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Introduction to Sociology
• The study of sociology starts from the basic
premise that human life is social life
• Most of us are constantly involved in
interactions with other human beings (for
instance, family, school, work, play,
retirement, leisure and social gathering).
• But so what? What does that definition
actually mean? Why is sociology important?
Why should anyone study sociology? What
does sociology offer to us in our personal lives?
And what does it offer to wider society?
• The word sociology itself actually derives
from the Latin word socius (companion)
and the Greek word logos (study of ).
• the scientific study of the development,
structure, interaction,and collective
behavior of social relationships.
• The study of sociology encompasses the
diversity of these social worlds, ranging
from intimate, one-to-one exchanges to
impersonal gatherings of large numbers of
WHAT SOCIOLOGY OFFERS
A sociological look at the world provides a
number of unique benefits and perspectives.
1. Sociology provides an understanding of
social issues and patterns of behavior.
2. Sociology helps us understand the workings
of the social systems within which we live
our lives. Social structures (the way
society is organized around the regulated
ways people interrelate and organize social
life) and social processes (the way society
operates) are at work shaping our lives in
ways that often go unrecognized.
3. Sociology helps us understand why we
perceive the world the way we do.
4. Sociology helps us identify what we have in
common within, and between, cultures and
5. Sociology helps us understand why and how
6. Sociology provides us theoretical
perspectives within which to frame these
understandings and research methods that
allow us to study social life scientifically.
7. Sociology is not just common sense.
Results of sociological research may be
unexpected. They often show that things are
not always, or even usually, what they
History of Sociology
• Sociology is rooted in the works of
philosophers, including Plato (427–347
B.C.), Aristotle (384–322 B.C.), and
Confucius (551–479 B.C.). Some other
early scholars also took perspectives that
• Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406), profiled below,
conducted studies of Arab society
• Enlightenment thinkers also helped set the stage
for the sociologists that would follow. The
Enlightenment “was the first time in history that
thinkers tried to provide general explanations of
the social world.
• Writers of this period included a range of well-
known philosophers, such as John Locke; David
Hume; Voltaire (the pseudonym of Francois-Marie
Arouet); Immanuel Kant; Charles-Louis de
Secondat, Baron de La Brede et de Montesquieu;
Thomas Hobbes; and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
• The term sociology was coined by French philosopher
Auguste Comte (1798–1857), who would become
known as the “Father of Sociology.” Comte is profiled
below. He first publicly used the term in his work
• Comte saw history as divided into three intellectual
stages. The first, or theological, stage included the
medieval period in which society was seen as
reflecting the will of a deity. The second, or
metaphysical, stage arose during the Enlightenment
and focused on forces of “nature,” rather than God, to
explain social events. Comte considered his own time
period the third stage, which he termed the positivistic,
or scientific, stage.
—a way to understand the social world
based on scientific facts. He believed that,
with this new understanding, people could
build a better future. He envisioned a
process of social change in which
sociologists played crucial roles in guiding
• Other events of that time period also
influenced the development of sociology.
• The nineteenth and twentieth centuries
were times of many social upheavals and
changes in the social order that interested
the early sociologists. Sharing Comte’s
belief, many early sociologists came from
other disciplines and made significant
efforts to call attention to social concerns
• In Europe Karl Marx (1818–83)
• In Germany, Max Weber (1864–1920),
• In France, Emile Durkheim advocated for
sociological understanding of the society.
• In the United States, social worker and
sociologist Jane Addams (1860–1935)
studied poor immigrant
• Talcott Parsons and Robert K. Merton
• The connection between learning to
understand and then change society as
being the sociological imagination. C.
Wright Mills (1916–62).
• How intertwined social forces and
personal lives are:
• When a society is industrialized, a peasant
becomes a worker; a feudal lord is liquidated or
becomes a businessman. When classes rise or
fall, a man is employed or unemployed; when the
rate of investment goes up or down, a man takes a
new heart or goes broke. When wars happen, an
insurance salesman becomes a rocket launcher; a
store clerk, a radar man; a wife lives alone; a child
grows up without a father. Neither the life of an
individual nor the history of a society can be
understood without understanding both.
• Mills felt that developing a sociological
imagination will help us to avoid becoming
“victims” of social forces and better control
our own lives. By understanding how
social mechanisms operate, we can better
work to bring about change and influence
CAREERS IN SOCIOLOGY
• applied sociologist
• clinical sociologist
• development officer
• executive director
• graduate work in sociology and other fields, such as medicine and law
• outreach coordinator
• professional periodicals staff
• professional sociologist
• social historian
• social-research assistant
• social-science analyst