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Sociological Perspectives
Chapter 1
An Invitation to
Chapter 2
Research Methods
An Invitation
to Sociology
1. The Sociological
2. The Origins of
3. Theoretical
Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter, you
will be able to
• define sociology.
• describe two uses of the
sociological perspective.
• distinguish sociology from
other social sciences.
• outline the contributions
of the major pioneers of
• summarize the development
of sociology in the United
• identify the three major
theoretical perspectives
in sociology today.
Sociologists study how people
behave in groups. Often sociologists
look for the recurring patterns in human
behavior. Many of us make assumptions
about society every day. In the photo at
left, for example, what characteristic
assumptions about American society are
portrayed? You might respond that the
photo suggests that young Americans are
positive, multicultural, fashion-conscious,
value individualism, but also value equality.
(After all, none of the students seems to
be more important than any other.)
Questioning and researching assumptions is an important part of sociology. By
learning to question conventional wisdom
(what most people believe to be true), you
will be in a better position to make decisions or judgments. Your decisions will be
based on reality rather than on socially
accepted false beliefs. This does not mean
that all conventional wisdom is false, of
course, but it is important to know that the
facts are accurate when policies affecting
people’s lives are made.
Sociology is a relatively new field of
study. It only became a well recognized
discipline in the late 1800s. As you will see
when you read this chapter, it is the “infant
of the social sciences.” This chapter will
introduce you not only to the pioneers of
the field but also to the basic ways that
sociologists approach their subject.
Chapter Overview
Visit the Sociology and You Web site at and click on Chapter 1—Chapter
Overviews to preview chapter information.
The Sociological Perspective
Key Terms
perspective (p. 6)
sociology (p. 6)
perspective (p. 6)
structure (p. 9)
imagination (p. 11)
a particular point of view
the scientific study of social
structure (patterned social
sociological perspective
a view that looks at
behavior of groups, not
These elephant tusks were
burned to discourage trade in
ivory. Whether you support this
action depends upon your beliefs
about conservation and national
6 Unit 1 Sociological Perspectives
Section Preview
Sociology studies human social behavior. It assumes a group, rather than an
individual, perspective. Sociologists look for the patterns in social relationships. Individuals can benefit by using their sociological imaginations to look
at events in their personal lives.
The Nature of Sociology
perspective is a particular point of view. Babies are usually brighter
and better looking to their parents than they are to others. Newlyweds
nearly always find their spouses much more attractive than do their friends.
We all see what is happening around us through our own perspectives—our
own points of view.
We normally do not realize how much of our attitudes and beliefs are
determined by our perspectives. Sometimes, though, when our outlook is
challenged, we may be jarred into realizing how much we take it for granted.
As you will see, sociology has its own perspective. To understand it, you must
have an idea of just what sociology is.
What is sociology? As a newcomer to the field, you may at first view
sociology as the study of human social behavior. As you go along, however,
you will acquire a more precise understanding of sociology as the scientific
study of social structure. (Social structure is discussed later in this section.)
What is unique about sociology? Sociology, as stated earlier,
has its own perspective. The sociological perspective never focuses on the
individual. Psychologists may study the individual, but not sociologists.
The view through the lens of sociology always remains at the social, or
group, level.
Social Science
Sociology investigates human social behavior from a group rather than an
individual perspective. It concentrates on patterns of social relationships,
primarily in modern societies.
Relationship between the employment of
women and family size
Anthropology investigates culture, the customary be- Nature of the family in preliterate
liefs and material traits of groups. It is the social sci- societies
ence most closely related to sociology. Anthropologists, however, concentrate on the study of preliterate
societies (societies that do not use writing). Sociologists focus on modern, industrial societies.
Psychology investigates human mental and emotional
processes. While sociologists concentrate on the group,
psychologists also study the development and functioning of the individual.
Economics is the study of the production, distribution, and consumption of
goods and services.
Effects of birth order on emotional
Annual income levels of American
Political science investigates the
organization, administration, his- Relationship between a family's social
tory, and theory of government. class and voting behavior
Political scientists are concerned, for example, with voting
patterns and participation in political parties.
Political science
History examines past events in human
societies. Historians generally rely on
newspapers, historical documents, and
oral histories as sources of information.
Nature of family life in colonial
The Social Sciences
Social science is a branch of learning that deals with human society. It includes a
number of disciplines, which we generally refer to as the social sciences. These
disciplines differ, but they share enough in common to overlap. Descriptions of
the major social sciences are presented in this table.
Chapter 1 An Invitation to Sociology
Industrial Revolution
American Revolution
Herbert Spencer publishes
Social Statics
George Washington
is president
French Revolution
Charles Darwin publishes
On the Origin of Species
Louisiana Purchase
Francis Lowell builds nation’s
largest textile factory
Indian Removal Act
Harriet Martineau publishes
Society in America
Time Line of Early Sociologists
Auguste Comte’s book,
Positive Philosophy, identifies
science of sociology
Both landmark dates in sociology (blue dots)
and American history (red dots) are placed
on this time line. Can you suggest how the
development of the box camera in 1888 might
have influenced the growth of sociology as a
field of study?
Karl Marx publishes
The Communist Manifesto,
promoting a classless society
Sociologists do not focus on the behavior of individuals but on
the patterns of behavior shared by members of a group or society.
The person on the street might explain human behavior in individualistic or personal terms—a young man joins a gang to prove his
toughness; a woman divorces her husband to develop her potential;
a teen commits suicide to escape depression.
Sociologists attempt to explain these same events without relying on personal factors. They look for social rather than personal
explanations when they examine delinquency, divorce, or suicide.
Sociologists might explain the events in the following ways:
Young men join gangs because they have been taught by their
society to be “masculine.”
More women divorce because of the social trend toward sexual
Teens commit suicide because of peer group expectations of performance, material possessions, and physical appearance.
Sociologists do not speak of a young man, a married woman, or
a teenager. They concentrate on categories of people—young men,
married women, and teenagers.
Joining a gang provides some young men—and women—with a sense
of security and belonging they haven’t found elsewhere.
8 Unit 1 Sociological Perspectives
World War I
Industrial Revolution
Lincoln issues the
Emancipation Proclamation
Worldwide depression
World War II
W.E.B. Du Bois publishes
The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study
U.S. population passes 40 million
Alexander G. Bell patents telephone
Max Weber publishes
The Protestant Ethic
and the Spirit of Capitalism
First U.S. scenic highway opens
Mickey Mouse is “born”
Haymarket Square Riot
George Eastman
introduces Kodak
box camera
Jane Addams awarded
Nobel Peace Prize
Model T Ford mass produced
First department of
sociology is established
at the University of Chicago
Titanic sinks
19th Amendment gives
women the right to vote in U.S.
Emile Durkheim
publishes Suicide
The Importance of Patterns
As you well know, high school students in a classroom behave in different
ways. Some students listen to everything their teacher says. Some tune in and
out, and others spend much of the time daydreaming. Yet, if you visit almost
any high school, you will find patterned relationships. Teachers walk around
the room, work with students, lecture, and give tests. Students follow the
teacher’s lesson plan, make notes, and take tests. Although the personal characteristics of students and teachers may vary from school to school, students
and teachers relate in similar patterned ways. It is the patterned interaction of
people in social relationships—what sociologists call social structure—that
captures the attention of sociologists.
How do group behavior and individual behavior differ?
