Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A possible, though subconscious reason why Americans dislike sociology

Well, sociology studies power and hierarchy, as it applies to how society is divided up, and according to the official version of American life, we don't have serious social divisions such as class, and if we do they don't have too many power differentials associated with them. Sociology doesn't respect anyone's self definition, and instead looks at how things work out in practice. Because of this, looking at these divisions in the United States is a little like writing about the market system in the Soviet Union: you're talking about something that's not supposed to exist, and pointing it out makes things look bad. 


Lorraine said...

I saw American Experience's Henry Ford bio on TV last night. That was more than enough to turn me off to sociology.

John Madziarczyk said...

Man, rejecting sociology because Ford used it to help design his assembly lines, and possibly to manipulate his workers, is like rejecting the whole field of psychology because people in the '50s used it to justify lobotomies.

Lorraine said...

It's irony, man.

As a point of fact, I am a proponent of sociology, just not applied sociology. Rightists talk a good game about "social engineering," but the Ford biography painted a picture of social engineering within the private sector that is far more invasive than anything in the present-day public sector.

If social sciences are sciences, and as such have the force of scientific law (like the law of gravity, for example), then the law of sociology that says "no justice, no peace" should be every bit as non-negotiable as the law of economics that says "no such thing as a free lunch." For this reason I say, assuming we tolerate continued statism, can we at least have sociologists as well as economists among our political leaders' inner circles of advisors?

The special interests representing business, over the last century or so, have succeeded at intellectually re-framing the social sciences, first by prying apart "political economy" into separate disciplines of political science and economics. Then they invented "public choice theory" as a way to meld them back together, but this with the understanding that political phenomena are basically economic phenomena when you strip them down to their essentials. The goal seems to be demonstrating that the laws of political science, like the laws of economics, can be derived by the single assumption that human nature is inherently "self-interested." I'm sure their agenda includes giving sociology the same treatment, or else discrediting it as a pseudoscience.

I think there's always a place for multidisciplinary study, so just as there's a place for things like biochemistry and social psychology, I think there's a place for the return of political economy and the initiation (?) of the study of social economy.