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Understanding __ Sociology 1 @ [aac a eee 66 1 am, of couse, very dfferent tom te people who sormally fll America’s least atvactive jobs, and in ways that both helped and limited me. Mest obviously, | was only visting 2. wore ‘that others innabi ful-time, ‘ten foc most of their ves. With all tne reakie assets Ie but up. in middle ‘ge—bank account, IRA, heath insurance, multroam home-weitng indulgent in the backgound, there was no way Las going to “expe fence poverty" or find out how it “Teall fees" to be @ longterm lomwage waver My aim here was muct more straightforward and objactive—just to see ‘whether | could match income to expenses, as the truly peor attempt 1 do everyday. In Porlana, Maine, | came closest to achieving a decent ft between income ard expenses, but only because | worked seven days a week Between my two jobs Nickel, Dimed FOr ee! EHRENREICH Twas eaming approd. With all the real-life assets I've buile up in middle age mately $300 2 week ‘after tates and paying $480amonth inet. or ‘a manageable 40 por ‘cent of my earings. helped, oo, that gas ad elect were included In my tent and that | got two or three ffee meals each weekend at ‘the nursing home, But was there at the beginning ofthe of season, IRA, health insurance, multiroom home background, there was no way Iwas going to “experience poverty" or find owt how it “really feels” to bea long,term low-wage worker © Tetra Compares 200 IF had stayed unl June 2000 | would have faced the Blue Heven's summer rent of $380 a week, which would of course have been out of the queston. So 1D survive yeartound, | would have hed to save ‘enough. inthe months between August 1999 and May 2000, to accu- multe te fist mont's rent and depast on an actual apartment | think could have done this~saved $800 to $1,000—at east fo car ‘voubl or iiness interfered wth my budget | am not sue, nowevet, that | could have maintained the seven-day-a-meek regimen month aftr month or eluded te hinds of injuries that fflted my fellow workers in the houseeleaning business In Minneapois—well, here we ate let wit a lot of speculation. I | had been able to in an apartment for $400 a month or less, my ay 2tWalMar~$1,120 2 month before taxes~might nave been suf- ficient, although the eos of living in a matel while | searched fr such an apartment might nave made It mpossie for me to save enough forthe fist mons rent and deposit. A weekend jb, such 2s the one | aimast landed at a supermarket for about $7.75 an hour, would have helped, but | had no guarantee that could arrange my schedule at Wal Marto realy excude weekends. 1 had taken the job at Monards and the pay was in fact $10 an nou for eleven hours a day, would have made about $440 2 week after taxesenough to pay fora ‘ote oom and sill have somethin left over to save up for the intial ‘ost ofan apartment. But were they realy offering $10 an hour? And ‘ould | have stayed cn my fest eleven hours a day, ve days @ week? ‘So yes, wih some dit ferent choices, | proba: bly could have survived in Minneapolis. But I'm not going back for a rematch. 99) bank account, waiting indulgently in the (Ehroneen 20016, 197-198) snes woman oan senate eten ot In her undercover attempts to survive as a low-wage worker in different cities in the United States, journalist Barbara Ehrenreich revesled patterns of human interaction and used methods of study that foster sociological investigation. This excerpt from her book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America describes how she left a comfortable home and assumed the identity oF divorced, middle-aged housewife with no college degree and litle working experience. She set out to get the best-paying job and the cheapest living quarters she could find, to see whether she could make ends mect. Months Jater, physically exhausted and demoralized by demeaning work sles, Ehrenseich confirmed what she had suspected before she ‘began: getting by in this country asa low-wage worker is ales ing proposition. Ehrenreich’ study focused on an unequal society, which is 2 sical topic in sociology. Her investigative work, like the work ‘of many other journalists is informed by sociological research that documents the existence and extent of inequality in our society. Social inequality has a pervasive influence on human interactions and institutions. Certain groups of people control seatce resources, wield power, and receive special treatment While it might be interesting to know how one individual is affected by the need to make ends meet, sociologists consider how entire groups of people ate affected by these kinds of fac- tors, and how society itself might be altered by them, Sacialo- sists, then, are not concerned with what one individual dacs or does not do, but with what people do as members of a geoup or im interaction with one another, nd what that means for indi- viduals and for society apa whole, [As a field of study, sociology is extremely broad in scope. You will see throughout this book the range of topics soci- ologistsinvestigate—from suicide to TY viewing habits, from Amish society to global economic patterns, from peer pres sure to genetic engincering, Sociology looks at how others influence our bel wvior; how major social institutions like the government, religion, and the economy affect uss and how ve oursclves affect other individuals, groups, and even orgonizations Sotate Socitey. Yah tion ‘WUnderstaning Sociology | Tet Hove did sociology develop? lo what ways doc it ifr from ‘other social sciences? This chapter will explore the mature of sociology as bot fed of inquiry and an exercise of the socio- logical imagination” Well look atthe discipline as a science and ‘consider its relationship to other socal sciences. Well meet