Sociological imagination can be defined as that quality of mind essential to grasp the interplay of man and society, of biography and history, of self and world (9). Sociological imagination is central to the study of society because it allows many of the personal troubles of individuals to be understood and solved on a broader, society-wide level. I have written many papers for many teachers and taken many tests for teachers. If I fail a test then it looks bad on me and my intelligence, but if half the class fails the test then the teachers test making skills have to be looked at, and possibly the failure of the test was because the teacher made a bad test or possibly the test was discriminating against the students race, gender, culture, etc.
Three sociologists made a very strong impact on how we as a culture interpret society. Karl Marx (1818-1883) was a German political philosopher and revolutionists, cofounder with Friedrich Engels of scientific socialism (modern communism), and one of the most influential thinkers of all time. Marx was also known for being a historian and an economist. Marx inspired the modern conflict theory. Marxs theory of class conflict:
1. All social systems distribute scarce and valuable resources unequally.
2. The resulting inequalities and inequities create conflicts of interest among the various strata and classes in the system.
3. These conflict of interest result in the reorganization of social systems. In the past, new patterns of inequality always brought about further conflict and change.
4. In the long run, these conflicts result in the reorganization of social systems. In the past, new patterns of inequality always brought about further conflict and change.
Marx believes that society is and always has been fundamentally divided between two classes the one that controls the means of production and the one that does not. Marx focused on the conflict struggle between the controlling class and the class that had no power. To back up his theory of class struggle, Marx showed how throughout history there has always been a power struggle. For example, between master and slave, lord and peasant, whites and blacks, etc. Marxs influence during his life was not great, after his death it increased with the growth of the labor movement.
Marxs ideas and theories came to be known as Marxism, or scientific socialism, which constitutes one of the principal currents of contemporary political, thought. His analysis of capitalist economy and his theories of historical materialism, the class struggle, and the surplus value have become the basis of modern socialist doctrine. Of decisive importance with the respect to revolutionary action are his theories on the nature of the capitalist state, the road to power, and the dictatorship of the proletariat. These doctrines, revised by most socialists after his death, were revived in the 20th century.
Vladimir Ilich Lenin developed and applied these theories. They became the cores of the theory of Bolshevism and the Third Internationalism. Marxs ideas, as interpreted by Lenin, continued to have influence throughout most of the 20th century. In much of the world, including Africa and South America, leaders who claimed to represent the proletariat formed emerging nations. Marxist theory on class struggle was not a thing of the past; it continues on today. The struggle that occurs most often is the struggle between male and female. Even between the same gender there are struggles for most control.
Max Weber (1864-1920) was another sociologist that believed in a sort of conflict theory. Max Weber was a German economist and social historian, known for his systematic approach to world history and the development of western civilization. Weber defined sociology or Verstehen as the science which aims at interpretive understanding (27). Verstehen can be achieved only by discovering the subjective meanings that individuals give to their own behavior and to the behavior of others (27).
Another simple definition is what is going on in the world. Weber thought that to understand social interactions that you must understand the subjective meaning of the individual and their impact on others behaviors. Webers theory is a debate against Marxs views. Max Weber felt that culture was the major impact on social structure. Weber found that in his culture, the demand for finding rational efficiency was out ruling personal feelings. This is true today because sometimes you have to go with what has been taught as right rather than what you want.
Challenge by the Marxist theory of economic determination, Weber combined his interest in economics with sociology in an attempt to establish, through historical study, that historical causation was not influenced merely by economic consideration. In one of his best-known works, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, he tried to prove that ethical and religious ideas were strong influences and the development of capitalism. He expanded on this theme in the Religious of the East series, in which he postulated the prevailing religious and philosophical ideas in the Eastern world prevented development of capitalism in ancient societies, despite the presence of favorable economic factors.
Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) was a French social theorist’s, who was one of the pioneers in the development of modern sociology. Drukheim was a founder of sociology as an academic discipline. Durkheim was a professor of social science at the Sorbonne. He helped to develop interest in the idea of social thought. Durkheim dedicated his research to the search for harmonious order. He felt that society was held together by the common bonds of its members. It is also held together by shared beliefs, or what Durkheim called a collective consciousness (25). Durkheim believed there were two different kinds of social unity: mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity. Mechanical was based on a moral consensus among people who have social similarities.
Organic is based on mutual dependence among people with different backgrounds and beliefs. Durkheim studied moral values to a great religion. The functional relationships between religion and morality still influence sociology. He stated that they most decide whether there is a correspondence between fact and the general needs of a social organism. Durkheim believed that scientific methods should be applied to the study of society. He proposed that groups had characteristics or behaviors. He was also concerned with the basis of social stability- the common values shared by a society, such as morality and religion.
In his views, these values lead to a loss of social stability and to individual feelings of anxiety and dissatisfaction. He explained suicide as a result of an individuals lack of integration in society. Durkheim discussed the correlation in Suicide: A study in Sociology. In his studies and writings he made use of anthropological material, especially those dealing with aboriginal societies, to support this theories. These three men agree that society and your surroundings play an intricate role in the individual self. The largest difference is between logic, morality, and control. All three of these issues have an impact on an individual but usually the issues effect a person one at a time.
