Sociology | Introduction to Sociology
S100 | 4083 | Garnier
Each discipline studies one specific aspect of the world. Sociology
studies the social arrangements that result from sustained
interaction between people. Thus, we study marriage patterns, formal
organizations, educational institutions, economic life, crime, for
example. We also study the relationships between social arrangements.
For example, sociologists study the changes brought in family life as
a result of changes in the economy. In order to do their work,
sociologists rely on the scientific method.
Some disciplines have been able to make their understanding
of the world immediately useful. This is the case of medicine, for
example, which uses the findings from basic research in chemistry,
biology, bio chemistry (and sociology as well) to develop new
therapies. Some aspects of sociology also have practical
applications: sociologists are ascertaining whether vouchers do or do
not improve the learning of children in school; criminologists are
trying to explain the decline in some types of crimes; political
sociologists are trying to understand why so many Americans do not
vote, etc. But that is not the only reason for studying sociology.
The discipline provides important insights that enable each of us to
understand the society in which we live and our place in it.
One of my goals this semester is to increase your
understanding of the social world of which you are a part. I will
emphasize globalization, i.e. the process that is increasing the
connections between the United States and other countries. I bring
special qualifications to this focus: I was born and raised in
France, I have done research in Britain, France and Germany and, more
recently, in several African countries, a continent I frequently
visit for research purposes.
Relevance ultimately depends upon the user. I will point out
the practical relevance of some of the issues we will discuss in
class, but I cannot determine what will be relevant to you who is the
only person able to determine which aspect of the course is relevant
to your concerns and interests, be they practical or intellectual.
I will stress analysis (breaking down a situation into its
component parts) and methods (how do we know). I will have numerous
occasions to indicate how sociology relates to other disciplines,
particularly history, psychology and economics.
My intent is that, at the end of the semester, you will
possess an understanding of American society that will be far more
sophisticated than the one you currently possess.