four pioneering thinkers—Smile Durkheim, Mas Weber, Karl Mars, ‘©The enw i Compares 210, and W. E. B, Dulois—and examine the theoretical perspectives that grew out of their work, We'll note some of the practical applications for sociological theory and research, Finally, well see how sociology helps us to develop a sociological imagina- tion. For those students interested in exploring career opportu- in sociology, the chapter closes with a special appendix, What Is Sociology? that has sociology got to do with me or with my life” As a student, you might well have asked this question when ‘you signed up for your introductory sociology course. To answer it, consider these points: Are you influenced by what you see on television? Do you use the Internet? Did you vote in the last elec- tion? Are you familiar with binge drinking on campus? Do you use alternative medicine? These are just a few of the everyday situations described in this book that sociology can shed light on. But as the opening excerpt indicates, sociology also looks at large social issues, We use sociology to investigate why thousands of jobs have moved from the United States to devel- ‘oping nations, what social forces promote prejudice, what leads ‘someone to jain a social movement and work for cial change, Ihove access to computer technology can reduce socal inoqualty, and why relationships between men and women in Seattle difer from those in Singapore. Sociology is, very simply, the scientific study of socal behav jor and human groups, It focuses on social relationships; how ‘those relationships influence people's behavior; and hone socie- ties, the sum total of those relationships, develop and change, The Sociological Imagination In attempting to understand social behavior, sociologists rely on ‘a unique typeof critical thinking. A lading sociologist, C, Wright ‘Mil, described such thinking as the sociological imagination — ‘an awareness of the relationship between aa individual and the vider society, both today and in the past. This awareness allows all of us (not just sociologists) to comprehend the links between ‘our immediate, personal social settings and the remote, imper sonal social world that susrounds and helps to shape us. Barbara $lrenzeich certainly used a sociological imagination when she ‘studied love-wage workers (Mill [1959] 20004). ‘A key clement in the sociological imagination is the ability to view one’s own society as an outsider would, rather than ony from the perspective of personal experiences and cultural biases. Consider something as simple as sporting events, On college ‘campuses in the United State, thousands af students cheer well- ‘tained football players In Bali, Indonesia, dozens of spectators gather around a ring to cheer on well-trained roosters engaged in cocklights. In both instances the spectators debate the merits ‘of ther favorites and bet on the outcome of the events, Yet what is considered a normal sporting event in one part of the world is ‘considered unusual in another part. ‘The sociological imagination allows us to go beyond per sonal experiences and observations to understand breader pub- lic issues. Divorce, for example, is unquestionably a personal Ihordship for 2 husband and wife who split apart. However, C. Wright Mills advocated using the sociological imagination to view divorce not simply as an individual's personal problem but rather asa societal concern, Using this perspective, we cam see that fan increase in the divorce rate actually redefines @ major social insttation—the family. Today's households frequently include stepparents and halfsiblings whose parents have divorced and remarried. Through the complexities of the blended family, this private concern becomes a public issue that affects schools, gov: fermment agencies, businesses, and religious institutions ‘Te sociological imagination isan empowering. too) allows us to look beyond a limited understanding of human beha~ for to see the world and its people in a new way and through @ broader lens than we might otherwise use, It may be as simple as ‘understanding why a roommate prefers country music @ hip. hop, or it may open up a whole different way of understanding, ‘other populations in the world, For example in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11,2001, ‘many citizens wanted to understand how Muslims throughout the world perceived their country, and why. From time to time this textbook will offer you the chance to exercise your awn soci- ological imagination in a variety of situations, use your sociological imagination You are walking down the stretin your ey ox home toi. looking around you, you can't help naicng that half or more ofthe peape you see are overweight. How do you explain your observation? Ifyou were ..Wrigit Mils, how do you think you would explain i? Sociology and the Social Sciences Is sociology a science? The term science refers to the body of kknovledge obtained by methods based on systematic observa- tion. Just like other scientific disciplines, sociology involves the ‘organized, systematic study of phenomena (in this ease, rman behavior) in order to enhance understanding. All scientists, ‘whether studying mushrooms or murderers, attempt to collect precise information through methods of study that areas ebjec: tive as posible, They rly on careful recording of observations 1nd accurmulation of data Of course thete isa great difference between sociology and physics, between psychology and astronomy. For this eason, the sciences are commonly divided into natural and social sciences. Natural science is the study of the physical features of nature fand the ways in which they interact and change, Astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, and physics are all natural sciences.