Sociology | Introduction to Sociology
S100 | 24918 | Garnier
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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.