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Sociology and Anthropology Essay

A. The Science of Sociology and Anthropology Sociology is the scientific study of human society and its origins, development, organizations, and institutions. ] It is a social science which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity, structures, and functions.

A goal for many sociologists is to conduct research which may be applied directly to social policy and welfare, while others focus primarily on refining the theoretical understanding of social processes. Subject matter ranges from the micro level of individual agency and interaction to the macro level of systems and the social structure. The traditional focuses of sociology include social stratification, social class, culture, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, social mobility, religion, secularization, law, and deviance.

As all spheres of human activity are affected by the interplay between social structure and individual agency, sociology has gradually expanded its focus to further subjects, such as health, medical, military and penal institutions, the Internet, environmental sociology, political economy and the role of social activity in the development of scientific knowledge. Anthropology is the study of humans, past and present. To understand the full sweep and complexity of cultures across all of human history, anthropology draws and builds upon knowledge from the social and biological sciences as well as the humanities and physical sciences.

A central concern of anthropologists is the application of knowledge to the solution of human problems. Historically, anthropologists in the United States have been trained in one of four areas: sociocultural anthropology, biological/physical anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics. Anthropologists often integrate the perspectives of several of these areas into their research, teaching, and professional lives. Sociology and anthropology are separate, but related, branches of the social sciences that study humans and society. Once anthropology and sociology were similar in how they studied humans, but in the early part of the 20th century, their methodologies and foci diverged.

B. The Development of Sociology and Anthropology The history of Anthropology and Sociology is long and full of invaluable insights into the human condition.

It provides a mirror that reaches deep into ourselves and explains why we do things that are sometimes contradictory to logic, and most often in alliance with societal standards. For these reasons, Anthropology and Sociology have remained highly esteemed fields of study and continue to flourish as a library of social thought grows. August Comte was the first to coin the term “sociology”. He was not the first to create theories of sociology, but was the first to proclaim himself a sociologist.

Comte was a functionalist who believed every aspect of society served a purpose. He is most famous for his idea of social statics and dynamics. Social statics is the study of social order, whereas social dynamics is the study of social change and progress. Dividing the study of sociology into these two categories created two different frames of reference from which sociology could be studied (Collins and Makowsky 26). The next significant development in sociology came with Karl Marx.

Marx was a conflict theorist who believed that all aspects of society could be explained as a struggle between two or more opposing groups. There were three parts to Marx’s theory. First, there was his sociology which established the class system (Collins and Makowsky 34). This system included the capitalists, or bourgeois, who owned the means of production and profited from exploiting workers, or the proletariat (Collins and Makowsky 40). Next, Marx’s politics explained that a class struggle for power would be won by the group that best suits the evolving economy (Collins and Makowsky 36).

Since the only way for the capitalist to profit is by exploiting the worker, and the worker cannot profit on his own because he does not own the means of production, capitalists could drive wages lower and lower until the workers revolt (Collins and Makowsky 41). Finally, Marx speculated that this revolt would occur because the worker would be gaining less from their work than what they put in. This was his social/political philosophy (Collins and Makowsky 45). At around the same time in the field of Anthropology the predominant school of thought was becoming the social evolutionists.

These theorists used Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution to explain society (Collins and Makowsky 85). Herbert Spencer said that societies were like organisms in that they went from simple to complex and independent to interdependent. However, societies were not like organisms because they were not organized similarly or interconnected (Collins and Makowsky 85-86). Sir Edward Burnett Tylor was another social evolutionist who believed that all cultures were derived from a single body of information and that certain societies had less and others more (McGee and Warms 27).

Lewis Henry Morgan perpetuated this idea by claiming that there were three types of societies: savage, barbarian, and civilized (McGee and Warms 41). The aspects of the society that determined how evolved the culture was along this scale were how people gained subsistence, the system of government, language, family, religion, house life and architecture, and the type of ownership of property (McGee and Warms 42). The three stages could be defined along the lines of inventions and discoveries and the types of primary institutions (McGee and Warms 46).

Some years after the social evolutionists established their theories of Anthropology, Emile Durkheim made an impact on Sociology. Like Comte, he too was a functionalist. Durkheim created many theories, among them the most notable being that of the function of crime and Social Facts. Durkheim believed that the function of crime was to unify members of society. Crime provides a principle behind which most members of society can stand behind and become united. The repercussions of crime also teach the youth the norms and values of a society (Collins and Makowsky 105).