Sociologists assume that social relationships are not determined only by the
particular characteristics of the people involved. Emile Durkheim, a pioneering nineteenth-century sociologist, helped develop the sociological perspective. He argued, for example, that we do not attempt to explain bronze in
terms of its separate parts (lead, copper, and tin). Instead, we consider bronze a
totally new metal created by the combination of several other metals. We cannot even predict the characteristics of bronze from the traits of its parts. For
example, bronze is hard, while lead, copper, and tin are soft and pliable. The
mixing of the individual parts creates a new whole with new characteristics.
Durkheim reasoned that a similar process happens with groups of people.
Indeed, people’s behavior within a group setting cannot be predicted from
their personal characteristics. Something new is created when individuals
social structure
the patterned interaction of
people in social relationships
Student Web Activity
Visit the Sociology and You Web
site at and click
on Chapter 1—Student Web
Activities for an activity on
social patterns.
Chapter 1 An Invitation to Sociology
A Native American’s Speech
Virginia colonists had offered to “properly educate” some young Indian boys at the College of
William and Mary in Williamsburg. To the surprise
of the colonists, the benefits of a white gentleman’s
education were not highly valued by the tribal
elders. Below is a Native American’s reply to the
white men’s offer.
We know that you highly esteem the kind of
learning taught in . . . [your] colleges. . . . But you,
who are wise, must know that different nations
have different conceptions of things; and you will
not therefore take it amiss, if our ideas of this kind
of education happen not to be the same with
yours. We have had some experience of it; several
of our young people were formerly brought up at
the colleges of the northern provinces; they were
instructed in all your sciences; but, when they came
back to us, they were bad runners, ignorant of
every means of living in the woods, unable to bear
either cold or hunger, knew neither how to build
a cabin, take a deer, nor kill an enemy, spoke our
language imperfectly, were therefore neither fit for
hunters, warriors, nor councellors; they were totally
good for nothing.
We are however not the less obligated by your
kind offer, though we decline accepting it; and, to
show our grateful sense of it, if the gentlemen of
Virginia will send us a dozen of their sons, we will
take care of their education, instruct them in all we
know, and make men of them.
Thinking It Over
1. Describe your reaction to this passage. What
does it tell you about the importance of perspective in interpreting the social world?
2. Describe a social encounter where you personally experienced a “clash of perspectives” with
someone from another culture.
3. Do you think your education is preparing you to
succeed in the world outside school?
come together. For example, in 2005 the New England Patriots won the Super
Bowl championship. Following the game, a few otherwise law-abiding football fans, as a group, disrupted the peace and challenged the police in ways
they would not have done as individuals.
Tragedy, as well as joy, can change group behavior. In 2005, for example,
the destructive forces of Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans.
Large portions of the city were underwater, and many families lost everything they had. In the days following the hurricane, when help was slow in
coming, looting, violence, and other criminal activities became serious problems for law-enforcement officials. Many of the looting incidents involved
normally law-abiding residents gathering food, water, and other essential
goods from unattended grocery stores.
10 Unit 1 Sociological Perspectives
Why do people conform? Groups range in size from a family to an
entire society. Regardless of size, all groups encourage conformity. We will
study conformity in more detail later. For now, you need to know only that
members of a group think, feel, and behave in similar ways. For example,
Americans, Russians, and Nigerians have eating habits, dress, religious beliefs,
and attitudes toward family life that reflect their group.
Conformity within a group occurs, in part, because members have been
taught to value the group’s ways. Members generally tend to conform even
when their personal preferences are not the same as the group’s. Some teens,
for example, start smoking only to gain group acceptance.
Behavior within a group cannot be predicted simply from knowledge
about its individual members. This could be because members truly value
their group’s ways or because they give in to social pressures. Like bronze, the
group is more than the sum of its parts.
Acquiring the Sociological Imagination
The sociological perspective enables us to develop a sociological imagination. That is, knowing how social forces affect our lives can prevent us from
being prisoners of those forces. C. Wright Mills (2000), an American sociologist, called this personal use of sociology the sociological imagination —the
ability of individuals to see the relationship between events in their personal
lives and events in their society.
sociological imagination
the ability to see the link
between society and self
What is gained by using our sociological
imagination? People do not make decisions, big or small,
in isolation. Historically, for example, American society has
shown a strong bias against childless and one-child marriages.
Couples without children have been considered selfish, and
an only child has often been labeled “spoiled” (Benokraitis,
2004). These values date back to a time when large families were needed for survival. Most people lived on family
farms, where children were needed to help with the work.
Furthermore, many children died at birth or in infancy.
People responded to society’s needs by having large families. Now, as the need for large families is disappearing, we
are beginning to read about benefits of one-child families—
to the child, to the family, and to society. This change in
attitude is reflected in the decrease in family size.
The sociological imagination helps us understand the
effects of events, such as the social pressures just discussed,
on our daily lives. With this understanding, we are in a better position to make our own decisions rather than merely
conform (Erikson, 1997; Game and Metcalfe, 1996).
This social awareness permits us to read the newspaper with a fuller understanding of the events. Instead of
interpreting a letter opposing welfare as an expression
of someone with no compassion, we might instead see the writer
as a person who places great importance on independence and self-help. The
sociological imagination questions common interpretations of human social
behavior. It challenges conventional social wisdom—ideas people assume are
To the outsider, these teenagers seem to be dressed alike.
How does this photo show that
a group is more than the sum of
its parts?
Chapter 1 An Invitation to Sociology
Job Opportunities
in Sociology
In general, all employers are interested in four types of skills regardless of
what specific career path you choose. These skills are:
the ability to work with others
the ability to solve problems
the ability to write and speak well
the ability to analyze information
Because computers have revolutionized the office, for example, information analysis skills are becoming much more important to managers
in all types of organizations. The increasing complexity of work demands
greater critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Knowledge is of limited
use if you can’t convey what you know to others.
The study of sociology helps students to develop these general skills, so
it is a solid base for many career paths. For sociology majors, the following
list of possibilities is only the beginning—many other paths are open to you.
Social services—in rehabilitation, case management, group work with
youth or the elderly, recreation, or administration
Community work—in fund-raising for social service organizations,
nonprofits, child-care or community development agencies, or environmental groups
Corrections—in probation, parole, or other criminal justice work
Business—in advertising, marketing and consumer research, insurance,
real estate, personnel work, training, or sales
College settings—in admissions, alumni relations, or placement offices
Health services—in family planning, substance abuse, rehabilitation
counseling, health planning, hospital admissions, and insurance
Publishing, journalism, and public relations—in writing, research, and
Government services—in federal, state, and local government jobs in
such areas as transportation, housing, agriculture, and labor
Teaching—in elementary and secondary schools, in conjunction with
appropriate teacher certification; also in universities, with research
Doing Sociology
Adapted from Careers in
Sociology, American Sociological
Association, 2006.
12 Unit 1 Sociological Perspectives
1. Which of the above career paths is most interesting to you? What is
it about this area that you find interesting?
2. Evaluate your current strengths and weaknesses in the four primary
skill areas.
3. Look at the employment opportunities in the Sunday edition of your
local paper. Clip out ads for jobs that you might qualify for with a
sociology degree.
Health Insurance
Americans tend to believe that all children have the right to receive good
medical care. Research has shown, however, that American children do
not have equal access to medical care. One reason for this is a lack of
health insurance. This map shows, by state, the percentage of children
under age eighteen who do not have health insurance.
Interpreting the Map
1. Which states have the fewest uninsured
children? Which state has the most?
2. How does your state rate on health insurance
coverage for children?
