Sociological Theories

This week we laid out four major sociological theories/movements that inform the way we might look at society, social institutions and social behaviors (see Chap 1 in the book). We looked at how these “lenses” can be used to understand any number of social phenomena. Also, we have our own experiences, identities, and values which also color how we see and understand social issues and processes. It’s hard to step back from those lenses when interpreting something we observe socially.


Even individual decisions are influenced by social forces around us. We looked at some statements that feel very “personal” in nature for their sociological reasoning or connection. We physically moved to one end or the other end of the room based on whether a statement was true or not for us (we also gave the option of being neutral), and we talked about the distribution of responses in the room. We discussed how our sociology can “predict” why a given distribution looks the way it does. Example statements: “Facebook is for old people.” “My family has a religious tradition.” “I am a political person.” “My family has changed where they shop or how they consume based on a social or political issue.” Without talking about the specifics behind each statement, we theorized about how life experiences, age, gender or other sociological characteristics of the members in the room might explain the various distributions we see (later we’ll discuss the concept of a bell curve).


We then turned to the book There are No Children Here in which we were introduced to Lafayette and Pharoah, the two brothers featured in the ethnography, their mother LaJoe, and their friends and family. We are introduced to the Henry Horner Homes, and the changes to the neighborhood since LaJoe first moved in in the 1950s to the environment that Lafayette and Pharoah were growing up in at the time of the writing of the book. We looked back at our sociological lenses to explain what we had read in the book.