Durkheim is also commended for his theory of Social Facts. A Social Fact is determined by a society and is not true across all societies, whereas facts are true across all societies (McGee and Warms 88). Another sociologist who was working at the same time as Emile Durkheim was Max Weber. Weber was a symbolic interactionalist who believed that all interactions in society represented a deeper characteristic of society. However, Weber was also a Marxist who deemed class, power, and status the foundation of society (Collins and Makowsky 120-121). Weber spent much of his time explaining the forms of government.

He described two types of government: Patrimonialism and Bureaucracy. In Patrimonialism, positions in government were awarded via traditional legitimacy, or birth-right (Collins and Makowsky 126). No special skills were needed to fulfill job requirements and there were generally few to no rules. In Bureaucracy, people were appointed or elected for positions. This system used rational-legal legitimacy and contained a hierarchy. Bureaucracy required a great amount of specialization and included many rules and regulations (Collins and Makowsky 127).

Two other symbolic interactionalists who made significant contributions to sociology around this time were Charles Horton Cooley and George Herbert Mead. Cooley developed the concept of the Looking-Glass self. The principle had three dimensions. First, people look at themselves as they think others see them. Then, they look for judgments others may be making about them. And finally, they evaluate those judgments and adjust their behavior accordingly (Collins and Makowsky 167). Mead also created a model of the self. In Mead’s theory, the first stage we encounter is the “me”.

This is a stage in which we anticipate stimuli and react with formulated responses. As we mature, we enter the “I” where we are now able to see the expectations society has of us and we react with conditioned responses (Collins and Makowsky 174). After we are able to identify ourselves as part of a community, we adjust our actions to best suit the interests of the community (Collins and Makowsky 175). A new school of Anthropology developed shortly after the theories of Cooley and Mead.

The school was Historical Particularism and it drew upon the work of Franz Boas and Alfred L. Kroeber. Historical Particularism brought with it the idea that each society has a unique history based on different paths of development and therefore, no society is inferior to the next (McGee and Warms 130). Boas believed that one must immerse oneself in a culture in order to understand it and draw conclusions. This was starkly different to the anthropologists before him who used comparative studies to examine other cultures. Boas used ethnographic studies to document cultures that were about to be lost because of contact with the outside world (131-132).

Kroeber was Boas’ student, however Kroeber took a different approach to anthropology. He did not believe that the individual played a significant role in the development of society, whereas Boas did (McGee and Warms 133). Kroeber’s major contribution to anthropological theory was his “Eighteen Professions. ” These professions were eighteen beliefs about social evolution which Kroeber did not agree with. He believed that social evolution began on an assumption that society evolves like organisms, and did not believe heory should include assumptions (McGee and Warms 141). Three equally influential anthropologists of the same time period were Bronislaw Malinowski, Alfred Reginald Radcliff-Brown, and Edward Everet Evans-Pritchard. All three belonged to the Structural Functionalist school of anthropology. Structural Functionalists sought to understand the underlying structure of society. The most notable Structural Functionalist was Malinowski. He studied the Kula trade in New Guinea with the Trobriand Islanders.

Malinowski discovered that necklaces and bracelets being exchanged in this system were not just gifts between tribes. They were in fact creating a relationship between the tribes so that other goods, such as food, could be traded freely because of the established bond between the two tribes (McGee and Warms 161). Radcliffe-Brown is best known for his research on the relationship a child holds with his or her mother’s brother. He hypothesized that the mother’s brother acts as a second, or surrogate, mother to the child whereas the father of the child acts as a disciplinarian.

In addition, the child has access to the mother’s brother’s food and property if the mother dies and the mother’s brother helps when the child is sick or if the mother is no longer capable of caring for the child. This explains the positive relationship that the mother’s brother has with the child, and the negative relationship a child has with his or her father (McGee and Warms 177). Previous theorists such as Sigmund Freud had speculated that a negative relationship a son had with his father was a result of jealousy the son felt because the father was having sex with the mother (Collins and Makowsky 148).

The last of the Structural Functionalists was Evans-Pritchard. He developed the idea of a Segmentary Lineage System. This was a system by which people see themselves in relationship to each other depending on how closely related they are to each other. For example, even if an individual is friends with someone from another family, they will take the side of a member of their own family before defending the friend outside their bloodline (McGee and Warms 191). During this time, another school of anthropology was developing. This was the school of Culture and Personality.

Culture and Personality was defined by three themes: the relationships between culture and human nature, culture and individual personality, and culture and society typical socialization. It was pioneered by two anthropologists; Ruth Fulton Benedict and Margaret Mead (McGee and Warms 206). Benedict’s major contribution was the highly influential concept of cultural relativism. Cultural relativism asserted that there are no superior or inferior cultures, only different cultures. Benedict also stressed that cultural configuration established the personality of its members.