3. How might using your sociological imagination
help you to explain why children in the United
States have unequal access to medical care?
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United
States: 2004–2005.
1. Define sociology.
2. Explain the significance of
patterns for sociologists.
3. Give an example from your
life that illustrates conformity within a group.
4. How does the sociological
imagination help people to
understand the effects of
society on their personal
Critical Thinking
5. Making Comparisons Examine
the idea of perspectives by
identifying an issue that you
look at in one way and your
parent(s) or other adults look
at in a different way. Write
about the issue from both
Chapter 1 An Invitation to Sociology
The Origins of Sociology
Key Terms
positivism (p. 14)
social statics (p. 14)
dynamics (p. 14)
bourgeoisie (p. 16)
capitalist (p. 16)
proletariat (p. 16)
class conflict (p. 16)
solidarity (p. 17)
solidarity (p. 17)
verstehen (p. 18)
rationalization (p. 18)
Section Preview
Sociology is a young science. It started with the writings of European scholars
like Auguste Comte, Harriet Martineau, Herbert Spencer, Karl Marx, Emile
Durkheim, and Max Weber. Jane Addams and W.E.B. DuBois helped to focus
America’s attention on social issues. After World War II, America took the lead
in developing the field of sociology.
European Origins
ociology is a relatively new science. It began in late nineteenth-century
Europe during a time of great social upheaval. The social and economic
effects of the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution were touching all aspects of life. People were moving from farms to factory life, losing a
sense of community.
Some intellectuals were fascinated and troubled
by the sudden changes. Auguste Comte, Harriet
Martineau, and others began to grapple with
ideas for bringing back a sense of community and for restoring order. These ideas
led to the rise of the science of sociology.
Examining the central ideas of the major
pioneers of sociology will help you better understand what sociology is today.
What were Auguste Comte’s
major ideas? Auguste Comte (1798–
the belief that knowledge
should be derived from
scientific observation
social statics
the study of social stability
and order
social dynamics
the study of social change
14 Unit 1 Sociological Perspectives
1857), a Frenchman, is recognized as
the father of sociology. As a child he was
often ill, but he proved early to be an
excellent student. He had difficulty balAuguste Comte is considered
ancing his genuine interest in school and
to be the founder of sociology.
He was the first to advocate
his rebellious and stubborn nature. In fact,
the scientific study of society.
he was expelled for protesting against the
examination procedures at the elite Ecole
As an adult, Comte’s main concern was the improvement of society. If
societies were to advance, Comte believed, social behavior had to be studied
scientifically. Because no science of society existed, Comte attempted to create one himself. He coined the term sociology to describe this science.
Comte wanted to use scientific observation in the study of social behavior. He called this positivism. He meant that sociology should be a science
based on knowledge of which we can be “positive,” or sure. Comte also distinguished between social statics, the study of social stability and order, and
social dynamics, the study of social change. This distinction between social
stability and social change remains at the center of modern sociology.
Comte published his theories in a book titled Positive Philosophy, but he
died before people generally came to appreciate his work. His belief that sociology could use scientific procedures and promote social progress, however,
was widely adopted by other European scholars.
What were Harriet Martineau’s contributions? Harriet
Martineau (1802–1876), an Englishwoman, is another important figure
in the founding of sociology. She was born into a solidly middleclass home. Never in good health, Martineau had lost her sense
of taste, smell, and hearing before reaching adulthood. Her writing career, which included fiction as well as sociological work,
began in 1825 after the Martineau’s family textile mill was lost
to a business depression. Without the family income, and following a broken engagement, Martineau was forced to seek a
dependable source of income to support herself. She became
a popular writer of celebrity status, whose work initially outsold Charles Dickens’s.
Martineau is best known today for her translation of
Comte’s great book. Her English translation remains even
today the most readable one. Despite being severely hearing
impaired, she also made original contributions in the areas of
research methods, political economy, and feminist theory.
Harriet Martineau emphasized
In Society in America, Martineau established herself as a
sociology as a science and
pioneering feminist theorist. Because she saw a link between
introduced feminism. Her proslavery and the oppression of women, she was a strong and
found deafness prevented her
outspoken supporter of the emancipation of both women and
earning a living as a teacher so
slaves. Martineau believed women’s lack of economic power
she became an author.
helped keep them dependent. By writing about the inferior
position of women in society, she helped inspire future feminist theorists.
Why did Herbert Spencer oppose social reform? Herbert
Herbert Spencer was an
early proponent of Social
Darwinism and evolutionary
social change.
Spencer (1820–1903), the sole survivor of
nine children, was born to an English schoolteacher. Spencer was taught exclusively by
his father and uncle, mostly in mathematics and the natural sciences. He did not
enjoy scholarly work or the study of
Latin, Greek, English, or history, and
therefore he decided not to apply to
Cambridge University, his uncle’s alma
mater. As a result, his higher education
was largely the result of his own reading. Spencer’s career became a mixture
of engineering, drafting, inventing,
journalism, and writing.
To explain social stability, Herbert
Spencer compared society to the human
body. He explained that, like a body, a
society is composed of parts working
together to promote its well-being and
survival. People have brains, stomachs,
nervous systems, limbs. Societies have
Chapter 1 An Invitation to Sociology
economies, religions, governments, families. Just as the eyes and the heart
make essential contributions to the functioning of the human body, religious
and educational institutions are crucial for a society’s functioning.
Spencer also introduced a theory of social change called Social Darwinism,
based on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Spencer thought that evolutionary social change led to progress—provided people did not interfere. If left
alone, natural social selection would ensure the survival of the fittest society.
On these grounds, Spencer opposed social reform because it interfered with
the selection process. The poor, he wrote, deserve to be poor and the rich to
be rich. Society profits from allowing individuals to find their own social-class
level without outside help or hindrance. To interfere with the existence of
poverty—or the result of any other natural process—is harmful to society.
When Spencer visited America in 1882, he was warmly greeted, particularly by corporate leaders. After all, his ideas provided moral justification for
their competitive actions. Later, public support for government intervention
increased, and Spencer’s ideas began to slip out of fashion. He reportedly died
with a sense of having failed. His contribution in sociology was a discussion
of how societies should be structured.
Who was Karl Marx? Karl Marx (1818–1883), a German scholar, did
class owning the means for
producing wealth
person who owns or controls
the means for producing
working class; those who labor
for the bourgeoisie
class conflict
the ongoing struggle between
the bourgeoisie (owners)
and the proletariat (working)
16 Unit 1 Sociological Perspectives
not consider himself a sociologist, but his ideas have had a major effect on
the field. Marx felt great concern for the poverty
and inequality suffered by the working class
of his day. His life was guided by the principle that social scientists should try to
change the world rather than merely
study it. Marx’s friend and coauthor
Friedrich Engels helped put his ideas
into writing.
Marx identified several social
classes in nineteenth-century industrial society. Among them were
farmers, servants, factory workers,
craftspeople, owners of small businesses, and moneyed capitalists.
He predicted that at some point all
industrial societies would contain
only two social classes: the bourgeoisie
Karl Marx was the social
and the proletariat. The bourgeoisie
scientist who underscored the
(burzh-wa-zee) are those who own the
importance of conflict in social
means for producing wealth in industrial
change. Parts of his writings
society (for example, factories and equipwere later used as a basis for
ment). The means for producing wealth
are called capital. Thus, those who own
them are also called capitalists. The
proletariat work for the bourgeoisie and
are paid just enough to stay alive.
