What is Sociology?

‘What is sociology?’ is a question I’m always asked by my friends and family at home, and even those I go to university with!

Hi, I’m Zoe, and I’m finishing my third and final year of a sociology degree at Portsmouth University. Sociology is a subject that is central to understanding how we live, why we do the things we do in our society and how this is different to other societies and people around the world.

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One unit I have particularly enjoyed learning about is culture and taste. One of the key thinkers we studied in this area was a French sociologist called Bourdieu. He said that a person’s social class and family upbringing determines their ‘capital’ in relation to money, friends and culture, which in turn defines their taste. For example, the amount of money you have can determine whether you can go on holiday or not. Your friends may also be able to help you go on holiday, if they have a house you can stay in, for example. Education about different cultures and knowledge of famous sites may also add to your cultural capital. You could choose to go on holiday for some sun, relaxation and sea, or you might go somewhere with historic or famous sites. Both of these portray your particular taste to others.

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Sociology goes beyond just thinking and common sense, it is about questioning ‘why?’ and looking at the deeper meaning and theory behind things. It is a great subject which can be applied to everyday life and opens possibilities for careers in a number of different areas such as the police, teaching, or health and social care to name a few.

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