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How Sociology Differs From Gov and Ec



To the Editors of The Crimson:

I was surprised to read that Professor of Sociology James A. Davis thinks that the Social Studies concentration is only for those "practicing for their LSATs" rather than for those "interested in studying society."

I was a Social Studies concentrator. I found that Social Studies offered a sophomore tutorial program second to none, that it provided a balance of courses in the social sciences that gave me a picture of how they all fit together and thus kept disciplinary boundaries from prematurely narrowing my range of interests, and that it prepared me well--better, I think, than any other undergraduate concentration save Economics would have--for graduate study in the social sciences.

I would be distressed if Davis' letter gave anyone the impression that a Social Studies concentration is a less serious or a less substantive intellectual experience than one in, say, Government or History.

On a more serious level, one joke going around Littauer Center last week--a joke I found apt and that I repeated--was that Davis and Acting Chair of the Sociology Department Orlando Patterson demonstrate the difference between the substantive concerns of Economics, Government and Sociology. We in Economics study markets, prices and individual choices. When graduate students choose not to teach in Economics, we respond by making teaching in Economics more attractive by raising salaries, especially in our key courses, Social Analysis 10 and Economics 970.

Government professors study politics and representation. When graduate students choose not to teach in Government, they hold meetings to ascertain public opinion and to redress grievances.

In Sociology, they study systems of domination and propaganda. When graduate students choose not to teach in Sociology, they respond by trying to dominate and propagandize--not by making it more attractive for their graduate students to teach in Sociology, but less attractive outside of Sociology.

I think that this joke has a strong element of truth at its core. Patterson and Davis use phrases such as "Social Studies teaching...a dead end professionally," "graduate students..[who] become pre-tort coaches rather than apprentice...teachers" and "disloyal," which appear to be veiled and not-so-veiled threats to their graduate students who teach in Social Studies.

They use phrases, such as "falsely assumed reputation of Social Studies," "antiquarian exegesis" and "sophistry," which appear to be attempts to tear down Social Studies, not to build up Sociology. J. Bradford De Long   Assistant Professor of Economic

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