Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dusty Papers: Sociology Part II

So in my last blog I was taking a look at the pros and cons of sociology in the classroom. As it turns out, my B+ might end up having to be changed to a C-. While doing some casual research online (Drinking pomegranate tea while listening to Stuart Davis and digging into google), I realized that a number of links under "sociology" were all university-related works, or paper calls in scholarly circles. What about major sociological projects? In many of the sciences, there are at least a handful of intriguing projects that get their hands dirty and attempt to grapple with some new dilemma. Alas! I was mistaken. It seems that a majority of sociology circles are academic based. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but I asked a few of my friends why sociology was so university-based. I got a number of interesting points:

1. The US in particular has shifted heavily to individualism- and a science that took the reigns on that was psychology. Sociology is too plural-based to take the spotlight. Instead, we see magazines like Psychology Today answering gender, race and culture questions.

2. Sociology in class rooms has a specific focus: Gender, race,  and differences. There's nothing inherently wrong with discussing these differences, but they focus so heavily on how we are different, and on how we stratify ourselves that we end up creating further stratification. By focusing so heavily on stereotypes we actually reinforce them into our daily lives, not dissolve them. Sociologists have to realize that a majority of students have grown up with a cultural awareness since elementary school. The previous generation grew up without many civil rights in place, they paved the way for us. But what they have to understand is that we grew up with those civil rights inherent in our lives. This is far from a perfect awareness, but sociology fails to come to grips in recognizing it, and so the department goes on the back-burner while other departments tackle social issues.

3. I guess this was my major point while on the D Train to Brooklyn: We tackle alot of modern social issues: Gender, race, class, stratification, identity. They are, of course, important. Understanding the major divides in society is to discover them. But then, shouldn't we ask ourselves: Are these symptoms we are seeing or are they the root of the sickness? If a society is full of problems, sociology is great at listing those problems and seeing how they are all related, but they fail at one crucial point - diagnosing and treating. If we are here to study society, to understand the human being, plural, shouldn't diagnosing the problem be a major part of what we do?

You've got some symptoms: Gender bias, class stratification, identity-issues, racism.

Why do these arise? Are they independent of any other cause? Just gender bias arise simply because there are males and females? Things are of course, not so simple. But the point is:

What is it about the human being that divides in the first place? Couldn't our worldview, and our own view of ourselves in relation to the world be a major contributor to the rest of our issues?

Seeing the self as a separate entity, for instance, creates a world where "I" am placed into, and if I am separate, small and fragile, I must develop boundaries to protect myself. When I do this, I might become a racist, a power holder (Make my "self" bigger by dominating others), etc. A number of social issues might be better understood this way, rather than just categorizing stratification, we could seek to understand how and why it occurs in human nature.

On the other hand, if I see myself truly in relation with the world, not self and other, but as self-other or as self-world, it's a whole different view! Boundaries need not be erected so high. In fact, the connection with other humans can help dissolve those boundaries, and pathologies, into creating a deeper, more connective community with less stratification. Instead of building more boundaries by focusing so deeply on the symptoms, I guess I'm calling for a study of human nature, collectively, so that we can help society and our very existence as a whole. That and, maybe save sociology from being forgotten in the dusty vaults of the universities.

9 comments:

jason said...
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Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

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