For Marx, the key to the unfolding of history was class conflict —a clash
between the bourgeoisie, who controlled the means for producing wealth,
and the proletariat, who labored for them. Just as slaves overthrew slave owners, wage workers would overtake capitalists. Out of this conflict would come
a classless (communistic) society—one in which there would be no powerless
Planned revolution, Marx was convinced, could speed up the change from
capitalism to communism. His political objective was to explain the workings of capitalism in order to hasten its fall through revolution. He believed,
though, that capitalism would eventually self-destruct anyway.
What were Emile Durkheim’s greatest contributions?
Emile Durkheim (1858–1917) was the son of a French rabbi. Durkheim
was a brilliant student even during his early school years. In college,
he was so intensely studious that his schoolmates nicknamed him “the
According to Durkheim, society exists because of broad consensus, or
agreement, among members of a society. In preindustrial times, societies were based on what sociologists call mechanical solidarity. With
these societies, there was widespread consensus of values and beliefs,
strong social pressures for conformity, and dependence on tradition and
family. In contrast, industrial societies are based on organic solidarity
—social interdependency based on a web of highly specialized roles. These
specialized roles make members of a society dependent on one another for
goods and services. For example, instead of being self-sufficient, people need
bankers and bankers need customers.
Although early sociologists emphasized the need to make sociology scientific, they did not have the research tools that are available today. Later
sociologists developed the methods to replace speculation with observation,
to collect and classify data, and to use data for testing social theories.
Durkheim was the most prominent of these later sociologists. He first
introduced the use of statistical techniques in his groundbreaking research
on suicide, which we will discuss in Chapter 2. In that study, Durkheim
demonstrated that suicide involves more than individuals acting alone
and that suicide rates vary according to group characteristics. Durkheim
showed that human social behavior must be
explained by social factors rather than just
psychological ones.
Who was Max Weber? Max Weber
Max Weber’s model of a
bureaucracy reflected greatly
increased efficiency in business
and government. Today, however, bureaucratic is often used
as a synonym for unimaginative, plodding, or despotic.
(1864–1920) was the eldest son of a
father who was a well-to-do German
lawyer and politician. His mother, in
stark contrast, was a strongly devout
Calvinist who rejected the worldly
lifestyle of her husband. Weber was
affected psychologically by the conflicting values of his parents. Weber
eventually suffered a complete mental
breakdown from which he recovered
to do some of his best work. As a university professor trained in law and economics, Weber wrote on a wide variety
of topics, including the nature of power,
the religions of the world, the nature of
social classes, and the development and
nature of bureaucracy. His most famous
book is The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of
Capitalism, published in 1906.
Emile Durkheim was the first
sociologist to use statistical
methods in the study of human
groups. He was also the first
to teach a university sociology
mechanical solidarity
social dependency based
on a widespread consensus of
values and beliefs, enforced
conformity, and dependence
on tradition and family
organic solidarity
social interdependency based
on a high degree of specialization in roles
Chapter 1 An Invitation to Sociology
understanding social behavior by putting yourself in the
place of others
the mind-set emphasizing
knowledge, reason, and
Through the quality of his work and the diversity of his interests, Weber
has had the single most important influence on the development of sociological theory. Human beings act on the basis of their own understanding of
a situation, Weber said. Thus, sociologists must discover the personal meanings, values, beliefs, and attitudes underlying human social behavior. Weber
believed that an understanding of the personal intentions of people in groups
can be best accomplished through the method of verstehen —understanding
the social behavior of others by putting yourself mentally in their places. Putting yourself in someone else’s “shoes” allows you to temporarily shed your
values and see things from a different point of view.
Weber also identified rationalization as a key influence in the change
from a preindustrial to an industrial society. Rationalization is the mindset that emphasizes the use of knowledge, reason, and planning. It marked a
change from the tradition, emotion, and superstition of preindustrial society.
For example, agriculture became grounded in science rather than belief in
luck, fate, or magic. In stressing rationality and objectivity, Weber pioneered
research techniques that helped prevent personal biases from unduly affecting the results of sociological investigations.
Sociology in America
Although the early development of sociology occurred in Europe,
the greatest development of sociology has taken place in the United States.
Because sociology has become a science largely through the efforts of
American sociologists, it is not surprising that the majority of all sociologists
are from the United States. Sociological writings in English are used by sociologists throughout the world, reflecting the global influence of American
In 1892, the first department of sociology was established at the University
of Chicago. From its founding up to World War II, the sociology department at
the University of Chicago stood at the forefront of American sociology. After
World War II, sociology departments at eastern universities such as Harvard
and Columbia, midwestern universities such as Wisconsin and Michigan, and
western universities such as Stanford and the University
of California at Berkeley emerged as leaders.
In later chapters we will be studying the works of
major American sociologists. Two early contributors,
however, who are often left out of the history of American
sociology are Jane Addams and W.E.B. DuBois. Although
neither of these remarkable people were researchers or
scientists, both were greatly concerned with social problems in America.
Everyone manages his or her behavior to create a desired
impression. What face have you put on today?
18 Unit 1 Sociological Perspectives
Why should we remember Jane Addams? The best
known of the early women social reformers in the United States
was Jane Addams (1860–1935). Although her mother died when
she was two years old, Addams’s wealthy father provided a loving
and comfortable home for her and her eight brothers and sisters.
Addams was an excellent student. Her early education emphasized
practical knowledge and the improvement of “the organizations
of human society.” She attended the Women’s Medical College of
Philadelphia but was compelled to drop out of the school because
of illness.
When she was a child, Addams saw many examples of governJane Addams was a social
ment corruption and business practices that harmed workers. She
reformer who spent her life
never forgot their suffering. While on one of her European trips,
working on the social
she saw the work being done to help the poor in London. With
problems created by the
this example of social action, Addams began her life’s work seekimbalance of power among
social classes.
ing social justice. She co-founded Hull House in Chicago’s slums.
Here, people who needed refuge—immigrants, the sick, the poor,
the aged—could find help.
Addams focused on the problems caused by the imbalance of power among
the social classes. She invited sociologists from the University of Chicago
to Hull House to witness firsthand the effects of industrialism on the lower
class. In addition to her work with the underclass, Addams was active in the
woman suffrage and peace movements. As a result of her tireless work for
social reform, Addams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931—the first
sociologist to receive this honor. The irony is that Addams herself suffered a
sort of class discrimination. She was not considered a sociologist during her
lifetime because she did not teach at a university. She was considered a social
worker (then considered a less prestigious career) because she was a woman
and because she worked directly with the poor.
Chapter 1 An Invitation to Sociology
Analysis: The
of Higher
According to George Ritzer,
universities share some of the
organizational characteristics of
popular fast-food restaurants.
20 Unit 1 Sociological Perspectives
Research is to sociology what lab experiments are to chemists. Through
the research process sociologists gather information, or data, to help them
understand how people behave in social settings. (In the next chapter, you
will learn more about how sociologists do research.) The research project
described below will give you some idea of how sociologists use alreadycollected data to study human social behavior.
In this study, George Ritzer investigated how Max Weber’s process of
rationalization (see page 18) is being used by a popular fast-food company. Like Weber, Ritzer was interested in the movement of organizations
toward ever-increasing efficiency, predictability, calculability, and control.
After explaining each of these characteristics, Ritzer applies rationalization
to the field of education in what he calls the “McDonaldization” of higher
Efficiency refers to the relationship between effort and result. An organization is most efficient when the maximum results are achieved with minimum effort. For example, fast-food restaurants are efficient in part because
they transfer work usually done by employees to customers. For example,
self-service drink centers allow customers to get refills on drinks while
disguising the fact they are waiting on themselves. Calculability involves
estimation based on probabilities.
