Frances Chaput Waksler
I wrote a version of ‘Rules for reading and writing sociology’ some years ago in order to provide a common body of knowledge for students who had varying backgrounds in sociology. Students have found it useful in directing both their reading and writing. I have included it here to serve the same function, as well as to provide one theoretical and methodological framework within which to consider the materials in this book and to give guidance to those unfamiliar with sociology. Readers will find that the rules I set forth are followed more closely by the authors whose works comprise this book than they are by sociologists in general.
Although certain fundamental ideas are shared by many sociologists, any presention of sociology as a unitary and unified discipline contributes to what Mitroff (1974) has called the ‘storybook image of science’. Different sociologists indeed ‘do’ sociology differently and a number of theoretical and methodological frameworks exist. Certainly my own views draw heavily on the works of many other sociologists, but what I present here reflects what I actually do and think when I am doing sociology. Those new to sociology are advised to keep in mind that other sociologists would present somewhat different ideas and give somewhat different emphases. (Indeed teachers using this book as a textbook might want to write and substitute their own ‘Rules for reading and writing sociology’.)
The perspective on sociology that I take draws heavily on phenomenology, the philosophical method developed by Edmund Husserl (1913; see also Kohak, 1978). Phenomenology emphasizes the importance of conducting studies from the point of view of those being studied and encourages researchers to suspend judgments about those studied. Husserl urges respect for ‘the originary right of all data’, i.e. its existence in its own terms prior to its formulation by investigators.
I define sociology as that science that systematically studies the social, i.e. the interactions of two or more individuals and the many products of those interactions. It is a science in the sense that its goal is understanding in and of itself. Towards this end it provides specified procedures that others can reproduce and it develops theories that can be tested by data gathered from the world of