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How Might a Sociological Perspective Be Applied to the Study of Every Day Life? Explain How This Differs from 'common-Sense' Thinking.

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Sociology is the systematic study of human society (4). Peter Berger (6) claims that sociologists look for the general social patterns in the behaviour of particular individuals. According to Bandura (3) individuals are viewed as both products and producers of their own environment and of their social systems. Throughout history, human society and its cultural systems have shown that we all need to belong, have a sense of self-worth, strength and control (8).

Sociology studies the needs and forces that effect major changes in society and the lives of individuals (5). When we begin to think sociologically we realize that certain ideas that we have taken for granted are not completely true (7). In the first section of this paper I will briefly discuss three sociological perspectives, and in the second section I will explain how sociology differs from commonsense thinking.

Sociology began as a discipline in Europe during the nineteenth century. French sociologist Auguste Comte invented sociology in 1838. Comte favoured positivism or an approach to understanding the world based on science (7). During the history and development of sociology three perspectives became apparent. Their origins were based on applying the scientific method to the study of society (1). Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber each gave a perspective or viewpoint to explain society or how parts of society work.

From the range of sociological perspectives and/or theories I have selected only three. Although these theories vary in values, they share a common goal of understanding and explaining how culture and society work.

Karl Marx explored the competition between resources (1). He focused on the differences between classes of people. The bourgeoise who owned the factors of production and the proletariat whose only means of survival was by selling their labour. From these studies grew a perspective of "Conflict." This perspective perceives that the dynamics and changes in society and individuals is linked to various conflicts, such as the inequality found in dominant and subordinate relationships. Generally, the dominant will largely monopolise power and its position to protect and further its interests (5). These relationships occur within the various structures of society, extending from a broad scale of the whole society to the local interaction between individuals. For example, in a family parent/s will generally dominate the children by applying rules and maintaining discipline.

Emile Durkheim studied rates of behaviour and found that external factors may affect the way certain individuals act (1). He argued that a homogeneity transcending the individual evoked a higher power that perpetuated society. In contrast to Marx, Durkheim took the line of a 'Functionalist' perspective, which argued that the various parts or social elements within society (such as technological, economic, political, institutional (or interactional), values and beliefs [1]) worked together to provide a structure that contributed to the function, growth and maintenance of society.

Max Weber also challenged Marx with a perspective derived as interactionism or "Symbolic Interaction". He saw society as individuals interacting everyday sharing symbols and meanings. Weber claimed that society couldn't be understood unless we comprehended the meanings behind the actions and beliefs of people. He argued that the industrial revolution was caused by a shift in values and beliefs shaped by the ideas of Calvin and Protestant Reformation (1).

Every day we interact with a diverse range of people and each of these interactions is based on behaviour patterns that are learned. We know these behaviour patterns are not inherent for studies have shown that people do not have genetic code for particular behaviours (5). A newborn baby must learn the culture of its society in order to have its needs met to survive. Ralph Linton (in Haralambos et al) states that 'The culture of a society is the way of life of its members; the collection of ideas and habits which they learn, share and transmit from generation to generation' (5). Since people are not ruled by instinct, their behaviour must be based on rules that are learned. In order for a human society to work effectively, its members must share these rules otherwise it would cease to exist.

Research has found that people usually take their culture for granted. It becomes so inbuilt or ingrained that they are often unaware of it (5). Commonsense is likened to culture, as it assumes general notions that most people accept as part of their every day lives. We find that sociology and commonsense are also closely related, as each sociological term has a meaning as a result of commonsense. Families, organizations, neighbourhoods, cities, towns, nations

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