This article is being published on behalf of Applied Worldwide's student essay competition. Students were prompted to respond to the question, "Why is sociology important?" We have awarded 16 finalists from all over the world, and will publish these essays over the next several weeks. This essay was written by Alyssa Goodreau from The University of Tampa in Florida, US. This essay received a third place award.
We had a really great turnout and would like to thank everyone who submitted an essay. We received a wide variety of creative interpretations and responses, so browse our essay directory!
Alyssa Goodreau, The University of Tampa
Sociology is a social science that studies relationships, society, and interaction, which has all come to be important in our understanding of the world and our everyday lives. This has occurred in both a macro and micro view, with new theories from both perspectives continuing to rise today. I find sociology interesting due to the ideas it represents and how the world is constantly evolving. It helps others to think about life and why things are the way they are, while providing new ideas and opportunities for future research.
Through the field of sociology, people are able to express their positions on any known topic. For example, a theorist such as Karl Marx will look at economic institutions a completely different way than a structural functionalist would. Even though these are bigger concepts, they impact everyday life because people hold these beliefs deeply and the ideas can provide an opportunity for change. In regard to Marx, these concepts are what could lead to a revolution. I use sociology in my everyday life by trying to understand the world I live in. Because I am a college student taking sociology courses, each new theory or topic I learn I try to understand and analyze it to see if I truly believe in it. If so, I ask myself why I do, which in turn shapes my world perspective. Sociology is important as it is able to be molded and changed throughout time too. There have been the more recent feminist theories that are shining a new light on human rights that haven’t always been recognized. There are also some sociologists who view things in a more qualitative way, and others in a quantitative. There is a space for everyone’s opinions and a lot that intersects with each other.
Status and roles can be broken down to show the daily impact of sociology. Looking at my own life, I have both achieved and ascribed statuses including my race, gender, becoming a student; which all mean something on a daily basis. For example, my obligations as a student and how I am expected to behave as a student or being a daughter. This in turn can become a part of norms and values, and why society is structured the way it is today and how we come to understand when someone is acting outside of their given roles. These can also change meaning depending on the culture and geographic location.
One example that can represent the importance of sociology is how we give things meaning, and categories. We get so used to these categories and believe they are correct, that it can be hard to even think of creating a new one or changing a current one. For example, in terms of defining sex and thinking of adding a third category; this is considered absurd by some because it is so different and ‘strange’ to just add a new one, while others believe we should as intersex people are a relatively common occurrence. A more day-to-day example could be grocery stores. We have sections for meats, a section for produce, and so on; while we could have done it a different way – for example by color, or by shape of the object. We give each of these interactions and groups meaning, and they become a part of our daily lives.
Along the same lines, we stand by gender categorizations and stereotypes as a society very strictly and this impacts everyday lives because it is how we believe we should act, and how others should act in terms of gender roles. This is important in several fields, because these ideas can become repressive; such as believing women are not capable of being in politics or government because they are too emotional. These can also be applied to men and believing that the job of a nurse is not a man’s role, instead they should be the doctor. It involves power and can become a part of institutions that control everyday lives.
Sociology is important in everyday life especially in times of crisis or a pandemic, and it helps people live through these experiences and understand why they feel or react the way they do. It is also true looking at past events and tragedies and trying to understand why they occurred. One sociological article by Lifton (1986) talked about Nazi doctors at Auschwitz, and the importance of authority and how this had an impact during World War 2. Another example could be Durkheim and his study on suicide, and the idea of normlessness, and how this in turn affects people. They offer explanations and a way to cope with the world.
Sociology is an extremely important field that has led to several theories and ideologies that shape society and how and why we believe in certain things. Sociology can be represented in our everyday lives through social constructions, institutions, organizations, interactions, and more. There has been a greater understanding on human life that is still continuing to grow. Because of the research provided and implications, sociology will continue to remain a prominent field of study.
Lifton, R. J. (1986). Nazi doctors at auschwitz. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. 437-445.