Sociology is often confused with other social sciences. For instance, some may think that economics or political sciences can be called different aspects of sociology. However, these people are quite mistaken. Sociology is a field that focuses on human society. It is not concerned with a particular aspect of the development of society. Sociologists are preoccupied with all aspects of people’s lives. More so, some people often think that sociology is commonsense and people involved in the field are not real researchers. However, sociologists unveiled numerous trends that have taken place in society. These discoveries help people understand the reasons for many phenomena and adjust to the changing environment. Thus, it has been acknowledged that there have been numerous applications of sociological studies that helped societies evolve. One of such examples is the impact sociological studies had on the decision of the Supreme Court concerning racial segregation in the US schools in 1954 (Berger 3). These applications are numerous and valuable. It is possible to understand the relevance of sociology by considering the major peculiarities of this study.
In the first place, it is important to consider the essence of sociology. This study unveils various trends that occur in human society (Berger 8). It is important to stress that it is a mistake to relate sociology to various surveys held mainly in the spheres of business and marketing. These surveys only use methods and techniques of sociology but they are quite far from being even an aspect of the study. The statistical data gathered in those cases are quite narrow and they are analyzed to develop strategies to promote particular products (or people). In sociology, data are gathered and analyzed to trace certain trends and explain them. Importantly, social “reality turns out to have many layers of meaning” and only “discovery of each new layer changes the perception of the whole” (Berger 11). Sociology manages to discover and analyze all the layers.
Hence, it is clear that sociologists have to gather detailed information and take into account all aspects of human life. Collecting data is only the first stage of the sociological analysis. The second stage is even more important as the analysis of data presupposes commitment, comprehensiveness, and attention. Researchers have introduced the concept of the “sociological imagination” that “enables its possessor to understand the larger historical scene” and explain people’s decisions and actions (Mills 5). To understand the essence of sociology, it is crucial to see the link between this study and the historical context. Thus, sociologists have to analyze trends within historical contexts. People’s behavior and products of their activities largely depend on the composition of the society, major trends existing in it, events that proceeded this or that period, and so on. Interestingly, sociology is the study that has numerous applications in society and the life of every individual. Thus, researchers may explain factors that change societies and individuals can better understand themselves and their actions when they employ strategies of sociology. Of course, it is clear that sociology is the study that has to be developed and it is also obvious that it can have numerous positive effects on the development of human society.
It is also important to stress that sociology is the study that involves an analysis of all the aspects of people’s lives. Sociologists do not focus on matters that are popular or interesting to society or some individuals (Berger 8). One of the most important peculiarities and advantages of sociology is that it unveils various trends existing in society. These trends can be unpleasant and disgraceful. For instance, the use of drugs or violence among teenage females can be seen as some of the most unpleasant things existing in many societies. Many people tend to ignore such issues trying to pretend that their ignorance helps diminish the problem. However, sociologists do not hesitate and uncover the issue as well as its horrific dimensions. Importantly, sociologists also come up with reasons that lead to the development of such trends in society. This enables policymakers and other people to come up with solutions and address the issue.
To understand what sociology is, it is also important to take a closer look at its theoretical framework. First of all, researchers emphasize that it is crucial to use adequate terminology to successfully utilize sociological strategies (Berger 6). There can be no ambiguity in the words used. Otherwise, sociologists risk coming to erroneous conclusions. For instance, sociology enables people to differentiate between troubles and issues (Mills 8). Thus, troubles “occur within the character of the individual and within the range of his or her immediate relations with others” (Mills 8). The trouble is “a private matter” (Mills 8). In other words, troubles are associated with individuals and can remain unnoticed on a larger scale. Issues, on the other hand, have to do with “institutions of a historical society as a whole, with the ways in which various milieu overlap and interpenetrate to form the larger structure of social and historical life” (Mills 8). The distinction between the two concepts is very important as it enables people to differentiate between different terrains: private and social. The former terrain is for individuals while the latter is for those interested in the development of societies.
One of the major concepts in sociology was introduced by Durkheim (Bourdieu 15). According to Durkheim, all social facts should be seen as objects as all actions of people and events are usually unexpected consequences of people’s activities (Bourdieu 15). In other words, people live and create many things including institutions as well as cultures, prejudice, and trends. In many cases, created social objects become unexpected as people pursued certain goals and the social object became a consequence of people’s activities. Such concepts as racism and holocaust could hardly be a particular goal of any nation, but these things still took place. They became a by-product of many other trends that occurred in the societies. It is noted that the concept of social objects as things helps sociologists analyze trends existing in society. This concept helps sociologists to remain objective.
At the same time, many theorists hold another point of view. For instance, according to Marx, all the events and activities happening in society are caused by people’s actions (Bourdieu 17). All trends are expected consequences of people’s activities. In other words, Marx believed that people pursued their personal goals (which were closely connected with gaining resources) and all events that occurred were people’s achieved goals. Of course, only some groups managed to achieve their aims while others had to live in the world created by the winning group. The struggle between classes and/or individuals leads to major changes in society and people’s lives.
