Introduction to Sociological Theory

This introduction to sociological theory centers around a few key ideas in the field as well as the Sociology Style Tool which you will learn about next. Three main theory traditions exist in sociology, with each having a slightly different answer to the question: What is the basic "unit of society" that sociologists observe and measure?

Just as biologists study cells and economists study markets, what do sociologists study at the most basic level? You might be tempted to say "people", which is true, but so do psychologists, anthropologists, historians, and political scientists. What aspect of people do sociologists study? You might say "society" --after all isn't that what 'sociologist' is named after? True again, but this takes us to the primary question, which is:

What is the fundamental unit that society is made of?

The three main traditions in sociology each have a differing answer:

Struggles - Systems - Symbols