Home > Free Essays > Sociology > Sociological Theories > Meaning of Sociology
Cite this

Meaning of Sociology Essay


Sociology is an interesting and enlightening field of study that investigates human social associations and institutions. It also examines and explains significant issues in human lives, societies, and the world. At the individual level, sociology examines social matters, such as love, ethnic and gender characteristics, family conflict, abnormal behavior, and religion.

At the communal level, it investigates and describes issues, such as offense and law, riches and poverty, chauvinism and discrimination, learning institutions and education, as well as social movements. Globally, it investigates issues like population and migration, war and peace, and economic progression. Certainly, sociology is an individual hobby because it comforts some people. In other words, sociology is a kind of passion. This essay explains the subject matter of sociology

Sociological Research Methods

Sociologists use a variety of approaches and methodologies to study humans and social institutions. For instance, they observe the daily life of families and societies, carry out comprehensive surveys, analyze historical documents, interview respondents, and carry out scientific experiments in laboratories. Sociologists emphasize the collection and scrutiny of information concerning social life to broaden our comprehension of significant social procedures.

Research techniques and theories of sociology generate potent insights into the social activities and processes that influence human lives and social challenges. Proper knowledge of social processes enables us to have a good comprehension of the factors that shape individual experiences. The capacity to see and comprehend the link between broad social issues and individual experiences is a significant aspect of sociological learning.

Therefore, sociological analysis supersedes usual views of reality because it provides an in-depth explanation of social life. A well-trained sociologist can think critically about the social life of humans. In this respect, sociology provides a unique and informative approach of seeing and comprehending the social conditions in which humans live.

Sociology as an Individual Pastime

In writing about sociology as an individual pastime, Berger observes that sociology is simply a hobby. He argues that sociology explains the objective meaning of individual interaction in society (Berger 1). Berger points out that a sociologist tries to find out the activities of humans. Therefore, sociologists should examine the world carefully by scrutinizing simplified and popularly accepted notions of human actions.

According to Berger, a sociologist should be analytical when examining human behavior (Berger 2). Sociology is pastime because sociological research requires great enthusiasm. It is for this reason, that Berger defines a sociologist as an individual intensively, ceaselessly, and audaciously interested in the activities of humans (Berger 3).

Although a sociologist may be interested in other things, he is primarily concerned with human actions, social institutions, and societal norms. A socialist is interested in the occurrences that engage individuals’ ultimate convictions, their moments of disaster, and splendor.

Sociologists sometimes encounter social and economic challenges in the process of investigating and analyzing human activities. However, since sociology is a pastime, nothing can discourage a socialist from seeking answers to sociological questions. The passion to answer sociological questions encourages a socialist to interact with many people in various social classes. Moreover, a good sociologist visits almost all places because he is eager to answer sociological questions (Berger 2-3).

Berger also notes that a good sociologist is interested in finding out the undiscovered human activities and experiences. In this regard, a sociologist is interested in issues that some individuals consider as too holy or as too repugnant for dispassionate study. For instance, a good sociologist can interact with priests, criminals, and prostitutes to get answers to sociological questions he is asking at a particular time. A sociologist also examines issues considered too boring or sensitive.

In the process of investigating human activities, sociologists sometimes encounter scholars who criticize and accuse them of interfering with their intellectual work. However, the sociologist’s questions usually remain similar. Some of the common sociological questions include the following. What are people undertaking at this point? How do they interact with each other? How are these interactions structured in institutions?

What are the communal ideas that influence individuals and institutions? To answer these questions correctly, a sociologist may have to investigate economic or historical matters, but he will do it differently from that of the economist or historian (Berger 5-6). Therefore, sociology is a discipline with a clear-cut methodology.

The Sociological Imagination

In 1959, a renowned American sociologist called Wright Mills formulated the concept of sociological imagination to explain the kind of insight presented by the subject of sociology (Mills 12). According to Mills, the sociological imagination is the awareness of the association between experience and the community.

The sociological imagination also refers to the ability to move from one viewpoint to another. For example, an individual can shift from psychological to a political standpoint. In this regard, the sociological imagination makes it possible for a person to link personal problems with civic issues (Mills 13).

