23 July 2010

The Death of Sociology

Chapter 1: Freshman

Last night I had a chance to have 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 was 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. It is as if what I said did not deserve any merit. As if they could not believe their ears.

Then the accountant blurted out, "What's that?"--  which I personally construed to mean, "What the fuck is that? That is the dumbest course I have ever heard."

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.

The thing  is, sometimes, we do not have to explain ourselves. 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 I was going 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 - sometimes I 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 Atienza or Ka Earnie Baron who knows tons of trivia (trivia means non-important, insignificant 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 making money by counting money; while my friends who studied to be businessmen are now making money work for them -- I, on the other hand, am lost, and have found my course (sociology) inadequate to make a dent of change in our society or at least to make money by applying the discipline of my course. 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 (2) 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 lament and feel sorry for the fanatics of the discipline. But today, I'll 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 not really get you anywhere. In the final analysis, we have to find some other ways and means  to hunt for food and bring home the dough if the present tools that we have cannot deliver anymore.

Chapter 5: Graduation

It is not that I despise sociology, I love sociology. It hurts me 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 as if sociology remained a dull knife that, as far as I am concerned, I have found of very little use.

Ask me again, "what is sociology?" I will again just probably change the topic and keep my mouth shut. When it comes to the preserving of the memory of the dead, it is always prudent to just keep quiet, especially  if I do not have anything nice to say about it for the moment.

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