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LECTURE NOTES 1.

THE SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE

Thinking of the population breakdown if the world were a village of one thousand people. Global thinking is an important component of the sociological perspective for three reasons: Societies all over the world are increasingly interconnected, making traditional distinctions between "us" and "them" less and less valid. A global perspective is important because many human problems faced in the United States are far more serious elsewhere. Thinking globally is important because studying other societies is an excellent method of learning more about ourselves.

THE SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE. Sociology is the systematic study of human society. The sociological perspective helps us to see general social patterns in the behavior of particular individuals. It also encourages us to realize that society guides our thoughts and deeds - to see the strange in the familiar. Sociology also encourages us to see individuality in social context.

THE SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE IN EVERYDAY LIFE. For example, Emile Durkheim's research showed that the suicide rate was strongly influenced by the extent to which people were socially integrated with others. Modern scholarship supports this thesis. Certain situations like the following promote a sociological way of viewing reality. Encountering social diversity. Experiencing social marginality, the state of being excluded from social activity as an "outsider." This is why minorities, women and the elderly, among others, are particularly likely to embrace the sociological perspective. Living through periods of social crisis like the Great Depression or the 1960s.

THE IMPORTANCE OF GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE. Sociologists also strive to see issues in global perspective, defined as the study of the larger world and our society's place in it. Economic Development in Global Perspective. There are three different types of nations in the world. The world's high-income countries are industrialized nations in which most people enjoy material abundance. The world's middle-income countries have limited industrialization and moderate personal income. The world's low-income countries have little industrialization; severe poverty is the rule.

Benefits of the sociological perspective. The sociological perspective helps us assess the truth of commonly held assumptions. It prompts us to assess both the opportunities and the constraints that characterize our lives. It empowers us to participate actively in our society.

It helps us recognize human variety and confront the challenges of living in a diverse world. Applied sociology. Sociology is more than just a discipline for enhancing intellectual growth. Sociology plays a role in shaping public policy and laws. It also provides training for many jobs.

SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY. A theory is a statement of how and why specific facts are related. Theories are based on theoretical paradigms, sets of assumptions that guide thinking and research. There are three major sociological paradigms:

THE ORIGINS OF SOCIOLOGY. Early social thought consisted mostly of utopian philosophical speculation. Auguste Comte, the father of sociology, in contrast, felt that the field should be scientific or, as he termed it, positive, meaning a means to understand the world based on science. Comte believed that societies progress through three stages: The theological stage, in which thought was guided by religion. The metaphysical stage, a transitional phase. The scientific or positive stage. Scientific sociology developed because of three major social trends in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: The growth of a factory-based industrial economy. The emergence of great cities in Europe. Political changes, including a rising concern with individual liberty and rights. The French Revolution embraced these ideas.

The structural-functional paradigm is a framework for building sociological theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability. It asserts that our lives are guided by social structures (relatively stable patterns of social behavior). Each social structure has social functions or consequences for the operation of society as a whole. Important figures in the development of this paradigm include Comte, Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons. Robert Merton introduced three concepts related to functions: Manifest functions, the recognized and intended consequences of any social pattern Latent functions, largely unrecognized and unintended con-sequences and Social dysfunctions, undesirable consequences of a social pattern for societal operation. Critical Evaluation: This paradigm is widely used, but also subject to several criticisms: It minimizes the importance of social change. It overlooks divisions based on class, race, ethnicity and gender.

Although pushed into the margins because they lived in a male-dominated society, women such as Harriet Martineau and Jane Addams made important contributions to sociology.

The social-conflict paradigm is a framework for building sociological theory based on the assumption that society is characterized by inequalities and conflicts that generate change. Most sociologists who favor the conflict paradigm attempt not only to understand society but also to reduce social inequality. Key figures in this tradition include Karl Marx and W. E. B. DuBois. Critical evaluation: This paradigm has developed rapidly in recent years. It has several weaknesses. It ignores social unity based on interdependence and shared values. Because it is explicitly political, it abandons the goal of scientific objectivity. Like the structural-functional paradigm, it envisions society in terms of broad abstractions.

Its micro orientation sometimes results in the error of ignoring the influence of larger social structures. By emphasizing what is unique, it risks overlooking the effects of culture, class, gender, and race.

The symbolic-interaction paradigm is a theoretical framework based on the assumption that society is the product of everyday interactions between individuals.

The structural-functional and the socialconflict paradigms share a macro-level orientation, meaning that they focus on broad social structures that shape society as a whole. In contrast, symbolic-interactionism has a micro-level orientation; it focuses on patterns of social interaction in specific settings. Max Weber, George Herbert Mead, Erving Goffman, George Homans and Peter Blau are important theorists in this tradition. Critical evaluation. Symbolic interactionism attempts to explain more clearly how individuals actually experience society. However, it has two weaknesses: