Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
Everyone has the right to decide where they live, what religion they worship, what education they would like to earn, and many more life choices. However, although they have the right to decide, our decisions are influenced by our society, whether we realize it or not. Sociology is a tricky concept to grasp. Not because the actual concept is difficult, but because sociology is not something we notice in our everyday lives. That is exactly what this class taught me. It made me understand important terms to be able to think differently. The class pointed out different theories and systems on how our society lives. But, most importantly, this class impacted the way I will think for the rest of my life. In order to truly grasp the concept of sociology, I had to learn key terms, understand the theoretical order, and realize the impact sociology has on my life.
Sociology has some important terms that we need to understand to realize the true meaning of sociology. Society has a huge influence on sociology. According to The Real World, society is “a group of people who shape their lives in aggregated and patterned ways that distinguish their group from others,” (Ferris, K., & Stein, J., 2008: pg 9). A group of people doesn’t make a society, but a specific group of people who share the same beliefs or lifestyle make up a society. The thing about societies, however, is that they are constantly changing. People are constantly changing to fit into different societies, “we learn to follow society’s rules and to respect authority,” (Ferris, K., & Stein, J., 2008: pg 295). Society has a strong influence in our everyday lives.
Another important term is sociological imagination. Sociological imagination allows a person to see themselves fitting into the society. A person has to have a certain thought or mind to be able to imagine themselves fitting into the world. Behavior and social acceptance are influenced by people around us. So instead of experiencing everyday life in a single mindset, be able to think outside the box and see all sides of the situation. The main key, however, is that a person can ‘t tackle this alone. A shift has to be made from a personal problem to a public issue. Our personal troubles have social factors that are most likely not just affecting one individual. One point that stood out in the book, is that “we normally think of our own problems as being private matter of character, chance, or circumstance,” (Ferris, K., & Stein, J., 2008: pg 13). However, usually are problems aren’t just caused by ourselves, the society influences our life problems.
Culture is often a term we overlook or don’t understand fully. As individuals we don’t fully understand the impact culture has on us. The formal definition of culture is, “the entire way of life of a group of people,” ((Ferris, K., & Stein, J., 2008: pg 77). Society and culture play hand and hand. Our different societies are formed based on our culture. We tend to congregate with others who share the same culture or beliefs in which we believe in. Culture is something we learn, however. That is important to understand. Although we don’t fully understand how or why we developed our culturally background, according to the book, “we learn it so slowly and incrementally, we are unaware of the process,” (Ferris, K., & Stein, J., 2008: pg 77). Our society and culture have a huge role in sociology, and with sociological imagination we can understand that better.
The theoretical order has three primary perspectives: symbolic interactionism, functionalism, and conflict theory. The first one, symbolic interactionalism implies we don’t inherit our personalities, thought process or views on society, but we develop them through interaction with others. This is the only theory that involves interactions with others, “society is produced and reproduced through our interactions with each other by means of language, and our interpretations of that language,” (Ferris, K., & Stein, J., 2008: pg 32). So not only does it depend on how others act, but how we respond and understand the action of others.
The next theoretical order is functionalism. This theory focuses on what every aspect of society brings to function as a whole. According to the book, there are two main principals to functionalism: society is stable and each structure (family, educational system, politics, economy, religion) has a function to continue to make it stable, ((Ferris, K., & Stein, J., 2008: pg 23). So in order for this function to work, each structure must help one another out. An example in the book demonstrates the parents not disciplining a child. So in response, the church and school would have to make up for the parents disciplinary problem (Ferris, K., & Stein, J., 2008: pg 23). The point of this theoretical order makes the society work together as a whole to function properly.
The conflict theory focuses on the inequalities of different groups in the society. Conflicts and tensions between different social rankings causes a lot of arguments. There is a constant struggle to over power and money. The wealthy have the power, “the wealthy and powerful bourgeoisie controlled major social institutions, reinforcing the class structure so that the state, education, religion, and even the family were organized to represent their interests,” (Ferris, K., & Stein, J., 2008: pg 26). The class system is very important in understanding this theory. The wealthy tried to main the system, while the poor fought again inequality. Thus, causing conflict.
This class really changed my perspective on my society. Not because the perspective I had before was bad, but because this class taught me to look at my life and society in many different ways. The United States was formed to offer freedom to its citizens. However, the freedom we choose, religion, education, location, is influenced by our society. Although, we all form our own opinions, we are influenced by others on the way we think and act.
One thing this class pointed out to me was class structures. I knew we still had them, but I assumed they weren’t as bad as they once were. In reality, the class structures were still as bad as I thought. For example, the context points out that what determines a person’s earnings and income is a matter of luck (Hartmann, D., & Uggen, C., 2002: pg 156). There is still segregation in not only gender, but also race. Our society is constantly battling with diversity and how to overcome it completely. The history of our country is a lot to blame of the way our society acts today. But, I do see change and a step in the right direction.
Sociology points out many different ways to evaluate the society, and our society is very important influence on our lives. Without properly understanding the influences, we wouldn’t notice the way we live our lives and how it affects others around us. Understanding important terms, theoretical orders, and the impact sociology makes on our lives will be a trait I can continue to use for the rest of my life.