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I am taking sociology right now because I had to take a social science elective. Do you think this class is a waste of my time? Does Ayn Rand think sociology is bogus?

Why would it be bogus as a social science? There are certainly a variety of viewpoints you will learn about that are basically worthless (say, conflict theory), but as a whole, thinking about people in social settings is indeed valuable and interesting. In a sense, Rand could be seen as a sociologist of sorts with ideas such as second-handedness and sanction of the victim.

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I think sociology is bogus. It's a big disintegrated chaos of vague and contradicting theories and methods infected with postmodernism. The value it has is its connections with history, philopsophy, economics, anthropology, politics and psychology. It also just makes up reasons for the government to force and "nudge" people to do "the right thing" for "their own good," which is its purpose: finding and solving "social problems" and constructing the ideal society.

Even if sociology has some legitimate ground, it first needs to be cleaned up because it's now thoroughly corrupted.

Maybe it's helpfull for marketing and charitable organizations, but then they should call it something else.

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Even if sociology has some legitimate ground, it first needs to be cleaned up because it's now thoroughly corrupted.

Much of what you say could be said of philosophy. "Sociology" doesn't make up reasons for government force, just as "political philosophy" doesn't. Even though there surely are theorists in both fields that advocate force, the field of study of sociology is not bogus. I am not sure what specifically you have a problem with regarding sociology other than a number of questionable theorists.

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I am taking sociology right now because I had to take a social science elective. Do you think this class is a waste of my time? Does Ayn Rand think sociology is bogus?

I am not sure what you are doing in an Objectivism forum under that username, unless you are specifically referring to casual determinism. To address your explicit question, it depends tremendously upon the curriculum your professor implements. I am currently taking a sociology course as well, and the textbook is atrocious. Some of the things it says are simply appalling. However, the class in and of itself is one of my favorites, because I am frequently starting discussions over the subject material, something my advanced history teacher says we do not have time to dispute, but my sociology teacher encourages. The class is largely enjoyable because she stands by and lets us have our piece (granted, that may change soon. Apparently my opinions are "offensive").

The subject is not a waste of time, but the general philosophies of most sociologists are, from what I've read thus far. Even so, one could say the same of studying epistemology. That does not mean philosophy is a bad subject, just that many philosophers had the wrong ideas. Sociology is basically the study of human relations and how various cultures interact. As long as you know where you stand and can read over the theories of others from an objective position, you should be fine.

In regards to Rand's beliefs on this matter - I know she never took an interest in psychology (and sociology is very similar in criteria).

Edited by Summer
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I think sociology is bogus.

As someone with Sociology as their second major here at University, I will make a simple statement. You are wrong. Unfortunately it is 2am so I will continue my reasoning tomorrow. My question is why you are stating things about a subject you obviously only have a very shallow understanding of?

Edited by CapitalistSwine
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I only did one year of sociology in 2005 so yes, I know far less than you do. This is a forum and I gave my opinion and the reasons for it, and anyone can explain to me why my reasoning is stupid. What I wrote was my impression of sociology, having had to read, among others, Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Mills, Luhmann, Babbie, Habermas, Baudrillard, and Rorty, and being taught methods like symbolic interactionism, the hypothetico-deductive scientific method, and grounded theory, all claimed to be equally usefull.

I would honestly like answers to the following questions (but some may be unanswerable):

- Why is sociology a legitimate discipline, seperate from the other disciplines? (And don't say, "it demystifies its subject matter and developes the sociological imagination to challenge myth making," which probably is the clearest answer I've ever gotten.)

- What makes it different from philosophy or psychology? Don't they both study consciousness in relationship with the world, including other people and their ideas?

- What does sociology study? Society? Social aggregates? Social interaction? The social structure?

- And why? Why would one decide to look for a statistical, probabalistic relationship between income and infidelity, or globalization and divorce, or religion and knowledge about religion, or skinny cover models and teens' self-image?

And who would make use of that knowledge besides the government? And who would pay for that besides taxpayers?

- Isn't philosophy more fundamental, and isn't sociology based on all bad philosophies, following the philosophic trends from positivism to Marxism to pragmatism to postmodernism to environmentalism, never having had any contact with reality, and never having looked at the nature of man, the rational being?

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Why would gaining knowledge on any subject be a waste of time - even if only to learn what is wrong with the subject. If you want to speak out against a subject like sociology (personally, I had no problem with the subject), then at least know what you are talking about. Too many objectivists denounce something without knowing anything about the subject (like Kant). Just because Rand didn't have an interest in the subject is hardly a reason not to know more about it. So - study on. You might learn something.

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I should start by saying that I am an anthropologist, and anthropology and sociology are traditionally antagonistic fields for some bizarre reason (even though they have a lot in common). My office-mate once described sociology as "the science of handing white people surveys", and it is certainly the case that much sociology is done this way.