The sociological perspective is a terminology that is related closely with the sociological imagination. Peter Berger coined this terminology. According to Berger, the sociological perspective refers to seeing the broad-spectrum in particular. This concept enables sociologists to identify common patterns in the behavior of particular persons.

The sociological imagination is the ability to understand how sociological conditions play out because of how individuals differ based on their positions in a particular social or historical milieu. “It is a mechanism of examining how certain things in society have led to a given outcome” (Mills 12).

Things that determine these outcomes include social customs, social contexts in which people live, time, and reasons for undertaking an action. In essence, society produces the factors that cause an outcome. Therefore, the sociological imagination is the capacity to comprehend things socially and how they interrelate and manipulate each other. The sociological imagination occurs when a person withdraws him/herself from a given situation and thinks from another perspective (Mills 13).

Mills notes that the behaviors of individuals are more essential than the deed itself. In this respect, whatever we do is influenced by the circumstances we are in, the people we associate with and societal values. Consequently, the sociological imagination is the capacity to see things from a wider societal perspective, rather than from narrow personal experience (Mills 14).

Through the sociological imagination, an individual can comprehend the wider historical scene. Therefore, it enables a person to take into consideration how people, in the flurry of their everyday experience, frequently become incorrectly aware of their social status. The sociological imagination helps us to understand history and life history and the associations between the two within the community.

Therefore, the sociological imagination is the basic productive shape of this self-consciousness. Indeed, the most productive difference through which the sociological thought operates is between the individual dilemmas of setting and the public matters of social construction (Mills 14-15). This difference is an important instrument of the sociological thought and an aspect of all typical work in sociology.

Application of Sociological Imagination in Movies

At present, the use of films in teaching sociological topics has become popular in many learning institutions. For example, films enable students to have an international perspective of topics, such as war, race relations, and crime. There are advantages of using movies in teaching topics in popular culture. For instance, films help in demonstrating the importance of applying the sociological imagination in the social world.

Social Facts

In sociology, social facts refer to the values, societal standards, and social constructions, which exceed the individual and can exercise a social challenge. Durkheim developed the idea that sociology should be comprehended as the empirical investigation of social facts. “He noted that social facts comprise etiquette of acting, imagination, and feelings external to the person that is invested with compelling power through which they practice control over him” (Berger 12).

Durkheim understood social facts to comprise of illustrations and actions; hence, they cannot be mistaken to be organic features. Therefore, he defined a social fact as a kind of acting, whether static or not, which is able to exert an external constraint over a person. Durkheim called social facts things because they have unique characteristics and are outside individuals.

Moreover, social facts are not an outcome or invention of the contemporary generation, but they are pre-existing conditions for individual agency. However, it is not possible to recognize social facts through introspection. “The human agency, which generates the social facts we encounter today, is not ours because collective agents practiced it in the past” (Berger 12).

Societal facts are exterior to all persons living at present, and they compel people to act in established and unsurprising ways. Social facts offer conflict to individuals’ desire since they influence individuals’ conviction, and cannot be changed by individuals’ convictions or transformations in their faiths, awareness, and attitudes.

These features of social facts enable us to recognize and investigate them. Social facts comprise social constructions, social actions, and the substratum of society. In the end, social facts crystallize and influence possible types of individuals’ behavior and awareness.

Social facts also encompass social currents, feelings that go beyond the individual and surface only in the collective context, where they compel persons to act in a particular manner. Social facts exert psychological force in individuals. Therefore, the psychological character of most social facts creates the challenge of identification. Durkheim points to the fact that we can recognize social facts by determining whether they are authorized.

According to Durkheim, individuals have a dual nature. Their intellectual processes contain personal features combined with the effects of communal representations. Majority of the representations inside individual brains have been created collectively. Communal representations are not generated by individuals’ intents or the whole of individuals’ thought. Collective representations are produced by countless brains considered as an entirety. There is a prospect that collective representation will endorse or condemn individuals’ actions.

