Essentials of Sociology (12th Edition)
WELCOME TO SOCIOLOgY! I’ve loved sociology since I was in my teens, and I hope you enjoy it, too. Sociology is fascinating because it is about human behavior, and many of us find that it holds the key to understanding social life. If you like to watch people and try to figure out why they do what they do, you will like sociology. Sociology pries open the doors of society so you can see what goes on behind them. Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach stresses how profoundly our society and the groups to which we belong influence us. Social class, for example, sets us on a particular path in life. For some, the path leads to more education, more interesting jobs, higher income, and better health, but for others it leads to dropping out of school, dead-end jobs, poverty, and even a higher risk of illness and disease. These paths are so significant that they affect our chances of making it to our first birthday, as well as of getting in trouble with the police. They even influence our satisfaction in marriage, the number of children we will have— and whether or not we will read this book in the first place. When I took my first course in sociology, I was “hooked.” Seeing how marvelously my life had been affected by these larger social influences opened my eyes to a new world, one that has been fascinating to explore. I hope that you will have this experience, too. From how people become homeless to how they become presidents, from why people commit suicide to why women are discriminated against in every society around the world—all are part of sociology. This breadth, in fact, is what makes sociology so intriguing. We can place the sociological lens on broad features of society, such as social class, gender, and race–ethnicity, and then immediately turn our focus on the smaller, more intimate level. If we look at two people interacting—whether quarreling or kissing—we see how these broad features of society are being played out in their lives.
We aren’t born with instincts. Nor do we come into this world with preconceived notions of what life should be like. At birth, we have no concepts of race–ethnicity, gender, age, or social class. We have no idea, for example, that people “ought” to act in certain ways because they are male or female. Yet we all learn such things as we grow up in our society. Uncovering the “hows” and the “whys” of this process is also part of what makes sociology so fascinating. One of sociology’s many pleasures is that as we study life in groups (which can be taken as a definition of sociology), whether those groups are in some far-off part of the world or in some nearby corner of our own society, we gain new insights into who we are and how we got that way. As we see how their customs affect them, the effects of our own society on us become more visible. This book, then, can be part of an intellectual adventure, for it can lead you to a new way of looking at your social world and, in the process, help you to better understand both society and yourself. I wish you the very best in college—and in your career afterward. It is my sincere desire that Sociology: A Down- to-Earth Approach will contribute to that success.
James M. Henslin Department of Sociology Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville
P.S. I enjoy communicating with students, so feel free to comment on your experiences with this text. You can write me at [email protected]
REMEMBER WHEN YOu FIRST gOT “HOOKED” on sociology, how the windows of perception opened as you began to see life-in-society through the sociological perspective? For most of us, this was an eye-opening experience. This text is designed to open those windows onto social life, so students can see clearly the vital effects of group membership on their lives. Although few students will get into what Peter Berger calls “the passion of sociology,” we at least can provide them the opportunity. To study sociology is to embark on a fascinating process of discovery. We can compare sociology to a huge jigsaw puzzle. Only gradually do we see how the smaller pieces fit together. As we begin to see the interconnections, our perspective changes as we shift our eyes from the many small, disjointed pieces to the whole that is being formed. Of all the endeavors we could have entered, we chose sociology because of the ways in which it joins the “pieces” of society together and the challenges it poses to “ordinary” thinking. It is our privilege to share with students this process of awareness and discovery called the sociological perspective. As instructors of sociology, we have set ambitious goals for ourselves: to teach both social structure and social interaction and to introduce students to the sociological literature—both the classic theorists and contemporary research. As we accomplish this, we would also like to enliven the classroom, encourage critical thinking, and stimulate our students’ sociological imagination. Although formidable, these goals are attainable. This book is designed to help you reach them. Based on many years of frontline (classroom) experience, its subtitle, A Down-to-Earth Approach, was not proposed lightly. My goal is to share the fascination of sociology with students and in doing so to make your teaching more rewarding. One of the fascinating aspects of the introductory course in sociology is to see students’ faces light up as they begin to see how separate pieces of their world fit together. It is a pleasure to watch them gain insight into how their social experiences give shape to even their innermost desires. This is precisely what this text is designed to do—to stimulate your students’ sociological imagination so they can better perceive how the “pieces” of society fit together—and what this means for their own lives. Filled with examples from around the world as well as from our own society, this text helps to make today’s multicultural, global society come alive for students. From learning how the international elite carve up global markets to studying the intimacy of friendship and marriage, students can see how sociology is the key to explaining contemporary life—and their own place in it.
In short, this text is designed to make your teaching easier. There simply is no justification for students to have to wade through cumbersome approaches to sociology. I am firmly convinced that the introduction to sociology should be enjoyable and that the introductory textbook can be an essential tool in sharing the discovery of sociology with students.
