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Sociological Imagination and Social Issues Essay

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People are more likely to use psychological arguments to explain why things are they way they are rather than look at the sociological aspect of them. They think that problems happening in their lives are personal and overlook that they may be caused by society (Ferris & Stein 13). Sociological imagination challenges people to look at the “intersection between biography and history” and see the role we each play in society (Mills 1959 and Ferris & Stein 13). We must look at how larger social issues are intertwined in with each individual’s life and how society shapes a person.

There are many benefits with using the sociological perspective on life and one of the most important ones is obtaining a “world beyond our own immediate sphere” (Ferris & Stein 13). By doing this, we can seek radically different ways to experience life and look at our reality differently then we ever thought possible. It forces us to see how we created our values, morals, beliefs, and at some point we may need to reevaluate why we had them to begin with.

Thinking with a sociological imagination makes us see the errors of our thinking and how we can change that.

Macrosociology looks at how society and its social structure determine individual’s lives and sometimes even beliefs and opinions. I believe that I view myself differently because of how society told me I must be. It is instilled in us to be successful and I push my own limits in order to achieve that and my thoughts constantly revolve around how successful I can be and the consequences if I am not (Jenkins. My “Me and Society” Journal. 10/05/12).

Society tends to set up rules or general guidelines for how everyone should live their lives and how to act socially. When a person departs from the “norm” in any way they are considered deviant and when the violations of rules have been written into law they are considered crimes (Dreiling. 10/23/2012. Lecture). How deviance is perceived may be different depending on who is explaining it. Psychologists state that personality characteristics within the individual that drive them to stray from the norm while sociologists believe that social relations outside the individual are the cause (Dreiling. 10/23/2012. Lecture). There are many things, however, that are not only considered an act of deviance but consequences or benefits from being deviant.

There are two general divisions of deviant violations: folkways and mores. Violation of folkways are more common, frowned upon issues such as jaywalking or poor manners whereas violations of mores are illegal incidences such as murder or rape. When these act of deviances occur, there are those who bind groups together and this can reinforce the person to continue these acts. Majority of the people, however, disapprove of these acts and they are called a negative sanction (Dreiling. 10/23/2012. Lecture). They tend to look down upon the acts, gossip, and with the more serious violations, imprison individuals and receive capital punishment.

While the United States uses capital punishment and imprisonment as punishment for deviance, other countries don’t have these resources if they even desired to use it. Therefore, there are other techniques they use such as the Amish who shun those who violate the strict norms of the group because guilt of immorality is the ultimate punishment. They believe that those in the religious community cannot associate with lawbreakers even if they are family members and while the shunning is temporary, it has an impact an prevents deviant behavior (Ferris & Stein 154).

In the 20th Century, Robert Merton created the Structural Strain Theory that provides a connection between functionalist and conflict theories (Ferris & Stein). It states that there are goals within society that people strive to achieve, however, they are unable to reach these goals and this creates a stress when people realize they cannot achieve them (Dreiling. 10/25/2012. Lecture). Stanley Milgram states that obedience is deeply ingrained into our behavioral tendencies and impulse overriding ethics and moral conducts (Dreiling. 10/25/2012. Lecture). Rebels are people that reject the cultural definitions of success and therefore are not obedient to the social norm to be successful making them deviant. Since they “rebel” to the social norm it advocates radical alternatives to the social order that society lives in today (Ferris & Stein 158).

Kerckhoff and Back stated that “the belief in a tangible threat makes it possible to explain and justify one’s sense of discomfort” and this is why imprisonment and capital punishment is created (Dreiling. 10/25/2012. Lecture). Between the years of 1980 and 2006, the amount of incarcerated Americans went up nearly five times accumulating over two million prisoners. With less the 5% of the world’s population, we have created social acts that should be punishable by prison and have 23.4% of the world’s prisoners (Dreiling. 10/25/2012. Lecture). Sociologists and other groups have studied so in depth to crime and punishment that there are many subcategories within society that reasons with why people are incarcerated such as gender, race, age, and class as well as specified crime groups for violent, property, and white collar crimes (Ferris & Stein 172, 173).

Sociological imagination forces us to look at how we are asked to act and society and how we actually act. Most of the things we do in our daily lives we may think is by choice, however, it is how society wants us to live. Anytime individual’s challenge or stray from the norm of how society thinks we must function, there are consequences that are sometimes so severe that they drastically change our societies views, morals, and attitudes.

By expanding our thinking about deviance we can really look at why we do not accept certain things that people do such as body modification even though it is not harming us. It also gives people the opportunity to look at how we react and punish those who are deviant and decide whether we have been acting appropriately with punishments such as capital punishment. By doing this we are given the chance to look at what we truly believe, whether it is because of macrosociology or microsociology, and make strides to change things.

With sociological perspective, we are being asked to question how we do things and why. Then we are being asked not if we can change it but how. What I think should be another question is if we want to change it. We can abandon or reevaluate our opinions, beliefs, morals, and attitudes but at the end of the day we need to look at our society and decide if the course of action is effective and if we, as individuals and a whole, feel comfortable with the standards we set on each other and ourselves. I believe that there must be a sense of right and wrong and punishment and rewards in order to have a balance in society. That is why we have deviance and crime within our society and there is nothing wrong with having a balance in our world.

1. Ferris, Kerry, and Jill Stein. The real world: an introduction to sociology. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2010. Print. 2. Katherine Jenkins. October 05, 2012. “I-Me-Society Journal 1”. 3. Dreiling, Michael. October 23, 2012. Lecture.

4. Dreiling, Michael. October 25, 2012. Lecture.

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