SOCL 401

UE 1

Our first unit introduced some lesser-known founders of sociology. These were some important figures in establishing sociology as a scientific discipline and sociological thought. Yet, for a long time, their work and contributions to the field were minimized, overlooked, or outright ignored. Keeping this in mind, address the following questions:

  1. Who were some early figures which helped to establish sociology as a scientific discipline AND what were their contributions to sociology?

Emile Durkheim is one of the key founders of the sociology discipline. Durkheim argues that social facts are separate entities from people and should be studied as such. Marx would argue that social facts can never be separated from people, and how people make sense of such phenomena is what matters most. (Sternheimer, 2018) Marx was the founder of revolutionary communism and a sociology historian of materialism. (Reed, 2006) Comte’s aim was to create a naturalistic science of society, which would both explain the past development of mankind and predict its future. Comte focused mainly on stages in the development and progressive emancipation of the human mind. (Coser, 2003) Comte has been involved analysis of the central elements and functions of social systems using concrete and comparative historical methods in order to establish testable generalizations about them. 

  1. What is sociological theory? 

A theory is a system of ideas that has been developed after multiple studies. Constructed by examining the results of research repeated observations. Theory is the beginning, and end by noting how their findings ass to the theory. Sociological theories are explanations about an aspect of society that interest us to learn more about. Theories do not come from one but multiple studies. (Sternhemier, 2020) Sociological theory is a set of ideas that explains observable facts, to make sense of experiences. A theory includes assumptions, interrelated concepts, and statements about relationships. Sociological theory attempts to explain the how and why of social behavior in the real world. It also aims to develop/refine general statements about some aspects of social life. Sociological theory is a foundational aspect of the discipline of sociology. It is a way to help explain how people might behave under certain social circumstances. 

  1. What makes sociology unique from other scientific theories?

Theories are necessary in sociological research, hypotheses are not required. Inductive reasoning is where we use supporting evidence to test the accuracy of our hypotheses. Inductive reasoning only requires us to be curious without making predictions. Some theories change over time due they can lose popularity over time because of the social-historical moment. Sociological theory is fundamentally rooted in understanding the human condition. It is also rooted in answering questions about the human condition and proposing ways to alleviate the human condition for those who are struggling. Sociological theories are what help sociologist explain their data. A social theory systematically directs one’s attention to certain features of human social relations. 

UE 2

Our second unit introduced some of the more well-known founders of sociology – Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Marianne Weber, and W.E.B. DuBois. These individuals produced a body of work which sociologists continue to venerate. This is due in large part to the staying power of their theoretical contributions. Keeping this in mind, pick ONE of the theorists listed above and address the following questions:

  1. What were the major concerns of this theorist? In other words, what were the questions, social issues, or sociological puzzles which appeared to motivate their theoretical interests?

W.E.B DuBois focused on a concept called race conflict theory which is how this sociologist studied race. Race is a term for a group of people who share similar biological traits, but is mostly socially created by society. DuBois recognized how black people are treated differently when he moved to the South and realized that race was a big part of his identity. “For Dubois, externally imposed social conditions constituted the foundations of race oppression and white supremacy. In contrast to white social scientists, DuBois insisted that the newly emerging social sciences be built on careful, empirical research focused on human action in order to pass the test  as genuine science (Morris, 2015, p.3).” DuBois studied how race affected the black community’s identity within society and proposes new ideas on how sociologists should look at race. Some of the connected concepts to DuBois’ work are critical theory, critical race theory, racial formation theory, and postcolonialism.  

  1. What are their key theoretical contributions? Make sure to explain what these contributions are in your own words. 

Some of the key contributions DuBois uses to understand his work are the color line, the veil, and double consciousness. The first addition DuBois used to his work to understand race in America was the color line. The color line is how race and racism are built into society and how people with power treat others without power. This is typically based on race and ethnicity, being that this contributes to how much power someone has. Another key concept Dubois talks about in his understanding of race in America is the like a “veil”. This concept examines how black people view the world differently than white people. The veil is a representation of a barrier to black people in viewing themselves only through what white America describes and prescribes for them. This leads to double consciousness which is another key contribution to DuBois’ work. This concept explains the identity of the black community to have two separate parts. DuBois quotes “This sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” The double consciousness of a person’s identity is divided into two parts, one where you see yourself through the eyes of others and seeing yourself within your community and family. This shows how it is hard to have a true identity of one’s self because of the constant pressure of stereotypes. 

