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Definition of Sociology:

Sociology is the systematic and scientific study of human

behavior in groups and society.
Sociologists study various aspects of social life, including
behavior in large organizations and small groups, deviant
behavior, and the characteristics of political and religious
institutions and social movements; sociologists study the socialpsychological explanations for behavior.
Ex: A person that goes to a football game to watch the people
rather than the game.

Knowledge accumulates in one of three general ways:.
Mysticism- refers to knowledge gained by intuition, revelation,
inspiration, magic visions, or spells.
Rationalism- refers to knowledge gained through common
sense, logic, and reason.
Empiricism- (real world knowledge) refers to knowledge that is
gained by sense observation-by observing or experiencing
phenomena with the sense of touch, sight, hearing, smell, or taste.

Ex: Based on scientific Observations.

The Sociological Perspective:

If sociology is the systematic and scientific study of
human group behavior, and a perspective is a viewpoint,
or a particular way of looking at the world.
Then, the sociological perspective is a particular of looking at
the world of human activities that focuses on their social nature.

Humans are social animals that congregate to establish

families, groups, tribes, communities, and nations.
Our desire to be social, far outweighs biological and instinctual
drives of other animals that cluster for survival.
This choice of collectivities with rules, laws and various other
guidelines; sacrifices freedoms of the individual. Yet, it protects
the individual in the sense that society is made up of individualsbut laws govern the collectivity or Macro-level as well as Microlevel or individuality.

The term sociology was not coined until the latter part of
the nineteenth century. Human behavior, and why people
behave the way they do, has been a part of the human
consciousness, writings of philosophers, poets, and
religious leaders, and ancient civilizations.

The Pioneers of Philosophy and the

Social Sciences:
Greece had a profound impact on western social thought
with three very distinctive social philosophers:
Socrates- (469-399 B.C.) is noted as being one of the most
profound thinkers and teachers of all time. He refused to accept
the classical or traditional explanations of religion, politics, and
the rights of the individual in relation to the state. He came up
with the Socratic Method of teaching (questioning and
answering orally rather than written).

The Pioneers of Philosophy and the

Social Sciences:
Greece had a profound impact on western social thought
with three very distinctive social philosophers:
Plato- (427-347 B.C.) is noted as being a student and follower of
Socrates. Plato, in Athens, developed the Academy-a school
where he incorporated the Socratic Method. He drilled his
students endlessly of questions that became central to
philosophical and sociological inquiry.

The Pioneers of Philosophy and the

Social Sciences:
Greece had a profound impact on western social thought with three
very distinctive social philosophers:
Aristotle- (384-322 B.C.) is noted as being a student and follower of Plato.
Aristotle was more practical in his beliefs of government and society.
Whereas, Plato was more idealistic and utopian. Aristotle and his students in
the Lyceum, which was like a modern university, through the Socratic
Method explored social issues, religion, politics, education, the rights and
duties of the citizenship, and the relationship between the individual and the
larger society.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, or the Age of Enlightenment, Western
Culture emerged from the middle ages, also known as the Dark Ages, into a
new era of social thought.
Over several centuries, the standard way of explaining social events shifted
from a theological to a scientific.
Rather than attributing human behavior and social conditions to
supernatural forces, people searched for logical-rational cause-and-effect
As a direct result, the religious bodies, such as the church, were replaced
by the universities as the primary source of knowledge.

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To Explain

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To Explain

This era created Francis Bacon (1561-1626), who is largely

credited with developing the Scientific Method.
The Scientific Method is the basic steps that provide a systematic framework
to guide the research process.
Although social thinkers and philosophers has long pondered the influence of
society on human behavior, the formal discipline of sociology did not emerge
until the early nineteenth century.
Sociology began in France, it gained momentum in Germany, and Great
Britain, and it eventually arrived in the United States as each of these countries
experienced an industrial revolution.
The transition from feudalism to industrialism in Europe is believed to be
responsible for the development of the social sciences, especially
In the industrialization and urbanization periods, the proletariat or
common-folk/working class, were now considered to be important
members of society because they were consumers/workers. During the
feudalism periods they were not as such.

This era focused on the conditions of their lives. Never before had
society been confronted with such a rapid social change.
People were made aware of social problems such as: poverty,
unemployment, homelessness, mental disorders, and crime.

The time was just right for a systematic approach to the study
of society.

Auguste Comte- (1798-1857)-is honored with the title

Father of Sociology. Comte was somewhat an
eccentric person (he claimed to practice Mental
Hygiene or refused to read the works of others as he felt
it would contaminate his own originality or thoughts. He
is regarded as one of the most original thinkers of all

It was he who coined the term sociology and argued, in 1838,

that the methods of science should be applied to the study of

Comte wrote Positive Philosophy-the first systematic

sociological approach to the study of society, which offered
solutions to social problems.
Comtes new approach or science, emphasized Positivism the
use of observation, comparison, experimentation, and the
historical method to gain necessary facts to analyze society.
Comte established two specific problems for sociological
investigation: Social Statics and Social Dynamics.

