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What Is Sociology?

Sociology is the scientific study of human groups. It provides tools for understanding how and why our society functions, impact of social intuitions on individual lives, and the challenges of social interaction between individuals and society. Through teaching, research, and service learning, the Sociology program provides critical understanding of ways people relate to one another through the organization of society and how its structures and cultures influence our lives. Subject matters of sociology ranges from family life to organizations, from crime to education, from the divisions of race and social class to the shared beliefs of a common culture, from poverty to wealth. Few fields have such a broad and exciting scope.

Sociology enables you to see the world in a new light. In a country like the United States where individualism is celebrated, it is very easy to forget that the way we behave and feel is socially produced. Whether they be friendships, families, church groups, socioeconomic classes, complex organizations, or nations, much of our lives are socially constructed. This is the basic premise of sociology.

Sociology also helps people liberate themselves. In his Invitation to Sociology, Peter Berger stated that “sociology can help people to take charge of their lives by making them aware of their situation in society and the forces acting upon them…By discovering the workings of society, they gain an understanding of how this process takes place.” The wisdom of sociology is the discovery that things are not what they seem.

But sociology offers more. When people see things, they ask what they are. Sociologists ask what they are not.