The Sociological Imagination Sociological imagination is the ability to see the connections between our personal experience and the larger forces of history. “The first fruit of this imagination” and the first lesson of the social science that embodies it”is the idea that the individual can understand his own experience and gauge his own fate only by locating himself within his period, that he can know his own chances in life only by becoming aware of those of all individuals in his circumstances. ?«The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and he relations between the two within society.
That is its task and its promise. To recognize this task and this promise is the mark of the classic social analyst. ” What is a Social Institution? Social institution a complex group of interdependent positions that, together, perform a social role and reproduce themselves over time; also defi ned in a narrow sense as any institution in a society that works to shape the behavior of the groups or people within it. The Sociology of Sociology Auguste Comte Harriet Martineau Classical Sociological Theory Karl Marx Max Weber Verstehen German: understanding.
The concept of Verstehen forms the object of inquiry for interpretive sociology”to study how social actors understand their actions and the social world through experience. ‰mile Durkheim Anomie a sense of aimlessness or despair that arises when we can no longer reasonably expect life to be predictable; too little social regulation; normlessness. Positivist sociology a strain within sociology that believes the social world can be described and predicted by certain describable relationships (akin to a social physics). Georg Simmel American Sociology W. E. B. Dubois Double consciousness a concept conceived by W.
E. B. DuBois to describe the two behavioral scripts, one for moving through the world and the other incorporating the external opinions of prejudiced onlookers, which are constantly maintained by African Americans. The double consciousness is a “sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity’ Jane Addams Modern Sociological Theories Functionalism the theory that various social institutions and processes in society exist to serve some important (or necessary) function to keep society running.
Functionalists view social inequality as a “device by which societies ensure that the most important positions are conscientiously fi Iled by the most qualifi ed persons” Organicism theory is the notion that society is like a living organism, each part of which serves an important role in keeping society together. The state or government was seen to be the brain; industry was the muscular system; media and mass communications were the nervous system; and so on.
Conflict theory the idea that confl ict between competing interests is the basic, animating force of social change and society in general. Feminist theorists emphasize equality between men and women and want to see women’s lives and experiences represented in sociological studies. Early feminist theory focused on defining concepts such as sex and gender, and on challenging conventional wisdom by questioning the meanings usually assigned to these concepts.
In addition to defi ning sex and gender, much feminist research focuses on inequalities based on gender categories. Feminist theorists have studied women’s experiences at home and in the workplace. They have also researched gender inequality in social institutions such as schools, the family, and the government. In each case, feminist sociologists remain interested in how power relationships are defi ned, shaped, and reproduced on the basis of gender differences.
Symbolic interactionism a micro-level theory in which shared meanings, orientations, and assumptions form the basic motivations behind people’s actions. Symbolic interactionism eschewed big theories of society (macrosociology) and instead focused on how face-to-face interactions create the social world (microsociology) Postmodernism a condition characterized by a questioning of the notion of progress and history, the replacement of narrative within pastiche, and multiple, erhaps even confl icting, identities resulting from disjointed affiliations.
Social construction an entity that exists because people behave as if it exists and whose existence is perpetuated as people and social institutions act in accordance with the widely agreed-upon formal rules or informal norms of behavior associated with that entity. Midrange theory a theory that attempts to predict how certain social institutions tend to function The key to mid range theory is that it generates falsifi able hypotheses” predictions that can be tested by analyzing the real world. Sociology and Its Cousins History
Sociology, by contrast, is generally not concerned with the uniqueness of phenomena but rather with commonalities that can be abstracted across cases. This is called a nomothetic approach (from the Greek root meaning “custom”” norm or pattern). Anthropology The field of anthropology is split between physical anthropologists, who resemble biologists more than sociologists, and cultural anthropologists, who study human relations similarly to the way sociologists do. Traditionally, the distinction was that sociologists studied “us” (Western society and culture), whereas anthropologists studied ‘them” (other societies or CUItUres).
What then distinguishes sociology from cultural anthropology? Nothing, some would argue. However, although certain aspects of sociology are almost indistinguishable from those of cultural anthropology, sociology as a whole has a wider array of methods to answer questions, such as experimentation and statistical data analysis. Sociology also tends more toward comparative case study, whereas anthropology is more like history in its focus on particular circumstances. Sociology focuses on social structures and group interactions, while psychology focuses on the urges, instincts, and mind of the individual.
