Understanding Our Society (Part1): Sociology and the Social Facts

To begin with, one of the problematic experiences of people is understanding the society where they belong. It results in a stressful life and failures, by which they do not know where to position themselves, creating more complex problems. Look at the picture. People have different perceptions of certain things, on what is happening around them. They can tell stories based on how they perceive or experience something.

On the one hand, we usually look at a thing subjectively, with biases and prejudices. This subjectivity involves the emotional state of the onlooker or observer. On the other hand, only a few might objectively look at things. Objectivity entails fair judgment based on pieces of empirical evidence or verifiable facts.

Well, before going further, what is sociology anyway? Sociology studies society focusing on people’s social behaviour and its consequences. According to Emile Durkheim, a French sociologist, such behaviours and their consequences are social facts which are external and coercive to people. It is so because they are collective forces emanating or coming from the social setting. Hence, social realities result from people’s interactions with social institutions. Sociology analyses patterns of human social relationships and behaviours affecting their lives in society.

Thus, a core discussion in sociology is people’s behaviour and the consequences of such an experience. It is so because our behaviour results from interacting with different social institutions. For instance, individuals interact or socialize first and foremost with the family, the school, peer groups, the church, the government and other organizations composing society.

Well, in a simple way, how do we define society? Society is a community with shared values, beliefs, traditions and culture. Unquestionably, we all know we are members of a particular social group. Moreover, aside from our citizenship, people have business, professional and other groups with different practices or cultures. However, culture or a way of life, particularly in today’s time, is fluid. It means it is constantly changing as influenced by the rapids of technology, for example, learning culture at schools or working circumstances: in-person, virtual (online/distant) or hybrid. Also, consider electronic communication systems such as smartphones and emails, fashion and music, among other changes in our traditional way of life.

Let me give another excellent point to understand society. Society is hierarchical and structured, which describes layers of power or authority. Social classification or status system is a concrete example of a hierarchy: lower, middle and upper class. Today, it is more complicated, as we have lower and upper middle classes. Now, can we eliminate such a structure in our society? The answer is no because that is the setup or design of social organizations. That is how they function. Therefore, our consciousness about social processes is as critical as recognizing social realities to understand society better.

So, class consciousness or the awareness of our social status is vital to positioning ourselves in the complexity of our society — for instance, the capitalists or businesspeople versus workers or the working class. Being rich or poor suggests a familiar debate about inequality among people and locating their place at the social echelon. At the same time, the accumulation of material wealth is the everyday basis of the argument. Considering such a situation, the distinction among people is the socioeconomic status (SES) comparing the rich and the poor. But, you know what? There is more. Let us take, for example, our attitude toward what we have. Whether big or small resources we have, our behaviour toward such resources counts. Given our case between the rich and the poor, the behaviour toward spending or investing their resources is two different things: to gain or lose from what they have.

Henceforth, social realities, which are actual happenings in our social world, are the main emphasis of our discussion, other than mere ideologies. Let us say equality – it will never be in a social world. It does not happen, making it an empty social signifier, meaning many factors exist to quantify, or there is no actual object and no agreed-upon meaning. Therefore, instead of believing in social doctrines, we must know our social realities to make better choices and informed decisions.

Moreover, it is a fact that every individual as a member of the greater society cannot avoid interaction with major social institutions such as the family, the government and politics, the economy, education and religion. Therefore, no one can deny that we are affected by the processes or interactions with these primary organizations.

These subject matters are extensive. In subsequent discussions, we will narrow down and engage on a specific topic because these primary institutions are more complex or compounded and complicated nowadays. We will choose ordinary people’s common or maybe unique experience and examines how social interactions affect their behaviours. By doing so, we are always at the advantage of knowing and understanding sociology in our everyday lives to focus on what makes us proactive individuals.

Unfortunately, sociology as an academic discipline or field of study is an unpopular degree or course in the education curriculum. Yet, it is one of the introductory courses students must learn. Moreover, education is one of the great pillars of our society that tackles social dynamics and analyzes social problems, by which every citizen can understand the backlash of their culture in the modern world. As an important social institution, education is the direct machinery to let people understand life from a sociological viewpoint. Therefore, integrating sociology into different academic disciplines is a significant intersection to understanding our societal problems and how we position ourselves.

Finally, understanding our society is thought-provoking and exciting because we must recognize social organizations’ processes and understand people’s behaviours behind their publicly exhibited manners or actions. Exploring beyond borders and becoming an open learning instrument is an excellent task for this program. These concluding thoughts end our discussion.


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