What counts as “Real Sociology”?

By | 19th May 2019

…if one looks around a typical campus, it is striking how much sociology has abandoned to other fields. The consequence is that those fields have invented their own social sciences to compensate. Engineering has human factors, computer science has user experience, transport planning looks almost exclusively to behavioural economics. Students have the message that sociology is about nothing but race, class and gender…

But there is potentially more to sociology – and if we do not value it, then we shall lose it and this may not be good for our material interests. Sociology only survives because other people are willing to pay for it and there is a limited market for a limited discipline.

There is something ironic about a discipline that preaches so much against social exclusion – and practices so much of it. Back in the day, Chicago sociology studied the Slum and the Gold Coast, rich and poor alike. Frances Donovan’s study of sales assistants in smart department stores sits alongside Paul Cressey’s work on low-level prostitution in the taxi-dance halls. Max Weber wrote about art and music as comfortably as he wrote about class, status and power. Georg Simmel treated fashion and money with equal seriousness.

Erving Goffman once wrote about the touching tendency of sociologists to keep a corner of their personal lives exempt from sociological analysis. We should not apply that principle to the discipline as a whole.

A Sage socialsciencespace blog

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