Sociology that Teaches: Sociology

What is Sociology? Sociology is the scientific study of human
social activity. It is the systematic study of the relationship
between the individual and society. Put simply, Sociology is the Study of Society
Humans: Sociologists are interested in humans, that is, groups and individuals. Groups and individuals include students, police
officers, teachers, nurses, athletes, protesters, etc. Social Activity: What are people doing? What are individuals & groups doing? How are they arranged? Who are the leaders? Social Structure: Social Arrangement gets
at social structure. Social Structure guides our behavior. Social Structure reflects order, organization
and patterned relationships. The structure of a college class room is professor
and student. Generally, classrooms are arranged in auditorium
style. Each group (students/professors) performs
a specific role in the classroom, and maintains a certain status. Social Activity varies by structure. For example, courtrooms, restaurants, churches,
airplanes, etc. maintain specific activities connected to their social structures. Theoretical Paradigm or Sociological Perspective. Please note that I use these terms interchangeably. A theoretical paradigm is a set of fundamental
assumptions about the operation of society. Paradigms may also be viewed as an image of
society — a view of society Theoretical Paradigms are designed to guide our thinking
and research. There are three major paradigms in sociology;
that is, there are three major ways of thinking. One, Structural Functional or Functionalist
Perspective. Two, Social Conflict or Conflict Perspective. Three, Symbolic Interaction or Interactionist
Perspective. Functionalist Perspective: Functionalists
assume that society is a complex system, whose parts work together to create stability for
the whole of society. Parts refer to institutions, like religion,
family, school, etc. Functionalist ask: what is the function (or
purpose) of religion? What is the function of family? What is the function of school? For Functionalists, each institution has a
specified function (or purpose) for the operation of society. For example, the function of the family is
socialization and procreation; the function of school is to educate; and the function
of religion is to provide moral guidance. Functionalists are interested in balance & equilibrium. Social dysfunctions imply imbalance and instability. Social dysfunctions are social patterns that
have undesirable consequences on the operation of society. For example, crime is dysfunctional. In order to maintain balance, another institution
must emerge to resolve the dysfunction, e.g., crime. Consequently, the Criminal Justice System
(CJS) is developed to address issues concerning crime. Social Conflict: Social conflict theorists
assume that society is a complex system. Society is characterized by inequality and
conflict. Inequality and conflict are designed to generate
social change. Further, conflict theorists assume that society
is not stable, but full of contradictions, inequalities and conflicts. It follows that conflict theorists investigate
how race, gender, religion, class, age, etc. are all linked to an unequal distribution
of resources. By resources, we mean wealth, power, prestige,
schooling, land, etc. Generally, some groups have more resources
than others: Men have more resources than women. Whites have more resources than Latinos. Rich have more resources than the poor. It follows that Karl Marx argued that some
social systems, capitalism, benefit the rich, while depriving and exploiting the poor. For Marx conflict occurs between two combatant
groups, that is rich vs poor; owners vs workers; men vs women; etcetera. Change: How does change occur? For Marx, change occurs by protest, strikes,
revolutions, wars, etc. In short, change occurs by conflict. The Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955), lead by
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, is an excellent example of the conflict perspective. Symbolic Interaction: Symbolic Interactionists
assume that society is a product of everyday interactions among individuals. So, what is being produced? The product becomes the definition of the
situation. That is, the shared interpretation of the
interaction among individuals. The focus of symbolic interaction is how people
act towards one another, and how they make sense of those interactions. People create, manipulate and modify their
social world through symbols. Symbols are anything that carry meaning, like
signs, gestures, pictures, tears, winks, cellphones, etc. For example, a tear is a symbol that carries
meaning. Does the tear imply happiness or sadness? It depends on the context in which the tear
occurs. If one is crying at a wedding, we assume “tears
of joy.” If one cries at a funeral, we assume “tears
of sadness.” Context then helps us define the situation
and thus, having a better understanding of the symbol.

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