Jürgens, K. (2021), Mit Soziologie in den Beruf – Eine Handreichung (With Sociology into the Profession - a Guide), Bielefeld: transcript Verlag.
Professor Kerstin Jürgens has written a easily readable guide for sociology students who want to prepare themselves to enter a profession. It Is also an interesting guide for employers who want to recruit a sociology student as an intern or junior employee. Jürgens writes that young adults in particular change their thematic interests and preferences relatively often and quickly. An employer can take this into account and give the employee the opportunity to explore different research/advisory themes so that one keeps the interest in work. Also for a general audience, interested in finding out what sociology is, reading Jürgens' book can help in busting some myths. The insight that the sociologist's task is to identify underexposed bottlenecks can help to get to a win-win situation in which the employee is satisfied with his/her work for the organization and in which the organization gets a systematic (sociological) analysis that goes deeper than the usual organizational analyses.
Sociology is an empirical science. It tries to understand what is going on in society by, for example, viewing documents, images or videos, observing in a structured manner, interviewing people, starting group discussions or generating data via standardized surveys. If empirical research says that it is in the field, then it is about the natural living environment of the people observed (field research). On the basis of this empirical research, theories about the social and society can be developed. Training in sociology qualifies people to understand and analyze society, as well as to shape it.
Concepts serve as containers in which sociology stores its assumptions about the social. However, they can only be used as analytical tools if their definition is clarified. Sociology tolerates different definitions, which need to be connected or differentiated. According to Jürgens, one should ask oneself whether analyzes or concepts take into account the current state of research or whether surveys meet the standards defined by the subject.
If one wants to obtain an academic degree in sociology, the original texts are always one's central reference, Jürgens writes. In this book, she discusses the work of Max Weber, Pierre Bourdieu, Niklas Luhmann, Renate Mayntz and others.
Max Weber advised to follow the principle of freedom from value judgements: people put themselves in the service of investigating facts and their connections. Weber's demands mainly concerned the context of research justification, the stage in which empirical data is evaluated on the basis of theories and models and hypotheses are formulated or discussed. This does not exclude viewing such findings retrospectively in terms of what they really mean for society and what conclusions political actors can draw from them. Weber's own research was closely attuned to socio-politically delicate problem areas and he wrote his studies in such a way that the knowledge gained would also have a social impact. With his lectures on "Politics as a Profession" and "Science as a Profession", Weber asked to reflect on one's own actions. Weber came to the conclusion that one needs a certain personality and that one has to make decisions about points of view about life. He therefore spoke of the inner vocation to science. For him, doing science meant recognizing inconvenient facts, including those that contradict one's own opinions, values and beliefs.
Precisely because of its power to examine people's attitudes and lifestyles, sociology has always been of great political interest. Their representatives should always carefully consider the extent to which they interfere in what is happening, Jürgens writes. The study of sociology does not serve the purpose of self-discovery, though this can be achieved through a roundabout way of understanding society in its complexity and by having fun with while figuring out why people think the way they think and act the way they do.
Sociology is not a profession in the strictest sense: The individual programs and courses at university are not easily comparable and show large differences in the career paths that emerge.
Sociology is a science that, since its inception, has been committed to examining the relationship between the actions of individuals and the collective 'society'. Attitudes and perspectives of people, and therefore also their self-image, are central. How the social is interpreted and processed and to what extent this in turn affects the subject's constitution has been and is explored in numerous studies.
George Herbert Mead realized that identity is dynamically created through interactions. Identity cannot be seen as static, but changes over our life time, depending on the respective circumstances and interaction experiences. Identity is an indicator of a certain uniqueness of the concrete person. Individuality serves to distinguish oneself from others. In society, one is tempted to at the same time be like everyone and like no one else. In the transition from university to professional life or between professions, the social side is set in motion when new interaction partners appear on the scene, representing different, possibly foreign values and initiating an inquiry into their own values. If the person fails to create cohesion here, he can resolve the situation through social distancing or withdrawal; However, the possibilities for this are limited, not only in professional life. Lothar Krappmann, in his book "Sociological dimensions of identity", considers social structures to be potentially identity-threatening and therefore looks for the skills needed in such phases to stabilize identity. Since a full-time job is usually taken up with entry into working life, it already fills a large part of daily life in purely quantitative terms. In addition, there are numerous and multifaceted interactions associated with paid work, for example with colleagues, supervisors or customers and clients.
