Sociology is an area of scientific inquiry that researches human societies and the social elements that comprise our societies. In detail, social elements refer to the interactions, social institutions, and interpersonal relationships of which support the development of society. These social elements are present in the everyday lives of many people. Sociologists use social elements in order to analyze varied categories such as ethnicity and race, socioeconomics and social status, as well as family dynamics. These categories of sociology are supported through the use of connections between sociological scientific research studies such as those in Garth Massey’s novel, “Readings for Sociology” and personal social examples we see in our communities. Therefore, by referencing sociological studies in “Readings for Sociology” and comparing the ideas to personal examples I’ve experienced, I can analyze how ethnicity, socioeconomics, and family dynamics play a part in our society and my life.
The first topic of sociology I will discuss is ethnicity. Ethnicity is a sociological topic that argues that there are non-physical characteristics and cultural aspects of someone’s upbringing that aid in the development of a specialized individuality. In our modern society, race connects to the idea of ethnicity and identity according to Waters in “Readings for Sociology”. Waters writes, “White Americans can exercise […] the option of whether to claim any specific ancestry, or to just be ‘White’ or American, and [choose] which of their European ancestries to choose to include in their description of their own identities” (Waters, 2015, p. 228-229). So, white Americans can “pass” as any desirable European culture as well as deny any association with European culture, whereas, people of color, who are in the numerical minority of society, do not have as much free choice and maneuvering when it comes to the idea of ethnicity. Therefore, minority groups have a much more difficult time in being able to separate their identity from society’s assumptions of what their ethnicity should be according to racial presumptions. In general, society seems to develop a certain bias based off of appearances guided by racial ignorance, and so assumes an ethnicity for those who are unable to naturally “pass” as other ethnicities. For instance, as a White first-generation Lithuanian immigrant, I can both deny and affirm my ethnic ties to my original birthplace due to the generational diminishment of the discrimination once attached to European backgrounds. However, people of color may not be able to separate their identities from ethnic ties to their assumed ‘origins’ due to society’s continued racism and discrimination towards people of color. Ethnicity, however not only displays ties to racial identity but also connects to the establishment of specific cultural beliefs.
Ethnicity can establish a marital belief that encourages conjugal love rather than romantic love through the idea of arranged marriages, especially those in the Indian social structure. In “Readings for Sociology”, Gupta notes, “most Indian marriages are arranged, although sometimes opinions of the partners are consulted, and in cases of adults, their opinions are seriously considered” (Gupta, 2015, p. 385). Although the idea of arranged marriages has been around for a very long time, throughout the generations there have been some changes made to the structure of arranged marriages. One change would include having more leniency towards mate selection. In our modern-day American lives, most marriages we see are love marriages, unlike in India. For example, in my personal life, there has never been one moment where my parents have discussed future sutures. Instead, I was expected to find a potential suitable mate on my own and marry for romantic love. However, the same ‘grooming’ process applies to my prospective spouse, in the sense that it would be with my parents’ blessings that I would have the confidence to marry my match. From an individual perspective, if my parents felt my spouse would be unfit, there would be serious doubt cast upon my intended spouse. Keeping this in mind, not only can my personal life be affected by society, such as my parents’ opinions, but also I can have a certain influence on society through the idea of socioeconomics.
The second topic of sociology I will examine is socioeconomics. Socioeconomics is a branch of sociology in which studies the relationship between social factors, such as behaviors, and economic factors, such as income, and what consequences their interrelation produces in our institutions. By way of example, socioeconomic research can investigate the interactions between employees working in an institution and the institution’s costumers. In “Readings for Sociology”, Paules writes about the relationship between waitresses and customers explaining how waitresses viewed “a low tip or stiff [as reflecting] the negative qualities and low status of the customer who is too cheap, too poor, too ignorant, or too coarse to leave an appropriate gratuity” (Paules, 2015, p. 300). Therefore, waitresses consider inadequate tipping, or not tipping at all, as a reflection of the poor characteristics of an individual. On the other hand, costumers believe a small tip indirectly hints that the waitresses’ service may have been inadequate to their standards. I have worked in the food industry, and so I recognize that sufficient tipping is necessary. However, from a consumer’s perspective, it would be difficult to view the tipping process as anything other than a rating system for the quality of the service. In other words, it is more difficult for even myself to tip 15-20% if the service was poor. Nevertheless, socioeconomics is not only limited to the interactions between waitresses and consumers.
