Why we need sociologists (as me)
Studying sociology happened more as an accident than as an actual plan to me. Finishing school as a seventeen-years old girl, I was heavily overburdened by the amount of study-possibilities and choose to study “Sociology, Politics and Economics”, a fancy-sounding track, interdisciplinary, new, modern and sold as “visionary” while planning to focus on economics to be employable and do some sociology besides. Instead, with every year I focussed more on sociology and left economics behind while becoming ever more convinced of the value, importance and aesthetical style of writing of some sociology scholars. After being persistently asked, “why sociology?” I turn out to be more certain than ever that this is the best subject for me to study for the following reasons (to be honest: besides frequent anxieties and crisis of fear of my future and employability what made me undertaking internship over internship during summer breaks):
Sociology offers me an education that enables me to carry responsibility in a society which still consists of multiple inequalities. I became aware of class, gender, race, ethnicity and all the other inequalities and fields of discrimination existing in our society in an academic, detailed and often frightening deep manner. Reading and working on social inequalities first evoked a strong frustration but then the strive to change such patterns on a collective level while it was personally even more confusing, difficult, demanding and complicated for me to be forced to reflect my own social background and actual social position.
As a woman, sociology revealed to me my social position as part of a group of people, not being a quantitative minority but being mistreated and discriminated against since human history; women are as well oppressed in post-industrial societies I grew up and live in as in even more frightening and horrifying manners in culturally and geographically different parts of the world. Awareness and the will to change it, made feminism to a movement and idea for me I would identify as a core value for me, sometimes being shocked how some individuals still do not acknowledge the discrimination of women and do not support the fight for equal rights.
Due to my self-identification as a woman, gender inequality was and is the issue I worked on the most, together with a focus on social class theory based on personal interest; at the same time though, sociology also forced me to identify and reflect on my white-privileged background, educated in a western-European liberal bubble. Rising awareness of this background, especially in context of the growing field of post-colonial studies or e.g. Middle Eastern studies I got attached to during my exchange semester in Israel, definitely challenges my own identity and work in sociology every day. In this process, I feel compelled to rethink the hypotheses, premises and paradigms I worked and work with and I am more than happy that as a sociologist, my own discipline strongly enables me to do so and continues this critical reflection. A reflection that should not be limited to the social sciences but rather hopefully will spread over society.
The critical reflection of complex social phenomena in abstract theoretical ways as well as its observation in empirical studies, the ability to discuss social issues and topics in an educated, not simplifying way and thus the enablement to enrich decision making processes with my knowledge makes sociology outstandingly valuable, fruitful and important for me. The way to think I acquired by studying this deeply critical, abstract, complex, often frustrating discipline makes it to the best I could ever have dreamed of for me.
I see sociology as an individual as well as a collective enrichment for society which needs sociologists in times of high complexity more than ever.