THE IMPORTANCE OF STUDYING SOCIOLOGY NAME
THE IMPORTANCE OF STUDYING SOCIOLOGY
NAME: Dax Steeward Jim Anderson
MODULE: Introduction to sociology
MODULE CODE: SSCI1102B
TABLE OF CONTENT
What is sociology
The importance of studying sociology
The sociological perspective
How the sociological perspective helps in personal growth
Theoretical paradigm of sociology
Understanding social interaction as solution to social problem
Agent of socialisation
Sociology as a tool to set control and prevent deviance
What is sociology?
To understand the importance of sociology, one must first understand what sociology is, when and where it started and the reason behind its creation. Sociology is a science that studies human social life, groups and societies. One of its main purpose is to understand the direction of change, in other words the social development.
The discipline of sociology made its apparition in the middle of the 19th century when social observers began to use scientific ways to demonstrate their hypothesis and observations. There were three main major social changes that led to the development of sociology and these factors are:
In the mid-19th century, Europe was undergoing a drastic change in terms of occupation and employment as masses of people migrated to cities in search of job. They left the countryside which had agriculture as main occupation, to look for jobs in the urban/ industrial places. This radical change from agriculture to factory production brought a metamorphosis in the peoples life as they had to endure horrible working condition but most important; they had to abandoned their ways of life and part of their culture which resulted in a loss in their social norms which was the cause of several social issues.
The Europeans’ territories were increasing across the world and thus they began to be exposed to different cultures. Stunned by the variation in the ways of life, the European’s curiosity about culture difference started to grow.
Success of natural science.
The use of systematic and objective observation to test theories in physics and chemistry has started to alter the world. The social observers started to wonder why not applying these method to find answers for the question being raised about the social world. Apparently, this idea of applying scientific method to the social world, termed as positivism was first put in practiced by Mr August Comte (1798- 1857).
August Comte, the father of sociology.
Auguste Comte was a French man who is known to be the father of sociology as he was the one who created the term ‘sociology’ itself and apparently he was also the first to apply the principle of positivism to study the social world.
Throughout the years, sociology suggested that human lives seem to follow certain pattern, thus sociology does not only find its essence in studying past or present events about the social world but helps in predicting social changes and their outcomes. This pattern resulted from the fact that human behaviour is strongly affected by the society, his/her social life and the social group he/she belongs to. This particular way of viewing the world is known as the sociological perspective.
THE IMPORTANCE OF STUDYING SOCIOLOGY
The sociological perspective
The sociological perspective are lenses that helps to understand human behaviour and somehow demonstrate the interrelated relationship between the individual and the social world. The primary principle of the sociological perspective is that the individual’s attitude and behaviour is shaped by the society though not determining all of them. The individual will always have freedom but that freedom will continuously be limited by the expectations of the society.
Consider the American presidential election of 2008 between Democrat Barrack Obama and Republican John McCain. Young people, aged between 18 and 24 years was most likely to vote for Barrack Obama than voting for John McCain with a ratio of 2:1. However a ratio of 1:2 of white men in the state of Wyoming preferred to vote for John McCain. This example perfectly illustrate how the human behaviour is affected by its social background such as ethnicity, gender and age.
By applying the sociological perspective it enables an individual to understand his/her own lives in terms of larger social forces. This concept given by C. Wright mills is termed as the sociological imagination. The sociological imagination can be compared to a mathematical formula that uses the social background as variables to sort out the various conditions that could be the cause of your social experienced, your life choices and your life chances. Therefore sociology enables an individual to understand his/her past and present situation to plan his future in the society.
How the sociological perspective helps in personal growth?
There are four ways in which the sociological perspective helps in personal growth;
The sociological perspective helps in assessing the truth of common sense.
It forces the individual to investigate whether common held belief are actually true or not and why they are so widely held. Consider for yourself: ethnic difference, social class difference, gender difference. Where do these difference originate? Questioning yourself helps in preventing any kind of assumptions.
The sociological perspective empowers us to participate actively in our society.
Knowing how the society operates gives you appropriate tools to overcome the status quo. The greater the knowledge the more active you are in shaping your social life as you know what to expect in life and how to overcome obstacles that may appear.
The sociological perspectives helps to perceive the opportunities and the constraints in our lives.
As the society is predictable, the sociological perspective may help to prepare for upcoming obstacle, e.g. through experience of other individuals of same social background. It helps in identifying your limits.
The sociological perspective helps in accepting human variety and confront the challenges of living in a diverse world.
We have the tendency to believe that our way of life is right, natural and better and others’ are not. This sociological perspective help us to think critically about weaknesses and strength in all ways of life, including our own.
It is impossible to understand and solve the various issues that are caused by the diversity of the society without the study of sociology. When sociologist was observing the social world to build their theories, they had to face two basic facts: What issues they should study? And how should they connect the facts? The steps used by the sociologist to answer these questions relied on their theoretical “road map” (guide) or paradigm.
Theoretical paradigm of sociology.
In sociology a few theories provide broad perspective that helps to explain several aspects of social life. These theories are so well known that they are considered as paradigm. These theoretical paradigm provides a basic image of society that guides thinking and research. For example
Three of these paradigm has influenced sociological thinking because they provide useful explanation.
