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Social Science 101: Sociology

Prof Frederick V. Rael has been teaching for almost 20 years in various local colleges and universities in the Philippines.

Stephen Covey, a well-known leadership guru stated,” It's not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.”

Stephen Covey, a well-known leadership guru stated,” It's not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.” Though Stephen Covey is not a sociologist (based on what I know), he certainly possesses a sociological imagination, which can be learned by studying sociology. He is entirely correct when he said that the more important thing is our response to what is happening around us than the gravity of the social issues that we are facing. Many social and environmental factors are uncontrollable but we can do something about our mindset and response to them. Our ability to fully comprehend the connection of social events to our personal life is called sociological imagination in sociology.



The Origin of Sociology


Sociology is one of my favorite social sciences that I teach in college. This subject or field of study is not as popular in the Philippines as its sibling psychology and political science. However, it is as useful as any other social science in terms of scientifically analyzing and understanding social problems concerning one’s life. In the middle of the 18th century, scientists were groping for answers to the numerous social problems that plagued Europe as a result of industrialization. Auguste Comte, a French Philosopher, utilized scientific laws in understanding social issues such as overpopulation, pollution, labor issues, poverty, and others. In 1830, he coined the word Sociology, which originated from the Latin word socius (companion) and the Greek word logos (knowledge or study). Later on, sociology had been viewed as a field of study that examined society from a positivist approach. Comte claimed that society must be analyzed objectively by gathering social facts and a scientific approach. Consequently, Sociology was used to examine social issues along with natural sciences (chemistry, physics, engineering, mathematics) and create solutions to the everyday problems of ordinary people.


However, academicians and scientists at that time were skeptical about the application of sociological theories in dealing with social issues. Herbert Spencer (a Social Darwinist) asserted that there was a need to apply the scientific method in examining social problems. Spencer proposed that a society should be viewed as an entity that could also evolve from simple to complex just like any organism. Emile Durkheim contributed to the development of sociology by establishing the first Department of Sociology and formulated the Rules of the Sociological Method.



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Sociological Imagination


Sociology has become very relevant, especially in dealing with the two crises that confront us today, the pandemic and the Russian-Ukraine crisis. These two issues can be better understood from the lenses of sociology. C. Wright Mill wrote a book entitled,” Sociological Imagination” in 1959, which means the ability to understand the connection of social issues to one’s life. Sociological imagination is one of the many things that a student can learn in taking up sociology. By enhancing one’s sociological imagination, a student will increase his/her awareness of the impacts of public issues on his/her life, which may lead to a better response toward specific social events. As we all know, awareness functions as a radar that collects and processes information coming from external stimuli. The more we are aware of a social event, the higher the information that our mind could digest. Our increased awareness will also lead to better judgment and response toward certain social events, as Stephen Covey emphasized. Thus, sociological imagination would inspire us to become more conscious of social events, which would lead to greater responsibility for our actions.


Through sociological imagination, we can have an enlightened perspective on the ongoing pandemic and the Russian-Ukraine conflict. The pandemic has taught us that everybody is interconnected. The COVID-19 virus has been transmitted from one person to another and has been transferred from one country to the other. Indeed, the world is like an organism with many parts that contribute to its survival. The different countries in the world should do their share in the effective prevention of the COVID-19 virus. No country (rich or poor) can isolate itself from the world in dealing with the pandemic. As long as one country has infected citizens, the world is still threatened by the pandemic.

In terms of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, though the Philippines is not directly affected by the missile attacks, the lack of supply of oil products from Russia will lead to high prices of commodities, transportation fare hikes by Jeepney drivers, electricity supply issues, and other economic implications.



Conclusion


As ordinary citizens, we would be able to respond appropriately if we understand how these social issues would affect us all. Through our sociological imagination, we would realize that we must help in solving the pandemic by contributing to the solution through little ways like wearing face masks, regular hand washing and use of alcohol, observing social distancing, and staying at home if we don’t have any essential thing to do outside. For the Russian-Ukraine crisis, we can help our family by saving money, reducing electricity and water bills, and praying to a higher being or Cosmic Entity that the said conflict would end diplomatically or peacefully in the soonest possible time.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Frederick V Rael

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