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The best way to think about society is that it is a process.  There are lots of different ways to study a process.  We can ask what the process is for, or we can ask what the outcome of the process is; or we can ask who wants this process; or we can ask how the process works and if there are other processes inside of it.

 Think about your car.  The car is the outcome of many processes, first someone had to design it, then someone had to make the design, then you had to choose the car from all the other outcomes of that process.  Once you have the car you have to drive it.  Again there are many processes involved, the mechanical processes that make the car run, the maintenance processes, such as putting in gas, that you need to do, the process of driving from place to place… just to name a few.  When you think about your car, you probably think about the car as a thing.  But the car is part of a process that has multiple beginnings and when you think about all cars, multiple endings.  This could drive a person nuts!  There has to be some way to get an intellectual hold on  thinking about the car, so we do.  We think about the car in different ways depending on what we want to do with it and how well it works at any given time (we might take it for granted and completely forget about it when it runs well, but become obsessed with it when it leaves us on a cold highway late at night).  We also think about the car differently when we use it differently, the same car that we really like because it was so cheap, might embarrass us in some situations.  The same car that we love to drive to school can be a real pain when we have to move a couch to a new apartment, or try to fit a bicycle into it.  As you can see the way we study the car depends on our needs at any time.  Different needs mean a different focus for study, and different foci for study means that we are looking at different sets of processes. 

The study of society is no different.  As you read your textbook remember that it introducing you to different sets of tools with which we can understand our social world. 

Next:  Levels of Analysis

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