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Why study sociology

To develop sociological imagination or consciousness
To develop and understand different perspectives on
To go beyond commonly accepted ideas and notions
Understanding for its own sake: value free, objective,
critical perspective
To identify trends and issues
century origins of sociology: industrialization,
urbanization, rapid technological progress
Founders: Comte, Mill, Marx, Durkheim, Weber
Sociological Imagination and Sociological Perspective

•Looking at an issue from multiple perspectives
•Not accepting commonsensical explanations
•Going beyond commonly accepted understanding

What is Sociology? What do sociologists do? What is a sociological
question? What is sociological consciousness?

How does an IIT student get into an IIT: the link between
biography and history?
• Time and place of birth
• Coaching
• Parental and peer pressure
• Gender
• Social Status, employment opportunities, high incomes
Mass Shootings in the United States: Guns and Violence
• Psychos? Loners?
• Why is it more of a problem in the US / Europe?
• Do / can guns kill people? The NRA and the self-defense argument

Not a terrorist incident?

What is and is not terrorism?

Senseless and Evil?

Collateral Damage?
What is sociology?
Study of the connections between personal experiences
and social life:
• Personal troubles and social issues: Homelessness: is it
a choice for people? is poverty a choice? Do people love
to live on the streets or in poverty?
•Lack of affordable housing , unemployment /
underemployment, government policies, lack of
decently paid jobs, lack of educational opportunities
•Private matters and public matters: how PRIVATE are
private matters?
•Personal characteristics and social environment
•Personal connections with others and social forces
Sociologists ask certain questions regarding the
relation between individual and society:
 How do groups influence individual human
 What are the causes and consequences of a
particular social system?
 What social factors contribute to particular social
•Scientific study of social behaviour and human society
•Sociology is descriptive and interpretative
•Gain an understanding of the larger scene: what is going on
in the world

Sociological Imagination: Ability to see, understand and
explain the connection between the lives of individuals
and cultural, social and economic context in which they

Max Weber: Sociology is a science which attempts the
interpretative understanding of social action in order to
thereby arrive at a causal explanation of its causes and
Peter Berger: Invitation to Sociology

Six images of sociologists

-----A. as a social worker

-----B. as a theoretician for social work

-----C. as a social reformer

-----D. as a gatherer of statistics

-----E. as a scientist

-----F. as a socialist

What is PRESUPPOSED to ask sociological questions?

---1. "interested in looking some distance beyond the commonly
accepted or officially defined goals of human actions"

---2. "a certain awareness that human events have different levels of
meaning, some of which are hidden from the consciousness of
everyday life"

---3. "a measure of suspicion about the way in which human events
are officially interpreted by the authorities, be they political, juridical,
or religious in character"

THUS: Sociology is most likely to develop in a context of questioning

-----official and authoritative ones

-----essential nature of "society" is "hidden" by authoritative/cultural

•a "seeing through"
•a "looking behind"
•the "art of mistrust"

---a "problem" for the PUBLIC doesn't equal a "problem" for the
What is a `problem’ to one social system is the normal routine of
things to the other system, and vice versa.
-----PUBLIC: "SOCIAL PROBLEM" is "when something in society does
not work the way its supposed to according to the official interpretations"
---------i.e. Crime
---------i.e Divorce
---------i.e Worker efficiency
---------i.e. Soldier behavior

-----SOCIOLOGIST: "SOCIAL PROBLEM" is "what goes on in terms of
social interaction"
---------NOT why things go wrong (from authorities or "ideal" point of
---------RATHER: How the whole system works in the first place
------------its presuppositions
------------by what means it is held together
THUS: "the fundamental sociological "social problem" is:
------------NOT crime, but the LAW
------------NOT divorce, but MARRIAGE
------------NOT racial / caste discrimination, but a RACIALLY or CASTE
------------NOT revolution, but GOVERNMENT
A sociologist tries to be objective, to control her/his personal preferences
and prejudices, to perceive clearly rather than to judge normatively.

This restraint, of course, does not embrace the totality of the
sociologist’s existence as a human being, but is limited to her/his
operations qua sociologist. (Peter Berger)

C. Wright Mills: The Sociological Imagination

"The sociological imagination enables its possessor to understand the larger
historical scene in terms of its meaning for the inner life and the external
career of a variety of individuals”.

Ask three kinds of questions:
1. What is the structure of this particular society as a whole? What are its
essential components? How does it differ from other varieties of social order?
Within it, what is the meaning of any particular feature for its continuance
and for its change?

2. Where does this society stand in human history? What are the mechanics
by which it is changing? What is its place within and its meaning for the
development of humanity as a whole? How does any particular feature we are
examining affect, and how is it affected by, the historical period in which it
moves? And this period – what are its essential features? How does it differ
from other periods? What are its characteristic ways of history- making?
3. What varieties of men and women now prevail in this society and in this
period? And what varieties are coming to prevail? In what ways are they
selected and formed, liberated and repressed, made sensitive and blunted?
What kinds of ‘human nature’ are revealed in the conduct and character we
observe in this society in this period? And what is the meaning for ‘human
nature’ of each and every feature of the society we are examining?
• Intersection of biography and history

•Distinction between 'the personal troubles of milieu' and 'the public issues
of social structure' - an essential tool of sociological imagination.

•Troubles and Issues: individual and society
Examples: Unemployment, War, Marriage, Urbanization

•Look beyond personal milieux: structural changes

•To be aware of the idea of social structure and to use it with sensibility is
to possess the sociological imagination.

Sociological Concepts
Concept of Society
• web of social relationships
• An organization that guides and controls
• A complex of groups and institutions
Why does society exist? How does it come
into existence? What is its role and
importance? How is society possible?

Characteristics of society:
•Division of labour: Interdependence and
specialization, production
•Social relationships
•Social structure
Solidarity and its function
Concept of social structure
Stable Relationship and ability to bear load
• Permanent and important relationships and
• Systematic interrelation
• Complex of groups and institutions
• Institutionalized arrangements

•All Social behaviour is structured

Social Relations / relationships
• Feelings of belongingness
• Motivated towards interests

Range of social relations
• open and closed
• primary and secondary
•Mother-child: physical / emotional
•Employee – employer: economic interests
•Teacher-student: social / economic
•Friends: social / cultural