This paradigm grew out from the writings of Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) who compared the society with the human body as he found similarities in the way various part of the society work in parallel to keep society functioning the same way various organ of the human body work together to keep the body functioning. The parts of society that Herbert Spencer referred to were the social institutions, or patterns of beliefs and behaviors focused on meeting social needs, such as religion, education, healthcare, family, government and the economy.
The basic idea behind this paradigm is that:
Human lives is guided by social structures, for example the family, the workplace, the school or the place where you live.
Social structures can be understood in terms of their social functions, or consequences for the operation of society. All social structures function to keep the society going the same way organs of the body are interrelated to make the body function properly.
The social conflict paradigm
This paradigm highlights the processes by which social groups compete with each other for scarce resources such as power, wealth, and status which causes inequality that generates conflict and change. Several factors such as social class, gender, ethnicity and age are related to the unequal distribution of power, money, education and social prestige. Unlike structural-functional paradigm, which accentuate on solidarity, the social conflict paradigm stresses on division based on inequality.
The symbolic-interaction paradigm
This paradigm also known as the symbolic interactionism analyzes society by addressing the subjective meanings that people impose on objects, events, and behaviors. Primacy are given to the subjective meaning as there is a belief that people’s behavior depends on what they believe and not just what is logically true. Therefore it is thought that it is human interpretation that socially construct the society. People interpret one another’s behavior and it is these interpretations that form the social bond.
Understanding social interaction as solution to social problem
The actions of different persons and groups mutually affect each other and this is term as the social interaction. Understanding this social relationship is crucial in the comprehension of human society and what it means to form part of it. When interaction among people or groups are established their behaviours and reaction tend to remain the same most of the time and this is when patterns in social interaction is observed. This pattern causes the human social behaviour to be predictable. This is how the study of sociology is of a great importance in the solution of social problems.
Example of social problem and how sociology enables understanding:
If a person regularly consumes binge brink (more than five standard drinks in one session), he/she is considered to have been involved in alcohol abuse. Sociology reveals the submerged part of the iceberg through questions such as “what may push an individual to fall into alcohol abuse” and “what are the risk factors”. Through study of the society in a scientific way, sociology has shown that there are 5 main problem behind alcohol abuse.
Stressful environment- a stressful job or any stress cause by life circumstances such as unemployment, poverty, divorce, etc…
Mental health problem- for example depression or anxiety. Alcohol will temporarily ease the pain but will come back stronger when the effect of alcohol dissipates.
Taking alcohol with medicine- when medicine are associated with alcohol it creates an addiction to the effect that follow.
Family history- part of it is due to genetic as the risk is higher when you have a parent who is alcoholic. The other part is due to the environment and exposure to alcohol consumption.
Drinking at an early age- The risk is higher when alcohol consumption is started at an early age as drinking may become a comfort habit and the body’s tolerance may increase with time.
Prostitution is known to be the world’ oldest profession and is the action of engaging into sexual activities in exchange of money. Prostitution involves both men and women but the sociological perspective about this phenomenon will suggest question such as “why will an individual get involve in prostitution though it completely goes against social norms and values?”
The main reason why people get involve in prostitution are;
Poverty-The rate of poverty is increasing at an alarming rate and some may chose prostitution as the only way to make ends meet.
Victim of rape, child labour and trafficking-People that have been sexually abused or raped has a completely disturbed conception about sex. They have a low self-esteem and other sexual disorder that may lead them to prostitution.
Peer pressure- Most people that are in prostitution have been pulled by friends, siblings or family members.
Laziness and easy money- Some people are attracted by prostitution because of their thirst for a luxury live without hard work.
Lack of parental care- The family is recognised to be a major agent of socialisation. At the early stage of life, the child is totally dependent on the parent to guide and monitor them in the delicate adventure of differentiating the good from the bad. Lack of parental care provides the child with a dangerous kind of liberty and this may cause the child to be lured into various social vices including prostitution. Once the individual goes against the norms and rules of the society he/she will be termed as deviant.
Agent of socialisation
Sociology has demonstrate that a developing child needs guides to evolve properly and adapt with society according to its norms and values. These guides that influence the individual’s self-concept, emotions, attitudes and behaviour are termed as agents of socialisation. Some important agents of socialisation are;
The mass media (e.g. Internet, television)
Sociology as a tool to set control and prevent deviance
Can we really do what we want when we want? Why can’t we express our instinct or inner desire at the very moment we want to? To these questions there is a unique answer; norms. Norms is what make social life possible, it creates an imaginary boundary of what is acceptable and what is not. Thus each individual of the society is expected to behave in particular way and when most of the people meet the expectation of the other there is some kind of social order that results.
In order to ensure social order, social control is impose on the people. Social control is a group of formal and informal means used to ensure social order. For example the law is a social control and is in fact norms termed in a different way.
Absolute social order is attain when all of the people obeys to the social control established, however this utopic world does not exist and when people violate norms, this is known as deviance.
