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Core Concepts of Sociological Imagination

Sociology is the study of human activity as social forces emanating from groups, organizations, societies, and even the global communities affect it. On some level, social forces exist outside the consciousness of individuals. French sociologist Emile Durkheim believed that social facts are ideas, feelings, and ways of behaving that possess the remarkable property of existing outside the consciousness of the individual.

According to Sociologist Peter L. Berger, the first wisdom of sociology is this-things are not what they seem. He equates sociologists with curious observers walking the neighborhood streets of a large city, fascinated with what they cannot see taking place behind the building walls. The wish to look inside and learn more is analogous to the sociological perspective. The discipline of sociology offers us theories and concepts needed to look beyond popular meanings and interpretations of what is going on around us.

Sociologists distinguish between troubles that can be resolved by changing the individual, and issues; can be resolved only by addressing the social forces that created them. Troubles are personal needs, problems, or difficulties that can be explained in terms of individual shortcomings in motivation, attitude, ability, character, or judgment. The resolution of a trouble lies in changing the individual in some way. By comparison, an issue is a matter that can be explained only by factors outside an individual's control and immediate environment. Issues can only be resolved by implementing solutions that change or offset the influence of underlying social forces.

Sociology emerged in part as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, an ongoing and evolving social force that transformed society, human behavior, and interactions in incalculable ways. The defining feature of the Industrial Revolution was mechanization. The Industrial Revolution changed the way in which goods were produced, the ways in which people negotiated time and space, the relationships between what were once geographically separated peoples, the ways in which people made their livings, the density of human populations, the relative importance and influence of the home in people's lives, access to formal education and the emergence of a consumption-oriented economy and culture. The accumulation of wealth became a valued and necessary pursuit.

Auguste Comte gave the name "sociology" during the period of the Industrial Revolution. Karl Marx sought to analyze and explain conflict, which he saw as being shaped by the means of production. Emile Durkheim wrote about solidarity: the ties that bind people to one another and about how the Industrial Revolution profoundly changed those ties. Max Weber set out to analyze and explains the course and consequences of social actions. W.E.B. DuBois wrote about the origins of the color line and about the "strange meaning of being black" in America. Jane Addams advocated for sympathetic knowledge.

Bibliography: The Sociological Imagination in "Sociology - A Global Perspective" by Joan Ferrante, 2011