Introduction to Sociology

05/12/2011 Oana Cristina Merca Introduction to Sociological Themes and Perspectives The word “sociology” has its roots from the Latin “socius” which means “companion” and the Greek “ology” which means “the study of”. So basically, Sociology is one of the social sciences which aim is to explain human behaviour. Unlike Psychology, Sociology is much more concerned about social group’s behaviour including whole societies and even international and global groups. Of all the social sciences it is Sociology that most closely scrutinizes change and conflict in the wider society.
The range of the discipline, and the importance of the arguments that are disputed within it, still make it the most exciting of the social sciences. However, it was not until the nineteenth century, as a consequence of industrial revolution, that we see a concern with society as a direct object of study. We could then determine, once and for all, what sort of social changes were possible. In its present form, Sociology embraces a range of different views concerning both what a social science should compromise, and what might be the proper subject-matter of Sociology in particular.
The latter provides perhaps the best way of making sense of the discipline. This essay will explain, compare and contrast three of the main perspectives in Sociology: Functionalism, Marxism and Feminism. The founder of the Functionalism perspective was Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), whose theory was then further developed by Robert Merton (1910-2003). The Functionalist looks at society as a body where everything has a function. There are formal organizations as law, education, the family, the media, political system and informal social actions such as suicide, love, and crime. Altogether serve a function and have consequences on society.

Crime is normal and found in every society. It shows us what is acceptable or not. Crime produces rituals as court processes and boundaries which show us who is in and who is out. Durkheim believed that a very high rate of crime or deviance shows that something had gone wrong with the society. Suicide is a social phenomenon which can be explained by things such as religion, economic situation, social structure, sexual orientation. Suicide is higher in protestant than catholic countries, more common among single people than married, more common in military than among civilians, rates of suicide drop in time of ar and they are higher in times of economic crisis. The anomie theory of Robert Merton (1957) is distinguished between cultural goals (material possessions, status symbols) and institutional means (opportunities to achieve these goals in a socially acceptable way). The situation where is too much emphasis on the cultural goals and not enough on the institutional means is known as anomie. Talcott Parsons (1951) is talking about two basic functions of the family: the reproduction and the stabilisation of adult personality.

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