That said, although I have many problems with the way sociology is practiced and structured, to say it is an illegitimate field of study is going way too far. You might as well say that all of the social sciences are illegitimate (I know some Objectivists believe this, but I hope it is not the majority). Sociology is most valuable for the level of analysis at which it operates. It is worthwhile looking at trends at the level of society, as well as looking at individual behaviors in the context of the society in which they occur. After all, even completely rational, independent actors have their decisions structured by the society in which they live, BECAUSE they are rational. In other words, the state of society makes some decisions pay over others, such that rational people will make those particular choices for identifiable reasons. Otherwise, those choices might not make sense and people may appear to be acting irrationally when they are really just acting as rationally as they can in a given context (for those of you familiar with jargon you might detect me taking an agency standpoint here, that is certainly my theoretical orientation of choice).

I also believe that some sociologists have made valuable contributions. For example, I think it was Derek N who said he had read Weber and Durkheim and that was part of the reason he had a negative view of sociology. I admit not having read them extensively, but from what I do know of them, what was so bad about them? Durkheim's theory of mechanical vs. organic solidarity seems to make a lot of sense to me and account successfully for social cohesiveness in a modern, differentiated society where people tend to specialize their interests. As for Weber, his definition of the state is so similar to Rand's that I wonder if she didn't read him at some point and build on some of his ideas. The main difference between Weber's definition and Rand's is that Weber's is descriptive while Rand's is normative, but the language is nearly identical and Weber's came first.

Writing off whole fields of study because they aren't currently done well = fail.

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I recall being said that sociology is just anthropology in industrial societies, but that no one really knows what's the difference between the two, which may explain the antagonism.

Durkheim and Weber were some of the better works. I didn't name those two because they were bad. I can't recall everything they wrote, and they wrote a lot, but it was Durkheim who said something like: because all societies have criminals, all criminals have essential functions in all societies, like reenforcing moral bounderies and creating unity, and he made similar errors, reminding me of the tribal premise, taking the whole as the standard.

And Durkheim brings me to one of the mistakes I made in my questions. Durkheim wasn't working for the government, and his Suicide was of interest and groundbreaking. But doesn't the subject of a certain ideology, and not having any friends, leading to a higher suicide rate, belong to one of the other disciplines, like philosophy, history and psychology?

Weber of course said that protestantism lead to capitalism, but he also said a lot of good stuff, but again, don't those subjects really belong to philosophy and history? I also studied some history at the university, and I could see the influence of Weber, like the ideal types of authority applied to medieval and renaissance Europe.

What then makes sociology different? Looking at the whole, like social trends, forces and dominant ideas (the macro), and their impact on the individual (the micro), and vice versa, isn't exclusive to sociology. It also belongs to philosophy and history, only they use less quasi scientific lingo.

I recall that sociologists say that philosophy is different from sociology because philosophy is abstract, while sociology deals with the real world, empirically. But of course philosophy deals with the real world (and apparently it's also an inductive science), even though most philosophies try not to.

So isn't sociology just philosophy applied to the real world, only taking it too far with its positivism, and getting dominated by anti-reason philosophies?

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I recall being said that sociology is just anthropology in industrial societies, but that no one really knows what's the difference between the two, which may explain the antagonism.

That seems reasonable to me. A distinction is worthwhile because early humans lived in a significantly different condition. There is of course overlap with other disciplines, but that is to be expected of any field of study since all knowledge is related in some manner.

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The biggest problem with sociology is that it is premised, fundamentally, on the tribalist view of the world, not the development of individualism in the process of civilization...

Did you read ANY of the posts? It would help for you to provide an argument to explain how sociology *as a field* is premised on a tribalist worldview.

Edited by Eiuol
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  • 2 weeks later...

I am taking sociology right now because I had to take a social science elective. Do you think this class is a waste of my time? Does Ayn Rand think sociology is bogus?

Sociology is another pseudo-science, the invention of Auguste Comte (1798-1857) which he called the greatest of sciences that would subsume all others (which in a very real sense it has—think environmentalism and the subordination of science to political agendas). Sociology is "dressed-up" collectivism; it's fundamental premise is that society is the ultimate end or purpose of values and actions and that individuals are subordinate to and derive their values and purpose from their relationship to or membership in society. Comte coined the word altruism to refer to the moral obligation of individuals to serve others and place the interests of society above their own. He is the father of positivism, which he regarded as "human religion"; both the logical positivists (Vienna Circle) and Secular Humanism have their origins in Comte. If Sociology is a science, its application is "social engineering."

From here: The Roots of Revolution

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That's no different than you writing the blog (I guess you'd call it that) post here. Try to substantiate your claim, please.

Well, it's not a, "blog," and the material is well substantiated and easy to find for anyone who cares to know. If you don't care to, that is OK with me. But ask yourself this. Why would anyone post that information if it were not true? What would be the point?

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Conspiracy theory comes to mind.

Really? Well it comes only from history and an interest in where bad ideas in academia and philosophy come from. It's a very interesting field actually. Perhaps you can do a research paper sometime on the roots of social theory beginning with Hume, through Comte and the branch that led to positivism and post modernism on one side and the other that led to Kant, Hegel, and The Frankfurt School. I think you would find it fascinating--and without a trace of conspiracy.