  1. How are their theoretical contributions still relevant in studying and understanding society today? When addressing this part of the question, make sure to include one or two examples to support your position. 

The three key contributions I discussed in the previous question are still relevant to this day. The one key concept I can relate to is double consciousness. Constantly having to live two worlds of the life you want to live and avoid living the life that others think you live. Looking at the education system, this happens too often for minorities as they live between the world of their social life at school and their lives at home. The struggle between the two causes much strain for young students because they do not know to live in a way like this. This creates the idea of code-switching, which is when you have a different idea of representing yourself around the group of people you are with. Using different language, mannerisms, and appearance are all examples of this concept.

UE 3

Our last unit introduced some of the more well-known contemporary sociologists – Erving Goffman, C. Wright Mills, and Pierre Bourdieu. These individuals are unique in that the work they published was closer in time to where we are now. Their work also looms large over many sociologists and shapes much of the work being produced today. Keeping this in mind, pick ONE of the theorists listed above and address the following questions:

  1. What were the major concerns of this theorist? In other words, what were the questions, social issues, or sociological puzzles which appeared to motivate their theoretical interests?

Goffman focused on symbolic interaction as he understood this as if it were a play performed on stage for an audience. He visualizes symbolic interaction as having a front stage, backstage, and behind the scene. Herbert Blumer coined the term symbolic interaction and defined it as, “People act toward things based on the meaning those things have for them, and these meanings are derived from social interaction and modified through interpretation”(Goffman pptx, 2023) One of Goffman’s major concerns was how people create meaning and understanding for their lives during a time of constant change. He also wanted to understand what we do with the self, how we manage our “self,” and how we display to others who we are. Dramaturgy is another way of explaining Goffman’s interpretation of how he views social life. The three key concepts that help understand dramaturgy are front-stage, back-stage, and impression management. Dramaturgy is a certain way for people to depend on how to act according to the context.

  1. What are their key theoretical contributions? Make sure to explain what these contributions are in your own words. 

Goffman expands on the idea that people come up with their identity through their social interactions with others. Because of this, questions come into play about how we present ourselves to the world and how to do we manage this image every day. Goffman attempts to answer these questions by implementing the concept of social life being a dramaturgy. What this means is we as individuals act similar to a playwright; we are all actors with specific roles, scripts, and costumes which cause us to act a certain way. The idea is broken into 3 premises with each part contributing to the next. The 1st premise is that the “self” or identity of an individual is not a material object and it is what a person allows us to see. The 2nd premise is based on impression management. This is the act of manipulating one’s own image so that we have a distinct appearance in society. Lastly, the 3rd premise is about how more time spent playing a role within society leads to more intense feelings of self.  All 3 premise tie into the idea that we as a society perform on a “front stage(1st premise), and backstage(3rd premise)”, with a concentration on impression management (2nd premise).”

  1. How do you see their work as helping to understand society today? When addressing this part of the question, make sure to include one or two examples (i.e., how their theoretical contributions help to explain a contemporary issue, trend, or problem in society) to support your position.

One of the main ways that this concept exists in today’s society is by looking at the way we approach social media. Platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter all encourage people to post pictures about their lives. However, people don’t typically post their authentic lives and they create a facade that they have perfect lives. This is an example of impression management because individuals on these social media platforms are intentionally manipulating their appearance to the public in order to have a certain type of image. Another example is when students see their teachers outside of the classroom. Teachers present themselves in a specific manner when they are teaching in front of their classes, but then they all act differently outside of the classroom setting. This is not intended to manipulate, but rather to be professional. This shows a front-stage appearance and it is only applied to certain moments in a person’s everyday life.