Diane IhlenfeldtFebruary 13, 2004Question 1: What is the sociological perspective?What is the nature of the social sciences? This is the question that began the study of society, first performed by C. Wright Mills in his development of the idea of the sociological imagination. There are many different aspects to the sociological perspective. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines perspective as the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance.
Having a sociological perspective means that you view all of societies components and their relationship to the individual. First I will discuss how individuals are socialized. Next I will point out societal structures role in that socialization. Finally I will discuss how the sociological perspective allows us to view different inequalities in the world. While growing up we rarely think about why we do things the way that we do, and make the decisions that we make.
From infancy we are socialized, meaning that we are trained how to exist within our social environment. By developing a sociological perspective we are able to see that we are socialized, and view how our social environment has an effect on the decisions that we make. Social environments differ across many boundaries including, but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, and class. For example I was raised within a poor, Caucasian, single parent, low class family, which means that the decisions I make may be different from the decisions made by someone raised in a rich, Catholic, Hispanic, two parent, upper middle class family. For example because we were poor, my mother was uneducated, our class was low, and our religion played as more of a financial support system than a moral characterizing system, we consider it okay to have children outside of the structural bounds of marriage. There are different rules, known as norms, by which we must abide in order to be considered well adjusted to society. It is important to understand that one does not spontaneously become the person that they are, and automatically follow the norms that they follow.
They must be taught by others in their society such as their parents, as well as by societal structures such as education, and the media. Although most Americans would like to think of themselves as autonomous beings, it is a fact that our choices are shaped by larger social forces around us such as the historical or cultural contexts and social institutions. We make these decisions because we have internalized the values, beliefs, and norms of our culture. Through socialization we learn to perform different roles such as American citizen, mother, or worker. Along with socialization comes our shaping by societal structures. Societal structures refer to the pattern within culture and organization through which social action takes place.
A good example of a societal structure is the media. The media has a major affect on how society is conditioned to follow certain norms. For example we learn about what is acceptable and unacceptable by watching the news. The news will cover issues such as murder, rape, and incest, condemning them, making it know that these actions are deviant.
Societal structure includes the arrangement of roles, organizations, institutions, and cultural symbols. These roles, organizations, institutions and cultural symbols are often invisible, and remain stable over long periods of time. Having a sociological perspective also allows us to view the inequalities in the world between different classes, races, and genders.
We are able to see how someone who is African American has to struggle to get to a high executive office, an office that is easier to attain for a white male. Sociologists find it important to note that the differences between us are not so much biological as they are cultural. We are socialized by our society and societal structures. Those structures often promote the inequalities found within a society. The sociological perspective allows us to see with the naked eye just how society works, and the effects is has on its members. It is important for every person to discover the sociological perspective, allowing them to have a broader understanding of the world around them and themselves.