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Overview of Sociology

What it means to study Sociology

Sociology is the study of human society, including both social action and organization. Sociologists use scientific research methods and theories, and study social life in a wide variety of settings. Sociology offers us not only information but also a distinctive way of looking at the world and our place in it. Whereas most people try to explain events by analyzing the motives of those involved, sociologists encourage us to look beyond individual psychology to the many recurring patterns in peoples attitudes and action, and how these patterns vary across time, cultures, and social groups. Sociologists do not ask simply " what kind of person is Sedum Hussein?" Instead they ask "what kind of social conditions allowed him to rise to such power?"

Sociologists do not ignore individuals. they show that to understand the actions of individuals-and our own experiences-we have to understand the social context in which they take place. Take the experiences of the American soldiers who have served in the Persian Gulf. They were very different from the experiences of those who served in Vietnam. was this just because the wars were experienced by different people with different personalities? no. The different experiences arose from different social circumstances. These included different methods of recruitment, an all volunteer army versus the draft. Different ways of developing troops different characteristics of the enemy combatants. All these social circumstances, beyond each individual control, were critical in shaping American soldiers experiences. Understanding this point is a basic illustration of what the great American sociologist C. Wright Mills called sociological imagination. Sociological imagination is a way of looking at our experiences in light of what is going on in the social world around us. We come to see that we are more than just actors involved in our own personal dramas.

We are caught up in larger social patterns acted out on a broader social stage. In discussing sociological imagination, Mills pointed out: nowadays people often their private lives are a series of traps. They sense that within their everyday worlds, they cannot quite overcome their troubles, and in feeling this, they are often quite correct. In these terms consider unemployment. When, in a city of 100,000, only one man is unemployed, that is his personal trouble, and for it's relief we probably look to the character of the man, his skills, and his immediate opportunities. But when many...

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