20 July 2010

The Death of Sociology

Chapter 1: Freshman

Last night I had a dinner with an accountant, a doctor, and a dentist. And while we were having our meal and having casual intercourse on what we do and how we are doing, the spotlight  suddenly turned to me and the doctor asked me a question:

"What was your course back in college?"

The dentist and the accountant were eager in anticipation of what I had to answer, too.

"Sociology." -- I told them.

Chapter 2: Sophomore

You should have seen the look on their faces. It is as if they have lost their marbles, as if they could not believe their ears.

Then the accountant blurted out, "What's that?"--  which I personally construed to mean, "What the f*ck is that? That is probably a dumb course."

I just smiled and slyly changed the topic.

I pointed out that how great the meal was. Then I talked about the importance of doctors to the society especially to the provinces and remote places and how the medical cases of indigent patients could have been curable if only given the proper standard of care as those who had money. I also told the dentist how I felt when I  recently had my root canal and impacted tooth extracted. Then I also admired what accountants do and the fact that I love math, but suck at numbers.

As the saying goes, the thing with explanations is that your friends do not need it, and strangers or enemies would not believe you anyway; although, at the back of my mind, there was already an outline on how to answer the "What is sociology?" question.

Chapter 3: Junior

 I would have started by defining it:

"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."

Then, I would have shared to them about what the "sociological imagination" means and why it is the first step in appreciating sociology:
"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 this kind of trap because they feel that they are so consumed with their personal lives. Life for them is a mere  trajectory, a mere routine, a mere series of personal events. They are convinced that this life in nothing  but 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."
After that, I would have probably introduced them to the fathers of modern Sociology - Max Weber, Karl Marx, and Emil Durkheim. I would have probably explained to them Durkheim's goal of providing a scientific basis for social order and for morality to replace religion, Marx's moral condemnation of the capitalist social order, and Weber's explanation of social authority.

I would have probably told them Sociology's emergence, development, and current state.

But I did not.

Chapter 4: Senior

I hate to admit this in front of my colleagues and classmates back in college who are very passionate about sociological theories in general and to my brilliant professors who have dedicated their lives in the study of sociology, but the truth is - I sometimes  feel  like I might have taken the wrong course back in college.

I have not really applied Sociology or found any use applying its principles to make more money. Sure I can explain social phenomena, but it does not make me any different than Kuya Kim or Ka Earnie who know tons of interesting, nice-to-know facts.

While my other friends studied to became doctors, dentists, and nurses are now treating patients whose lives depends on hard scientific knowledge and skill; while my other friends who studied engineering and architecture are now building houses, roads, and bridges; while my other friends who studied to be accountants are now counting money; while my friends who studied to be businessmen are now minding their own business -- I, on the other hand, am lost, and have found my course (Sociology) inadequate to make a ding of change in our society or at the very least, make money by applying what I learned out of my course; and sometimes I feel like it will not get any better.

Worse, I have a weird hunch that most Sociology students like myself, have turned out to be unhappy, nosy, facetious, obnoxiously assertive impudent individuals who are now struggling to make money out of sociological theories and imaginations or are doing something completely different from sociology.

I sometimes toy on the idea that I should have taken TESDA training on how to be mortician. I should have just studied the science of preserving dead bodies. I could have gotten my license and probably landed a job abroad where morticians are very rare and the pay they earn is around two million pesos a year.

Like cold lifeless bodies in morgues, I feel like Sociology has suffered the same fate. It is dead. Sociology is dead. At least for me, it is as useless as a brick.

I feel sorry for the die hard fanatics of the discipline. But today, I've put it in a box and bury it six feet underground. I will move on with my life and try get over it. My radical enchantment with it has ended. It is as impotent as penile erectile dysfunction as other "soft" sciences -- and is probably going the line of alchemy and astrology.

Here is the deal, you can stay with it, stick with it, learn it, be fascinated with it, learn some more, read some more, write some more, but it will really get you anywhere? In the final analysis, we have to find some other ways to hunt for food.

Chapter 5: Graduation

I do not despise sociology, I love sociology. It hurts to let it go.  It took me to places I never been and showed me a perspective of life few people ever discover. But as hard science and other indispensable disciplines have built power tools  to chop trees, I feel like as if sociology remained a dull knife that, I have found of limited use. Is sociology still relevant? What is its relevance to me at this point in my life?

Times are changing, to be able to get the most of ourselves, I feel that we must not be afraid to set sail and go beyond our areas of discipline to find out what else is there that will make our lives more meaningful and fulfilling. "What is sociology?" I will just change the topic again.  Sometimes, when it comes to preserving the good memory of the dead, it's prudent to just not say anything.


khantotantra said...

it doesnt mean that it is dead. maybe unpopular. There will be a time that the course that you took will be appreciated. :D

gillboard said...

wasn't a big fan of the subject back in college, but i know someone who makes it really sound interesting. as in really interesting.

karen anne said...

sociology and anthro were my fave subjects back in college, seriously. and about the mortician stuffs, why don't you give a try?hehe

NoBenta said...

sociology may not be "in" in our country because we live in a third world country. people tend to look up to courses that generate lots of money.