Sanctions generate comparable patterns of individual way of thinking, introduce social rudiments into individual psychological processes, and change individuals into social beings. Consequently, collective representations are not produced by a single brain. For this reason, sociologists should find out the origins of social facts in their societal milieu, but not in personal intent when people are considered in seclusion.

Sociological Debates on Racism

Racism is one of the controversial themes in sociology due to the absence of a sound theoretical framework to study it (Bonilla-Silva 465). Therefore, racism has often been studied from various sociological perspectives. For example, many sociologists study racism from the idealist perspective. Racism refers to a set of notions.

These notions can make individuals to prejudice against some groups. Some scholars have developed a non-ideological analysis of racism, but they have failed to develop a structural theorization of racial issues. From the institutional viewpoint, racism is a mixture of prejudice and authority, which enables the dominant race to demonstrate its dominance at all levels in a community (McArdle 1).

In this regard, racism is considered an organizing factor of social interactions that determines the identity of personal actors and influences all aspects of social life in society. The current frameworks applied in the analysis of racism have the following shortcomings.

First, racism is considered an unfounded phenomenon that is dependent on other forces in the community. Nonetheless, the structure of the community itself is not categorized as racist. Indeed, the Marxist perspective on racism has this weakness. Even though the Marxists have examined the origins of racism, they discuss its development from an idealist perspective.

Second, racism is a dynamic issue in society, but many social scientists think that it is inert. Third, analysts explaining racism from an idealistic viewpoint contend that racism is unacceptable or unreasonable thinking. Therefore, they label chauvinists as illogical and unyielding. Rationalistic view of racism has two limitations.

First, it fails to recognize the rational features on which racism was initially created. Second, and more significant, it ignores the fact that current racism still has a reasonable basis (Bonilla-Silva 465-470). Racial social structures can be used as a substitute framework for analyzing racial phenomena. The racial social system refers to communities in which social, economic, and political institutions are moderately shaped by segregation of actors in racial groups.


This essay has revealed that sociology is a scientific examination of the origins, development, and organization of social behavior. Sociology is scientific because scientific procedures are applied in its research. It is also scientific because it aims at producing knowledge that can be used to solve social challenges that affect individuals and society.

Sociology is a pastime because a sociologist has a great desire to find out the activities of humans. The motivation to answer sociological questions motivates a sociologist to interact with many individuals in the society. Sociologists can overcome the challenges of sociological research because they regard sociology as a pastime activity. Therefore, they can make discoveries about human activities under difficult circumstances because the need to answer sociological questions motivates them.

The sociological imagination is an important aspect of sociology because it enables an individual to examine and understand societal issues and human behavior from a wider perspective. Therefore, the sociological imagination facilitates the sociological analysis of social issues and human behavior.

Conversely, sociologists analyze social facts to understand human actions and societal institutions. From the preceding discussion, it can be concluded that sociology is an interesting subject that enables us to understand individual actions and social institutions.

Works Cited

Berger, Peter. “Sociology as an Individual Pastime.” Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective. Ed. Peter Berger. New York: Anchor Books, 1963. 1-12. Print.

Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. “Rethinking Racism: Toward a Structural Interpretation.” American Sociological Review 62.3 (1997): 465-480. Print.

McArdle, Elaine. . 2008. Web.

Mills, Wright. The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press, 1959. Print.

This essay on Meaning of Sociology was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.
Removal Request
If you are the copyright owner of this paper and no longer wish to have your work published on IvyPanda.
Request the removal

Need a custom Essay sample written from scratch by
professional specifically for you?

Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar

301 certified writers online

Cite This paper

Select a referencing style:


IvyPanda. (2020, April 10). Meaning of Sociology. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/meaning-of-sociology/

Work Cited

"Meaning of Sociology." IvyPanda, 10 Apr. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/meaning-of-sociology/.

1. IvyPanda. "Meaning of Sociology." April 10, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/meaning-of-sociology/.


IvyPanda. "Meaning of Sociology." April 10, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/meaning-of-sociology/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Meaning of Sociology." April 10, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/meaning-of-sociology/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Meaning of Sociology'. 10 April.

More related papers