Sociology for Dummies (1)   no comments

Posted at 12:28 pm in Sociology

The main reference for this blog post is Sociology A global Introduction 5th edition (2012) by John Macionis   and Ken Plummer

Macionis is a professor of sociology and a Prentice Hall distinguished scholar and works at Kenyon College in Ohio and is considered one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the U.S.  Professor Ken Plummer works at the University of Essex.

Sociology is the study of the forces of social integration and how they change in space and time.  According to Macionis and Plummer sociology is

“the systematic, sceptical and critical study of the social.”

So it challenges preconceived ideas about the world like any decent science but what is the social?  For example we mostly think of ourselves as individuals who make our own decisions whereas many sociologists, such as Durkheim (1858-1917), believe that many of the decisions we make are contingent on social factors.   Durkenheim noticed a correlation between the less socially integrated (single people, men, the rich) and higher suicide rates.  He argued that people would have made different decisions had they been born a different gender, social class, in another time or another space.   

Sociologists are interested in the way that different groups (ages, gender, racial etc.) are affected by society as a whole.  In particular, the definition of gender or age or race differs depending on location in space and time.  For example in the Victorian era in Britain, women were expected to dress much more conservatively than they are today.  Maconis and Plummer sum this up succinctly,

“At the broadest level, sociology sets out to show the patterns and processes by which society shapes what we do.”

I think that the word “show” here is very important, it deftly avoids the question, as a sociologist, am I required changing the world or just observe it?  Or are critical observations enough to change it?


Sociologists claim some statement and then build up an argument which supports this statement.  To build an effective argument sociologists use a variety of methods such as case studies, statistical analysis, questionnaires and interviews.  For example Durkenheim (above) used statistics to back up his claim that individual decisions are often not that individual and are contingent upon society

Written by dm1x07 on November 20th, 2011

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