a different definition of sociology – guest post herbert j. gans
Herbert J. Gans is an emeritus professor of sociology at Columbia University. This posts discusses how might define sociology as an academic discipline. This post originally appeared at Work in Progress, the blog of the Organizations, Occupations, and Work section of the American Sociological Association.
In his recent post on sociology’s image problem, Prof Rojas included a definition of sociology as “the scientific study of groups.” It is the same one I was taught in graduate school seventy years ago, and think it is now long out of date.
Let me offer the one I have used in recent years: Sociology is the study of what people in formal and informal organizations, institutions, communities, states and other social structures do, think and feel with, for, against and about others.
Three of its virtues are (1) it can be abbreviated or expanded for different venues; (2) it avoids the thorny questions of whether sociology is a science, or what kind of science, and something in addition to being a science; and (3) it offers a more graphic image of sociology to the lay people etc who now ignore sociology or do not understand what it is.