High calculability exists when the
output, cost, and effort associated
with products can be predicted.
A McDonald’s manager trains
employees to make each Big Mac
within a rigid time limit. Predictabilty pertains to consistency of
results. Predictability exists when
products turn out as planned. Big
Macs are the same everywhere.
Control is increased by replacing
human activity with technology.
McDonald’s drink machines stop
after a cup has been filled to its
prescribed limit.
Because Ritzer believes that
McDonald’s restaurants reflect the
rationalization process, he refers
to the “McDonaldization” of
society (1998). His sources of
information include newspapers,
books, magazines, and industry
publications. Since many of you are now thinking about attending college,
Ritzer’s findings on the “McUniversity” should be of interest.
Increasingly, students and parents view a college degree as a necessity to compete successfully in the job market. “Shopping” for the right
college requires many of the consumer skills used in making any major
purchase. This consumer orientation, Ritzer asserts, can be seen on most
college campuses in the United States. For example, students want education to be conveniently located and they want it open as long as possible each day. They seek inexpensive parking, efficient service, and short
waiting lines. Students want high-quality service at the lowest cost. A “best
buy” label in national academic rankings catches the attention of parents
and students.
Public colleges and universities, Ritzer contends, are responding to
this consumer orientation. They are doing so in part because government
funding for higher education is becoming more scarce. To meet reduced
funding, colleges and universities are cutting costs and paying more attention to “customers.” For example, Ritzer points to student unions. Many
of them are being transformed into mini-malls with fast-food restaurants,
video games, and ATMs.
Ritzer predicts that a far-reaching, customer-oriented tactic will be to
“McDonaldize” through new technology. The “McUniversity” will still have
a central campus, but it will also have convenient satellite locations in
community colleges, high schools, businesses, and malls. “Students will
‘drop by’ for a course or two. Parking lots will be adjacent to McUniversity’s
satellites (as they are to fast-food restaurants) to make access easy” (Ritzer,
1998: 156).
McDonaldization, Ritzer contends, will dehumanize the process of education. Most instructors at satellites will be part-timers hired to teach one or
more courses. They will come and go quickly, so students will not have the
opportunity to form relationships as with more permanent faculty members.
In order to make the courses alike from satellite to satellite, course content,
requirements, and materials will be highly standardized, losing the flavor
individual professors bring to their classes. Students will not be able to
choose a particular instructor for a course because there will be only one
per satellite. Often, there may be no teacher physically present at all. More
courses will be delivered by professors televised from distant places.
In spite of these predictions, colleges and universities will not be a
chain of fast-food restaurants or a shopping mall, Ritzer concludes. Institutions of higher education will retain many traditional aspects, but there will
undoubtedly be a significant degree of McDonaldization.
Working with the Research
1. Do you think the benefits of the “McUniversity” outweigh the
disadvantages? Why or why not?
2. In what ways have American high schools been affected by
McDonaldization? Give examples.
Chapter 1 An Invitation to Sociology
Du Bois used science and
sociology to disprove racist
assumptions about African
What were the contributions of W.E.B. Du Bois?
W.E.B. Du Bois focused on the
question of race inside and
outside the United States.
W.E.B. Du Bois (1868–1963), an African American educator and social
activist, also influenced the early development of sociology in the United
States. Du Bois attended an integrated high school in Great Barrington,
Massachusetts, and was the first African American to receive a diploma
there. He earned a doctorate degree from Harvard University in 1895 and
taught at a number of predominantly black universities during his career.
Du Bois learned firsthand about racial discrimination and segregation
when he attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, as an undergraduate student. Partly from this experience, and from teaching in rural, all-black
schools around Nashville, Du Bois decided to attack the “Negro problem.”
This racist policy was based on the assumption that African Americans were
an inferior race. Du Bois analyzed the sophisticated social structure of African
American communities, first in Philadelphia and later in other places.
Du Bois’s concern for his race did not stop at the borders of the United
States—he was also active in the Pan African movement, which was concerned with the rights of all African descendants, no matter where they lived.
While documenting the experience and contributions of African people
throughout the world, Du Bois died in the African country of Ghana, at the
age of ninety-five.
1. Define the term positivism.
2. Name and explain the theory of social change
proposed by Herbert Spencer.
3. Give an example to illustrate Emile Durkheim’s
idea of organic solidarity.
22 Unit 1 Sociological Perspectives
Critical Thinking
4. Evaluating Information Max Weber introduced
the concept of verstehen. How would you use
this approach to social research if you wanted
to investigate the importance of money to
your peers? Explain.
Theoretical Perspectives
Key Terms
Section Preview
Sociology includes three major theoretical perspectives. Functionalism views
society as an integrated whole. Conflict theory looks at class, race, and gender
struggles. Symbolic interactionism examines how group members use shared
symbols as they interact.
perspective (p. 23)
functionalism (p. 25)
manifest functions
(p. 26)
latent functions
(p. 26)
The Role of Theoretical Perspectives
erception is the way the brain interprets an image or event. Similarly,
perspective is the way you interpret the meaning of an image or event.
Your perspective is influenced by beliefs or values you hold. It draws your
attention to some things and blinds you to others. This is demonstrated in
two drawings psychologists often use to illustrate the concept of perception.
(See Figure 1.1.) If you stare at the old woman long enough, she becomes a
beautiful young woman with a feather boa around her neck. If you stare at
Figure 1.1b, it alternates between two facing profiles and a vase. You cannot,
however, see the old woman and the young woman or the faces and the vase
at the same time.
Which image is real depends on your focus—your perspective influences
what you see. One perspective emphasizes certain aspects of an event, while
another perspective accents different aspects of the same event. When a perspective highlights certain parts of something, it necessarily places other parts
in the background.
dysfunction (p. 26)
conflict perspective
(p. 26)
power (p. 27)
symbol (p. 30)
(p. 30)
dramaturgy (p. 31)
What is a theoretical perspective? A theoretical perspective is
theoretical perspective
a set of assumptions about an area of study—in this case, about the workings
of society. A theoretical perspective is viewed as true by its supporters and it
helps them organize their research.
Competing, even conflicting, theories in science usually exist at the
same time. Perhaps not enough evidence exists to determine which theory
a set of assumptions
accepted as true
Figure 1.1
These two famous images are
used by psychologists to illustrate perception and perspective. What did you see first in
Figure 1.1a—an old woman or a
beautiful young lady? What did
you see first in Figure 1.1b—a
vase or two human faces?
Chapter 1 An Invitation to Sociology
A World Turned
Upside Down
Without turning this book upside down, try to locate the United States.
If you find this view of the world disorienting because you are used to
conventional maps, you may reject this new worldview. So it is with any
perspective. In this book you will be asked to abandon the conventional or
psychological perspective in favor of the sociological perspective.
Interpreting the Map
1. What does your reaction to this map tell you about the power of the
perspective you bring to a situation?
2. Look at world maps in your various social studies classes as you progress
through the day. Where are North America and Europe located on these
maps? What does that tell you about the perspective of these map publishers and their customers?
is accurate, or different theories may explain different aspects of the problem. This is even true in the so-called hard sciences like modern physics.
