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Sociology and the Self

How Being a Sociology Student Has Aided in Becoming a Better 'Me'

Sociology. We have all heard about it to some extent,  and maybe even studied it in secondary/high school. However, within a normal, day-to-day basis, we rarely give sociology any thought. Even in education, often times we are simply trying to tick the right boxes, meet a grade or match some pre-determined criteria. All of this is perfectly understandable, as education is never the end goal but merely a stepping stone to where we want to be. I am currently traversing said stepping stones, with fewer hours of sleep than you can count on your hand and a pasta driven diet, I can assure you it can be very difficult (and mean very difficult) to parse through the droning literature of a long gone Karl Marx or Auguste Comte. All of that, only to be told you need to jot down a multi-thousand-word document about it.

Coming to university I was somewhat naive yet, I had a general idea about what I was heading towards. University served as a new start in life, an exploration into life outside of my hometown—something different. I never really been super adventurous or extroverted. For the most part, I simply trollied along the conveyor belt of life and never stopped to ask questions. This was certainly true for school, as well as the various other avenues of life; I never really worked that hard, simply doing the bare minimum to keep the conveyor belt running—still no questions. Said conveyor belt eventually dropped me off at uni, and I soon found myself face-first in what appeared to be endless content; birthed directly from the womb of a university library. Simply looking for references and essay material, I initially struggled to truly take much away from the words that eclipsed my waking hours. Slowly but surely, the message of what I was reading was getting across.

It was a Friday. Early morning (maybe 3 AM). Sculpting an essay about George Ritzer's theory of 'McDonaldisation' and it's applicability to contemporary society (How riveting). As a broad (and I mean very broad) explanation of this, Ritzer essentially likens the way our current society operates to the functions of a fast-food chain (Hence the titling of his thesis), deriving a lot of his concepts from the previous works of Max Weber—another profound sociologist. Ritzer's interpretation of Weber's theory of rationalisation was compelling to me in a few ways, yet, it was one quote from Ritzer really stood out to me:

George Ritzer

"...irrationality means that rational systems are unreasonable systems. By that, I mean that they deny the basic humanity, the human reason, of the people who work within or are served by them."
—Ritzer (1994)

Here, Ritzer is talking about how corporations' attempt to make us more 'efficient' -or in this case "rational"—will never work, simply denying our "basic humanity." Yet when analysing this, I drew from it something more personal. Something more profound to myself. To me, this concept really stands true. Not only in that attempting to gain control over everything in our life is impossible; losing our humanity in doing so, but that it works in the opposite direction, in that a lack of control can also cause us to lose our humanity and, in turn, our sense of self.

For some, this idea may seem obvious, yet to me, it was profound because it made me look within myself and visualise that lack of control, that I was failing to mediate the levels of 'rationalisation' within my life. Prior to this, I was simply setting myself to be the next 'brick in the wall' amongst a cluster of others who also chugged along the same conveyor belt.

Granted, those of you who are familiar with sociology or take the quote for what it is may argue I am simply interpreting it the wrong way, and that means nothing of the sort. And there is truth to that. I can imagine Ritzer never intended his work to be viewed in such a way and would likely cringe at the sight of this but regardless, his work has welled a new sense of what it means to be me, albeit in the most bizarre and misconstrued way.

Obviously, this wasn't some overnight revival of a sense of self. I knew this was something that would take some time and that I am still building upon to this day. I knew that numerous changes were to be made before I could truly try and grasp certain elements of my life and make a change. I understand I am still fairly young and that I will likely make a variety of mistakes for years to come, but that is what this is all about. Trail and error at its finest. As individuals and as a whole, we are persistently looking to better ourselves and even those around us.

I hope this article has helped spark the minds of others or it may have done nothing at all. This has simply been one example of how studying sociology and life at university, in general, has helped me learn more about myself and what it means to live life as 'me.' I have learned a lot and feel far better during this process, and for that, all I have to say is,



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