2016-2017 (Semester One)
APSS112/ APSS1A08- Introduction to Sociology
Lecture Time: Mondays 1230-1520/ Fridays 1530-1820
Lecture Venue: HJ-304/ HJ-305
Dr. Luke Fung(?????), Department of Applied Social Sciences
(Office - EF711, Tel: 2766-4695, Email: [email protected])

What is sociology?

If you registered this subject because, say, its assigned time slot "fits
into" your schedule, it is only natural that you have paid little, if not
no, attention to the core content of this subject. If you registered this
subject on purpose because it seems, as non-comprehensively informed by
previous students you met at orientation activities, to be an "easy"
subject to get a pass grade, you might have paid equally little attention
to where this subject is heading toward. Either way, unless you drop this
subject, you are stuck with me and the study of sociology for at least 13
weeks. (I am certainly assuming a pass in your first attempt.) Together
with those who chose to take this subject relatively seriously and, thus,
are likely to feel less painful in the coming 13 weeks, it is perhaps wise,
before the game starts, to address an important question: What is
sociology?

In practice, a good way to understand the core concerns of sociology is to
explore the questions sociologists ask which, more often than not, cover a
wide range of human activities, ranging from those focusing on personal
concerns such as "Why have I chosen this outfit today?" or "Am I a good
student?" or "Why can't I be richer?"; to those that concern a larger group
such as "How does the government work?" or "Why is the accumulation of
stray dogs/cats/cows a problem in the city?" or "Why is gay marriage a
challenging concept to some while acceptable to others?"; to conceptual
concerns such as "Is education the only function of the school?" or "Is
suicide real?" or "Is it fate that lovers find each other?" (It is
absolutely amazing how sociologists examine dating, courtship and intimate
relationship at a collective, institutional, and, therefore, not-so-
romantic level.)

At this point, you may realize that these questions posted by sociologists
have no "practical" significance. They are not geared toward the
substantial and everyday needs of most individuals. To many, and in
particular those who are apparently living comfortably in their cozy
worlds, these questions are better kept buried, unnoticed and untouched,
for revealing them may stir up minor earthquakes in their personal
universes.

Sociologists are not eager explorers for the Pandora Box. Nevertheless, to
them, these questions are of fundamental significance because, among other
reasons, the very fact that these questions are formulated and asked,
distinguishes human beings from other animals. Sociologists see these
questions as related to established behavioral patterns found in human
society. Often, these patterns are so well accepted that they form visible
practices and organizations, which sociologists named "institutions". The
core matter of sociology is, in short, the study of these "institutions".
Sociologists strive to examine the linkage among individuals' behavioral
patterns. You may regard this process as seeing the world through a pair of
"sociological eyes".

The Sociological Eyes

Now, how would a pair of "sociological eyes" see differently the
abovementioned seemingly trivial questions?

"Why have I chosen this outfit today?"??????????
When you open your wardrobe this morning, you are, apart from choosing the
daily outfit, formulating the "personal statement" that "summarizes" who
you are, or at least, who you want to be today. It could range from the
coolest K-Pop outfit to the more "conventional" college student image.
Whatever it is, the outfit is a reflection of your self-perception, which
is turn, is a function of the relationship between you and other
individuals in society. In short, we are all "relational beings". One
defines one's identity according to the relationship he/she established
with others. Most of us are constantly subject to this dilemma: "To be
different or to be the same?" This has a lot to do with the formation of
groups and culture which ultimately help form our "comfort zone".

"Am I a good student?"????????
To measure a student's behavior, one needs to adopt some sort of agreed
scale. Common, but not necessarily accurate, criteria include attendance,
assessment result, attitude in class etc. This necessity of measuring an
individual against some social rulers applies to other aspects of societal
life. Not only does this scale help differentiate the mainstream (normal)
members from exceptional (abnormal) ones, it is also the basis upon which
society imposes encouraging or discouraging actions on these individuals.
The study of deviance and social control, thus, is an important area in
sociology.

"Why can't I be richer?"?????????
How much money (and resources such as