She was primarily interested in culture and human nature (McGee and Warms 209). Mead was chiefly concerned with culture and the individual. Her major contribution was a study on Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies. Mead studied three tribes: the Mundugumor, the Arapesh, and the Tchambuli. In the Mundugumor tribe, both sexes were aggressive head hunters. In the Arapesh tribe, both men and women were gentle and calm problem solvers. In the Tchambuli tribe, men were apt to gossip and provided nurturing while women were dominant.

Since all three of these systems were very different from the western, patriarchal way of thinking, they contributed significantly to the study of anthropology (McGee and Warms 222). Another movement in anthropological thought began in this time period. It was called Cultural Ecology and Neo-Evolutionary Thought. Pioneered by Julian Steward and George Peter Murdock and focused on how societies adapt to their environments as a measurement of evolution (McGee and Warms 225). When Boas made ethnographic studies a standard in anthropology, cross-cultural studies had been abandoned.

Murdock revived the practice of cross-cultural studies and created the Human Relations Area Files. This was a collection of my volumes documenting the organization of various cultures around the world (McGee and Warms 263). Murdock also contributed significantly to the study of divorce. He hypothesized that a stable marriage is more likely if one or more of three factors are in place. First, a bride price helped to secure a marriage because there was no obligation to repay the price and therefore marriage was profitable. Second, arranged marriage would stabilize a marriage.

The final factor that would ensure the stability of a marriage was the crow. This is a situation in which women are stolen and would not be returned because this is a sign of weakness (McGee and Warms 265-266). Steward is responsible for the distinction between culture type and culture core. A society’s culture type is how a culture uses a specific technology to exploit the environment. Culture core accounts for the features of a culture that play a role. Knowing both the culture type and core of a society can prove useful when studying how the society aintains subsistence (McGee and Warms 228). Up until this point in history, few if any sociologists had touched upon race. Then, the rise of the black sociologist occurred in the form of W. E. B. DuBois. DuBois was a Marxist and saw blacks as the modern day proletariat. He believed it was segregation that kept black from obtaining jobs and in turn bad jobs led blacks to lower economic status. DuBois believed the only way to create change was through education, though he admitted that education was useless under segregation (Collins and Makowsky 196).

DuBois also suggested that blacks have a “double consciousness”. Blacks feel caught between two identities: one black, and one American. These two identities divert blacks’ attention from fulfilling either identity to its fullest extent. It also places undue mental stress on African-Americans to keep switching identities to match their circumstances (Farganis 180). Several years later, Erving Goffman, another symbolic interactionalist, contributed his theory of Dramaturgy. Goffman stated that each one of us has a “back stage” and a “front stage”.

The “back stage” is who we really are when we think we are not being judged. Goffman categorizes this as a accurate identity. The “front stage” is the act we put on for the rest of society to see. This is what Goffman labels a fabricated identity (Farganis 360). There are four steps to managing a fabricated identity. First, one must control the setting. Then, an individual puts on a personal front. Next, one will play the part they have created. And finally, the individual must manage the audience (Farganis 366-367).

Another influential sociologist was Michele Foucault. He belonged to the new movement of Contemporary European Thought under the umbrella of Post-Modernism. Foucault suggested that over time, societies discourse, or presumed truths, have changed. For example, during the middle ages, society at large made the assumption that everything in the world could be explained through religion. However, during the enlightenment, the discourse of western thought shifted to look towards science for an answer to all phenomena (Faganis 411).

In post-modernism, sociologists propose that there are no ultimate truths that science, religion, or any other institution can define (Farganis 413). At the same time, Claude Levi-Strauss is studying language from an anthropological standpoint. His major contribution to the field is through his inclination to approach linguistics from a structuralist point of view. Levi-Strauss asserts that language should be studied to discover the underlying structures that create societies. Previous theorist such as Boas thought language was important to study because it showed how we categorize the world (McGee and Warms 335).

Around this time, Sally Slocum is attempting to perform a Feminist Critique. Female anthropologists and sociologist of the past had too often focused on the importance of men in society and glossed over the contributions of women. Slocum pointed out that women are second class citizens in most societies because of their association with nature which was seen as untamed and therefore dangerous. Men were associated with culture because they were the controllers of culture. This created an image of men as being the more civilized of the two genders.

Women were aligned with nature because of their ability to bear children and the work they commonly did producing, instead of killing as men often did (McGee and Warms 419). These anthropologists and sociologists of the past have provided current thinkers with a basis for further research and exploration. Today, Anthropology and Sociology are growing fields of interest across the world. Thousands of anthropologists and sociologists chip away at life’s major questions every day. As the canon of literature grows, human beings grow closer and closer towards self-actualization.


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