Sociology as a Discipline
Sociology is a very vast yet familiar discipline. It is not like any other subject wherein you have no knowledge about it or you have to start from beginning. It is rather a subject which is an integral part of the process of growing up.
The moment we think of sociology, we deal with the knowledge of the society in which we live. This knowledge of the society is acquired naturally or automatically in the process of growing up. Consequently, a six year old also has some knowledge of the society and social relationships.
Having prior knowledge about the subject of sociology is both advantageous and disadvantageous to you as a student or learner. One of the biggest advantage is that you as a student are not afraid of the subject which makes learning easy for you.
On the other hand, it is disadvantageous because we are easily carried away by our previous knowledge. This will create a problem in learning sociology. The key point here is that we need to unlearn what we already know in order to understand what is correct in terms of society. The process of unlearning is marked as an initial stage for learning sociology.
Concept of Unlearning
It is important to understand why unlearning is an initial or primary stage for sociology. It is necessary because our prior knowledge about society is acquired from particular point of view. This view point is formulated by the social group or the social environment we live in. this socialisation helps us to formulate our opinions, beliefs and expectations. They are not necessarily wrong but probably seem to be ‘partial’. The word ‘partial’ can be understood into two ways – incomplete (the opposite of whole), and biased (the opposite of impartial). This partial nature of prior knowledge allows s to see only the part of social reality. Moreover, it makes things biased towards particular group.
The problem of unlearning is solved by sociology. Sociology does not offer a solution in the from of a perspective that shows us the whole reality in a completely unbiased way. Instead sociologists believe that such a view point doesn’t exist. Sociology, then teaches us how to see the world from different point of views or vantage points.
Each vantage point we talk about provides a partial view, as world looks different from each and every point of view. This partial view gives us the sense that how the whole might look like and what is hidden from view in the specific stand point.
In order to understand further, sociologists gave the concept of self-reflexivity. This is the ability to reflect upon yourself, to turn your gaze towards yourself. In simple words we can understand this as an act in which we try to look upon ourselves in order to understand what others think about us. This process of self-inspection must be very critical i.e. you must criticise self and focus less on praise.
Every individual holds a distinct position in the society. Just like geographical maps, we also have the concept of social map. Social map helps in locating an individual within the society such that the individual knows where he/she is in relation to others in society.
For instance, if we talk about an ‘eighteen year old’, we can easily map him/her into the social group of ‘young people’. Similarly, we can locate him/her in particular religion, linguistics, occupation, family income, economic class, tribe so on and so forth. Each of these identities locate us within a social maps and among a set/web of social relationships. Sociology as such describes the kinds of groups, their relationships and how these groups relate to an individual in a society. However, sociology does not just limit itself to locating people.
Sociologist C.Wright Mill, a well known American sociologist stated that, ‘sociology’ can help you to map the links and connections between ‘personal troubles’ and ‘social issues’. By ‘Personal troubles’, Mills means that everyone has while a social issue is about large groups and not about the individuals who make them up.
Various Social Issues
Every day society faces various challenges which need to be addressed in order to have a well-maintained social life. The first issue is of the generation gap or friction between older and younger generations. This problem is common to almost all societies all over ages. Secondly, any change in occupational structure leads to unemployment. Thirdly, disturbance in community and the formation of communalism where one religious community oppresses the other and casteism which is the exclusion of a castes are the society wide problems.
If we consider our day-to-day scenarios, these social issues are evident in our daily lives. We all are affected the class and gender differences in numerous ways.
To understand these problems from a perspective we use social maps. One social map of accepted common sense is provided to us in our childhood by socialisation. However, this map is misleading. If we leave this map behind, we become free to make a map for ourselves. As there are no readymade maps, we must learn how to draw them. A sociological perspective teaches us exactly how to draw maps.