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the scientific study of social behavior and human groups. It focuses on social relationships; how those relationships influence people's behavior; and how societies develop and change.

C. Wright Mills

In attempting to understand social behavior, this leading sociologist described an unusual type of creative thinking as the sociological imagination.

sociological imagination

an awareness of the relationship between an individual and the wider society, both today and in the past.

sociological imagination

an awareness that allows us to comprehend the links between our immediate, personal social settings and the remote, impersonal social world that surrounds and helps to shape us.


refers to the body of knowledge obtained by methods based on systematic observation.

natural science

the study of the physical features of nature and the ways in which they interact and change. Examples: Astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, and physics.

social science

the study of the scoial features of humans and the ways in which they interact and change. Examples: Sociology, anthropology, economics, history, psychology, and political science.


they study the influence that society has on people's attitudes and behavior and the ways in which people interact andn shape society. they examine our social relationships with others scientifically.

Pythagoras and Aristotle

once considered common sense to accept that the earth was flat - this idea was questioned by him


test and record each piece of information, then analyze it in relationship to other data. they rely on scientific studies in order to describe and understand a social environment.

sociological theory

a set of statements that seeks to explain problems, actions, or behavior. an effective _____ may have both explanatory and predictive power

Emile Durkheim

sociologist who tried to look at suicide data scientifically. He developed a highly original theory about the relationship between suicide and social factors. He was mostly concerned with suicide rates and how they varied from country to country.

Auguste Comte

credited with being the most influential of the philosophers of the early 1800s, believed that a theoretical science of society and a systematic investigation of behavior were needed to improve society. He feared that the excesses of the French Revolution had permanently impaired Fance's stability. He hoped that the systematic study of social behavior would eventually lead to more rational lhuman interactions.

Harriet Martineau

Scholars learned Comet's work through translations of this English sociologist. She offered insightful obesrvations of the customs and social practices of both her native Britain and the United States. Wrote first book on sociological methods.

Harriet Martineau

Her writings emphasized the impact that the economy, law, trade, health, and population could have on social problems. She spoke in favor of the rights of women, the emancipation of slaves, and religious tolerance.

Herbert Spencer

A relatively prosperous Victorian Englishman, he did not feel compelled to correct or improve society; instead, he merely hoped to understand it better.

Herbert Spencer

He drew on Charles Darwin's study On the Origin of Species and he applied the concept of evolution of the species to societies in norder to explain how they change over time. He also adapted Darwin's evolutionary view of the "survival of the fittest" by arguing that it is "natural" that some people are rich while others are poor.

Emile Durkheim

was appointed one of the first professors of sociology in France and Germany. He will be remembered for his insistence that behavior must be understood within a larger social context, not just in individualistic terms.

Emile Durkheim

He developed a fundnamental thesis to help explain all forms of society. He focused on the functions that religion performed and underscored the role of group life in defining what we consider to be religious. Another main interest he had was the consequences of work in modern societies. He thought the growing division of labor in industrial societies, as workers became much more spcialized in their tasks, led to what he called anomie.


refers to the loss of direction felt in a society when social control of indiviual behavior has become ineffective. Occurs when people have lost their sense of purpose or direction, often during a time of profound social change. During this period, people are so confused and unable to cope with the new social environment that they may resort to taking their own lives.

Max Weber

He was born in Germany and studied legal and economical history, but gradually developed ann interest in sociology. He taught his students that they should employ verstehen (understanding or insight) in their work. Came up with key conceptual tool: ideal type.

ideal type

is a construct or model for evaluating specific cases.

Karl Marx

He shared an interest with Durkheim and Weber a dual interest in abstract philosophical issues and the concrete reality of everday life. Spent most of his life in exile from his native Germany. Attended an illegal coalition of labor unions known as Communist League and the next year prepared a platform called The Communist Manifesto.

Karl Marx

He emphasized the group identifications and associations that influence an individual's place in society. This area of study is the major focus of contemporary sociology.

Charles Horton Cooley

He was typical of the sociologists who came to prominence in the early 1900s. Wanted to learn more about society and to do so he used the sociological perspective to look first at smaller units: intimate, face to face groups such as families, gangs, and friendship networks.

Jane Addams

She was a member of the Americann Sociological Society, cofounded the famous Chicago settlement, Hull House. She combined intellectual inquiry, social service work, and political activism - all with the goal of assisting the underprivileged and creatingn a more egalitarian society. Made effort to establish a juvenile court system and a women's trade union (this reveals the practical focus of her work.