Einstein’s theory of general relativity, for example, contradicts the widely
accepted Big Bang theory of the origin of the physical universe. Einstein
himself never accepted the quantum theory. Nonetheless, this theory has
become the foundation of modern developments in such fields as chemistry
and molecular biology (Hawking, 2005). Today theories are being put forth
that hold promise for combining relativity and quantum theory. If theories
still compete in physics, it should not be surprising that several major theoretical perspectives exist in sociology.
24 Unit 1 Sociological Perspectives
Sociology has three overarching theoretical perspectives: functionalism,
conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism. Each of these perspectives provides
a different slant on human social behavior. The exclusive use of any one of
them prevents our seeing other aspects of social behavior, just as one cannot
see the old woman and the young woman at the same time. All three perspectives together, however, allow us to see most of the important dimensions of
human social behavior.
Functionalism emphasizes the contributions (functions) of each part of
a society. For example, family, economy, and religion are “parts” of a society.
The family contributes to society by providing for the reproduction and care
of its new members. The economy contributes by dealing with production,
distribution, and consumption of goods and services. Religion contributes by
emphasizing beliefs and practices related to sacred things.
approach that emphasizes the
contributions made by each
part of society
How does functionalism explain social change? Functionalists see the parts of a society as an integrated whole. A change in one part
of a society leads to changes in other parts. A major change in the economy,
for example, may change the family—which is precisely what happened as
a result of the Industrial Revolution. Before the Industrial Revolution, when
most people made their living by farming, a large farm labor force was needed.
Families fulfilled this need by having many children. The need disappeared as
industrialization proceeded, and smaller families became the norm.
Functionalism assumes that societies tend to return to a state of stability after some upheaval has occurred. A society may change over time,
but functionalists believe that it will return to a stable state. It will do
this by changing in such a way that society will be similar to what it
was before. Student unrest and other protests during the late 1960s
illustrate this. The activities of protesters helped bring about some
Many Americans became suspicious of the federal
government’s foreign policy.
Schools and universities became more responsive to
students’ needs and goals.
Environmental protection became an important
political issue to many Americans.
These changes, however, have not revolutionized
American society. They have been absorbed into
it. As a result, our society is only somewhat
different from the way it was before the
student unrest. In fact, most of the student radicals are now part of the middleclass society they once rejected.
Because of social and economic
changes, norms that dictate
women’s roles have changed
greatly over the years. Functionalists study how a change in one
part of a society affects other
Chapter 1 An Invitation to Sociology
manifest functions
intended and recognized consequences of an aspect
of society
latent functions
unintended and unrecognized
consequences of an aspect of
negative consequence of an
aspect of society
Do all functions have a positive effect? Most aspects of a society exist to promote a society’s survival and welfare. It is for this reason that
all complex societies have economies, families, governments, and religions. If
these elements did not contribute to a society’s well-being and survival, they
would disappear.
Recall that a function is a contribution made by some part of a society.
According to Robert Merton (1996), there are two kinds of functions.
Manifest functions are intended and recognized. Latent functions are
unintended and unrecognized. One of the manifest functions of school, for
example, is to teach math skills. A latent (and positive) function of schools is
the development of close friendships.
Not all elements of a society make a positive contribution. Elements that
have negative consequences result in dysfunction. Dysfunctions of bureaucracies, for example, include rigidity, inefficiency, and impersonality. When
you go to the division of motor vehicles to register your car or get your driver’s
license, the clerk may treat you like a “number” rather than as an individual.
You don’t like his bureaucratic inflexibility and impersonality.
How does functionalism view values? Finally, according to
functionalism, there is a consensus on values. Most Americans, for example,
agree on the desirability of democracy, success, and equal opportunity. This
consensus of values, say the functionalists, accounts for the high degree of
cooperation found in any society.
Conflict Perspective
conflict perspective
approach emphasizing the
role of conflict, competition,
and constraint within a society
How does this photo emphasize
the approach to studying society
that is taken by the conflict
26 Unit 1 Sociological Perspectives
The conflict perspective emphasizes conflict, competition, change, and
constraint within a society (Giddens, 1987, 2005). Understanding the conflict perspective is easier when you understand functionalism, because the
assumptions behind these two perspectives are the reverse of each other. This
is shown in Figure 1.2 on the next page.
Figure 1.2
Assumptions of the Major
Theoretical Perspectives
This table compares the most important assumptions of the
functionalist, conflict, and symbolic interactionist perspectives. Do you believe, as
the functionalists do, that society is relatively well integrated? Or do you support
the conflict theorists’ assumption that society experiences conflict on all levels?
1. A society is a
integrated whole.
2. A society tends
to seek relative
3. Most aspects of a
society contribute
to the society’s
4. A society
rests on
of its
1. A society
and conflict
2. A society
is continually
subjected to
1. People’s interpretations
of symbols are based
on the meanings they
learn from others.
2. People base their interaction on their interpretations of symbols.
3. Symbols permit people
to have internal conversations. Thus, they can
gear their interaction to
the behavior that they
think others expect of
them and the behavior
they expect of others.
3. A society involves
the constraint and
coercion of some
members by
What is the role of conflict and constraint? Functionalists see
a basic agreement on values within a society. This leads them to emphasize
the ways people cooperate to reach common goals. The conflict perspective,
in contrast, focuses on the disagreements among various groups in a society
or between societies. Groups and societies compete as they attempt to preserve and promote their own special values and interests.
Supporters of the conflict perspective, then, see social living as a contest.
Their central question is “Who gets what?” It is those with the most power —
the ability to control the behavior of others—who get the largest share of
whatever is considered valuable. Those with the most power have the most
wealth, prestige, and privileges. Because some groups have more power than
others, they are able to constrain, or limit, the less powerful.
the ability to control the
behavior of others
Chapter 1 An Invitation to Sociology
Sociology Looks
at the Internet
The number of Americans paying for an on-line Internet service is skyrocketing. The Internet began as a way for military and scientific users to share
information after a nuclear war. ARPAnet (the Internet’s forerunner) was
formed in 1969 with only four connected computers. By the end of 2004,
more than 185 million Americans had access to the Internet. According
to some estimates, the year 2005 will witness more than 1 billion Internet
users worldwide.
Because of its rapid spread through American society, cyberspace
technology is a timely example for showcasing the usefulness of the three
theoretical perspectives. The viewpoints of functionalism, conflict theory,
and symbolic interactionism contribute to an understanding of the social
implications of this new technology in very different ways.
Functionalism. Functionalists see cyberspace technology as having
both positive and negative consequences. On the one hand, computer
links bring advantages. Parents can work at home and spend more time
with their children. Individuals with disabilities can do jobs at home that
would be denied them otherwise, thus becoming more fully integrated into
society. On the other hand, there are dysfunctions. Young people may have
easy access to pornographic material, which can distort their view of the
opposite sex. Hate groups can be formed by strangers who live hundreds
or thousands of miles apart. Their anonymity may encourage them to
engage in antisocial or violent behavior that they would otherwise avoid.
Conflict Theory. The Internet is clearly changing American society.
The Internet, conflict theorists point out, is contributing to the increasing
speed of technological change. An advocate of conflict theory might investigate the social instability created by this rapid change. Workers may be
let go by corporations in increasing numbers as more tasks are performed
by computers.
Conflict theory could guide an investigation comparing the numbers
of computers used in school districts of varying socioeconomic levels.
How does the conflict perspective explain social change?
