What Is Sociology?

What Is Sociology?

What Is Sociology?

What Is Sociology?

Excerpt

To understand what sociology is all about, one has to look at oneself from a distance, to see oneself as one human being among others. For sociology is concerned with problems of society, and society is something formed by oneself and other people together; the person who studies and thinks about society is himself a member of it. Thinking about oneself in contemporary society, it is often difficult to escape the feeling that one is facing other human beings just as if they were mere objects, separated from oneself by an unbridgeable gulf. This sense of separation is expressed, reproduced and reinforced through many current concepts and idioms, which make this modern mode of self- experience appear self-evident and incontestable. We speak of the individual and his environment, of the child and his family, of individual and society, or of subject and object, without clearly reminding ourselves that the individual forms part of his environment, his family, his society. Looking more closely, the so-called 'environment' of the child consists primarily of other human beings, of father, mother, brothers and sisters. What we conceptualize as 'family' would not be a family at all without children. Society, often placed in mental contraposition to the individual, consists entirely of individuals, oneself among them.

Yet our conventional instruments for thinking and speaking are generally constructed as though everything we experience as external to the individual were a thing, an "object", and moreover a stationary object. Concepts like 'family' or 'school' plainly refer to groupings of interdependent human beings, to specific figurations which people form with each other. But our traditional manner of forming these concepts makes it appear as if groupings formed by interdependent human beings were pieces of matter -- objects of the same kind as rocks, trees or houses. These traditional reifying ways of speaking, and corresponding tradi-

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