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Social Sci LibreTexts

1.1 A Brief Introduction to Sociology

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    What is Sociology?

    Sociology is the systematic study of society and social interaction. In order to carry out their studies, sociologists identify social patterns and determine how they affect individuals and groups. One way sociology achieves a more complete understanding of social reality is through its focus on the importance of the social forces affecting our behavior, attitudes, and life chances. This focus involves an emphasis on social structure, the social patterns through which a society is organized.

    The social structure plays an integral role in the social location (i.e., place or position) people occupy in society. Characteristics such as age, gender, race, education, income, religion, sexuality, disability and other social factors influence the location people occupy at any given time.  Race, as you can imagine, plays a significant (some say the primary) role in one's social location in society.  Social location is important because it is often linked with particular life chances (one's ability to experience well-being such as access to health and dental care, quality schooling, safe neighborhoods, healthy and nutritious food, free-time, and sufficient resources to enjoy such free-time).

    A key basis of the sociological perspective is the concept that the individual and society are inseparable. It is impossible to study one without the other. Incorporating a sociological perspective reminds us that we are always participating in something larger than ourselves. Using our sociological imagination, we can begin to see our personal troubles in the context of public issues.  Thus problems in society help account for problems that individuals experience personally.  Perhaps then, we can better understand the complexity of our social life as well as the social change and resistance that may serve to improve the human condition.