Robert Merton

He successfully combined theory and research. He produced a theory that is one of the most frequently cited explanations of deviant behavior. He noted different ways people try to achieve success in life.

Robert Merton

He emphasized that sociology should strive to bring together the "macro-level" and "micro-level" approaches to the study of society.


concentrates on large-scale phenomena or entire civilizations. Emile Durkheim's cross-cultural study of suicide is an example of this type of research.


stresses the study of small groups, often through experimental means. Examples: divorced men and women disengage in social roles, teacher's expectations can influence a student's academic performance.

functionalist perspective

emphasizes the way in nwhich the parts of a society are structured to maintain its stability. (Think of a society as a living organism in which each part of the organism contributes to its survival)

Talcott Parsons

a Harvard University sociologist that was a key figure in the development of the functionalist theory/perspective. He saw any society as a vast network of connected parts, each of which helps to maintain the system as a whole.

manifest functions

(of institutions) are open, stated, conscious functions. they involve the intended, recognized consequences of an aspect of society

latent functions

are unconscious or unintended functionsn that may reflect hidden purposes of an institution. Examples: hold down unemployment, serve as a meeting ground for people seeking marital partners.

Robert Merton

made an important distiction between manifest and latent functions.


refers to an element or process of a society that may actually disrupt the social system or reduce its stability

conflict perspective

assumes that social behavior is best understood in terms of conflict or tension between competing groups. Examples: labor negotiations, party politics, competition between religious groups for new members, or disputes over the federal budget.

Marxist View

In studying any culture, organization, or social group, sociologists want to know who benefits, who suffers, andn who dominates at the expense of others. The emphasis on social change and redistribution of resouces makes conflict theorists more "radical" and "activist" than functionalists.

An African American View: W.E.B. Du Bois

Some early black sociologists conducted research that they hoped would assist the struggle for a raceally egalitarian society. This sociologist made a major contribuition to sociology trhough this in-depth studies of urban life, both white and black.

The Feminist View

sees inequity in gender as central to all behavior and organization. often allied with the conflict perspective. proponents tend to focus on the macro level of this view.

Ida Wells-Barnett

following her ground breaking publications in the 1890s on the practice of lynching Black Americans, she became an advocate in the women's rights campaign, especially the struggle to win the vote for women.

interactionist perspective

generalize about everyday forms of social interaction in order to explain society as a whole.

interactionism/symbolic interactionism

sociological framework for viewing humans as living in a world of meaningful objects. The "objects" may include material things, actions, other people, relationships, and even symbols.

nonverbal communication

symbolic interactions which can include many other gestures, facial expressions, and postures. Ex: a salute symbolizes respect, clenched fist signifies defiance

functionalist andn conflict approaches

initiated/developed in Europe


develped first in the United States

George Herbert Mead

is widely regarded as the founder of the interactionist perspective.

Erving Goffman

popularized a particular type of interactionist method known as the dramaturgical approach

dramaturgical approach

method in which people are seen as theatrical performers.


person who compares everyday life to the setting of the theater and stage. seek to present particular features of our personalities while we hide other qualities.

sociological approach

gain the broadest understanding of society by drawing on all major perspectives, noting where they overlap or where they diverge. whatever the purpose of sociologists' work, their research will always be guided by their theorectical viewpoints.

Jane Addams, W.E.B. Du Bois, and George Herbert Mead

sociologists who were strong advocates for social reform. they wanted their theories and findings to be relevant to policymakers and to people's lives in general.

applied sociology

discipline of sociology with specific intent of yielding practical applications for human behavior and organizations.

Louis Wirth

he wrote about clinical sociology more than 75 years ago.

clinical sociology

is dedicated to facilitating change by altering social relationships (as in family therapy) or restructuring social instituions (as in the reorganization of a medical center).

basic sociology

seeks a more profound knowledge of the fundamental aspects of social phenomena. (applied and clinical sociology can be contrasted to this). Example: Durkheim studies on suicide rates was not focused on discovering a way to eliminate suicide. His research followed this type of sociology verses applied sociology.


is the worldwide integration of government policies, cultures, social movements, and financial markets through trade and the exchange of ideas.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

they warnend in The Communist Manifesto of a world market that would lead to production in distant lands, sweeping away existing working relationships

social inequality

a condition in which members of society have differing amounts of wealth, prestige, or power.

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