21st century sociology

As societies become ever more globalised and complex the need for sociologists is becoming more vital, as Anthony Elliott explains.

Sociology, it is thought by many, is about the study of society. Just as political scientists study power, and economists study finance, so sociologists study society. Correct? Not quite.

Sociology is certainly about the study of large-scale social institutions, ranging all the way from business enterprises and companies to multinational corporations such as BP and global governance forums such as the United Nations.

However, it is also the study of everyday, ordinary life. In this connection, sociologists study identity and the self; sexuality and intimacy; the body and gender; as well as family relationships, youth and popular culture.

21st Century Sociology

“Sociology has become the pre-eminent social science to provide fresh thinking about a whole range of vital issues affecting the public sphere”

Sociology’s heyday, according to some, was the 1960s when the discipline was associated with political radicalism. Since that period, sociology went through a period of decline in the 1980s.

Now, in these early years of the twenty-first century, it has re-emerged in universities and public political life more vibrantly than ever before.

In particular, sociology has become the pre-eminent social science to provide fresh thinking about a whole range of vital issues affecting the public sphere.

Of all the social sciences, sociology has contributed the most novel accounts of the transformed character and dynamics of everyday life in the 21st century. Sociological authors have pioneered discussions of, amongst others, globalisation, postmodernism, the information society, risk, gender and sexuality, and the changing nature of politics.

World-renowned sociology departments that specialise in contributions to public life, politics and social policy include the London School of Economics’ Sociology Department and the Department of Sociology at Flinders University, Australia.

Written by Anthony Elliott (2010)
Chair of Sociology
Flinders University, Australia

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