The Organization of This Text The text is laid out in five parts. Part I focuses on the sociological perspective, which is introduced in the first chapter. We then look at how culture influences us (Chapter 2), examine socialization (Chapter 3), and compare macrosociology and microsociology (Chapter 4). Part II, which focuses on groups and social control, adds to the students’ understanding of how far-reaching society’s influence is—how group membership penetrates even our thinking, attitudes, and orientations to life. We first examine the different types of groups that have such profound influences on us and then look at the fascinating area of group dynamics (Chapter 5). After this, we focus on how groups “keep us in line” and sanction those who violate their norms (Chapter 6). In Part III, we turn our focus on social inequality, examining how it pervades society and how it has an impact on our own lives. Because social stratification is so significant, I have written two chapters on this topic. The first (Chapter 7), with its global focus, presents an overview of the principles of stratification. The second (Chapter 8), with its emphasis on social class, focuses on stratification in the United States. After establishing this broader context of social stratification, we examine inequalities of race–ethnicity (Chapter 9) and then those of gender and age (Chapter 10). Part IV helps students to become more aware of how social institutions encompass their lives. We first look at politics and the economy, our overarching social institutions (Chapter 11).
After examining the family (Chapter 12), we then turn our focus on education and religion (Chapter 13). One of the emphases in this part of the book is how our social institutions are changing and how their changes, in turn, influence our orientations and decisions. With its focus on broad social change, Part V provides an appropriate conclusion for the book. Here we examine why our world is changing so rapidly, as well as catch a glimpse of what is yet to come. We first analyze trends in population and urbanization, those sweeping forces that affect our lives so significantly but that ordinarily remain below our level of awareness (Chapter 14). We conclude the book with an analysis of technology, social movements, and the environment (Chapter 15), which takes us to the cutting edge of the vital changes that engulf us all.
Themes and Features Six central themes run throughout this text: down-to-earth sociology, globalization, cultural diversity, critical thinking, the new technology, and the influence of the mass media on our lives. For each of these themes, except globalization, which is incorporated throughout the text, I have written a series of boxes. These boxed features are one of my favorite components of the book. They are especially useful for introducing the controversial topics that make sociology such a lively activity. Let’s look at these six themes.
Down-to-Earth Sociology As many years of teaching have shown me, all too often textbooks are written to appeal to the adopters of texts rather than to the students who will learn from them. In writing this book, my central concern has been to present sociology in a way that not only facilitates understanding but also shares its excitement. During the course of writing other texts, I often have been told that my explanations and writing style are “down-to-earth,” or accessible and inviting to students— so much so that I chose this phrase as the book’s subtitle. The term is also featured in my introductory reader, Down- to-Earth Sociology: Introductory Readings, to appear in its 15th edition (New York: The Free Press, 2017).
This first theme is highlighted by a series of boxed features that explore sociological processes that underlie everyday life. The topics that we review in these Down-to-Earth Sociology boxes are highly diverse. Here are some of them.
• How a sociologist became a gang leader—for a day (Chapter 1)
• The experiences of W. E. B. Du Bois, an early sociologist, in studying U.S. race relations (Chapter 1)
• How gossip and ridicule enforce adolescent norms (Chapter 3)
• Boot camp as a total institution (Chapter 3)
• How football can help us understand social structure (Chapter 4)
• Beauty and success (Chapter 4)
• The McDonaldization of society (Chapter 5)
• Serial killers (Chapter 6)
• Urban gangs (Chapter 6)
• What life is like after hitting it big in the lottery (Chapter 8) • How the super-rich live (Chapter 8)
• National research on the American Dream: Actual social mobility (Chapter 8)
• Stealth racism in the rental market (Chapter 9) • How a man became a live exhibit in a New York zoo (Chapter 9) • Greedy surgeons and their women victims (Chapter 10)
• Do we need affirmative action for men? (Chapter 10) • Testing stereotypes by looking at the background of suicide terrorists (Chapter 12) • Our chances of getting divorced (Chapter 12)
• How tsunamis can help us to understand world population growth (Chapter 14)
• The possible dangers of bio foods (Chapter 14)
• Deception and persuasion in propaganda (Chapter 15) This first theme is actually a hallmark of the text, as my goal is to make sociology “down to earth.” To help students grasp the fascination of sociology, I continuously stress sociology’s relevance to their lives. To reinforce this theme, I avoid unnecessary jargon and use concise explanations and clear and simple (but not reductive) language. I also use student-relevant examples to illustrate key concepts, and I base several of the chapters’ opening vignettes on my own experiences in exploring social life. That this goal of sharing sociology’s fascination is being reached is evident from the many comments I receive from instructors and students alike that the text helps make sociology “come alive.”
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