1. Wolmer’s High School for Boys.
Department of History, Social Studies and Sociology
Module I: Sociology, Culture and Identity
THIS MODULE SEEKS TO:-
(a) develop in students a basic understanding of sociology as a discipline.
(b) develop in students an understanding of culture and identity.
(c) enables students to appreciate Caribbean cultural diversity.
Unit I: Paper I
Module I: Sociology, Culture and Identity
"Sociology starts from the premises that we are basically social animals, not just from force
of habit but because we could not otherwise survive."
(a) What is the sociological perspective?
Ans: The sociological perspective invites us to look at our familiar surroundings as though
we were seeing it for the first time. It allows us to get a fresh view of the world which we
have always taken for granted. The sociological perspective also enables us to see society
not as something to be taken for granted as 'natural' but as temporary social products,
created by human beings and therefore capable of being changed by them as well.
2. (b) What is sociology?
Sociology is the scientific study of human society and social behaviour.
Peter Berger (1963) has observed that sociology is nothing less than a special form of
consciousness. It encourages us to focus on features of our social environment we have
never noticed before and to interpret them in a new and richer light. Sociology also acts as
a window where we can look beyond our immediate experience, leading us into areas of
society we might otherwise have ignored or misunderstood. It is usually normal for us to
view the world based on our experiences.
However, sociology allows us to enter the world of the rich, powerful, the weak, the poor,
slum dwellers, drug addicts, cult members, criminals and many more. Because these people
have different social experiences, they have different definitions of social reality. Sociology
enables us to appreciate viewpoints other than our own, to better understand ourselves, our
attitudes and even our own life.
(c) What is the main focus of sociology?
The main focus of sociology is the group not the individual. Sociologists are basically
interested in the social interaction, the ways in which people act towards or respond to each
Emphasis on the group always leads to the individual. One might ask why? This is because
by understanding others we are better able to understand ourselves. We are all born into
human groups and we obtain our identities, hopes, troubles, fear and satisfaction from
them. The basic insight of sociology is:- human behaviour is largely shaped by the group to
which people belong and by the social interaction that takes place within those groups.
(d) Outline the stages through which sociology has progressed.
The English Sociologist Anthony Gidden has argued that Sociology was born out of the
"massive social transformation" of the past two centuries. Two great revolutions, the French
Revolution of 1789 and the Industrial Revolution traced to England in the 18th century have
totally dissolved the forms of social organisations in which mankind has lived for thousands
of years of its previous history (Gidden 1988). Impressive transformation in the 18th and
19th century Europe, drove the development of sociology. People started to focus their
attention on society as the social world around them seemingly collapsed.
First came scientific discoveries and technological advances that produced a factory-based
industrial economy. Instead of staying home workers became a part of a factory system.
This drastic change in the system of production weakened families and eroded traditions
that had guided members of communities for centuries.
Secondly, factories drew millions of people from the countryside causing an explosive
growth of cities. This pull of work in the new industrialised labour force was emphasised by
an additional push as land owners fenced off more and more ground turning farms into
grazing lands for sheep source of wool for the thriving textile industry. This so-called
'enclosed movement' forced countless tenant farmers from the countryside into the cities in
search of work in the new factories. As a result of this, many villages were soon abandoned,
at the same time factory towns grew rapidly into large cities. Such urban growth changed
3. people's lives. Cities were filled with strangers in numbers that overwhelmed available
housing and wide spread social problems including poverty, disease, pollution, crime,
homelessness etc. Such social crises further stimulated the development of the sociological
Thirdly, people in these budding industrial cities soon entertained new ideas about
democracies and political rights. Starting in the 17th century every kind of tradition came
under attack. In the writings of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and (1632-1704) and Adam
Smith (1723-1790) we see a distinct shift in focus from people's moral obligations to remain
loyal to their rules to the ideas that society is the product of individual self-interest. The key
phase in the new political climate were individual liberty and individual rights. Such political
changes further enhanced and stimulated the development of sociology.