Socius (Latin) “companion”

Logos (Greek) “study of”

“The Study of Society” (August Comte, 1798-1857)


1.         Sociology is the discipline that attempts to understand the forces outside us that shape our lives, interests, and personalities.  (Eitzen and Zinn, 2003:4)


            KEY WORDS:

            Discipline:  Methods

            Forces outside us:  Society

            Our:  Collective

2.                  Sociology is a systematic approach to thinking about, studying, and understanding society, human social behavior, and social groups. (Farley, 2003:2)


Systematic approach:  Methods

Society:  Society

Social groups:  Collective


3.                  Sociology is the scientific study of society and human behavior.  (Henslin, 2003:4)


Scientific study:  Methods

4.                  The Sociological perspective is a view of human behavior that focuses on the patterns of relationships among individuals rather than solely on the individuals themselves.  (Levin, 1984:7)


Patterns of relationships…:  Society 

5.                  Sociology is a liberating perspective.  It forces us to look at the social processes that influence our thoughts, perceptions, and actions, and helps us see how social change occurs and the impact we can have on others.  (Newman, 1995:495)


Liberating perspective:  Understanding is a pre-condition for effective social change

How social change occurs…: Social change  

Why is Sociology liberating?

·        “To look behind the closed doors of social life is fraught with danger.  Sociology frightens some people because it questions what they normally take for granted.” (Textbook, p. 7).

·        “I have not forgotten the day a student came to class and told me: ‘We take your class.  We learn to look at the world from a critical standpoint, one that considers race, sex, and class.  And we can’t enjoy life anymore.’ ”  (Bell Hooks, 1994:42)

Key Elements in the Definition of Sociology:

1.         Discipline, systematic approach, scientific study:  Sociology uses methods.

2.         Forces outside us, society, patterns of relationships among individuals:  Sociology analyzes social forces.

3.         Social groups, human behavior, our:  Sociology studies the human collective.


4.         Liberating:  Sociology encourages understanding.

5.         Social Change:  Sociology improves people’s lives.

·        In the first issue of The American Journal of Sociology (1895), editor Albion Small included promoting the general welfare as a goal of sociology.  “Knowledge needed for social purposes shall be combined and applied as a means for promoting welfare.”

Our Definition of Sociology:

Sociology uses methods to study social forces that affect human behavior, and in so doing encourages understanding and improves people’s lives.

Sociology Assumes:

1)                  We are social beings and that our potential can only be achieved in conjunction with others.

·        The human experience is determined by the qualities and nature of the relationships that exist.


2)                  We are socially determined although there are commonalities among us.

·        Although social determination is inescapable, we do have some shared responses and desires.


3)                  We have an effect on the social structure within which we live and function. (Human agency)

·        Methods for achieving a just and prosperous society seek to create productive partnerships among people and institutions.