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What Is Sociology? How Does A 'Sociological Imagination' Help Us Understand The Society In Which We Live? In What Ways Does A Sociological Perspective Differ From Individualistic And Naturalistic Explanations Of Human Behaviour?

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Sociology can be described as the study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behaviour (Bilton, 1987: Ch.1). A way of understanding sociology can be done through the 'sociological imagination', which is a tool that provides many distinctive perspectives on the world, which generate new ideas and critique the old. To better understand the perspective this essay will additionally compare individualistic and naturalistic explanations of the human behaviour. This will be explored through examples of family life, education, crime and so on.

To define sociology we must first look at our world. The term sociology can be seen as the systematic study of relationships among people, the assumption being that behaviour is influenced by social, political, occupational and intellectual groupings and by the particular settings in which individuals find themselves. In relation to what sociology is we also look at how people view themselves and how much of their life's outcomes are incorporated with society's influence (Bilton, 1987: Ch.1).

This view of ones understanding of self and society is the essence of 'sociological imagination'. The sociological imagination is the ability to see our private experiences and personal difficulties as entwined with the structural arrangements of our society and the times in which we live. The 'sociological imagination' helps develop an understanding and even outlines the existence of society to the individual. As we see in the reading (Mills, C. Wright. "The Promise" in The Sociological Imagination, Ch.1) it talks about how nowadays people feel like that their private lives are a series of traps. This being because they attribute internally the events which surround them without looking at the external factors which greatly influence their daily life. The 'sociological imagination' helps people in the way that it emphasises that individuals are affected by society's ways and changes. The outcomes we experience should also be looked upon as the outcome of individual choice and more importantly the effects of society on us.

If we look at the sociological perspective and relate it to the 'social imagination' we can see how it builds upon it. The sociological perspective can be looked at in terms of how we act in the context of the group; it is the group that influences our behaviour. The realization of the strength and importance of the group is the heart of the sociological perspective. We are shaped by our society, our culture, our time and by the groups to which we belong. Structures such as class and community also affect us and our behaviours. The sociological perspective shows us what these things are and how they influence our behaviour. The way in which sociological perspective differs from individualistic and naturalistic explanations of human behaviour is through the way we view ourselves and society.

'Naturalistic' and 'individualistic' explanations are two of the most resilient, non-social approaches to human behaviour. Rather than seeing social behaviour as the product of interaction, these theories have concentrated on the presumed qualities inherent in individuals. On the one hand, naturalistic explanations suppose that all human behaviour, social interaction included; is a product of the inherited dispositions we possess as animals. We are, like animals, biologically programmed by nature (Krieken, Smith, Habibis, McDonald, Haralambos, Holborn, 2000: Ch.1). On the other hand, individualistic explanations baulk at such grand generalizations about the inevitability of behaviour. From this point of view we are all 'individual' and 'different'. Explanations of human behaviour must therefore always rest ultimately on the particular and unique psychological qualities of individuals.

An example of 'individualistic' explanation in contemporary society is the success or failure of student educational achievements (Krieken, Smith, Habibis, McDonald, Haralambos, Holborn, 2000: Ch.1). These achievements are often assumed to be merely a reflection of intelligence: bright children succeed and dim children fail. Criminals are often taken to be people with certain kinds of personality: they are usually seen as morally deficient individuals, lacking any real sense of right or wrong. Unemployed people are equally often condemned as 'work-shy' or 'lazy'; inadequate who would

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