What Is Sociology?

At the very least, it's a good question. Introductory sociology textbooks spend quite a few pages trying to answer it. There is even a popular 200-page book called What Is Sociology? In the process of answering the question, some textbooks list the topics of the articles in a recent volume of a general sociology journal. I always enjoyed reading these, so I thought I'd repeat the exercise. Here come the topics of the articles from the most recent volume (113) of the American Journal of Sociology, the field's most renowned worldwide. In many cases, I had to read the abstract to understand what the articles are about. You may think that I'm making some of these up, but I'm not. The list:

How evaluations influence change in organizations; informal communication in state-centered participatory processes; the founding of the Paris opera; the IMF in the early postwar period; recent American gourmet food writing; reciprocity; the role of institutions in globalizing markets; Chinese lawyers' social connections; intergenerational occupational mobility among Chinese men; occupational segregation by sex and race in the current US; the association between the size of the black population and its economic and political power and the size of the police force; why people play the lottery; the educational careers of children with mental health problems; the influence of social connectedness on social movements; the influence of networks on civil society; spatial influences on KKK presence in American counties; community organization and racially motivated crime; the persistence of within-neighbourhood inequalities over time; boundaries between ethnicities; ethnic identity development among Korean adoptees; how labour unions are organized; how women won the right to sit on juries in the first half of the century in the US; the effects of discrimination litigation on women in supermarket management; how religion affects wealth; religious diversity and church membership; the success of the Zapatista movement in Mexico; sex and race discrimination in the workplace; how gender and race affect salary; the effect of continuing immigration on the ethnic boundaries between Mexicans and native-born US citizens; specialization in social movements; desegregation in American schools; how social networks influence whether adolescents choose maths courses, with special reference to gender; a new statistical approach to estimate age-period-cohort effects.


So, what is sociology? A friend of mine once came up with the following:

Sociology is the study of the social causes and consequences of action.

I rather like it, but would like to make an adjustment. Here comes the Lemmus definition of sociology:

Sociology is the study of the social causes and consequences of behaviour.

And there you go.

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