An Introduction to Sociology

Read this chapter for an introduction to sociology. As you read each section, consider the following topics:

  • Write down the definition of sociology. Also, focus on Mill's concept of the sociological imagination.
  • Take note of important sociological figures, such as Karl Marx and Auguste Comte, as well as the bold terms.
  • Take notes on the three major sociological theoretical perspectives: functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism.
  • Take note of the societal, as well as personal, benefits of studying sociology. How will studying sociology help you in your life?


Figure 1.1 Sociologists study how society affects people and how people affect society.

Chapter Outline

  1. What Is Sociology?
  2. The History of Sociology
  3. Theoretical Perspectives
  4. Why Study Sociology?

We all belong to many groups; you’re a member of your sociology class, and you're a member of your family; you may belong to a political party, sports team, or the crowd watching a sporting event; you’re a citizen of your country, and you're a part of a generation. You may have a somewhat different role in each group and feel differently in each.

Groups vary in their sizes and formalities, as well as in the levels of attachment between group members, among other things. Within a large group, smaller groups may exist, and each group may behave differently.

At a rock concert, for example, some may enjoy singing along, others prefer to sit and observe, while still others may join in a mosh pit or try crowd surfing. Why do we feel and act differently in different types of social situations? Why might people of a single group exhibit different behaviors in the same situation? Why might people acting similarly not feel connected to others exhibiting the same behavior? These are some of the many questions sociologists ask as they study people and societies.

Source: Heather Griffiths and Nathan Keirns for OpenStax,
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