The Sociological Perspective
 Sociology is the scientific study of social
 Sociologists look for the patterns in social
 When you understand that your own behavior is
partly determined by the groups you belong to, you
are using your sociological imagination.
 You can benefit from this understanding when you
look at how and why you make certain choices.
What is gained by using our
sociological imagination?
 an understanding of the effects of events on our
daily lives
 an improved ability to make decisions, rather than
just conform
The sociological imagination
 questions common interpretations of human
social behavior and
 challenges conventional social wisdom
sociological imagination:
the ability to see the link
between society and self
sociological imagination
conventional social wisdom
The sociological imagination
 questions common interpretations of human
social behavior and
 challenges conventional social wisdom
conventional social
wisdom: ideas people
assume are true
sociological imagination
conventional social wisdom
Illiteracy Rates
“Nearly all American adults know how to read
and write.” The map shows the percentage of
Americans over 20 years old who are illiterate.
 Is conventional social wisdom about illiteracy rates
really wise or true? Support your answer.
A perspective is a particular point of
view or a particular way of looking
at an issue.
Social structure is the patterned
interaction of people in social
Example: Although the personal
characteristics of students and
teachers vary from school to
school, students and teachers
relate in similar patterned ways.
The Origins of Sociology
 Sociology is a young science.
 It grew out of the writings of European
scholars who were interested in bringing
back a sense of community to society in
the late 1800s.
 After World War II, America took the lead in
developing the field of sociology.
 The majority of all sociologists are from the
United States.
Time Line of Early
C. Wright Mills publishes 1959
Sociological Imagination
Jane Addams awarded 1931
Nobel Peace Prize
1904 Max Weber publishes
The Protestant Ethic and
the Spirit of Capitalism
W.E.B. DuBois publishes 1899
The Philadelphia Negro: A
Social Study
1897 Emile Durkheim
publishes Suicide
Herbert Spencer 1850
1848 Karl Marx publishes The Communist Manifesto,
Social Statics
promoting a classless society
1838 Auguste Comte’s book, Positive Philosophy, identifies
science of sociology
1837 Harriet Martineau publishes Society
in America
Select a sociologist, by clicking on their name, and view their contributions..
Jane Addams – early American sociologist
 1860–1935
 social reformer
 co-founded Hull House in Chicago slums
 awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, 1931
 focused on problems caused by imbalance of
power among social classes
 active in women’s suffrage and peace movements
Auguste Comte–early French sociologist
 1798–1857
 father of sociology
 first to advocate the scientific study of society
 positivism– science based on knowledge of
which we can be “positive”
 distinguished between social stability (statics) and
social change (dynamics)
W.E.B. DuBois–early American sociologist
 1868–1963
 African American educator and social activist
 focused on the question of race inside and outside
the United States
 analyzed social structure of African American
 active in Pan African movement, concerned with
rights of all African descendents
Emile Durkheim–early French sociologist
 1858–1917
 first used statistical methods in study of human
 first to teach university sociology course
 showed human behavior to be explained by social
factors rather than psychological ones
Harriet Martineau–early English sociologist
 1802–1876
 emphasized sociology as a science
 translated Comte’s Positive Philosophy
 introduced feminism into sociology
 strong and outspoken supporter of both women
and slaves
Karl Marx–early German sociologist
 1818–1883
 guided by principle that social scientists should try
to change the world rather than merely study it
 emphasized the role of class conflict in social
 writings were later used as a basis for communism
C. Wright Mills–early American sociologist
 1917–1962
 called the personal use of sociology “the
sociological imagination”
 first described emergence of strong middle class
(White Collar, 1951)
 published Power Elite, (1956)
 father of student movement of 1960s
Herbert Spencer–early English sociologist
 1820–1903
 early proponent of Social Darwinism
 opposed social reform; it interfered with process of
natural selection
 compared society to human body; composed of
parts working together to promote its well-being
Max Weber–early German sociolgist
 1864–1920
 developed the concept of verstehen–
understanding social behavior by putting yourself
in the place of others
 identified rationalization as key to change from
preindustrial to industrial society
 pioneered techniques to prevent personal biases
in research
A theoretical perspective is:
 a set of assumptions about an area of study, in this
case about the workings of society
 viewed as true by its supporters and it helps them
organize their research
Theoretical Perspectives:
Emphasizes the contributions made by
each part of society
 Society is a relatively integrated whole.
 Society tends to seek relative stability.
 Most aspects of a society
contribute to the
society’s well-being and
 Society rests on the voluntary
participation of its members.
Theoretic Perspective:
Conflict perspective
Emphasizes the role of conflict, competition,
change, and constraint within a society
 Society experiences inconsistency and conflict
 Society is continually subjected to change.
 Society involves
the constraint
and coercion
of some
members by
Theoretical Perspective:
Symbolic interactionism
Focuses on the interactions among people
based on mutually understood symbols.
 People learn to interpret the meanings of symbols
from others.
 People base their interaction on their
interpretations of symbols.
 Symbols permit people to predict
the behavior expected of them.
Which perspective is the best?
There is no “better” theoretical perspective.
 Each perspective highlights certain areas of social
 The advantages of one perspective are the
disadvantages of another.
 Certain issues and problems are best understood
from a particular perspective.