The debate between supporters of both paradigms is still unresolved. Researchers provide their arguments but it is still quite unclear which viewpoint is more credible. It is clear that sociology, like any other study, involves certain debates. It is possible to apply the two viewpoints to an issue existing in society. This will help understand the relevance of the study and the many ways it can be applied.
It is possible to focus on such a concept as the race to illustrate the relevance of sociology. As has been mentioned above, it is crucial to provide particular definitions to be able to analyze an issue. It is necessary to point out that sociologists provide quite different definitions of racism. These differences can be explained by the fact that sociologists pertain to different schools and support quite different paradigms (Bonilla-Silva 467). At the same time, it is possible to conclude that all these definitions are based on the assumption that racism is a result of certain stratification of society. The reasons why stratification took place are very different and sociologists often disagree as they focus on some of the reasons. A broad definition suggested by Bonilla-Silva combines major peculiarities of racism. The researcher notes that racism exists in “societies in which economic, political, social, and ideological levels are partially structured by the placement of actors in racial categories or races” (Bonilla-Silva 469).
Since the term has been defined it is possible to focus on the way it fits into the debate concerning social facts to illustrate the relevance of sociology. Thus, it is possible to employ Marx’s point of view. According to the theorist, conflict of classes (or simply groups of people) is the cause of the vast majority of events and concepts. Thus, in terms of this theory, it is possible to assume that racism in the USA developed in the process of the conflict between white people and black people. Thus, white people managed to exploit black people and the whites created racism to justify this exploitation. Thus, racism was created as a tool to hold the resources and exploit another race. At present, it still exists as the same tool. It enables white people to control the vast majority of resources.
When using Durkheim’s views, it is possible to note that racism occurred as a consequence of certain activities. Thus, it is possible to assume that white people brought slaves from Africa as they were technologically more advanced and could defeat Africans. Whites needed slave labor to achieve their economic goals. It is noteworthy that Africans were seen as uncivilized people who did not have culture and technology as they were easily defeated by whites. Over time, the notion of the inferiority of Africans developed. Therefore, white people did not create the notion of racism. It developed as a consequence of certain trends that occurred in the society and certain activities of some groups of people. Historically, people of color had quite limited opportunities and the concept of inferiority persisted. Thus, racism is still found in US society.
This brief analysis of the nature of racism suggests that the two viewpoints are very similar and help understand the phenomenon. It is necessary to add that Marx’s point of view seems quite limited. It is clear that people did not try to create racism but it was a product of their activities. At the same time, Marx’s ideas are relevant as there were a conflict and a struggle for the resource. White people won the struggle and racism became the by-product of this victory. Hence, the two paradigms help people look at different aspects of the issue.
It is possible to apply the two theories to reveal the relevance of sociology. Thus, the study helps understand the background of racism and it also enables people to see peculiarities of the phenomenon and even predicts the way it is likely to evolve. It is possible to combine the two paradigms mentioned above to illustrate the way sociology can be beneficial for US society as well as individuals. Thus, several historical events led to the development of racism in the USA. The majority of Americans have acknowledged the wrongs of racism, but it persists. The major reason why racism is still there is the conflict between different groups. Thus, white people want to hold the resources they have (and gain even more) while people of color are trying to gain more resources. These resources are money, employment, education, social status, political power, and so on. The availability of resources has led to the creation of certain social stratification that is closely connected with race (Bonilla-Silva 469). Contemporary racism is social as it is believed that people of color are unfit for some roles as they do not have the necessary background (education, experience, and so on). There is still a conflict and white people are still winning the struggle. This is what happens when society, on the whole, is considered.
It is possible to focus on individuals’ development. Again, a combination of the two theoretical frameworks will be used. The way a person’s views on race are developing depends on the social group he/she is in or was brought up in. People are influenced by many factors including culture, historical events, people around them, their personal experiences. It is also important to take into account the person’s goals. If the person starts participating in the struggle for resources, he/she will inevitably form certain views on race (depending on the race he/she pertains to and depending on the degree of his/her success in this struggle). Thus, if a person considers these issues, he/she will understand why racism still exists and why he/she holds this or that viewpoint on the matter. It will also be easier for the person to find his place in society.
In conclusion, it is possible to state that sociology is the study of human society. Sociology enables people to understand who they are and where they are heading. This study also helps people understand and explain trends that are taking place. It is important to remember that sociology is not only about collecting data through surveys on such topics as buying preferences and political issues. Sociology tends to unveil all aspects of the development of human society (be it a positive or negative trend). This comprehensiveness makes sociology relevant and important.
Berger, Peter L. Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective. New York, NY: Anchor, 1963. Print.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. “Rethinking Racism: Toward a Structural Interpretation.” American Sociological Review 62.3 (1997): 465-480. Print.
Bourdieu, Pierre. “Social Space and Symbolic Power.” Sociological Theory 7.1 (1989): 14-25. Print.
Mills, C. Wright. The Sociological Imagination. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.