Sociology is the key to understand the reason behind deviance. Why people violate norms? Knowing the reason behind deviance enables the society to set up prevention. Let us consider Juvenile delinquency, a prevalent deviance of the modern society;
On the 17th of August 2007, lexpress.mu wrote an article about Juvenile delinquency which state that according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) report on crime statistic of 2007, the number of offences involving juveniles (aged 12 to 17 years) in Mauritius has increased significantly by 40.9% from 582 to 820 between 2005 and 2006. Though sentencing in court are becoming more severe and new laws are being created to fit the modern era, the number of juvenile delinquency is not decreasing.
The structural functionalism theory will explain juvenile delinquency as the result of strains or breakdown in the social process that produce conformity (strain theory). These theories designate institutions such as the family and school as responsible as they somehow fail to conform the juvenile’s behavior according to values of the society.
The anomie theory, suggested by R.K Merton state that deviance may be caused by an absence of social regulation or normlessness. This theory stresses on two component of social and cultural structure; culturally defined goal (such as social success) and ways to get there (a job, your career). People of the same society tend to share the same goal but not all of them are equipped to reach that goal and thus to equate the balance they violate norm to reach these goal. (E.g. stealing, drug dealing, prostitution etc…)
Differential opportunity theory based itself on the fact that most delinquent youth come from the lower working class. When youngsters among the lower class realize that they fail to reach their goal they may find a desperate last resort through delinquency (illegitimate opportunity structures by Cloward and Ohlin, 1960)
Conflict theory is suggested by Marxist thinkers and state that deviance is voluntarily chosen and is political in nature. They reject the idea that deviance is influenced by factors such as biology, personality, anomie or label. They simply explain that people actively choose to violate norms in response the inequalities in a society, this is more recurrent in the capitalist system.
The following is an interview of police Inspector Ghoorcharan, station manager of Moka Detention Centre who reckon 17 years of service in the Mauritius Police Force.
“Inspector, according to you, what is the importance of studying sociology?”
“Throughout my seventeen year in the Mauritius police force I had the opportunity to interact with various type of people, witness several social issues such as poverty, drug addiction, child abuse, violence against women etc… and I found very disappointing the way we found ways to react once the wrong has been committed but we fail to act before though the fact that the same action repeat itself over again. Let me give an example so that you may catch my point;
Drug related crime is becoming more common among youngsters, about one third of Moka detention’s cells are occupied by people detained for charges related to drug cases and most of them are below 25 years old. It is true that law are becoming more severe but law often act as a treatment and what we need is prevention. The same way that some disease have no cure the best thing to do is to set up prevention and I think that this is how the study of sociology may help us. We cannot grow as a society if we have no knowledge of our weaknesses and ways to tackle them!”
The introduction to of the assignment is a brief explanation of how sociology started and in my point of view knowing the origins of sociology allows us to understand its goal. The way everything started in times of crisis, confusion and fear of the unknown teaches us a lesson; before modifying the environment we lived in are we ready to change ourselves first and ready to accept the consequences of these modification?
At the heart of sociology there is the sociological perspective which enable us to understand the principal wisdom of sociology which is “our social world guides our actions and life choices just as the seasons influence our activities and clothing”. In other words our choices and behaviours is affected by the society we live in and reason behind this may vary from norms established to social background or social constructions.
In order to facilitate the observation of the social world sociologist came up with different kind of lenses that offers different views of the world. It perfectly reflect human kind as we live in a diversify world with different cultures, ethnicity race and religion so why limiting us to only one school of thought and risking to miss some part of the truth.
Understanding the socialisation process and agent of socialisation gives a precise idea of what to expect from the society and is being expected from us. It also helps in realizing how our personality may affect socialisation and the influence of the family, schools or peer group and others on our concept of norms. When these norms are not properly absorbed by the individual it may lead to deviance. The concept of social control and deviance has given a clear view on what prevent mankind living in chaos.
The whole assignment is as statement of how the study of sociology help in understanding the mechanism that runs the social world and how we benefit from it.
Among the social studies, sociology is the youngest one but though its recent arrival, it has shown its importance to mankind. It has demonstrate its importance by giving answers to question that other natural sciences tried to answer but failed. In some developing countries sociology has still some way to go before being accepted as science that have more than mere theories to offer to the world.
Studying sociology enables one to know how to make others understand the mechanism of the social world and how it might be modified for the better. Student of sociology learned how to think, evaluate, and communicate clearly, creatively, and effectively. These are all qualities of crucial value in a large range of professions.
Properly trained students of sociology know how to think critically about human social life, and how to ask important research questions. They have learn how to design good social research projects, carefully collect and analyze empirical data, formulate and present their research findings. Sociology offers a clear and enlightening way of seeing and understanding the social world in which we live. Sociology looks beyond normal, assumptions views of reality, to provide deeper, more illuminating and challenging comprehension of social life.
Through its particular analytical perspective, social theories, and research methods, sociology is a discipline that expands our awareness and analysis of the human social relationships, cultures and institutions that profoundly shape both our lives and human history. I think that sociology is marginalize among all sciences however sociology is a science that have been develop for the modern era and in years to come sociology will surely occupies the throne it deserves.
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