Why Do Sociology – Warum wir die Soziologie an der Zeppelin Universität brauchen

Quelle: http://www.frmlb.de/projekte/dgs-deutsche-gesellschaft-fuer-soziologie/

Der Soziologie kommt in aktuellen universitären Debatten an der Zeppelin Universität keine hohe Wertschätzung zu. Methoden wie Theorie müssen des Öfteren gerechtfertigt werden und dem ein oder anderen mag es so vorkommen, als sei die Soziologie an der ZU ein „Auslaufmodell“. Ob ihr Einfluss auf den universitären Diskurs abgenommen hat oder noch nie von großer Bedeutung war – der Untertitel „zwischen Wirtschaft, Kultur und Politik“ könnte ein Hinweis darauf sein – soll dahingestellt bleiben. Wichtig ist vielmehr die Frage nach der Relevanz der Soziologie. 

Wer fragt heute an der ZU schon danach „Warum Marketing?”. „Warum Soziologie?“ hört man dagegen häufiger. Während einerseits die Neubesetzung eines zweiten Soziologie-Lehrstuhls ansteht und gleichzeitig Diskussionen über die Modifizierungen des CME-Bachelors und die Auswirkungen, der Ungleichverteilung von Lehrstühlen geführt werden, möchte ich mit dem nachstehenden Essay darlegen, weshalb es mir besorgniserregend erscheint, welche Rolle der Lehre der Soziologie an unserer Universität derzeit zukommt – ins Besondere im Angesicht immer wieder aufkeimender Debatten bezüglich der Entwicklung der Identität der ZU. Ich halte es dabei für wichtig, dass sich unsere Gesprächskultur hin zu einer toleranteren und damit interdisziplinären entwickelt. Denn wenn sich CMEler über die Gender-Diskussionen zwischen CCM-Studierenden echauffieren und CCMler über die Praxisorientierung der CMEler, bleibt es bei einem über-, statt einem miteinander reden. Die Soziologie kann dabei als verbindendes Element dienen und konträre Positionen verknüpfen. Mein Bestreben ist es, dies im folgenden, während meines Auslandssemesters entstandenen, Essay deutlich zu machen.

Why we need sociology as a discipline

Facing highly complex global phenomena as migration, climate change or persisting social inequalities today, it almost seems cynical to doubt the importance of social sciences and especially sociology as formulated by many criticists of this “soft subject”. Individuals or groups, calling the importance of sociology into question mostly forget about the significant, powerful and serious role this discipline possess in regard of social phenomena and dismiss the capability of the methods, theories and approaches utilized by sociologists to observe, understand and explain global issues we are confronted with. The following essay not only attempts to show why this ignorance and dismiss can be dangerous but rather also tries to outline the specific value of sociology as a discipline and of sociologists.

Questioning how society is possible can be defined as the core interrogation of sociologists who are striving to observe society in its entire complexity and to comprehend social phenomena which are threating the political order and stability of societies today. This detailed examination in a comparative, historical, theoretical or empirical tradition thus generates knowledge which has a substantial and high value for politics since it establishes a groundwork on which policies can be worked up. Sociologists who are dedicating their whole ambitions to the question of what is going on around us, create the basis of our understanding of our social environment.

Furthermore, interdisciplinarity can be outlined as another advantage and strength of sociology since its multifaceted and integrative perspective and methodological techniques legitimize sociology as an adequate response towards modern society. Combining economics and politics with cultural, ideological and historical aspects and patterns enables sociologists to be capable in drawing connections and identify linkages between social phenomena and developments. The underlying critical attitude towards each of its characteristics itself, towards its methods, theories and definitions of problems, occurring together with a never-ending argument and discussion between scholars and sometimes leading to polemic sideswipes between researches from different schools of thought at the same time enables sociology to generate a constructive discourse of which “terrible lesson[s]; in many ways magnificent one[s]” (Mills, 2000, p. 5) are derived from for individuals as well as societies. Sociology inherently barely stops to criticize itself and continuously re-defines itself and the problems it deals with: a disciple unafraid of its own insufficiencies, shortcomings – what else can you dream of? No, sociologists do not agree on specific methods to base their argumentations on, they usually do not use standardized measurement instruments or labs to collect their data, but would this paradigm even help social scientist? The data, meaning networks of individuals, societies structured in social classes, institutions and beliefs genuinely requires mixed methods: qualitative empirical methods as interviews, sometimes ethnographic studies (Willis, 1981) or statistical analysis of consumption patterns, voting behaviour or discrimination are needed at the same time. Social phenomena are inherently consisting of social interactions between individuals, objects, communities, societies etc., their complexity and diversity can only be observed by a methodological approach of the same complexity and diversity. An approach you will find in sociology.

Moreover, the discipline of sociology enables researchers to develop a point of critique for social patterns or phenomena and thereby elaborates criteria for normative judgements. In this context, the observation and examination of social inequalities can be outlined as the perfect example, how sociology generates the framework and foundation for an awareness and potential change of society towards less discrimination of disadvantaged members of society. Making inequalities visible in statistical studies which show for example the extent of the gender pay gap or in theoretical works as the one of Bourdieu who revealed the magnitude and width of dimensions of social inequality in a cultural extent, genuinely initiates awareness of society towards its dysfunctional mechanisms and normatively problematic extents. Those sociological studies not only shaped the theoretical background of political activism against inequalities but also made people aware of their own social situation and thereby enabling them to criticise and actively address their potential discrimination. This possibility for individuals to reflect and realize their social situation and position, the self-location within social classes, networks and conflicts can be seen as the foundation for an enlightened citizen and individual who can participate in his or her (civil) society and be active in terms of engaging in inequalities and creating, designing and initiating a social environment he or she wants to life in.

Especially in the context of social classes and social mobility, sociology has a leading role and responsibility at the same time to critically analyse social inequalities and identify accountable institutions as for example the educational system as significantly important for the reproduction of social classes in modern post-industrial societies. The all-inclusive perspective of sociology in this context, looking at economic and cultural patterns, political interventions and the institutional framework of society certainly makes it possible to uncover the complex structure and provide an adequate observation and solution.