What is sociology and what does the sociological perspective entail? How does using sociological perspective help you better understand your social world and your personal life? In your essay, think about major historical events that have influenced the biographies of people in your generation and/or your parents’ generation. What does this tell you about the relations between “personal troubles” and “public issues”? What is the influence of society and history on the lives of individuals in a given society? Give an example.
Sociology is a social science that uses investigative methods to study societies.
Sociological perspectives involve using either personal or group phenomena to deduce how the outcome of such issues is interpreted. It entails our view of different social phenomena. Several perspectives exist as briefly described in this paper.
Mills (1959) describes sociological imagination as a sociological mindset that draws a direct relationship between personal experiences and societal relationships at large. He asserts that many individuals feel that their personal lives are characterized by private scenes that include their jobs, neighborhood, and family. These people feel trapped in these scenes and sense that they cannot rescue themselves. Then, a fuller understanding of the continent-wide societies and the impersonal changes associated with them is needed to comprehend why people feel this way. This will include the contemporary history of the immediate environment in which these people live and will normally involve the economy or political stability of a person’s environment. He goes on to describe the ‘sociological imagination’ from the premise of the Conflict Sociological Perspective, which focuses on the negative nature of the society. He cites several examples, which include egoistic political attitudes and economic turbulence.
Michael Schwalbe (2010) believed that several factors influence the behavior of a person. These include individual observation, systematic research, mystical revelation, as well natural distinctiveness.
Other perspectives state that only some individuals have a key influence in our behaviors, while others focus on group patterns such as race, sex, age, and class. One can also perceive himself predominantly by how they are perceived by society.
Sociological perspective is imperative in drawing upon possible factors that can influence me as an individual. According to Schwalbe (2010), we can choose to believe what external factors prompt us to believe, but only if we draw our deduction upon dependable premises. Only then can we make logical conclusions.
A perfect example is perhaps seen in the life of former American President Abraham Lincoln, who was a pioneer in the emancipation of slaves in America. He believed in the sanctity and respect of fellow human beings’ life. This was despite many of his fellow Americans holding the view that slavery was pivotal to the growth of the national economy. His popularity was at stake, and he once lost the race for the Senate because of his view. He, however, soldiered on to secure his party’s nomination and, as a result, was elected to the White House. Following his election as president, he led his country to greater financial and economic prosperity, as well as the liberation of slaves.
Mills (1959) asserts that the sociological imagination offers a reliable distinction between ‘personal troubles’ and ‘the public issues in the social structure’. Abraham Lincoln had personal troubles that occurred within the premise of his character and his relations with the American electorate. This included his disapproval of slavery in the American society. However, his relationship with the American people constituted his social life and, on that premise, he was fully aware of his own decisions and the potential of their approval or disapproval by the electorate. Being a public figure, a politician, and an aspiring president of the United States of America, he automatically made his stand on the issue of slavery a public issue.
Another such public issue is unemployment. It occurs within the society that one finds himself in and, in most cases, transcends any chances he or she may have for employment. War, another public issue, may leave one without options as to how to survive it, because it is normally caused by external factors and has profound effects on economic, political, family, and religious institutions. Marriage also has a predetermined social, interactive component that influences how the husband and wife behave in marriage, and both individuals may be powerless to change that stereotype. Ultimately, one is also powerless to change the structural conformation of a metropolis to fit with what he dreams of and, instead, gets attached to the achievement of a certain social status of life. He or she is powerless to change or slow the progression of urban proliferation to suit his model, even if he had money, because that is decided upon by external factors, such as a local government.
Indeed, this is a vivid reminder that societal beliefs may not always be rational. Hence, one is called upon to make logical deductions based on dignity and respect for all. One is reminded that personal views should be pursued if they are based on the right premise (Gaines, 1990). Societal influence is a crucial factor in tempting one to align one’s views with its views.
Some sociologists (such as Allen Johnson) argue that there is a tendency in the United States for people to explain everything in individual terms. Using the example of suicide, discuss why individualistic explanations would be inadequate. What would sociological explanations emphasize instead? In this sense, how do sociologists study the social world and what are the advantages of using systematic research, such as the scientific method of conducting social research?
Suicide refers to willfully causing one’s own death. It is considered wrong in the society. Donna Gaines describes a type of teenage wasteland, where teenagers become preoccupied with self-gratification and other pernicious mentalities. These include the fear of possible outcomes in their personal lives and environments. Several external factors can contribute to this, such as specific socio-cultural bonds like their close friends, as well as other social patterns that integrate their academic and economic lives. Some teenagers, especially in communities whose members would naturally be predisposed to have certain beliefs, can suffer burnout. It is a form of despair that arises out of not achieving what would conventionally be considered a significant achievement. Isolation, boredom, and historical actors also play a part in this state of idleness. In their attempt to fight back this external state of affairs, they put up a fight which is normally indulgence in fun activities. Eventually, they lose their rationale for justifying their existence and can choose suicide as a solution.
Youth unemployment has also been identified as a reason for young people developing a defeatist attitude. They may find themselves stranded in what Donna calls the Teenage Wasteland.
Allen G. Johnson (2010) advocates for a more investigative approach to determining one’s view on an event and drawing a conclusion from it. Individualistic model can mislead us when we try to explain human behavior because it draws upon a narrow perspective that does not encompass everything that has happened in an event (Johnson, 2010). In fact, everything that happens is inextricably linked to a certain context.
An individual may do something that may be considered personal and based on individual decisions, but often people fail to realize that it is external factors that have influenced the person. Such factors include the context that one finds himself in naturally, such as a family, the influence of parents and siblings, as well as the external factors that affect his immediate family (Johnson, 2010). This constitutes the wider social systems at work in every individual’s life.
Suicide is something that contextually happens in separation from the wider society. Johnson argues, however, that we need to focus on the statistics of suicide in various sociological perspectives, such as race. He gives an example of the suicide rates among males and females among the white and the black races, and in different countries. If we consider these suicide rates at an individualistic level, we may draw conclusions based on obvious assumptions, such as depression and hopelessness. However, these are just assumptions and do not address the real causes of these suicides.
Johnson (2010) says that we need to consider the patterns of individual events such as suicide to make a more comprehensive conclusion as to why such events have happened in the first place. Indeed, the conclusions based on statistics can be right, but we can never be sure of the individual context in races or countries. He elaborates how sociologists investigate more wholly the societal events that happen in the world and offer the solutions and benefits of using the scientific methodology of social research. The scientific methodology incorporates fact-finding and testing of the theories that have been set forth. It involves problem definition, hypothesis stating, reasoning of the outcome, data collection, and finally confirmation or rejection of the hypothesis that was stated initially (Johnson, 2010).
Some problems associated with social research include diverse observation methods, difficulty in replication of social study methods, interaction of the research subjects and the people conducting the research, difficulty in controlling people, bias and attitude in the social researchers, as well as the authenticity of the measurements that are taken (Schwalbe, 1998). Despite these drawbacks, demonstrable evidence can be achieved by using the scientific method of conducting social research upon which rational deductions and logical conclusions can be made. One advantage of using the systemic social research methods is the minimization of individual bias by means of established investigative methods. Another advantage is the achievement of more comprehensive results by using the in-depth study methods that challenge both our common sense and the documented findings of others. The third advantage is that we are able to achieve consensus in research methodologies and findings. Such methods include comprehensive hypotheses that incorporate both individualistic and external factors that would potentially influence certain occurrences, both at the individual and societal levels (Schwalbe, 1998).