Chapter 1: The Sociological Perspective (overview):
Sociology is the discipline that attempts to understand these social forces—the forces outside us that shape our lives, interests, and personalities. In John Walton’s words, “Sociology explores the determinants of individual and collective behavior that are not given in our psychic or biological makeup, but fashioned in the broader arena of social interaction” (1990:5) (2).
The insights of sociology are important for individuals because they help us understand why we behave as we do (2).
Individuals are social beings (3).
Individuals are socially determined… The parents act as cultural agents, transferring the ways of the society to their children… The individual’s identity is socially bestowed. Who we are, how we feel about ourselves, and how other people treat us are usually consequences of our social location (3).
Individuals create, sustain, and change the social forms within which they conduct their lives… First, these social forms, that are created have a certain momentum of their own that defies change… A second implication is that social organizations, because they are created and sustained by people, are imperfect… The third implication is that through collective action, individuals are capable of changing the structure of society and even the course of history… The final significance of this assumption is that individuals are not passive… This process is called human agency (4-5).
The Sociological Imagination: The willingness to view the social world from the perspective of others (5).
Sociology frightens some people because it questions what they normally take for granted (6). Sociology is subversive—that is, sociology undermines our foundations because it questions all social arrangements, whether religious, political, economic, or familial (8).
Sociological Questions: social facts, comparisons, historical, why are things they way they are.
A sociological theory: is a set of ideas that explains a range of human behavior and a variety of social and societal events (11).
Data collection challenges: objectivity, faulty sampling, overgeneralization, types of data/authorities, representative sample.
Sources of data: Survey research, longitudinal surveys, experiments, observations, existing data (20).
Some ideas to consider for our discussion on chapter 1:
What is the range of the discipline of Sociology? How is it different from other disciplines? What are the various levels of analysis (personal, global, etc.) and topics that sociology covers at each level? How are the insights of sociology important for individuals? What does it mean that individuals are socially determined? What are examples from your own life? What is the sociological imagination? What are the definitions of the key terms throughout the chapter? Can you provide your own examples of them? What are the problems with the sociological perspective? What are the methods, and their corresponding problems, of sociological research? What does it mean to think like a sociologist?
For a group activity, we will take a section or a sociological concept and turn it into a witty meme, using an online meme maker. Each group should make at least three different memes that express the idea of the sociological concept by using a particular example.
Some ideas to consider for our discussion on chapter 2:
Milgram’s Obedience to Authority
The Stanford Prison Experiment
Inside the Amish Church (on shunning practices)
Asch Conformity Experiment
Leon Festinger and cognitive dissonance