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Lecture 1. the discipline of sociology. The Sociological Imagination. Defined as: “...the ability to see the relationship between individual experiences and the larger society” (Mills, 1959) Defining “society” social group geographical territory

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The discipline of sociology

Lecture 1

the discipline of sociology

The sociological imagination
The Sociological Imagination

Defined as: “...the ability to see the relationship between individual experiences and the larger society” (Mills, 1959)

Defining “society”

social group

geographical territory

same political authority and cultural expectations

Importance of global interdependence
Importance of Global Interdependence

Where we live shapes the lives we lead

Societies are increasingly interconnected

Many social problems in Canada are more serious elsewhere

Macionis and Gerber, 2011:8

The discipline of sociology1
The Discipline of Sociology

  • Industrial economy

  • Growth of cities

  • Political change

Early thinkers
Early Thinkers

Auguste Comte (1798-1857)

coined the term sociology..and considered the founder

He believed that societies contained:

Social Statics

Social Dynamics

Natural science applied to society


Early thinkers1
Early Thinkers

Harriet Martineau (1802-1876)

Made Comte’s work more accessible

She was an active sociologist studying social customs and consequences of industrialism and capitalism

Early thinkers2
Early Thinkers

Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)

Believed that people are a product of the social environment

Society are built of social facts

Anomie - a condition when social control becomes ineffective as a result of the loss of shared values and a sense of purpose in society

Scientific approach to studying social facts

Questioning the status quo
Questioning the status quo

Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Conflict (especially class conflict) was necessary

  • Bourgeoisie and proletariat

  • Capitalist system made poverty

  • Capitalist class controls and exploits the masses of struggling workers

  • Results in Alienation

  • Marx predicted that the workers would becomes aware of its exploitation and overthrow the capitalists, creating a free and classless society

  • Just one more
    Just one more…

    Max Weber (1864-1920)

    • Value-free sociology conducted in a scientific manner

    • Verstehen – see the world as others see it

    • Bureaucracies and organization

    Development in north america
    Development in North America

    United States


    First department

    Canadian Review of Sociology founded in 1965

    Theoretical perspectives
    Theoretical Perspectives

    • Theory

    • Perspective

    • A basic image of society that helps us think about social issues and guide social research

    Contemporary theoretical perspectives
    Contemporary Theoretical Perspectives

    Functionalist (or structural-functionalist)



    Symbolic Interactionist

    Functionalist perspectives
    Functionalist Perspectives

    Assumption that society is a stable, orderly system

    The parts of society work together to promote solidarity and stability

    Everything in a society (institutions, customs, interactions) function to keep the society going

    Types of functions
    Types of functions

    R. K. Merton (1910-2003)

    Attempted to classify functions




    Conflict perspectives
    Conflict Perspectives

    Assumption that groups in society are engaged in a continuous power struggle for control of scarce resources

    Social patterns and relations benefit some individuals while hurting others

    Emphasize factors such as social class, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and age

    Conflict can also lead to social change

    Feminist perspectives
    Feminist Perspectives

    Assumption that gender is necessary category to understand and to explain inequalities in the household, paid labour force, politics, law and culture

    There is no single unified approach.

    Focus on patriarchy : a hierarchical system of power in which males possess greater economic and social privilege than females

    Symbolic interactionist perspectives
    Symbolic Interactionist Perspectives

    Assumption that society is a sum of the interactions of individuals and groups

    Focuses on micro-level of analysis

    Symbolic interactionists attempt to examine people’s day-to-day interactions and their behaviour in groups

    This perspective examines:



    Each person has a subjective interpretation of a given situation

    Theory guides our research
    Theory guides our research!

    • Research is the process of systematically collecting information for the purposes of testing an existing theory or generating a new one

    • But not all sociologists collect research in the same manner

    The sociological research process
    The Sociological Research Process

    With quantitative research, the goal is scientific objectivity, and the focus is on data that can be measured numerically

    The sociological research process1
    The Sociological Research Process

    With Qualitative Research, the use of interpretative description (words) rather than statistics (numbers) are used to analyze the underlying meanings and patterns of social relationships

    Research methods
    Research Methods

    Research methods: strategies or techniques for systematically conducting research


    Secondary Analysis of Existing Data

    Field Research



    Survey: a poll in which the researcher gathers facts or attempts to determine the relationship among facts

    Respondents: people who provide data for analysis through interviews or questionnaires

    The discipline of sociology

    Types of Surveys

    • Interview

    • Personal and direct contact

    • Face to face Respondents

    • Problems: Major cost and time

    • Telephone

    • More honest and less threatening

    • Greater control over the data

    • Problems: Some not accessible to researchers

    • Self Administered

    • Questionnaires

    • Simple and inexpensive

    • Respondents are anonymous

    • Problems: low response rates


    Sampling Considerations:

    Survey research involves some type of sampling

    From a population (those persons we want to find out about)


    Representative Sample

    Random Sample

    Secondary analysis
    Secondary Analysis

    Using data that has already been gathered by someone else

    One kind: content analysis: the systematic examination of cultural artifacts or various forms of communication to extract thematic data and draw conclusions about social life

    Field research
    Field Research

    Field research is the study of social life in its natural setting: observing and interviewing people where they live, work and play

    Use of qualitative data

    Varieties of observation:

    Participant observation



    Defined: a carefully designed situation in which the researcher studies the impact of certain variables on subjects’ attitudes or behaviour.

    experimental group

    control group


    Process: After persons are selected with very similar characteristics into these two groups, then:

    Both groups are pre-tested

    Exposed to a stimulus representing the independent variable

    Post-tested: to see if the independent variable had an effect on the dependent variable

    Ethical issues in sociological research
    Ethical Issues in Sociological Research

    Elements of the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association:

    Participation must be voluntary

    No harm to research subjects (physically, psychologically, or personally)

    To protect confidentiality and anonymity

    To summarize
    To summarize

    • Sociology involves using different theoretical perspectives to systematically study the social world

    • Different perspectives can be used to interpret the same issues/topics in different ways

    • These different perspectives allow us to deconstruct the “taken-for-granted” ways of thinking