Microsociology and Macrosociology Microsociology seeks to understand local interactional contexts; its methods of choice are ethnographic, generally including participant observation and in- depth interviews. Macrosociology generally concerned with social dynamics at a higher level of analysis”that is, across the breadth of a society. Quiz Questions Postmodernists argue that there is no single version of history that is correct. Different things have different meanings for individuals and groups within society (p. 31). Feminist research focuses on inequalities based on gender categories.
Feminist theorists have explored women’s experiences at home and in the workplace as ell as gender inequalities in social institutions (p. 30). Auguste Comte called for the development of “social physics. ” He believed we could understand societies through equations (p. 16). Using your sociological imagination allows you to recognize how the social world works and why. It also allows you to see connections between your personal life and larger forces of history (p. 4). Charles Horton Cooley, George Herbert Mead, and other sociologists in the Chicago School explored how the social environment shapes the individual (p. 5). W. E. B. DuBois theorized that the newfound freedom of the slaves resulted in the reakdown of norms. He argued that this anomie was a factor in the high crime rates among African Americans in the South (p. 26) Recall that W. E. B. Du Bois’s concept of double consciousness involves taking the external opinions of an often racially prejudiced onlooker into consideration (p. 26). Psychologists often address many of the same questions as sociologists. Generally, though, psychologists focus on the individual while sociologists examine group-level dynamics and social structures (p. 36).
Karl Marx’s theory that social change has been sparked by class conflict is called historical materialism (p. 0). Lines between academic disciplines are often blurred. However, sociology generally focuses on making comparisons across cases (p. 32) Sociology is distinct from other academic disciplines in its attempt to detect patterns in how different societies respond to similar phenomena. Peoples’ social identity involves how they define themselves in relation to groups they associate with or disassociate themselves from. Social identity can also be thought of as a grand narrative comprised of many individual stories (p. 3). Interpretive sociologists focus on meaning and understand experiences. Their esearch is premised on the importance of the social situation (p. 38). The focus on what social phenomena means to individuals is interpretive sociology. A social institution is a complex group of interdependent positions that perform a role. It is not monolithic; we construct, reinforce, and change our social institutions every day through the meanings we ascribe to them and through our actions (p. 13). As sociologists think critically about the world around them, they question things they have always done without thinking (p. 4).
Chapter 2 Methods As social scientists, we have a set of standard approaches that we follow in nvestigating our questions. We call these rules research methods. Theyre the tools we use to describe, explore, and explain various social phenomena in an ethical fashion. Research methods are approaches that social scientists use for investigating the answers to questions. Quantitative methods are methods that seek to obtain information about the social world that is already in or can be converted to numeric form. This methodology then uses statistical analysis to describe the social world that those data represent.
Some of this analysis attempts to mimic the scientifi c ethod of using treatment and control (or placebo) groups to determine how changes in one factor affect another social outcome, while factoring out every other simultaneous event. Qualitative methods are methods that attempt to collect information about the social world that cannot be readily converted to numeric form. The information gathered with this approach is often used to document the meanings that actions engender in social participants or to describe the mecha- nisms by which social processes occur.
Qualitative data are collected in a host of ways, from spending time with people and recording what they say and do participant observation) to interviewing them in an open-ended manner to reviewing archives. Both quantitative and qualitative research approaches provide ways to establish a causal relationship between social elements. Researchers using quan- titative approaches, by eliminating all other possibilities through their study’s design, hope to state with some certainty that one condition causes another.
Qualitative methodology describes social processes in such detail as to rule out competing possibilities. Research 101 The general goal of sociology is to allow us to see how our individual lives are ntimately related to (and, in turn, affect) the social forces that exist beyond us. Deductive approach is a research approach that starts with a theory, forms a hypothesis, makes empirical observations, and then analyzes the data to confirm, reject, or modify the original theory. Inductive approach is a research approach that starts with empirical observations and then works to form a theory.
Causality versus Correlation Correlation or association is the simultaneous variation in two variables. Causality is the notion that a change in one factor results in a corresponding change in another. To establish causality, three factors are needed: correlation, time order, and ruling out alternative explanations. The Problem of Reverse Causality Reverse causality is a situation in which the researcher believes that A results in a change in B, but B, in fact, is causing A. Variables Dependent variable is the outcome that the researcher is trying to explain.
Independent variable is a measured factor that the researcher believes has a causal impact on the dependent variable. Because it’s possible to have more than one independent variable, we will call the most important one the key independent variable. The difference between the independent and the dependent is that change in your dependent variable depends on change in your independent variable. Knowing which variable is which is important for complying with mandates for establishing causality. Hypothesis is a proposed relationship between two variables.
