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?

Key Terms

the view that social researchers should strive for subjectivity as they worked to represent social processes, cultural norms, and societal values

conflict theory
a theory that looks at society as a competition for limited resources

an extension of symbolic interaction theory which proposes that reality is what humans cognitively construct it to be

a group's shared practices, values, and beliefs

dramaturgical analysis
a technique sociologists use in which they view society through the metaphor of theatrical performance

dynamic equilibrium
a stable state in which all parts of a healthy society work together properly

social patterns that have undesirable consequences for the operation of society

the process of simultaneously analyzing the behavior of an individual and the society that shapes that behavior

the part a recurrent activity plays in the social life as a whole and the contribution it makes to structural continuity

a theoretical approach that sees society as a structure with interrelated parts designed to meet the biological and social needs of individuals that make up that society

generalized others
the organized and generalized attitude of a social group

grand theories
an attempt to explain large-scale relationships and answer fundamental questions such as why societies form and why they change

a testable proposition

latent functions
the unrecognized or unintended consequences of a social process

a wide-scale view of the role of social structures within a society

manifest functions
sought consequences of a social process

micro-level theories
the study of specific relationships between individuals or small groups

philosophical and theoretical frameworks used within a discipline to formulate theories, generalizations, and the experiments performed in support of them

the scientific study of social patterns

qualitative sociology
in-depth interviews, focus groups, and/or analysis of content sources as the source of its data

quantitative sociology
statistical methods such as surveys with large numbers of participants

an error of treating an abstract concept as though it has a real, material existence

significant others
specific individuals that impact a person's life

social facts
the laws, morals, values, religious beliefs, customs, fashions, rituals, and all of the cultural rules that govern social life

social institutions
patterns of beliefs and behaviors focused on meeting social needs

social solidarity
the social ties that bind a group of people together such as kinship, shared location, and religion

a group of people who live in a defined geographical area who interact with one another and who share a common culture

sociological imagination
the ability to understand how your own past relates to that of other people, as well as to history in general and societal structures in particular

the systematic study of society and social interaction

symbolic interactionism
a theoretical perspective through which scholars examine the relationship of individuals within their society by studying their communication (language and symbols)

a proposed explanation about social interactions or society

a German word that means to understand in a deep way