Starting an occupation
Occupations are phenomena that have been formed and developed under certain socio-historical conditions and in the confrontation of different actors. They can be influenced by changes in the contextual conditions of the respective society.
Since employment is highly organized on the basis of the division of labor, workers differ in terms of qualifications and specific responsibilities, as well as work experience. When they start their careers, many graduates initially feel like a stranger in their new workplace. This impression usually does not last long, as a process of professional socialization begins in which the familiar and the old are connected with the new and culminate in a professional identity. A specialist professional identity that can be used as an aid in daily work: No presentation, no thesis and no data collection is possible without reflection on one's own attitude. This competence is also awarded by others on the basis of diplomas or certificates. The self-efficacy of others strengthens the confidence of those concerned in their own abilities. In work, there is a clear division of tasks and hierarchical structures and one's specific contribution, even if it is no longer about credits and grades, is still subject to examination. With the employment contract, the employee is subject to the employer's right to issue instructions. In the academic professions, the specific work process is managed less through close management of individual steps by supervisors, but rather through target agreements. Individuals are now responsible for the success of their work.
Pierre Bourdieu and Loïc Wacquant use "fields" to raise awareness of status struggles and divisional conflicts that arise from the formation of groups that claim exclusive responsibility for something and define affiliations or exclusion. Fields confront the actors: from the inside as a solidified structure and limit their scope for action. Niklas Luhmann (1984) emphasizes the importance of communication for the establishment, consolidation and continuation of such units - social systems. Special sociologies explain the dynamics and structural entanglement of an area and show how processes are organized there, who collaborates and interacts with each other, and what strategies practitioners follow. The empirical studies show why who acts how in the field and how the field ticks.
Organizations are under constant pressure to adapt to changing context conditions. Above all, sociologists should keep an eye on the interaction of all challenges and possible interactions between the respective design approaches.
Societies are very dynamic structures. Although modernization can be interpreted as the history of the domination and domestication of nature, Jürgens stressed that the experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic in the collective memory show that human existence is fundamentally fragile and vulnerable. The numerous offers from the private sector to insure themselves against illness, accidents, property damage or theft followed the intent of making the unpredictable calculable. Such rampant concepts of safety have led to extensive support in emergency situations, but societies may no longer be able to cope with the general instability and uncertainty of life.
Sociologists in the profession
There is a strong increase in professions with an advisory function. The task of sociology is to identify bottlenecks that are still underexposed; "trading against the trend". Sociologists are generalists who are asked where many different and changing things need to be worked out, but an appropriate depth of analysis should not be neglected. The sociologist can work wherever unsystematic information about the surrounding social field should be transformed into systematic information in a specialist system. This transformation work involves not only a careful diagnosis of the current situation, but also the attempt to make a prognosis about the future (predictability).
Renate Mayntz laid the foundation for understanding companies as living structures in which people interact and informal structures play a major role in achieving goals. Many trained HR managers are probably unaware of the complex social structure into which they and their activities are integrated - and the social conditions that must be put in place for their success. In contrast, it is a trademark of sociology to understand the structures, functions and internal dynamics of organizations. In operational organizations, processes are based on efficiency standards and usually organized on the basis of a division of labor. Characteristic are formal structures and hierarchies, which also arise from the status gap between employer/employee.
As a sociologist one is faced with the task of recording, evaluating and often managing the company as a mixture of interactions and relationships, hierarchies and division of labour, individual and collective interests, status struggles, etc. The causes, for example for a lot of absenteeism or the the use of services by employees cannot be understood without taking into account local idiosyncrasies or family ties of the people. The competence of a sociologist is to analyze the company both internally and externally (sales markets, supply chains, regional infrastructure). Professional practice can be understood as educational work about the fact that and how the social can also be designed differently than before. Sociology is a science of possibility. As experts in the social field, as generalists and at the same time converting to systematic information, a sociologist is more likely to be deployed when explanations about human behavior are needed. One does not close one's eyes to the complex relationships and interactions in the social sphere, and one is open to a critical revision of the existing.
Work cultures are particularly successful when the work of the individual is recognized and valued. The sociologist is advised to keep an overview in complex and confusing situations of what should be judged as influential and that one is not afraid to state conflicting views or question previous proceedings.
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