The direction of the relationship refers to whether your variables move in the same direction (positive) or in opposite directions (negative). Hypothesis Testing Operationalization is the process of assigning a precise method for measuring a term being examined for use in a particular study. Validity, Reliability, and Generalizability Validity is the extent to which an instrument measures what it is intended to measure. Reliability is the likelihood of obtaining consistent results using the same Generalizability is the extent to which we can claim our findings inform us about a group larger than the one we studied.
Role of the Researcher Placebo is a simulated treatment given to a control group in an experimental study to factor out the effect of merely being in an experiment from the effect of the actual treatment under consideration. Double-blind study is an experimental study where neither the subjects nor he researchers know who is in the treatment group and who is in the control (placebo) group. “White coat” effects”that is, the effects that researchers have on the very processes and relationships they are studying by virtue of being there. Reflexivity is analyzing and critically considering our own role in, and effect on, our research.
Power: In the Eyes of the Researcher, We’re Not All Equal Feminist methodology is a set of systems or methods that treat women’s experiences as legitimate empirical and theoretical resources, that promote social science for women (think public sociology, but for a specific half of the ublic), and that take into account the researcher as much as the overt subject matter. What do feminist research methods look like? First, it’s important to understand that there is no one feminist research method, just as there is no single school of feminism.
Feminist researchers use the same techniques for gathering data as other sociologists, but they employ those techniques in ways that differ significantly from traditional methods. The feminist part doesn’t lie in the method per se, or necessarily in having women as subjects. Rather, Harding proposes three ways to make research distinctly feminist. First, treat women’s experiences as legitimate empirical and theoretical resources. Second, engage in social science that may bring about policy changes to help improve women’s lives.
Third, take into account the researcher as much as the overt subject matter. The point of adopting feminist methods isn’t to exclude men or male perspectives: It’s not instead of; it’s in addition to. It means taking all subjects seriously rather than privileging one type of data, experience, or worldview over another. Creating and Testing Theory Good research is usually guided by theory, but there are different types of theories. Because positivists are concerned with the factors that infl uence social life, they tend to rely more heavily on quantitative measures.
If, however, you’re more concerned with the meanings actors attach to their behavior, as interpretive sociologists are, then you’ll likely be drawn to more qualitative measures. Ultimately, the distinction between quantitative and qualitative methods is a false dichotomy: The most important thing is to determine what you want to learn and then contemplate the best possible way to collect the empirical data that would answer your question”that is, deploy whatever tool or set of tools is alled for by the present research problem. Population is an entire group of individual persons, objects, or items from which samples may be drawn.
Sample is the subset of the population from which you are actually collecting data. Case study is an intensive investigation of one particular unit of analysis in order to describe it or uncover its mechanisms. Data Collection Social science research is largely about collecting empirical evi- dence to generate or test empirical claims. Participate Observation Participant observation is a qualitative research method that seeks to uncover he meanings people give their behavior by observing social actions in practice. What this usually entails is “hanging out” and documenting people’s practices in a given society.
Some participant observation focuses more heavily on the participating, and some concentrates on the observing, depending on the interests of the researcher and the appropriateness of actually “participating” in the given setting. nterviews Interviews are another form of gathering qualitative data. Other researchers may rely on semi structured or structured interviews”that is, interviews in which the researchers have more than just a set of topics to cover n no preset order; rather, the researchers develop a specifi c set of questions to address with all respondents in a relatively fi xed sequence.
If an interview becomes very structured, it falls into the next category: survey research. Survey Research Survey is an ordered series of questions intended to elicit information from respondents. Surveys may be done anonymously and distributed widely, so you reach a much larger sample than if you relied solely on interviews. Surveys can also be done in person or over the phone. This method of survey design differs from interviews in that a set questionnaire exists.
Surveys are generally converted into quantitative data for statistical analysis”everything from simple estimates (How many gay policemen are there in America? ) to comparisons of averages across groups (What proportion of gay policemen support abortion rights, and what proportion of retired female plumbers do? ) to complex techniques such as multiple regression, where one measured factor (such as education level) is held constant, or statistically removed from the picture, to pin down the effect of another factor (such as total family income) on, say, reported levels of happiness.
Historical Methods Historical methods is the research that collects data from written reports, newspaper articles, journals, transcripts, television programs, diaries, artwork, and other artifacts that date to a prior time period under study. Comparative Research Sometimes sociologists compare two or more historical societies; we call this “comparative historical” research. Comparative research is a methodology by which two or more entities (such as countries), which are similar in many dimensions but differ on one in question, are compared to learn about the dimension that differs between them.