The Sociological Perspective.

A perspective can be broadly defined as "a way of looking at and seeing (or interpreting) something". I don't think they can see us...To have a perspective, therefore, means to look at something (whatever that thing might be) in a particular way.

For sociologists, the "thing" we are looking at is the social world and, in particular, the nature of the relationships people form in their everyday lives. Thus, when we talk about "society" or "the social world" as if it were something real and alive, what we are actually referring-to is our particular perception of the range and scope of the relationships that exist between people in any given society - which, if you're interested, is the real object of study for Sociologists.

When we talk about the sociological perspective, therefore, we are talking about the particular way that sociologists, as opposed to non-sociologists, try to understand human social behaviour and the relationships this presupposes.

This is not to say that all sociologists necessarily look at the social world from exactly the same perspective (or viewpoint if you prefer), nor that sociologists are always in complete agreement about what they are seeing, how behaviour could or should be understood and so forth.

As we will see as the Pathway develops, the sociological perspective actually consists of a number of quite different sub-perspectives (Functionalism, Marxism, Feminism and Interactionism to name but four you will come across from time-to-time throughout your course).

Sociologists who subscribe to the general ideas involved in these sub-perspectives are all involved in the same basic task (understanding social relationships and behaviour) and are all looking at much the same sort of things; however, the way different groups of sociologists interpret what they see (often in the most fundamentally opposed kinds of way) means that we can only really talk about the sociological perspective in the most general of terms.

Having said this, it is evident that sociologists generally look at social relationships in a different way to both other academics (economists, philosophers, human biologists and the like) and people in general. It is, therefore, possible - and, at this stage of your course, probably desirable, to identify a number of common ideas to which most, if not all, sociologists would subscribe.