Sasarai said...

Well, for me, hindi naman siguro patay na ang Sociology eh.

Kung ako yung magte-take nyang subject na yan, yes I believe na yung mga theories na matututunan mo dito eh somewhat can be used to integrate ourselves with values na magbibigay sa atin ng strength to be one good and complete man.

Ewan ko kung kasama yung Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs ba yun, basta yun na yun.. hehe, pero I find it useful in my Management class and most of my calculus class. So for me, sociology may not be a good course for others but for some, appreciation lang.

Appreciate what you've learned. Yan ang masarap sa nag-aaral ng kahit anu pa man yang course... :)

glentot said...

I love Susology I mean Sociology ahehehe it's so interesting coz I like watching people, stalker-style.

xaige said...

as they say... hindi lahat ng natutunan mo back in college eh magagamit mo. hindi nagging sociologist or proffesor kaya you felt na there is no use for it. anyway ok lng yan... at least i know you already got the basic idea, kht siguro unti pwede pa ma apply. hehehe

Anonymous said...

To my understanding, sociology's main purpose is to aid public policy. That's why it is considered as a good "pre-law" course. It's also the perfect stepping stone to political science or public administration. That is, you can be a sociologically informed lawyer or public official down the line. Of course, it doesn't end that way for most sociology students. Many of them go into market research, which doesn't help society as a whole as much as it helps capitalists. There are also sociologically informed militants, sociologically informed teachers, and sociologically informed businessmen. I would describe myself as a sociologically informed "unhappy, nosy, facetious, obnoxiously assertive impudent" Web content writer (thanks for the perfect adjectives, haha).

Anyway, it would appear that sociology is meant to be useless career-wise right from its very inception. It's like we are expected to pursue a totally different specialization once we graduate. Of course, if there's something wrong here, it's that professors should have informed and reminded us of that when we were still avidly studying. At least if we found such prospect to be disgusting, we could've shifted to another course right away.

Sociology is indeed dead. It's like a ghost that simply haunts your bewildered mind forever. Excellent post, btw. :)

Abou said...

interesado ako sa sociology. i do listened attentvely sa subject na yan way back

SassyArchiePh said...

I am a sociology major now in my 3rd year at a prestigious university and for the past 4 and half semesters that I have been studying the discipline, I still cannot grasp it's concepts, terms and perspectives. Maybe because I have the end in mind and as your post tells, the end of this course is dead. I do not see it's purpose for the advancement of society itself, the very core of its science.

I can't shift because I only have a year left until I graduate. How I wish I could, even just find it interesting, as the fanatics are enchanted with it.

I can very much relate to your post :) I

Susanne said...

OMG what´s wrong with you?
You can´t blame the discipline for your unhappy life.
If you want to do sociology, you have to stay at university and do a phd or become a professor.
I am a sociologist too and I know that it is difficult to earn money with the profession you have. The main ability, you probably learned back in college, too, is to look at things from other perspectives and that makes you a creative, analysing person, that everybody and every firm appreciates.
So, don´t be unhappy about the choice you made, be proud of your knowledge. What you really should have said to the dentist and the accountant is written in chapter 3.

greetings from a happy sociologist:)

Anonymous said...

I have a PhD in sociology and am from the United States. I went to Columbia - a school where C. Wright Mills once was on faculty. I agree with your post, although it breaks my heart.

The problem in sociology is that, as a field, it abandoned applied research. Most science fields have an arm to do applied research (e.g. engineering). Sociology use to have this - the best example being the Bureau of Applied Research at Columbia University. This is virtually nonexistent in sociology today. Urban sociology exists in urban studies departments, organizational sociology is now called Management, sociology of education exists in Schools of Education, and survey research is housed in political science departments.

For what its worth, I am routinely critiqued by faculty and graduate students who view my work as "not sociological." The truth is that my research has an outside constituency, which is oddly seen as the antithesis to sociology. A few words of advice: 1) be critical of how faculty present their interpretation of this discipline, 2) ignore dismissive views by those who may not know the field, and 3) look at the obscure places where sociology has a market. Regarding the last point, the role of social interaction with any internet product is central. Microsoft has a chief sociology, Google's product division hires people from the field who work on social interaction and symbolism, and the changing structure of large private organizations in the 21st century (Joel Podolny is a Phd in Sociology who was the former Dean of Yale's School of Management and now is a VP at Apple Corp).

Anonymous said...

Sorry... a mistype in my post is corrected below.

Microsoft has a chief sociology, Google's product division hires people from the field who work on social interaction and symbolism, and the changing structure of large private organizations in the 21st century has brought organizational theory back into vogue (Joel Podolny is a Phd in Sociology who was the former Dean of Yale's School of Management and now is a VP at Apple Corp).