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Sociology is another pseudo-science, the invention of Auguste Comte (1798-1857) which he called the greatest of sciences that would subsume all others

I'll be more specific. I actually haven't even heard of Comte being referred to as a sociologist. Usually it's people like Marx or Weber that are the early sociologists. I really have no idea where this claim is coming from. Even if your claim that sociology is an invention of Comte is true (which I doubt, but I may be wrong) that doesn't mean a study of society is dressed up collectivism. Read themadkat's post and address that post in particular. I do know Comte is the father of positivism and that he coined the term altruism, but that has no bearing on the validity of sociology. Of course any of a sociologist's views heavily derive from their view on the nature of people and purpose of society, but nothing I've read said that a fundamental premise of sociology as a field is subordination of the individual to society.

Edited by Eiuol
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Read themadkat's post and address that post in particular. ... nothing I've read said that a fundamental premise of sociology as a field is subordination of the individual to society.

I read themadkat's post. I do not agree with him, nor have I said sociology is a pseudo-science because it is not done well. It's done very well, in fact. Perhaps you have not read sociology to be subordination of the individual to society, but there are many sociologists that say it explicitly--in fact all those associated with the United Nations do. But what do you think the purpose of sociology is? Isn't to discover how to make societies meet some criteria, to be "good" societies. Have you ever read any sociologist that does not conclude that what he teaches ought to be implimented as "policy." What do you think that is? It is social engineering, and that can only be done by political power.

While I do not agree with the following article, it does make excellent points about why sociology is not a science, though it presumes Comte's original intention was science, and that it could be a science still. I only recently found the article, so present it with reservations. It does however well document the fact that Comte is the founder of sociology.

Sociology: From Science to Pseudoscience

I do not intend to convince you of anything. You seemed interested, so I'm only trying to satisfy that interest.

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I read themadkat's post. I do not agree with him, nor have I said sociology is a pseudo-science because it is not done well.

Many are not all. It's like saying economics is a pseudo-science because many economists conclude that what they teach must be public policy. It's not so much that I'm interested as much as you haven't addressed the posts that have been made.

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You've portrayed an incredible lack of knowledge on the subject. All sociology is the study of societies as a whole. It isn't some conspiracy to subordinate individuals to society. It just doesn't care about just any single individual. It puts things in the context of society. Everything you've said has been backed by 0 evidence or regard for historical validity. There are in fact many individualist sociologists.

That many, dare I say most, sociologists have been left-wing and influenced by bad people is irrelevant to what it IS.

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  • 2 weeks later...

You've portrayed an incredible lack of knowledge on the subject. All sociology is the study of societies as a whole. It isn't some conspiracy to subordinate individuals to society. It just doesn't care about just any single individual. It puts things in the context of society. Everything you've said has been backed by 0 evidence or regard for historical validity. There are in fact many individualist sociologists.

That many, dare I say most, sociologists have been left-wing and influenced by bad people is irrelevant to what it IS.

This.

I have a question:

What questions can sociology answer that psychology can't?

Psychology examines more of the workings of the human mind, why persons think and behave as they do. Sociology tends to examine groups of persons (societies), communities, and nations. They might examine and discuss such things as folkways, mores, changes in populations, effects of events on entire communities, etc... So one way to look at it is that psychology is more about the individual or small group, and sociology is more about communities and larger groups of persons. However sociology does focus on individuals oftentimes when doing research on certain social groups, anything from gay highschool cheerleaders to examining the motivations of home robberies (the conclusion is that they are opportunistic, there are very few people that do it habitually, its usually an act of opportunism (walking by, see's window open, decides to rob), or the cultural aspects that lead to the current situation with gay marriage according to American demographics.

There was also a sociological study in my deviant behavior class (was also qualified as a Crim J class) on mental institutions. And they purposely put non-mental people in these institutions to see how long they would be diagnosed as mentally ill for instance, among a bunch of other things at the same time. They found that patients that have gotten better are often still diagnosed as ill or that were never mentally ill at all. Its all explained in depth and thoroughly in the study and it was pretty damn interesting. There is also an entire Sociology field focused on families. My Intro to Soc. professor, who was a Symbolic-Interactionist mainly (but they all use other ones when they are more optimal for the kind of study they are doing)

Sociology is the study of society and focuses on issues regarding inequalities, systems of privilege, "self" development and identity construction, differences among specific goups within a society, etc. Sociologists are concerned with why societies and cultures are the way they are.

Psychology has 2 main goals: to build a body of knowledge about people, and to apply that knowledge to help people. Psychologists are concerned with how experience affects individuals, and what makes individuals who they are.

The two diciplines do tend to overlap in several fields. However, psychology also is concerned with determining the biological explanations for behavior, which gives it some scientific credibility to base conclusions on other than research studies alone. Sociology is mostly based on theory and research studies to draw conclusions from. It varies among the different fields within each dicipline though.

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