Many conflicting groups exist in a society. As the balance of power among
these groups shifts, change occurs. For example, the women’s movement is
attempting to change the balance of power between men and women. As
this movement progresses, we see larger numbers of women in occupations
once limited to men. More women are either making or influencing decisions
in business, politics, medicine, and law. Gender relations are changing in
other ways as well. More women are choosing to remain single, to marry
later in life, to have fewer children, and to divide household tasks with their
28 Unit 1 Sociological Perspectives
Computer literacy is becoming an essential skill for obtaining a well-paying job. Thus, students who attend wealthy schools with access to computers have an advantage over students in poorer schools.
Symbolic Interactionism. Symbolic interactionists are interested
in how the Internet can affect a child’s social development. The popularity
of cartoon characters on television is reinforced by Web pages that allow
children to join fan clubs, interact with other fans, and view video clips
of their favorite cartoon characters whenever they want. The
popular cartoons The Simpsons
and South Park feature children
behaving in ways unacceptable in
nearly all American homes. Televi0ERSONALCOMPUTERS
sion provides limited exposure to
these characters, but the Internet
allows them to become an important part of a child’s daily life.
What children come to accept as
desirable behavior is being based
increasingly on their interpretaISTHESPEEDINWHICHNEWTECHNOLOGY
tions of the symbols and behaviors
represented by these characters.
Symbolic interactionists might
conclude that to the extent this
occurs, the Internet lessens adult
influence on children.
Analyzing the Trends
1. Which perspective would you choose to conduct an in-depth study of
the Internet’s effect on society? Explain why you chose this perspective.
2. Do you think that the Internet has some dysfunctions that Americans
should consider? Consider the advantages and disadvantages of the
Internet on society.
husbands. According to the conflict perspective, these changes are the result
of increasing power among women.
Which perspective is better? There is no “better” theoretical perspective. Each perspective highlights certain areas of social life. The advantages of one perspective are the disadvantages of the other. Functionalism
explains much of the consensus, stability, and cooperation within a society. The conflict perspective explains much of the constraint, conflict, and
change. Each chapter, throughout the text, will illustrate both perspectives,
as well as the perspective discussed next—symbolic interactionism.
Chapter 1 An Invitation to Sociology
According to conflict theory, the
interests of groups will clash at
times. If questioned, the men
around the water cooler may offer a functionalist interpretation
of their pastime—talking sports
brings them together. Women
who are not “sports savvy” may
see their exclusion from such
office talk more from a conflict
Symbolic Interactionism
Both functionalism and conflict theory deal with large social units, such
as the economy, and broad social processes, such as conflict among social
classes. At the close of the nineteenth century, some sociologists began to
change their approach to the study of society. Instead of concentrating on
large social structures, they began to recognize the importance of the ways
people interact. Two sociologists, Charles Horton Cooley and George Herbert
Mead, developed the insight that groups exist only because their members
influence each other’s behavior. These early American sociologists, in short,
created symbolic interactionism, a perspective that focuses on the actual
interaction among people.
What is the significance of symbols in symbolic
interactionism? To understand social interactionism, we need to talk
anything that stands for something else and has an agreedupon meaning attached to it
symbolic interactionism
approach that focuses on the
interactions among people
based on mutually understood
first about symbols. A symbol is something chosen to represent something
else. It may be an object, a word, a gesture, a facial expression, a sound. A
symbol is something observable that often represents something not observable, something that is abstract. For example, your school’s team mascot is
often used as a symbol of school loyalty. The American flag is used as a symbol of the United States.
The meaning of a symbol is not determined by its own physical characteristics. Those who create and use the symbols assign the meanings to them.
If people in a group do not share the same meanings for a given symbol,
confusion results. For example, if some people interpreted the red light of
a traffic signal to mean go, while others interpreted it to mean stop, chaos
would result.
The importance of shared symbols is reflected in the formal definition
of symbolic interactionism. It is the theoretical perspective that focuses
on interaction among people—interaction based on mutually understood
What are the basic assumptions of symbolic
interactionism? Herbert Blumer (1969, 1986), who coined the term
symbolic interactionism, outlined three assumptions central to this perspective. (Refer to Figure 1.2 on page 27.)
First, according to symbolic interactionism, we learn the meaning of a
symbol from the way we see others reacting to it. For example, American
musicians in Latin America soon learn that when audience members whistle
30 Unit 1 Sociological Perspectives
at the end of a performance, they are expressing disapproval. In other words,
their whistling is a symbol of disapproval, as booing is in the United States.
Second, once we learn the meanings of symbols, we base our behavior
(interaction) on them. Now that the musicians have learned that whistling
symbolizes a negative response, they will definitely avoid an encore if the
crowd begins whistling. (They would likely have the opposite response in the
United States, where the symbol of whistling has a very different meaning.)
Finally, we use the meanings of symbols to imagine how others will
respond to our behavior. Through this capability, we can have “internal
conversations” with ourselves. These conversations enable us to visualize how others will respond to us before we act. This is crucial because
we guide our interactions with people according to the behavior we
think others expect of us and we expect of others. Meanwhile,
these others are also having internal conversations. The interaction (acting on each other) that follows is therefore symbolic
In an attempt to better understand human interaction,
Erving Goffman introduced dramaturgy, which depicts
human interaction as theatrical performance (Goffman,
1961a, 1963, 1974, 1979, 1983; Lemert and Branaman,
1997). Like actors on a stage, people present themselves
through dress, gestures, tone of voice. Teenagers sometimes act in a particular way in order to attract the attention of someone they want to like them. Goffman calls
this presentation of self or impression management.
approach that depicts human
interaction as theatrical
According to symbolic interactionism, social life can be likened to a
theatrical performance. Don’t we convey as much about ourselves
in the way we dress as do the actors above?
1. What is a theoretical
2. Indicate whether the following statements represent functionalism (F), the
conflict perspective (C), or
symbolic interactionism (S).
a. Societies are in relative
e. Many elements of a
society exist to benefit
the powerful.
3. Does dramaturgy explain
human interaction in a way
that is meaningful to you?
Why or why not?
f. Different segments of
a society compete to
achieve their own selfinterest rather than cooperate to benefit others.
Critical Thinking
b. Power is one of the most
important elements in
social life.
g. Social life should be
understood from the viewpoint of the individuals
c. Religion helps hold a
society together morally.
h. Social change is constantly occurring.
d. Symbols are crucial to
social life.
i. Conflict is harmful and
disruptive to society.
4. Analyzing Information Analyze
the causes of the looting
incidents in New Orleans
following Hurricane Katrina.
Which of the three
theoretical perspectives
would you use to help you
understand this behavior?
Explain your choice.
Chapter 1 An Invitation to Sociology
Section 1: The Sociological
Main Idea: Sociology studies human social
behavior. It assumes a group, rather than an
individual, perspective. Sociologists look for the
patterns in social relationships. Individuals can
benefit by using their sociological imaginations
to look at events in their personal lives.
Section 2: The Origins of
Main Idea: Sociology is a young science. It
started with the writings of European scholars
like Auguste Comte, Harriet Martineau, Herbert
Spencer, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max
Weber. Jane Addams and W.E.B. Du Bois helped
to focus America’s attention on social issues. After
World War II, America took the lead in developing the field of sociology.
Section 3: Theoretical
Main Idea: Sociology includes three major
theoretical perspectives. Functionalism views
society as an integrated whole. Conflict theory
looks at class, race, and gender struggles.
Symbolic interactionism examines how group
members use shared symbols as they interact.
Reviewing Vocabulary
Complete each sentence using each term once.
a. mechanical
b. positivism
c. social structure
d. bourgeoisie
e. sociology
latent function
conflict perspective
presentation of self
1. __________ is a set of assumptions accepted as
true by supporters.
