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The Sociological Imagination. While psychology focuses on how the hard-wired traits of individuals drive behavior, sociology focuses on how broader beliefs and structures shape behavior Sociology is a way of seeing and making sense of the world

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the sociological imagination
The Sociological Imagination
  • While psychology focuses on how the hard-wired traits of individuals drive behavior, sociology focuses on how broader beliefs and structures shape behavior
  • Sociology is a way of seeing and making sense of the world
  • Sociology involves critical thinking and a vigilant skepticism of commonsense explanations about the world
the sociological imagination2
The Sociological Imagination
  • Sociology involves attention to history and constant questioning about the origins of social patterns and problems
  • A key notion in sociology, and emphasized by C. Wright Mills, is “social structure”
  • Social structure has to do with power, social interaction and collective beliefs
elements of social structure
Elements of Social Structure
  • Powerful people (e.g. CEOs, politicians) and organizations (e.g. conglomerates, political parties, unions etc.) that define and shape social life
  • Norms, values and cultural beliefs
    • Western explorer who is told halfway through dinner that he is eating the nice old lady he had been chatting with the previous day—Berger
    • Spit or Saliva?
studying society
Studying Society
  • Sociological Questions:

How did things get the way they are?

    • Why do women make less than men?
    • Why is there growing income inequality in the U.S.?
  • To develop answers to such questions, sociologists tend to focus on broader historical processes
    • e.g. “McDonaldization”
slide5

“McDonaldization”

  • The search for maximum efficiency in increasingly numerous and diverse social settings (where efficiency has to do with identifying the optimum means to a given end)
  • Why Important?
    • Dehumanizing for employees (job dissatisfaction)
    • Impersonal customer interactions/society
slide6

Why did McDonald’s emerge?

  • Provided the most efficient way to meet society’s needs
  • But it was more than that…McDonald’s was created under particular historical circumstances where the behavior of people had become driven by efficiency concerns as opposed to other kinds of concerns such as preparing and consuming meals as a family event
explaining marriage
Explaining Marriage
  • Conventional Western explanation focuses on Love
    • In reality, most marriages involve people who are similar in a variety of ways (socio-economic background, race, ethnicity etc.)
    • Hence, social structural considerations shape marriage rituals by generating appropriate “love” emotions
slide8

Concluding Thoughts

  • The sociological imagination enables us to be reflective and critical about who we are and about how society works
    • While McDonalds may be efficient, we may want to be concerned about some of the negative consequences of McDonaldization (dehumanization)
  • We are all bound up in broader historical processes that shape how we think and act
slide9

Concluding Thoughts

  • The sociological imagination not only helps you to understand the world better, but also provides insight that can be helpful in understanding how the future may unfold