Many people will say the reason you shouldn’t major in sociology, anthropology, women’s studies, various ethnic studies or other social sciences is because the job market is riddled with high unemployment and low pay for graduates in these fields. Better to major in the science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) fields, or learn a trade, because that way you’ll find a job more easily and get paid better, you’ll hear.
But this isn’t one of those arguments. After all, you’re doing what you love and are going to make the world a better place, the job market isn’t all that bad, money isn’t everything anyway and maybe you’ll even go on to graduate school to become a respected expert, right? Not so fast.
Rather than doing what you love, you just might feel helpless and become depressed studying the social sciences. You’ll learn interesting things about people for sure, and about how society plays into the abundance of injustice in the world. You’ll probably notice you can’t really do much of anything by yourself about this thing called society and begin feeling like maybe the world is unjust to you personally.
If only more people would listen, then they could be liberated, but most people will have other ideas. Maybe you could become a sociologist, the one social science occupation where people report relatively high levels of satisfaction, and then people will listen!
But there are only 2,600 sociologists in the entire United States according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and there aren’t many places for new ones. More likely you’ll end up in a highly stressful life as a high school teacher. Still, maybe you can reach the next generation there.
But then we have to consider the social sciences might be creating more problems than they solve. For instance, you might want to look at an increasingly well-known Twitter account called New Real Peer Review (@RealPeerReview), dedicated to posting links to absurd research published in peer-reviewed journals, particularly in the social sciences.
Their examples highlight the fact that the social sciences are heavily influenced by postmodern philosophy, a kind of extreme skepticism that developed in reaction to the stuffy and conformist societies of the West right after World War II. So extreme, in fact, that we can’t assume that even objectivity really exists; the only truths we truly know about are lived experiences.
How far can we take this? Beyond the bounds of intuition, for sure. A paper in the journal of Sociology of Education proposed discouraging young children from emulating heterosexual relationships, lest they get the idea that heterosexuality might be normal. What are the pressing issues of the day? A paper in the journal Qualitative Inquiry investigates the nature of shared human-pigeon lives. You know, in case the plot of the pigeon dating computer game Hatoful Boyfriend ever becomes a reality.
The friendliest idea of the 20th century — Marxism — also makes an appearance here, with a new name and mission: critical theory, which brings us ideas like intersectionality and the matrix of oppression. Workers of the world! You’re kind of bigots, actually.
Sure, last time, it resulted in repeated attempts to eradicate existing society and begin anew when people realized they couldn’t achieve their utopian vision with all of the cultural baggage of the past. While this lead to violence, re-education camps and death and the growth of murderous fascist movements in reaction, there’s no way that could ever happen again, right?
But suppose you’re brilliant, above all that, and want to contribute your unique ideas somehow. Better fall in line, honey. The diversity of ideas you’ll find here is in how far left people can take their politics, with more than 95 percent of academics in the social sciences identifying as left of center, many of them radically so, and all the outlook on the world that comes with that.
Are you conservative or libertarian? How adorable. This isn’t going to be a kind journey for you. Liberal? Problematic, at the very least, but acceptable. Soon you’ll be down the black hole of self-criticism.
Not everyone is cut out for STEM, though, and maybe philosophy, journalism, English, international relations, psychology, any foreign language, pre-law or many other majors just don’t interest you. Maybe you’re a masochist who read all of the above and thought it sounded great. Maybe you just don’t believe me — and you should definitely research what I’ve said.
The great thing is that you’re free to make your own choice. I warned you, though.
Amanda Love ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in mathematics.