Traditions of Sociological Thought

It can be said that the first wisdom of sociology is this—things are not what they seem. This too is a deceptively simple statement. It ceases to be simple after a while. Social reality turns out to have many layers of meaning. The discovery of each new layer changes the perception of the whole.

Goals for Class Today
Housekeeping: Learning objectives and discussion guidelines...edit the wiki! Review New concepts Paradigms in sociology Inconvenient facts, Ethnocentrism, Cultural Relativism

Review
mechanical vs. organic solidarity Gemeinschaft vs. Gesellschaft relationships rational vs. non-rational behavior bourgeoisie vs. proletariat Sociological imagination
If we want to understand the experiences of individuals, we frequently need to look to the social. If we want to make differences in the lives of individuals, we may need to make changes at the level of the social.

Exercising the Sociological Imagination
Think of the ways in which we tend to see the following as personal troubles rather than public issues/social problems: school shootings HIV/AIDS ???

New Concepts
The manifest vs. latent functions of things in society manifest functions are intended reflect a society’s desired outcomes latent functions are unintended consequences of things aimed at a desired outcome (they can be desirable or undesirable)

Skepticism
Always questioning common explanations for things by identifying both the manifest and latent functions of social things
Why don’t we make eye contact with strangers when walking down the street? Why are tatoos so popular recently?

Paradigms in Sociology
Functionalist Paradigm Society is organized and guided by shared norms and values Society is made up of parts that work together Like most organisms, society seeks a stasis and avoids disturbances

Paradigms in Sociology
Conflict Paradigm Society is made up of groups with different beliefs and conflicting values These groups compete for scarce resources Society is in a constant state of conflict (it’s this tension that creates stability)

Paradigms in Sociology
interactionist paradigm we act toward other people and things on the basis of how we perceive reality our perceptions are shaped by our interactions with others conflict in society results from people operating from different perceptions of reality

Sociology: Work of the Devil
Inconvenient facts–pieces of evidence that contradict our untested assumptions about the social world Ethnocentrism–seeing differences as signs of inferiority Cultural Relativism–we can only understand people within their cultural context Sociology aims to explain why things are the way they are, not whether the way things are is right or wrong

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