The Sociological Perspective Sociology is the scientific study of social structure, examining human social behavior from a group, rather than an individual, perspective. Sociologists focus on the patterns of behavior shared by members of a group or society. The sociological perspective enables us to develop a sociological imagination—the ability to see the relationship between events in our personal lives and events in society. Using our sociological imagination helps us to make our own decisions rather than merely conform, and to question common interpretations of human social behavior.
The Origins of Sociology Sociology is a relatively young science, beginning in late nineteenth-century Europe during a time of great social upheaval. Intellectuals such as Auguste Comte, Harriet Martineau, Emile Durkheim, and others began to explore ideas for regaining a sense of community and restoring order. After World War II, however, the greatest development of sociology has taken place in the United States. Two early contributors were activists Jane Addams and W.E.B. DuBois, who helped focus people's attention on social issues.
Theoretical Perspectives Sociology includes three major theoretical perspectives. Functionalism focuses on the contributions of each part of society; the conflict perspective looks at conflict, competition, change, and constraint within a society; and symbolic interactionism considers the actual interaction among people. Each of these perspectives provides a different slant on human social behavior, so by considering all three perspectives together we can see most of the important dimensions of human social behavior.