Sociologists aim at getting the facts to study and understand society. The first step that takes place is to carefully define the question. Once the question is defined the focus is turned to the correlation between a variable and a constant. The variable is a measurable subject of property that is subject to change. Once you have defined the question and set the constant and variable, you can begin the other steps of the research process. Sociology deals with applying scientific methods to study sociology. They use steps to do this research. (44-46)
There are five different methods to research sociology. These are survey, interviews and case history. observation, experiments, and analysis of historical documents. The choice of method depends on many factors: The nature of the problem, the restrictions of time and space, the degree of cooperation from the people being studied, the resources available and considerations of privacy and the rights to the subjects.
Qualitative methods of research include interviews and case histories, and field studies. Interviews and case histories offer researchers methods or studying particular subjects more closely (60). Field studies involve the researcher getting into the natural setting of subjects and carefully observing and recording their behavior (60). Quantitative methods are methods such as surveys, experiments and content analysis. Surveys are widely used to gather data on certain behaviors, opinions, or attitudes in a large population. However, an accurate survey may be very expensive for each respondent when calculating time and travel expenses combined with training interviewers. Another problem is the attitude of the respondents. Many people are not used to discussing their lives with strangers, and some people may make responses that are not truthful.
There have been six major sociologists that have tried to define sociology. Charles Cooley thought that society was a looking glass. Our self-image is a reflection of how others see us or what we believe others to see us to be. He also feels that personality develops through your social interactions with others. George Mead felt that society was the interaction of communication taking place symbolically through gestures and through languages. Mead believed there were two different stages for children developing a mind and self as they learn to assume the role of another person and to see their own behavior from anothers point of view (127).
These two stages are play stage and game stage. Play stage takes place as a younger child and children, take the role of another. Game stage comes later and the child learns to imagine how other people will behave without having to act out their own parts (127). Sigmund Freud thought that social interaction starts at birth. Freuds theory of socialization emphasizes that the emerging self is often antagonistic to the demands of others. The Freudian theory believes that socialization begins at birth. Piagets experiments leading to his the rational self theory find that there are stages of cognitive development and that children can perform different kinds of mental operations at each stage (154).
In his the moral self theory, Lawrence Kohlberg elaborates Piagets insights and says there are also different levels of moral development. Kohlburg, studied children from different countries around the world and decided that children are taught basically the same values. He said that there are three stages to development, conventional, pre-conventional, and post-conventional. According to Kohlberg, people differ in their moral judgments because they have reached different levels of maturity.
Kohlberg found boys and girls do not always see moral choices in the same way, these findings were later reinterpreted. Psychologist Carol Gilligans studies led her to believe that children do not see moral choices in the same way, infact they see it in very different ways. According to Gilligan, Kohlbergs sequence of stages is not the only path to moral development, and his post-conventional level is not necessarily the highest order of morality (133).
Erik Erikson felt that your interaction in society depends on the stage in your life that you are. It also depends on whom you are faced with or relate to. Our textbook says it is a system of patterned interactions among organized groups of human beings; organized groups of people who have distinctive social patterns, occupy a defined territory, and share a sense of common identity. Society is the web of relationships and interactions among human beings. Understanding of how society works or ought to work has been sought in philosophy, economics, psychology, and religion.
Society is passed on to future generations by socialization, the interactive process by which individuals acquire some of the values, attitudes, skills, and knowledge of the society to which they belong. The two primary functions of socialization are to transmit culture and to develop the self. Without repeated interaction with others, human beings do not become fully human (153).
Anticipatory Socialization is the informal learning of future roles and it eases the transition from stage to stage. Socialization is divided into two groups: primary and secondary socialization. Primary socialization occurs with our primary group, those people who we are very close to and have intimate, long-lasting relationships with, such as family. Secondary socialization occurs with our secondary groups, such as classmates, a waiter at a restaurant you are eating at,
There are two types of formal organizations, formal groups and informal groups. Formal groups are based on jobs that are to be done. Informal groups are based upon the job, which is social cohesion, such as going to the movies with your friends, etc. Groups are composed of people who interact frequently according to established and enduring patterns. There are two types of groups, primary and secondary. Primary groups are characterized by intimate, long-lasting relationships a small group of people.
The family is an example of a primary group. Your family is a big factor on how you will interact and relate with the world. It is assumed, that depending on social class, you teach your child different values. The next major impact is school. Children spend more time a day at a school then they do with their parents. This causes the values of the teacher and class to play a role in a childs personality. Once an individual reaches his/her teenage years, ones peers have a major role. Also, television has a major impact on how an individuals personality develops.
On television you learn by how the characters act and how commercials might be directed. There are more than 2800 different languages in the world, meaning not everyone is going to share the same ideas and human culture. Cultural inconsistency is a characteristic of a society that holds contradictory values or norms. These differences not only occur between the cultures but also within. Cultural inconsistencies occur when there is a conflict between ideal and real culture.
Usually when there is a major social conflict it is do to the clash of moral values. Cultural universals are types of social behaviors that exist in much the same form in all cultures. Some examples of cultural universals include language, music, athletic sports, cooking, courtship, and religion.. There are many different types of groups. Individuals may belong to a family group, a religious group, an ethnic group, a social class, an occupational group, an age group, a sports team, etc. Groups have a powerful effect on changing individual behavior. Groups require a leader or, sometimes, more than one leader, to accomplish their goals.