At every random birthday party, in any discussion program on television/radio, or on social media such as Facebook, blogs or twitter, all sorts of opinions are constantly being debated about what, how and with whom people do something. Everyone has an opinion about the policy of the government, who is the best candidate of the Voice of Holland, what we think of participation in the war in Syria, about the soft drug policy, about ‘Zwarte Piet’, or the effects of the economic crisis. And if you have no opinion about it, you will be forced to say something about it soon. But do all these opinions have any value? What are these opinions based on? Other opinions? Fantasy? Research?|
Living together in society is the study object of sociology. We all live together, so studying this can’t be difficult. Appearances are deceiving. Analysing your own social environment requires more than attention, it also requires a certain imagination. We are used to relate the things around us to ourselves and our own experiences, but this does not imply you can understand society. The American sociologist C. Wright Mills clearly explained in his book The Sociological imagination (1959) that a ‘personal problem’ is not yet a ‘social problem’. Using the example of unemployment, he shows that if there are thirty people unemployed in a city with 100,000 inhabitants, this is not directly perceived as a social or social problem. But if 10,000 people are unemployed in the same city, then there is indeed a social problem. In the first case, it will often be thought that those thirty people will only have to solve their own problem, while by 10,000 people there will immediately a call for solutions through politics, business or government.
Sociology is a social science. Sociology does not study the individual, as psychologists will frequently do, but rather groups of people. Sociology studies daily life, both in small and in larger contexts. From the relationships between family members, via how people function in groups - for example, organizations - up to the way countries are organized. Sociology studies interactions of, and in human actions at micro, meso and macro level. An important task of sociologists is to unravel social action that seems self-evident. Not everything that is said or written is an adequate representation of reality. Sociology tries to get a grip on the understanding of living together through scientific research. In addition to insight and explanations of human actions, sociological knowledge of society can and will be used to tackle social problems. Politicians, policy makers, managers and administrators use - often unconsciously - sociological knowledge to change or improve society. Whether all these changes and improvements have the desired result, and for whom, is again the subject of new sociological research.
- Macionis & Plummer (2012) Sociology a global introduction. Pearson/ Prentice Hall. (5th edition)
- Burawoy, M. (2005). For public sociology. American sociological review, 70(1), 4-28. (download via: http://burawoy.berkeley.edu/Public%20Sociology,%20Live/Burawoy.pdf)
- The literature for lecture 5 & 6 will be announced via Black board
The schedule below states which literature is discussed during which lecture.
Design of the course
The course consists of two elements. First there are the lectures. These focus on central themes from sociology. During the lectures, these themes are elaborated on the basis of examples from the book, but also on the basis of examples that can be found elsewhere. Attention is also paid to the question of how this sociological approach is relevant. Second, there are the labs or seminars. Here we also look at central sociological themes, but now the students have to participate and discuss the themes.
NB. Participation in lectures is not mandatory, but is of course highly recommended. Labs are mandatory.