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Early Sociologies and the Sociological Imagination

Introduction to the theories of Comte, Durkheim, and Mills for Soc 230

Victoria Farmer

on 20 January 2015

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Transcript of Early Sociologies and the Sociological Imagination

Early Sociologies
Auguste Comte
Comte, a French philosopher, is considered the founder of Sociology.
He called his new field
social physics
This language is in keeping with Comte's
philosophy, the goal of which was to apply the scientific method to human behavior.
How might Positivist philosophy reflect the time in which Comte was living and working (1798-1857)?
Positivism reflects a dedication to post-
ideologies that emphasize science and empiricism as guiding principles of our universe.

As budding Christian sociologists, can we work entirely with Positivist evidence? Why or why not?
His adherence to the Positivist view caused Comte to determine that society and the social order are not natural or preordained, but instead created by the repetition of
Characteristics of Social Norms
1. A norm is a a rule governing what a particular behavior should or should not be.

2. A norm is collectively agreed upon, often in indirect or nonverbal ways.

3. In order to establish norms and maintain them once they have been established, the collective offers positive and negative sanctions, or at least reacts when the norm is threatened or violated.
One of Comte's noted successors is Emile Durkheim (1858-1917).
He agrees with Comte's
vision of
socially constructed culture
but feels that he ultimately failed to
establish a scientific vision for the
field because of his lack of defined
methodological principles for sociological
To that end, Durkheim coined several terms to explain
how socially constructed culture operated.

Social facts
- the aspects of social life that, though they exist outside of ourselves, shape our activities as individuals. One of Durkheim's mottoes was "
Social facts as things!
Some examples of
social facts
are institutions, statuses, roles, laws, beliefs, and population distribution. How do such things govern our behaviors?

Social currents
- thought patterns in public gatherings that do not have identifiable roots with one person, but nonetheless work to control the entire group.

Social constraints
- the means through which we are conditioned by our societies to adhere to or eschew behaviors.
Social currents
act as a subset of social facts, but operate a little differently.
Here are two examples of
social currents at work:
What is Sociology?
Sociology is the study of people in

C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) is another
innovator in the field of Sociology.
Mills' most famous contribution to the field
is that he named and described "the sociological imagination," which provides a way to gather and organize sociological research that is less positivist and more human-centered than the methods of Comte and Durkheim.

We will read both Mills and Durkheim for Thursday. In addition to the assigned articles for that day, you may want to glance at the Sociological Imagination Questions in your supplemental reading folder. These will help you clarify what the S.I. looks like in practice.
One of the ways in which we define ourselves is through the groups to which we belong. Take about five minutes and make a list of ten "I am.." statements that tell what groups you belong to. What does your list say about how you seek to define yourself?
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