Sociology: A Text with Adapted Readings

Sociology: A Text with Adapted Readings

Sociology: A Text with Adapted Readings

Sociology: A Text with Adapted Readings

Excerpt

Sociology is one of the social sciences. Its long-run aim is to discover the basic structure of human society, to identify the main forces that hold groups together or weaken them, and to learn the conditions that transform social life. In this, sociology, like any pure or basic science, is a disciplined, intellectual quest for fundamental knowledge of the nature of things. Most sociologists believe that they stand only at the outermost rim of this understanding.

Although some sociologists devote themselves to the development of first principles and fundamental concepts, others pursue relatively restricted inquiries, including careful reporting of significant events, the compilation and interpretation of sociological statistics, and the testing of hypotheses about limited topics. Some of this work has a practical orientation, such as the desire to control juvenile delinquency or to reduce absenteeism of factory workers; much of it is stimulated by intellectual curiosity, the desire to understand a puzzling fact or to comprehend an important event. In this book we shall draw on the sociological enterprise as a whole, both on attempts to formulate basic principles and on more modest efforts to contribute to the fund of verifiable knowledge.

When one seeks to draw general conclusions, he must be selective . The scientist is interested in kinds of things, in placing phenomena into categories, and this means looking at special aspects of the concrete world. The same "thing" can be understood in a number of different ways. Consider your instructor's chair. If a specialist in the branch of physics called mechanics were to study it, he would see it as a combination of weights and balances; a biologist specializing in anatomy would see it as a receptacle for the human form and might assess its effect on the spinal column; an economist might see it as a product of mass production, a unit of cost and price; the psychologist might see it as part of the perceptual frame of the student; and the sociologist might see the chair as a symbol of status.

Like any other field of inquiry, sociology is selective in its approach. It highlights and illuminates aspects of social life that otherwise might be only obscurely recognized and understood. Its specialized knowledge about basic elements and processes in the social . . .

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