Text II. WHAT IS SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY? ORIGINS OF SOCIOLOGY
Why do people commit suicide? One traditional commonsense answer is that people inherit the desire to kill themselves. Another view is that sunspots drive people to take their own lives.
Sociologists are not particularly interested in why any one individual commits suicide; they are more concerned withwhy people in general take their own lives. In order to undertake such research, sociologists develop theories that offer a general explanation of some type of behavior.
In sociologya theory is a statement or a series of statements that uses concepts to explain problems, actions or behavior. An effective theory will have both explanatory and predictive power. That is, it will help us to develop a broad and integrated view of seemingly isolated phenomena and to understand how one type of change in an environment leads to others.
An essential task in buildinga sociological theory is to examine the relationship between bits of data, gathered through research, that may seem completely unrelated. For example, in researching the problem of suicide sociologists are primarily concerned not with the personalities of individual suicide victims, but rather with suicide rates and how they vary from country to country. And their research suggests that suicide, while a solitary act, is related to group life. They have developed a theory to explain how individual behavior can be understood within a social context. Their theory has predictive power, since it suggests that suicide rates will rise or fall in conjunction with certain social and economic changes.
It is important to understand that a theory - even the best of theories - is not a final statement about human behavior. This theory of suicide is not an exception. Sociologists continue to examine factors which contribute to a society's rate of suicide. The sociological research shows that the incidence of suicide increases following nationally televised stories about suicide, and the impact is the greatest after the publicized suicide of an entertainer or politician, and is somewhat less after the suicide of an artist, a criminal or a member of the economic. elite.
One means of classifying sociological theories is by the subject under study. Thus, there are theories concerning the causes of criminal behavior or the universal nature of religion. Yet, theories can also be distinguished by levels of analysis. There are two of them.
Macrosociology concentrates on large-scale phenomena or entire civilization. Thus, the above described cross-cultural study of suicide rates is an example of macrosociology.
By contrast,microsociology stresses study of small groups and often uses experimental studies in laboratories. Sociologists find it useful to employ both of these approaches. In fact, we can learn a great deal by using macro-level and micro-level analysis to study the same problem. For example, we might try to understand criminal behavior at the macroscopic level by analyzing crime rates in various countries and at the microscopic level by examining the social forces that influence individuals to become criminals or delinquents.
Origins of Sociology. Philosophers and thinkers of ancient and medieval societies made countless observations about human behavior and predicted that a systematic study of human behavior was needed to improve society.
The first founder of sociology as a science was the French theorist Auguste Comte (1798-1857). He gave sociology its name. The second founder of sociology was Herbert Spencer (1820-1903). He greatly dominated scholarly thinking in his times by suggesting that societies are bound to change.
Few sociologists have had such a dramatic impact on many different areas within the discipline as Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) did. Above all, he will be remembered for his insistence that behavior cannot be fully understood in individualistic terms, that it must be understood within a larger social context. He developed a fundamental thesis to help understand all forms of society through intensive study of group behavior.
Another important theorist who contributed to the scientific study of society was the German philosopher Max Weber. He pointed out that much of our social behavior cannot reanalyzed without studying the subjective meanings people attach to their actions - how they themselves view and explain their behavior. He suggested that sociologists should thoroughly consider thoughts and feelings of the people under study.
Contemporary sociology reflects the diverse contributions of earlier theorists and gains new insights which help to better understand the workings of modern human society.
ABOUT SOCIOLOGY IN ENGLISH | О СОЦИОЛОГИИ | Text I. WHAT IS SOCIOLOGY? | VOCABULARY PRACTICE | COMPREHENSION EXERCISES | Revision Exercises on Unit One | Text III. WHAT IS SCIENTIFIC METHOD? | VOCABULARY PRACTICE | COMPREHENSION EXERCISES | Text IV. RESEARCH DESIGNS FOR COLLECTING DATA. ETHICS OF RESEARCH |