Jumat, 23 Mei 2014

What Is Sociology?

Sociology is the study of what individuals and groups do, in relation to each other. Because of that in-relation-to-each-other part, sociologists call the conduct they study interpersonal or social behavior. The other, referred to in the phrase “in relation to each other,” could be one other person in direct physical contact with you. Or, other could refer to everyone else in the world, whom you are considering in the abstract.

Sociologists say that all the social ‘relating’ or interaction you have engaged in thus far in your life will affect how you decide to act in the here-and-now. For example, imagine you are in a room by yourself; deciding what to do with some alone-time you have right now. A sociologist would say, you at least think about how other people would react if they were to see you engage in the behavior you are contemplating. Because you have at least considered how others would react to what you are about to do, even how you act in solitude is, in a sense, social.

Sociologists also study how and why people behave socially as they do; how and why their behavior changes (or doesn’t) over time, and how changes—innovations—in social behavior spread from the few who “invented” the changes, to much larger social groups.

Sociologists may study social behavior and group processes within a single society. Or, they may study these phenomena in two or more societies, then compare the groups.

The size and scope of a sociologist’s research project, as well as the methods (s)he uses to do the research, will vary according to the theoretical perspective (s)he adheres to, the types of behavior or processes (s)he is interested in studying and, of course, realities like funding and staff resources.

Depending on the range of persons or groups studied, the length of time they are studied, and which tools a sociologist uses to measure, record and analyze the data (s)he collects, a sociologist is said to ‘do’ either macro sociology or micro sociology.

Macro sociologists are like photographers who shoot their photos using a wide-angle lens. They would rather fit a lot of people into each frame than get detailed images of just a few of them. By contrast, micro sociologists are like photographers who use a zoom lens. They focus on only a few people at a time so they can capture a lot of detail about each person. 

Berger, Peter L., Invitation to Sociology, Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1963 
Merton, Robert K., Social Theory and Social Structure; New York: Free Press, 1968.
Parsons, Talcott, Sociological Theory and Modern Society; New York: Free Press, 1967.

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