Social Statics- refers to the problem of order and stability

or social structure or the relatively stable elements found
in every society.
Social Dynamics- refers to the problems of social

What make society or societies change and what

shapes the nature and direction of the changes?
Comte was so confident that the scientific method would unlock the secrets of
society that he came to regard sociologists as the Priesthood of humanity. They
were experts that would not only explain society or social events, but would
guide society in the direction of greater progress. Comte believed sociologists
could cure the social ills of society.
Although later sociologists have generally had more modest ambitions, they
have continued to wrestle with the problems of social order and social change.

Harriet Martineau (1802-1876)- she is considered to

as a co-founder of sociology along with Comte. In 1838
she wrote How to Observe Manners and Morals. This
was one of the first books on social research.
While Comte was introducing sociology to France, Martineau
was laying the ground-work for sociological research in the
United States and Great Britain.
Martineau produced another book entitled Society in America
which was on e of the first and most thorough sociological
treatments on American social life.
This book addressed moral values; compared the system of social
stratification in Europe to that in America.

Martineau also condensed and translated Comtes

six volume positive philosophy into two volumes
and became the first to present sociology to

Martineau had similarities to Comte in her views

on social order and social change.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)- was considered to

be a major influence in sociology.
He devised a theory to explain the problems of social order and change. He
also compared human societies to living organisms.
Ex: The parts of an animal, such as the heart and the lungs are interdependent
and contribute to the survival of the total organism.
Similarly, Spencer argued, the various parts of society, such as the state and
the economy, are also interdependent and work to ensure the stability and
survival of the the entire system.

To explain change, Spencer pushed from his analogy even

further. Applying Charles Darwins theory of evolution to
human societies, or On the Origin of Species (1859), he
argued that they gradually evolve from the forms found in the
primitive societies of his own time.
Spencer believed that evolution- means progress, and he
strongly opposed attempts at social reform on the grounds
they might interfere with the natural evolutionary process.
This position was called Social Darwinism or Survival of the
Fittest. This was believed to save the world, but later helped
to understand it.

Karl Marx (1818-1883):

He was educated in history, economics, and philosophy. He
declared that the unequal distribution of wealth, power, and
prestige, and other limited resources were not the result of
Natural Laws but were caused by the exploitation of one social
class by another.
Marx believed the Bourgeoisie or the power elite ruling class,
possessed power not because they were the fittest, but because
they owned and controlled the means of production.

Marx believed the bourgeoisie used deception, fraud, and

violence to seize the profits of the proletariat, or the working
class, whose labor produced the majority of societies material

Marx concluded that a slow, natural evolutionary process would

not bring necessary social change. The modern communist
movement owe their inspiration directly to Marx. Marxism is
not the same as communism.

Emile Durkheim (1858-1917):

One of his most important contributions was his explanation for
suicide not as a personalized individual act, but as a sociological
Durkheims first step was to develop a clear-cut, working
definition of suicide.
For example: Is it suicide for a soldier to rush into enemy fire,
knowing he will probably be killed, in order to save the lives of
his comarades?
Durkheim said YES: Suicide occurs whenever an individual
knowingly causes the end of his own life, whether or not he puts
the gun to his head himself.

Emile Durkheim (1858-1917):

Durkheim, through various methods, found three types of suicide:
Egoistic Suicide: When people do not feel attached to a group or
community that commands loyalty and participation, they find it
easier to opt out once and for all, via suicide.
Ex: The kid that is singled out to be a potential gang member by a
gang. He has to prove himself, but finds he cant kill anyone like
the gang is asking. He finds it easier to kill himself than face the
gang everyday.
Altruistic Suicide: An act of self-sacrifice for the welfare of others.
Ex: When the group becomes more important than life itself. The
individual is willing to sacrifice himself to its needs (i.e. suicide

Emile Durkheim (1858-1917):

Anomic Suicide: Traditional guidelines for behavior and shared
standards of good and bad n longer apply. What once seemed
impossible now seems probable. Hopes soar, and people may
become angry and lose hope when their unrealistic expectations are
not fulfilled. Durkheim called this breakdown of the collective
order Anomie from the Greek word Lawlessness.
Durheim was concerned about explaining social order. He believed that Social Solidarity, which is
a feeling of collective conscience by societal members, was responsible for social order.

He distinguished between two types of social solidarity:

Mechanical Solidarity: which is small, simple societies whose

members share the same beliefs and values (homogeneity).
Organic Solidarity: which develops in advanced, more complex
societies despite individuals dissimilar beliefs; people are
bonded by reciprocal needs, and fulfill different tasks in society.

