what would happy sociology look like?

Sociology is in large part a “grievance discipline.” Open up our journals and you will find article after article on exclusion, racism, sexism, and inequality. It’s even to the point that some scholars are like, “Stop! We need to talk about other stuff!” And, I’ll be up front, I am part of the problem: I’m the author of work on AIDS, Black nationalism and the Iraq War.

Then, my good friend Victor Ray, sent out this tweet yesterday:

Yes, what would people read? Here is my response, we need a movement within sociology to become more balanced. As I’ve noted before, there are lots of great developments in modern society, but they get much less attention than negative events. What would “happy” sociology look like?

  • There would be a cultural sociology that asks about the cultural preconditions of the industrial revolution, the single event in human history that lifted the most people out of poverty.
  • There would be a similar cultural sociology examining the massive decline in inter-personal violence and war that has occurred over the last two or three hundred years.
  • There would be a cultural sociology examining the liberation of minorities, women, and LGBT people in many nations.
  • There would be an economic sociology that examines how modern economies support an insane level of cultural diversity.
  • There would be a sociology that explains how societies produce things that essentially wipe out many forms of infectious disease and drastically reduce child mortality.
  • There would be a cultural sociology that explains why individual freedom remains strong in a world with fascism, national socialism, communism, radical religious groups, and populist nationalism.

In other words, the typical sociology 100 class gives you a massive toolbox for describing inequality and oppression, but how can these tools be used to describe all the good parts of modern life?

Of course, some of this exists as research literature, but not as the staple of undergraduate, or even graduate, education. Show me that I’m wrong! Who is teaching this course? Inquiring minds want to know!


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Written by fabiorojas

October 10, 2018 at 4:01 am

Posted in uncategorized

9 Responses

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  1. Peter Berger’s Invitation to Sociology is quite an uplifting book if you are looking for something intellectually liberating rather than the vainglorious save-the-world or kumbaya style sociology that;s been in vogue for quite some time.



    October 10, 2018 at 4:18 am

  2. The vindication of White/Christian man. As long as we had lived, or that a few still do…


    This and That

    October 10, 2018 at 4:56 am

  3. You could also look toward Psychology for some inspiration. This exact issue has been an ongoing debate for a while and resulted in the branch of “Positive Psychology”. It is an explicit counterpoint to the traditional mainstream psychology, which is often rooted in clinical psychology and the research of mental illnesses. Notable research in this area is that on “Flow”, or that on virtues, just to name two examples.



    October 10, 2018 at 6:41 am

  4. […] via what would happy sociology look like? — […]


  5. The research on social capital — whether in the vein of Putnam or Lin — often has an overall positive tone. Though researchers always seem as if they feel compelled to have a paragraph somewhere about how it’s sometimes bad (e.g., certain tight-knit subcultures encourage harmful behaviors). Authors probably do this for fear of otherwise sounding like a naive Pollyanna.

    When we’re writing about generally depressing subject matter, I wonder what it’d be like if we felt compelled to write a disclaimer paragraph about the positive side of whatever we’re discussing. That might be a good way to help bring a little more balance that you’re talking about, regardless of what topics are in vogue.



    October 10, 2018 at 6:50 pm

  6. The Communist Manifesto is uplifting



    October 11, 2018 at 8:57 pm

  7. More seriously, this is what Bruno Latour does, more or less. He will lift the melancholy soul of your student with his critique of critique, I’m sure of it.



    October 11, 2018 at 9:06 pm

  8. Check out Hiroshi Ono and Kristen Schultz Lee’s book Redistributing Happiness: How Social Policies Shape Life Satisfaction. It addresses happiness using the sociological perspective. The takeaway message is that social context is more powerful than any one determinant of individual happiness.

    One could also argue that studies of sadness or depression offer clues to happiness (e.g., The Social Causes of Psychological Distress by John Mirowsky and Catherine E. Ross).


    Christopher Andrews

    October 12, 2018 at 6:47 pm

  9. […] Rojas ( what would happy sociology look like October 10, 2018) writes […]


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