AS Sociology Lecture 1

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AS Sociology 2009-10: 

AS Sociology 2009-10 Session 1: INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

Welcome to AS Sociology at MidKent College: 

Welcome to AS Sociology at MidKent College


What do you think sociology is about? As a group, identify and agree on 3 aspects of your lives which you think might be of interest to a sociologist Prepare a poster saying what your choices are and why a sociologist might be interested in them

What is Sociology?: 

What is Sociology? Sometimes it’s easier to say what it isn’t First and foremost, Sociology isn’t Psychology Both disciplines try to explain human behaviour Psychology stresses the individual, the biological and the physiological Sociology stresses the social, the cultural, and the historical

Sociology can look a bit like this…..: 

Sociology can look a bit like this…..

What the text-books say…..: 

What the text-books say….. Sociology is the systematic study of people in society Sociology investigates how people behave as part of a culture or sub-culture Sociology is about understanding features of the social group itself Sociology is about people in their social and historical contexts

Who is likely to enjoy sociology?: 

Who is likely to enjoy sociology? You are likely to enjoy sociology if you have ever asked any of the following questions:- Why are some people rich and some poor? Why are human cultures so different from each other? Why do people follow religions? Why do people commit crimes? Why are boys and girls so different from each other? Why aren’t my parents as cool as my friends?

Good and bad points of studying Sociology: 

Good and bad points of studying Sociology You will greatly enhance your communication skills; You will gain a far wider understanding of your world and the country in which you live. You will get an understanding of how and why we think about the world the way we do You will learn to understand the way the media and advertising influences people You will develop your level of political and social awareness You’ll never see common-sense in the same way again You are expected to learn a lot of new, sometimes complicated, terminology You’ll need to do a lot of reading and writing You’ll have to abandon some of your cherished, common-sense beliefs. You’ll have to cope with the idea that there is almost never one right answer to any sociological question


French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798-1857) coined the term “sociology” in the 1840s. He believed that society should be studied systematically and focus on observable facts Sociology would become the ‘master science’ of his ‘positive philosophy’ Sociology’s ‘Founding Fathers’


German crusading journalist and revolutionary Karl Marx (1818-1883) decreed that „human existence determines human consciousness Rather than understand “The Human Being” as an abstract concept, we should strive to understand how real people are shaped by their place in society For Marx, our ideas do not determine our existence, rather existence determines how and what we think. “Consciousness is, therefore, from the very beginning, a social product..” With this, the sociological perspective is born.


French anthropologist Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) borrowed from Comte’s Positivism to explore the influence of collective ideas on the choices individuals make. He developed the ‘rules of the sociological method’ to investigate the functions of social institutions in society. Durkheim’s approach becomes known as ‘Functionalism’


German economist Max Weber (1864-1920) investigated how religious beliefs and practices have shaped economic and social systems all over the world, He reflected on the methodology, the status and rules of the new science, “sociology.” He developed analyses of power and his ideas of social interaction are still highly influential


American sociologist Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) extended Durkheim’s ideas He saw society as an over-arching structure made up of functional sub-systems such as the family, the law, the education system, etc. These systems or ‘institutions’ operate like the body’s organs and contribute to the survival of the society and its members by promoting norms and values The different parts of each society contribute positively to the operation or functioning of the system as a whole Parson’s ‘structural-functionalism’ dominated sociology for many years

Key perspectives in sociology: 

Key perspectives in sociology Functionalism Marxism Interactionism Feminism Post-modernism

Functionalism: A consensus view: 

Functionalism: A consensus view Functionalists use an organic analogy to describe the nature of society A body has a series of organs which are interdependent and that work together to keep the organism functioning. Society has social institutions and structures to do the same thing. Society functions through value consensus People need to agree on values and norms in order for society to work People are socialised into roles within institutions and keep them functioning Social ills such as crime can infect parts of the social body leading to social disorder and a breakdown in consensus


Marxism: A conflict perspective According to Marx, class conflict underlies most societies The ruling class owns the means of production and exploits the working class who operate it The Capitalist ruling class uses ideology to promote its world-view by creating ‘false consciousness’ amongst the workers Institutions such as the law, religion, education, the police and the army are used to persuade or coerce workers into cooperating in their own exploitation Social change is brought about by class struggle

The Interactionist perspective : 

The Interactionist perspective Social worlds are created through the use of symbols in social interaction The society which emerges is constructed by people’s symbolic understanding of meanings and their interpretation of situations and actions The social order is preserved by people sharing their understanding of everyday behaviour Social roles, and even the idea of the self, are flexible and open to interpretation

Classical Perspectives in Sociology: 

Classical Perspectives in Sociology

Feminist perspectives: 

Feminist perspectives Feminism takes many forms but all of them seek to undermine patriarchal power and promote gender equality Patriarchy is seen as the cause of women’s relatively disadvantaged economic and social position Feminist sociology attacks ‘malestreaming’ in social theory Like Marxism, feminism is a conflict perspective

Post-modernist perspectives: 

Post-modernist perspectives Post-modernism is a general approach which reflects the fragmented and transitory nature of our social experience Postmodern theorists emphasise discontinuity, change and fluidity over fixity. They reject any grand theories of society or history

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