The Strategy Toolkit - September 2022 edition
Excerpt: Strategy and Sociology, part one
This chapter poses quite the challenge, in terms of scale and scope. For, according to the American Sociological Association, sociology is:
“the study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behaviour. Sociologists investigate the structure of groups, organisations, and societies and how people interact within these contexts. Since all human behaviour is social, the subject matter of sociology ranges...”*
…over just about anything one wants it to. At some level of analysis, therefore, everything considered strategic is arguably within the field of sociology. For a narrower range of topics, look to China, an example being the list of topics found suitable for publication by the Shanghai University-based Chinese Journal of Sociology:
“social stratification / social inequality; social movements; social organisations and social governance; cultural and ideological change; migration; migrant workers and urbanisation; family and demographic studies; the sociological understanding of the environment; and social security and social policy.”*
Sociology is, in other words, the quintessential social science. Its boundaries are disputed and inconsistently defined. Its methods are characterised by some as less rigorous and less developed than those of the sciences of the Scientific Revolution. Its conclusions are fought over by governments and other power bases around the world. Even comparing sociology to the physical sciences is contentious, as Auguste Comte, Karl Marx, Herbert Spencer, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel found in the tensions between positivism and anti-positivism, major strands within the philosophy of sociology.*
In this chapter, our treatment of sociology is not exhaustive, nor is it intended to be so. In the course of our research, we have found many areas of interest to strategists and sociologists alike, and share them. Some are in this chapter, and some are to be found in other chapters where overlaps occur (e.g. socio-biology in biology). These overlaps are emblematic of the field of sociology, and reflective of human nature, perhaps. If anyone can in effect call some phenomenon sociological, then who is to argue? Some might say that this permissiveness diminishes the field by eroding its power and authority. That it is better to establish clear, hard boundaries governing the social science of sociology and to defend them, to own them. Others simply point out that this illustrates an ensuing competition for ideas and that such competition can lead to advancements in any science, and thus should be celebrated.
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