How does sociology help us to better understand how our own society functions?

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Sociology provides a framework which allows us to consider how humans all fit together on this planet—and hopefully how we can strive toward more meaningful interactions with each other. It helps us inspect our own place in a diverse world and how we individually influence group actions. Sociology looks at...

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Sociology provides a framework which allows us to consider how humans all fit together on this planet—and hopefully how we can strive toward more meaningful interactions with each other. It helps us inspect our own place in a diverse world and how we individually influence group actions. Sociology looks at customs and norms of groups, making the social world seem less haphazard as we begin to see patterns of behavior that extend across cultures and then highlight the contrasts that are unique to individual societies.

The need to belong is an essential part of the human experience; people who cannot understand how societies work are more likely to live on the fringes of it and feel isolated. Sociology provides a way to intentionally learn about the constructs of societies, helping to both understand those on the fringes and the needs of the societal group.

Sociology examines group behaviors, families, customs, values, governments, principles of economics, and more. By examining these factors, people are better equipped to interact in their own societies and to influence and manage societal differences in hopefully positive ways.

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Most of us simply go about our everyday business in society, not stopping to think how society functions or the significance of our many social interactions. That's why we need sociology to give us the bigger picture, as it were. By taking a step back and examining society from a detached perspective, it provides us with a much better idea of how everything works.

In doing so, it allows us to see society as a complex structure or perhaps as an organism in which everyone is linked together. It also allows us to see how society functions despite, rather than because of, the many cleavages—such as race, class, and gender—into which it is divided.

In other words, what sociology does is to deconstruct society and examine its constituent parts before reassembling it into an organic whole in which it becomes possible for us to see how everything hangs together.

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Sociology is the study of societies and patterns in large-scale human behavior. Typically, sociologists will focus on a group of people and observe them, studying them as a microcosm of society at large, which will reveal overarching patterns and trends.

Sociology has improved the understanding of our own society and the human interactions inside it by finding these patterns. If we can understand the typical trends of human behavior, we can better predict human reactions on a broader scale.

While individuals may all react differently, over a large group of people, the differences blend together to reveal tendencies, and understanding these demystifies society and helps predict behavior.

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Sociology helps us better understand how our own society functions by exploring people's and groups' application of principles that govern society's interactions in the areas of communication, social structures (such as the family), economics, decision making and choice, distribution of resources, power structure (including religion and law), distribution of wealth, and ownership of resources. Sociology brings to light how society can best function in conflicts over sharing resources, defining priorities, and reaching agreed-upon goals.

Communication lies at the heart of sociological exploration because communication disseminates facts and the reasons for them to people, feelings between people, and charismatic confidence to people. Communication breaks down in the face of the convincing charisma that overreaches the impact of facts and their reasons. Understanding which forms of communication are most effective in spreading facts and reasons (instead of charisma or other influences) is one way sociology helps us better understand how our own society functions.

Another way among many that sociology helps us better understand the function of our own society is through identifying where people and industry fail to demonstrate the essential principles of such social functions as economics and human behavior, as, for example, in the economic principle that price cannot be held below costs and, in human behavior, that groups tend to shift responsibility from themselves off on to someone else. 

[Drawn from Charles Goodeve, "How Society Works."]

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