Is this true?
I taught Sociology for about 8 years. Mostly I was teaching Social Workers – introductory level stuff. In session 1 they learned about Functionalism and it made perfect sense. In session 2 they learned about Marxism, which also made perfect sense, and they started to develop that cognitive dissonance that marks sociologists out. In session 3 they learned about feminism and that’s when the trouble really started. At the beginning of the next session, a female student approached me and angrily said, ‘You’re destroying my marriage!’ I asked how I was doing that and she replied that she was now watching the news with a critical viewpoint and kept trying to discuss this with her husband, who was getting very angry with her. I was elated as this was by far the clearest example of the transformative power of sociology (I’d like to think it was my passionate teaching of the subject but I suspect it was the power of the concepts).
I think that the kind of critical thinking that sociology gives you is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it does reveal just how unpleasant the world can be yet, on the other hand, it is empowering and can provide the impetus to become politically involved in movements for change (not party politics, which is well past its sell-by date).
I would love to see sociology as part of the school curriculum from year 1 just to see how society might be different if everyone had this knowledge.
4 years of sociology courses have left me unable to voice my opinions around my family without upsetting someone or getting frustrated. When I talk to someone with different views and an open mind, however, I love to see the learning and development that takes place between us. Studying Sociology has changed my views but has also made them more open to change and growth.
Yup, first sociology class I took in college destroyed my relationship, after-college plans, and all understanding of my place in society. I told my teacher so and she asked how I felt about these realizations. Terrified and liberated, a little disheveled internally, I told her, but good to move forward. I’ll go ahead and credit that class and the other sociology courses afterward as being catalysts of personal change in my life, for the better.
But I couldn’t be a soc major the way I wanted for the same reason: the intensity of the study, especially at a full load of classes per semester, along with the depth of revelation involved (sociology of death, of political power, and of religion: three classes not to take at once) became a recipe for burnout. I have great respect for the people who push on through it.
Yea – know what you mean. The world becomes penetrable by insight. Meaning becomes an abstract structural thing, and not a fuel for your life. Whatever comes up, you imagine the great causal chains which support, but also holds people back.
An analytical mind can be a burden, but also a liberator. When you see the chains you can start freeing yourself from them. And as for the feeling of emptiness – it is only in the west that emptiness becomes “nihilism”. In Buddhist philosophy, and particularly Zen – which is all connected to Japanese aesthetics – emptiness is a calm feeling of infinite and subtle beauty. Which we can learn from. When the ordinary loses it’s meaning through a constant “justification” or something like that – you can instead appreciate that these things exist at all – and have their ephemeral existence noticed by you.
Take the sociology of economics. Our current economical system has as one of its faults that it creates winners and losers. In abstract terms, there are only the poor and wealthy, but connotations of “worth and value”, make the poor not only poor but also “bad”. But take heart in that this economy is also in many ways illusorily expensive. Many of the essentials have now become extremely cheap, and people, in general, have more access to better things. A poor person may, with the right knowledge, become happy through a self-empowering knowledge of cooking, exercise and how to take care of friendships.
If first, you emancipate yourself through knowledge of life’s ephemeral beauty, you can then emancipate others by subtlely altering the structure of other peoples lives to include things you know will make them happy. Start a chess club for poor people – make club activities to make healthy food while there. Teach them about the value of duty, not only for success but also for happiness through social trust.
As a sociologist, you are doomed to see the misery of many – but also liberated enough to engineer a way out of it.
Be inspired by the social engagement of Foucault, Luhman, Bourdieu, Weber, Marx, Durkheim and countless others who have used their knowledge to help people. Good luck!
Honors sociology grad here. Subcultures are my focus of study at the moment.
For the majority of my life, I’ve always felt as though I was an outsider looking in, and thus able to see all the connections in everyday life. So me and sociology came together pretty swiftly.
What I think that a critical/sociological view gives an individual, is ultimately compassion, yet in a way that you give a small child nasty medicine.
There are so many layers of behaviors and a nigh infinite multitudes of interactions between every level of society, that at the end of it all, you marvel at just how integrated everyone and everything is. You begin to see how a person’s actions come about. You begin to understand “the other side”, whatever that side may be. And to many people, this is a very uncomfortable realization. It contradicts all they have known from birth, that it is “us” and “them”. Now, there is no “us” or “them”; there is only “people”. Some find this revolting. “I am the same as that degenerate over there?” or “How can that person be like me?”. Ol’ Sammy Clemens got it right, saying that “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” One of my professors used to say this, “Now that you know better, now you have to do better”. She said this in regards to race relations and ethnic conflicts, but the message is applicable everywhere. You now have a glimpse as to how things move, and because of that, you have a moral obligation to do better, to improve both your actions and actions of those around you. You can’t join into race jokes anymore, even by omission. You can’t join into a lot of the ignorance that pervades everyday life. You must rise above it, for if you do not, then your brain will nag. Like an annoying mosquito, your mind will tug and hang on every action.
Unfortunately, this brings about a new problem. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the episode of the Simpsons where Homer gets the crayon in his skull removed, but I like to akin that episode too much of finding out any sort of “truth” in society. The jist of it is, homer becomes really smart, and loves the newly found interactions with his smart daughter Lisa. But in other areas of his life, it gets much worse, as those around him are not able to keep up with his newfound intellect. He ultimately chooses to re-insert the crayon, so that he can be with those he cares about, and live a “normal” life again, much to the dismay of Lisa.
The knowledge and observations you see will exclude you from much of society. TV become intolerable, Magazines appear to be filled with the same things over and over again. And worse off, the individuals who partake of this media will be forever changed in your mind. Nothing about them has changed from before, not really. But your opinion and judgement of them will. Some for the better, others for worse. This can be world shatter for those who are not prepared. And sometimes, people choose to “re-insert the crayon” as it were. This is where the “never be happy” bit comes in. But I would argue that sociology makes people happier! Now you can choose to draw joy from things that are not tied to a mirage.
I am very ingrained with technology, but many try to see technology as a cure to societies ills, or the cause thereof. This is very false. The problems that people have now are the problems that people have always had. Technology just makes it easier/more visible.
But alas: Compassion. The ability to empathize and understand another. This is what Sociology, in my opinion, is all about. To understand the human condition, and to use that knowledge to better ourselves. Technology is hurtling forward at break neck speeds. Leaps and bounds. But if sociology has taught me anything, its that people will always be people. Take many of the older sociology texts, stuff like Goffman (my man!), and its is 95% applicable to today, and I would dare say the next few generations as well.
So my message is this. Keep at it. Learn as much as you can. Keep your mind open, and your heart close by.
In many fields of study, the subject is more foreign than what any person would encounter on a day to day basis. But sociology is the study of essentially everyday life. (Loose definition haha). You cannot NOT see it. And once you see, your conscious will nag every bit. One of those “ignorance is bliss” types of situations but ignorance is very harmful when it comes to society. People just don’t want to handle the truth. Makes their lives harder.
It is a way of viewing the entire world and every single person in it. Keep reading. Incorporate all the theories into your everyday life. See the world in different ways. You may lose much of what is considered normal, but I think that it gets replaced with something even more resplendent. A deep and multilevel appreciation for humankind at an individual level. I think, that sociology makes us more human.
The Sociological Mail