Georg Simmel (1858-1918):

He believed that other sociologists had defined sociological study too broadly.
Earlier sociologist had taken the Macro-Level Approach- which was study sociology
on the broad scale and viewing it as more than the sum of its parts.
Whereas Simmel believed that a more meaningful understanding of society could be
derived by a Micro-Level Approach, which was focusing more on small group
interactions and the relationships between the individual and society.
He also contributed the conceptual analysis of small group behavior.
Especially the DYAD- which is the smallest group possible consisting of two people/
And the TRIAD- which is a group of three people.

Simmels theoretical and methodological contributions were the basis for the
Interactionists perspective in sociology.

Max Weber (1864-1920):

He thought scientific objectivity was important.
He was insistent on using Verstehen, which is the somewhat subjective, empathetic
introspective, analysis of the interaction, in understanding the meaning of social
Verstehen, relieves the sociologist of the rigors of objective verification.
Another important contribution was his concept of the Ideal Type. This is a conceptual
model or typology that is constructed from direct observation of a member of specific
cases and represents the essential qualities found in those cases.
Ex: Weber used bureaucracy as an ideal type to analyze and explain the increasing
rationalization that is part of formal organizations.
He stated to maximize efficiency, formal organizations had become more bureaucratic
in structure.

The Three Interchangeable Lenses (Schools of

Conflict Theory: suggests that competition and conflict are common in social
interaction and that the study of these processes is the most appropriate way to
understand society.
Symbolic Interaction: focuses on interactions between people on the processes by
which individuals come to develop viewpoints about themselves and to relate to their
Structural Functionalism: also known as functional analysis, focuses on the
structures that emerge in society and the functions that these structures perform in the
operation of society as a whole.

* Each of these perspectives can be viewed as interchangeable lenses in a


Some American Sociological Influences:

William Graham Sumner (1840-1910)- He was influenced by Herbert
Spencers ideas of social evolution.
One of his most important contributions to sociology was his book on Folkways (1906),
which described the process through which societal norms and customs develop.

This led to two types of norms:

Folkways: Which are the informal rules and guidelines based on tradition
that govern everyday behavior. These are the SHOULDS of society.
Ex: If you celebrated Halloween at Christmas time.

Mores: Which are norms based on moral precepts or obligatory norms,

these are the MUSTS of society; sanctions for violations of mores are
Ex: If you ate your neighbors dead dog.

Some American Sociological Influences:

Lester F. Ward (1841-1913)- He was considered the first systematic sociologist.
He attempted to synthesize the major theoretical ideas of Comte and Spencer.
Ward created two subdivisions of sociology in his work :

Pure Sociology (1903)-involved the study of society in an effort to

understand and explain the natural laws that govern its evolution.
Applied Sociology (1906)-used sociological principles, social ideas, and the
ethical considerations for the improvement of society.

Some American Sociological Influences:

W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963):
Founded the African American Sociology.

He was instrumental founding the (N.A.A.C.P.) National Association for the

Advancement of Colored People.

Some American Sociological Influences:

Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929)- He developed the concept
of the Looking Glass Self-which was to describe the process
whereby an individuals self-concept is largely a reflection of how
he or she is perceived by other members of society. Society is
used like a mirror to reflect back a sense of self doubt or selfworth or pride.
Ex: Like self-realization in psychology, positive or negative self-concept.

Some American Sociological Influences:

George Herbert Mead (1863-1931)- He was a big contributor to
the Interactionist Perspective. He insisted that humans were not
functionaries responding to an existing social structure, but that
the process of social interaction and the creating, defining, and
redefining of meaningful symbols made society possible.
He wrote Mind, Self, and Society (1934), where he outlined his
theoretical perspective and development of a sense of self.

Some American Sociological Influences:

Erving Goffman-He was a University of Chicago Student that
developed an analytical framework within symbolic
interactionism called Dramaturgical Analysis which uses the
analogy of the theater to analyze social behavior.

Some American Sociological Influences:

Robert Merton & Talcott Parsons- Shifted the attention of
sociology from the study of day-to-day social interaction back to
the macro-level of societal analysis.
This theoretical approach came to be called Structural
Functionalism, and this perspective dominated sociology for
almost two decades and remains as sociologys major
theoretical perspective. It views society as a system of
interdependent and interrelated parts. Each part fulfills a
specific function.

Some American Sociological Influences:

Merton wrote a book called Social Theory and Social Structure.
He differentiated between two types of functions:
Manifest Functions: which are the intended and recognized
Latent Functions: which are the unintended and less obvious,
often unrecognized functions.

Merton pointed out that society, or aspects of society, are

dysfunctional because they threaten to disrupt social stability.

Some American Sociological Influences:

C. Wright Mills- Described the sociological imagination as the
ability to grasp history and biography and the relationship
between the two within society.

Some American Sociological Influences:

Students, you will see some overlap from chapter to chapter.

You have just been exposed to some of the major contributors of
sociology. We will make reference to them from time to time.