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How Might A Sociological Prespective Be Applied To The Study Of Every Day Life? How Does This Differs From Common Sense Thinking

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Introduction

Sociology is the science of human society and of social relations, organization and change: it is the study of the beliefs, values of social groups and of the processes governing social phenomena. (Collins English Dictionary and Thesaurus).

This paper briefly explores how a sociological perspective may be applied to the study of everyday life and how this differs from 'common sense' thinking.

Sociology and everyday life

To see the world through the sociological lens is to see "the world in a new light" (Berger: 2005). The ordinary rituals of everyday 'reality' appear less familiar by applying a deeper analysis; casting aside our casual acceptance of "life as it is or as it should be" to reveal the meanings, rules, obligations and assumptions which exist below the surface. This affords us a greater understanding of our social life and exposes possibilities for change which have often been buried by common sense understandings of the social world.

At the heart of the sociological endeavour is an understanding of our own behaviour as social beings (Giddens: 1989). To make the link between historical events and the patterns of everyday existence and to recognise the implication of these connections for the present and the future (Mills: 2005 11-13). To identify the framework of society and its potential to construct human identities and the experiences and opportunities available to them. Sociology views human actions as components of a larger transactional network and humans as actors in a "web of mutual dependency" (Baumann & May: 2001).

Sociological perspectives distinguish themselves from other disciplines by the types of questions they ask (Mills: 2005:14). Sociology will ask how a society is structured and how its components are related to one another. It will seek to understand the power structures and how this form of social organisation differs from other social orders. It seeks to isolate and examine the structural components of society and the way they interact with one another (macro and micro approaches). It will use cross cultural comparisons to explain how one society differs from another.

An excellent example of how a sociological perspective might be applied to everyday life is in Ritzer's McDonaldization of Society (2011). Ritzer demonstrates how the concepts of structure and streamlining are utilised in social spaces and the workplace to achieve "efficiency, calculability, predictability and control" (Ritzer: 2011:16). This affects how people conduct themselves in their everyday lives whether it be by lining up in a queue to be served or performing repetitive tasks along a production line. Companies are able to exert control over human behaviour in any given environment as individuals are 'programmed' to perform.

Another amusing example is the description of The Body Rituals of the Nacirema by Horace Miner (1956). Miner illustrates how the customs and rituals of American culture might be interpreted by those unfamiliar with them. The daily custom of brushing one's teeth becomes peculiar and foreign when described as the daily mouth-rite of the Nacirema.

Sociological perspectives distinguish themselves from common sense in a range of ways. According to Bauman & May (2001) sociology adheres to the "rules of responsible speech" which represent methods developed in the physical sciences which allow ideas about social phenomena to be vigorously tested. Ideas which are supported by evidence are distinguished from those which are merely supposition. (During analysis sociologists constantly interrogate their own assumptions and must demonstrate the link between the evidence and the conclusions at which they arrive (Holmes: 13). The conclusions drawn are then available for the scrutiny of a community of practitioners and lay individuals alike. Sociologists must be prepared to enter into a dialogue with those who propose counter arguments to their claims because it is the

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