2. The perspective that emphasizes conflict is
called __________ .
3. __________ is an unintended and unrecognized
consequence of some element of a society.
4. ______________ is the way that people attempt
to make a favorable impression of themselves
in the minds of others.
5. The patterned interaction of people in social
relationships is called __________ .
6. __________ is the study of social structure from
a scientific perspective.
7. The use of observation, experimentation and
other methods to study social life is known as
__________ .
8. A __________ is something that stands for or
represents something else.
9. __________ is social unity based on a
consensus of values and norms, strong social
pressure to conform and a dependence on
family and tradition.
10. The ________ are members of an industrial soci-
ety who own the means for producing wealth.
Reviewing the Facts
Self-Check Quiz
Visit the Sociology and You Web site at and click on Chapter 1—Self-Check
Quizzes to prepare for the chapter test.
32 Unit 1 Sociological Perspectives
11. According to C. Wright Mills, what is the sociological imagination?
12. Explain “sociology” as defined in this chapter.
13. What did Herbert Spencer believe about the relationship between people, progress, and social
14. List and explain the three sociological
15. What are manifest functions and latent
functions? Provide an example of each.
16. Using the chart below, give a major idea
expressed by each of the sociologists listed.
Briefly explain each idea. The first one has
been completed. Use this as your model and
complete the chart.
Major Idea
class conflict
Struggle between
bourgeoise class and
the proletariat class
J.B.Handelsman © 1987 All rights Reserved
Thinking Critically
In this chapter you read about Karl Marx. In
the cartoon above, Marx is shown making a
comment to “Fred” (Frederick Engels, his collaborator). Research this quote on the Web and
then explain what Marx meant by it—and how
the cartoonist is twisting its meaning.
Applying Concepts
Give three examples of how the sociological
perspective can be applied to your life.
Analyzing Information
Using your own words, define the term sociological imagination. What is the relationship to
the sociological perspective?
Making Inferences
Select two early sociologists discussed in your
text and construct a dialogue between them
about the current social issue of homelessness.
Making Comparisons
Both a sociologist and a psychologist would be
interested in the ACT (achievement) and SAT
(assessment) test scores of high school students.
Consider how the scientific interest of the
sociologist would differ from that of the
psychologist. Compare the similarities and
contrast the differences.
Analyzing Information
Sociology Projects
Theoretical Perspectives
Based on what you read about the Internet
from the functionalist, conflict, and symbolic
interactionist perspectives, how is each perspective useful in understanding the popularity of
the Internet? Write a brief statement describing how each perspective would approach this
issue. You might see positive or negative effects,
depending upon your interpretation. (For
instance, the conflict perspective may focus on
the fact that the underprivileged classes would
not have full access because of the cost.)
Chapter 1 An Invitation to Sociology
Developing a Commercial
Develop a commercial for sociology using a video
camera. Think of the field of sociology as a product to sell. Market it as “a way to improve your
understanding of the world around you.”
Go to a public place (such as a mass, school
cafeteria, or restaurant) and discreetly observe
people for 15 minutes. Write down your observations, noting such details as the type of dress,
general interactions, and level of activity. Do not
make value judgments, but restrict your notes to
factual observations.
When you return home, rewrite your
observations applying the sociological concepts
in this chapter. Consider and list the ways your
second analysis is different from the first. Compare and contrast them. How does sociology
help to describe what you observed? What might
you want to study from your observation?
the pioneers in sociology. Describe each one’s
basic ideas, including their theories and information attained through research. You may want to
start your research at the Dead Sociologists Web
page listed above.
28. In this chapter, the Tech Trends feature on pages
28–29 discusses the increasing use of the Internet
from various sociology perspectives. If you were
analyzing conflict theory on this issue, you might
research data such as that presented in the table
As a technology activity, research additional
measures for differences in the population in Internet access and how that has changed in recent
years (for example, different age groups, or people
in other countries around the world). Then create
this table on a computer available to you and
expand it, according to the categories you have
How Internet Access Has Changed
Sociology and Careers
Research one of the career options for sociology
majors that interest you. Look for such important information as the education requirements,
income expectations, and management opportunities. Write a short report on the advantages
and disadvantages of that particular career in
Technology Activities
26. In this chapter, you learned about several of the
founders of sociology and their contributions to
the field. To learn more about these sociologists
and others, go to the Dead Sociologists Society
Web page at
DEADSOC.HTML. Select three sociologists named
on the Web site who were not included in the
textbook and create a database including their
year of birth, place of birth, and primary contributions they made to sociology.
27. Use the Internet to do further research on the
pioneers of sociology. Design a poster representing
34 Unit 1 Sociological Perspectives
Access by Gender
Access by Education Level
No high school degree
Some college
College plus
Access by Race/Ethnicity
Source: Time Almanac, 2006
29. Use the Internet to contact the American Sociological Association and request the booklet “Majoring in Sociology.” Using standard grammar,
spelling, sentence structure, and punctuation,
prepare a report for your class from the information. The URL is
Invitation to
by Peter L. Berger
setting apart, separation
low esteem, corruption
personal idea of reality
Read and React
How is this excerpt
different in style from
most articles by
scientists? Why do you
think the author chose
this style to describe
his field of study?
The sociologist . . . is a person intensively, endlessly, shamelessly interested in the doings of men. His natural habitat is all the human gathering
places of the world, wherever men come together. The sociologist may
be interested in many other things. But his consuming interest remains in
the world of men, their institutions, their history, their passions. And since
he is interested in men, nothing that men do can be altogether tedious
for him. He will naturally be interested in the events that engage men’s
ultimate beliefs, their moments of tragedy and grandeur and ecstasy. But
he will also be fascinated by the commonplace, the everyday. He will know
reverence, but this reverence will not prevent him from wanting to see
and to understand. He may sometimes feel revulsion or contempt. But
this also will not deter him from wanting to have his questions answered.
The sociologist, in his quest for understanding, moves through the world
of men without respect for the usual lines of demarcation. Nobility and
degradation, power and obscurity, intelligence and folly—these are
equally interesting to him, however unequal they may be in his personal
values or tastes. Thus his questions may lead him to all possible levels of
society, the best and the least known places, the most respected and the
most despised. And, if he is a good sociologist, he will find himself in all
these places because his own questions have so taken possession of him
that he has little choice but to seek for answers. . . .
The sociologist moves in the common world of men, close to what
most of them would call real. As a result, there is a deceptive simplicity
and obviousness about some sociological investigations. One reads them,
nods at the familiar scene, remarks that one has heard all this before and
concludes that people have better things to do than to waste their time
on truisms—until one is suddenly brought up against an insight that radically questions everything one had previously assumed about this familiar
scene. This is the point at which one begins to sense the excitement of
It can be said that the first wisdom of sociology is this—things are not
what they seem. This . . . is a deceptively simple statement. It ceases to be
simple after a while. Social reality turns out to have many layers of meaning. The discovery of each new layer changes the perception of the whole.
People who feel no temptation before closed doors, who have no
curiosity about human beings, who are content to admire scenery without
wondering about the people who live in those houses on the other side
of that river, should probably . . . stay away from sociology. And people
whose interest is mainly in their own conceptual constructions will do just
as well to turn to the study of little white mice. Sociology will be satisfying,
in the long run, only to those who can think of nothing more entrancing
than to watch men and to understand things human.
Source: Excerpted from Invitation to Sociology. New York:
Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1963.
Chapter 1 An Invitation to Sociology

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