Socioeconomics can also relate the interactions between employees working in a commercial store to the store’s costumers. In “Readings for Sociology”, Dodson mentions how managers were blaming themselves for the lack of employees’ incomes. One manager named Bea talks about one of her employees, Nancy, noting, “‘I couldn’t help but feeling that I was to blame, or partly. Nancy doesn’t make what she deserves….I am not saying they all work that hard, but…really, many do’” (Dodson, 2015, p. 280). Managers, like Bea, blame themselves for the fact that their employees may not be making enough money to cover personal expenses. Therefore, supervisors feel obligated to give aid in any way that they can, and so would step over the boundaries established as managers and take advantage of any abundant commerce in the store’s inventory. Some bosses would even individually subsidize their employee’s hours. For instance, in my personal experience of working at Dunkin’ Donuts, there were many instances where my manager would allow one of the employees, who was a busy single mother of four, to take food home for the family, as well as take the necessary time off if she needed to care for her children. Moreover, not only can employers look out for the needs of their employees but also society, in general, can look upon their connections to family and friends for the aid they need which can be shown through the sociological idea of family dynamics.
The third topic of sociology I will consider is family dynamics. Family dynamics is a category of sociology in which analyzes the structure of family and the interactions between family members. In “Readings for Sociology”, Stack states, “the responsibility for providing food, care, clothing, and shelter and for socializing children within domestic networks may be spread over several households” (Stack, 2015, p. 402). Domestic networks are the relationships between family members and close friends where each member shares the accountabilities of each individual family, especially if the situation were to involve giving support financially. Therefore, families would help other families by expanding responsibilities to kinsmen, thereby broadening the traditional boundaries seen in typical family structures. For example, in my own family, financial responsibilities are shared among our entire domestic network of family and close friends. My family members and my parents’ close friends back in Lithuania rely upon our financial success in America as a means of their financial stability in Lithuania. Nonetheless, kinsmen and domestic networks are not the only type of relationships that the sociological idea of family dynamics can analyze. Sociologists can use the idea of family dynamics to research the more intimate relationships such as those between a husband and wife.
Throughout many generations and countries, the normalized interactions between a prospective wife and husband vary greatly. In many cultures, the idea of love before marriage, in marriage, or as a means for getting married is viewed as a disadvantage to a marital agreement. In “Readings for Sociology”, Coontz acknowledges that men and women, “describe their marital behavior, no matter how exemplary it may actually be, in terms of convenience, compulsion, or self-interest rather than love or sentiment” (Coontz, 2015, p. 397). The idea of romantic love is often overlooked as a means for making a marriage successful in many cultures. Often, in most cultures, love is ranked as the lowest factor in considering a marital agreement. For instance, in my personal life, as a modern century woman living in America, the relationship ideal in my community of friends and family would be romantic love. Although the idea of love is a personal important factor to consider before marriage, as I grow older, I come to realize that there are also other important factors to consider.
All in all, many sociological topics apply to our daily lives. These sociological topics integrate into the many social elements in our society today through the interactions and behaviors, social institutions, as well as interpersonal relationships we see in the communities around us. However, personal examples are not the only sources that we can analyze to be able to apply these sociological concepts. There are also relevant sociological studies and research, such as in Garth Massey’s novel “Readings for Sociology”, that can be used in order to analyze how race and ethnicity, social economics, and family structures perform a role in our lives and societies.