Essay about Unit One Part A

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UNIT ONE

AN INTRODUCTION TO SOCIOLOGY:
ITS PROMISE AND POWER

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page
UNIT ONE: INTRODUCTION
An Introduction to Sociology: its Promise and Power ................................................ 1
Part A: Sociology – Defamiliarising the Familiar .............................................................. 2
1.

Sociology and Common Sense............................................................................ 2

2.

The Sociological Imagination: Insights, Themes and Skills .................... 6

Unit One

I

II

Unit One

AN INTRODUCTION TO SOCIOLOGY:
ITS PROMISE AND POWER
By the end of this unit you should be able to:


explain the differences between common sense and sociology



identify and describe the four dimensions of the sociological imagination



describe some key features of the three course themes



identify and outline the two main processes involved in sociological enquiry 

discuss how the various elements of sociology introduced in this unit can contribute to your understanding of food and fashion

This unit is in two parts.

Each part should take you about a week to

complete. Part A is a general introduction to the sociological tools of analysis.
In Part B we explore how this kind of analysis can be put to work on the topic of food. The sociology of food is the focus of your first assignment

Unit Two

1

PART A: SOCIOLOGY – DEFAMILIARISING THE
FAMILIAR
1. Sociology and Common Sense
A good place to start the sociological quest is with the model provided, more than forty years ago, by the American sociologist C. Wright Mills.

In his

influential text The Sociological Imagination (1959) Mills argued that sociology’s promise lay in its ability to explain the seemingly private lives of individuals by placing these in the public context of history and society. This way of thinking about our place in the world does not always come easily – we may prefer to think that we are in control of our lives, freely making choices for ourselves. However it does not require much reflection to see that many of our choices are constrained – think for a minute about what choice you have over paying tax or about getting an education that is free! How easy is it to bring up children in a world that is environmentally-friendly and
GM-free? Our lives are clearly shaped for us in a myriad of ways and it is the task of sociology to both describe and explain how this shaping happens. As a very general definition then we might say that sociology studies the ways in which social relationships (e.g. between women and men, different ethnic groups, doctors and patients, nurses and doctors, adults and children etc) are shaped through the interactions we have with others, and the larger social structures (such as the family, the state, economic arrangements and so on) that shape these interactions.

This definition is deliberately vague because

there is little agreement amongst sociologists about whether more weight should be given to the role of interactions between people or whether we should look to the social structures which shape these interactions. At this point these disagreements need not concern us – there will be opportunities throughout the course to explore these debates – for now we will focus on distinguishing between the sociological viewpoint and common sense.

2

Unit Two

Sociology provides explanations about all manner of social events and processes – everything from the seemingly trivial, such as ‘lift behaviour’
(where we learn that there is a standard pattern to how people fill a lift, usually seeking to avoid standing too close to other people), to the obviously globally significant, such as the social effects of the degradation of the environment (caused through such things as industrialisation and prioritising profit over care for the environment).

In its discussion of these things

sociology is often accused, paradoxically, of being both ‘just common sense’, and as being too…