Billie Pritchett's Reviews > The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology

The Real World by Kerry Ferris
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Feb 07, 13

Read in June, 2010

The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology is an introductory textbook on sociology. Having no real knowledge of sociology, I decided to read this textbook to learn more about this social science. The book was helpful in explaining sociology, which is defined by the authors as "[t:]he systematic or scientific study of human society and social behavior, from large-scale institutions and mass culture to small groups and individual interactions" (p. G12). Although the book was edifying in explaining, for example, the research methods of sociology and particular phenomena sociologists study, the presentation of sociology in this book, as the definition indicates, is that the discipline is a kind of systematized common sense, resulting in the kinds of findings anyone would reach if she studied the social world as impartially as possible. Most helpful were the explanation of various theories sociologists use to frame discussion, which, if a layperson (like myself) learns, would assist the layperson in thinking more critically about social phenomena.

Quick Update (02/08/13): So sociology is the study of social facts, basically, and uses traditional scientific methods to make new discoveries related to social phenomena. The goal is to find correlations between different social constructs, and the ultimate goal is to find causal relationships between the social constructs. For example, the current issue of American Sociological Reviewthis study investigates the links between men’s participation in core (traditionally female) and non-core (traditionally male) household tasks and sexual frequency. Results show that both husbands and wives in couples with more traditional housework arrangements report higher sexual frequency, suggesting the importance of gender display rather than marital exchange for sex between heterosexual married partners.In effect, it's a study comparing how often men and women have sex given a man's tendency today do traditionally male or female house chores and suggests that the more traditional the household roles are the more often the couple has sex. At the very least there's a correlation between traditional roles and sex frequency.

Traditionally in sociology, there was more of a tendency to interpret social phenomena through the lens of a larger theory and this might still be helpful. The book details three main theories: structural functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism. Structural functionalism views society as consisting of certain structures such as family, government, the economic system, and analyzes how people over time seek to make these structures cohere. Conflict theory interprets social phenomena in terms of class struggles. Symbolic interactionism looks at ways in which people make meaning in social situations through their interactions. Again, these are just some suggested theories but there is no necessity that these theories inform interpretation of all social phenomena.
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