25 June 2009

What is Sociology Anyway?

When you are new on a job or a new in graduate school, the perennial question people ask is this:

"What was your course back in college?"

And of course I tell them, "Sociology."

This is almost always followed up by another question, "What is Sociology anyway?" "I never quite got what a Sociologist actually do..."

Of course I say, "Sociology studies human social behavior, especially the study of the origins, organization, institutions, and development of human society; Sociology studies social institution or societal segment as a self-contained entity or in relation to society as a whole.

As I explain this, it is almost always the conversation follows a long pause, as if people did not quite understand what I was talking about.

It's hard to make people appreciate the course. It takes so much reading, research, and meditations to actually appreciate the art.

I guess the first step in appreciating Sociology is through Sociological Imagination.

Coined by C. Wright Mills in 1950's, he argued that ‘nowadays men often feel that their private lives are a series of traps’ . Mills maintained that people are trapped because ‘their visions and their powers are limited to the close-up scenes of job, family [and] neighborhood’, and are not able to fully understand the greater sociological patterns related to their private troubles.

A lot of times people feel that they are trapped because they feel that they are so consumed with their personal lives. People feel that this life is a mere  trajectory, a mere routine, a mere series of personal events. It is common that they feel this  is a dog eat dog world, a rat race, a personal struggle to be solved.

Yet, if you look at it in a different perspective, "Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both" (Mills, 1956)

This understanding is what Mills calls the Sociological Imagination: the 'quality of mind' which allows one to grasp "history and biography and the relations between the two within society"

Ordinary people do not possess the quality of mind essential to grasp the interplay of man and society, of biography and history, of self and world." It is only with this interconnectedness of society and the individual that we can truly understand and possibly solve societal or individual problems/issues.

Sociology probably can not be contained in a single definition. Its meaning may vary from one experience to another. But one thing that all sociologists share is the ability to look beyond one’s own everyday life as a cause for daily successes and failures and see the entire society in which one lives as potential cause for these things.

For me, it seems that Sociology is about reading, feeling, and understanding a lot -- and then reading, feeling and understanding some more. For me, it is about fighting for what is  right and just. It is about questions to be answered and answers to be questioned so that at the end of the day -- we may gain epistemically and be in a position to make better choices in life.


sha ang said...

You say the actual definition talaga? lol. pero it's true that people nowadays find it hard to appreciate sociology. by the definition itself parang bored na kagad ang tao. I still love sociology even though i'm out of the academic environment. one does not stop to sociologize when you're outside the university :)

rah oibas said...

I memorized the definition, hahaha I knew tatanongin talaga yun eh. Astig kaya ang Sociology, pero minsan hindi enough na maging astig. Astig is OK but I need cash. hehehe.

sha ang said...

oh yeah. sinabi mo pa. hehe. i need cash too. lol.

Klarriness Tanalgo said...

What's nice about Sociology is it's so out there yet so exclusive. Mills says is best talaga. More than being a research field, grounds for theoretical assessment, an academic discipline, it's a quality of mind, it's an ability to see things beyond oneself.

It's nice because, personally, I didn't think I learned anything practical from it until I started talking with other people. Makes you think, quite literally. =)

rah oibas said...

Agree. You didn't think it is such an important discipline until you meet people who are contented with watching wowowee and who think Willie is some sort of a demigod. I didn't think it was important until you meet people who are so into themselves that all they can ever think about is their ego. Certainly there's more to life than one's self, and that's what the discipline is trying to find out. But then, as I said, right now I need cash :) hehehe if only I could translate this knowledge to ever growing wealth and cash it would have been soo much better, kidding. :)

Jeff Crisostomo said...

haha! kakaloka!

Tanya Quijano said...

Or they say.. "Ah, parang Psychology." Hahaha. Check this out . May kumikita naman sa Sociology, di nga lang dito sa Pinas.

eLLa lozada said...

Karl Marx!!

rah oibas said...

Karl Marx is not always Sociology, hehehe in fact, a lot of sociologists hate him. hehehe But, he's been inspirational, and a step towards the freedom we are experiencing now.

rah oibas said...

hahaha oo nga. I get that all the time, too. The thing is, in reality Sociology, as a discipline takes Psychology as a matter of fact. Sociologist don't waste their time debating with psychologist, or else there is nothing to study about. Waaa.. pera! :)

Klarriness Tanalgo said...

or, or, "ano yun, tinuturuan kayong maging sosyal?"



EDIT: saw the site! may potential pala tayo to earn $63,195! yey! =)

erika mayoni said...

I love the sociological imagination. Eto talaga ang fundamental na hindi na mahihiwalay sa buhay ng mga sosyolohista. Alam mo bang nakokonek ko pa ang con-ass sa aking lovelife! Hahaha! Ganun ka-wild.ü

sha ang said...

i think nasabihan din na ata ako nyan hahaha. stupid! kakalurkey lang!!!

minsan sinasabi ko na lang na para siyang psych para maintindihan pero sabay bawi na iba ang socio sa psych, ibang iba. minsan nawiwindang ang mga officemates ko dati pag chinachallenge ko sila ng sociological na perspektibo bwahaha.

Klarriness Tanalgo said...

kasi naman diba... hindi eh... hindi sha parang psych. haha.

rah oibas said...

feeling ko its more of art appreciation than psych. hehehe

KiKkY Agati said...

I was a sociology major and all i can say is... verstehen. tsk, tsk, tsk.. verstehen. :)