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SOCY 3391

II. Debunking and Being Skeptical A. Debunking According to Berger, it's the job of sociology to debunk commonly accepted notions about society. Debunking is a process of questioning actions and ideas that are usually taken for granted. It refers to looking behind the facade of everyday life. It refers to looking at the behind-the-scenes patterns and processes that shape the behavior observed in the social world (Andersen & Taylor, 2001:6). B. Being Skeptical Barkan (1997:5) contends that sociology, given the emphasis on the structural basis for individual behavior, often challenges conventional wisdom. He cites Max Weber in arguing that one of sociology's most important goals is to uncover what Weber called "inconvenient facts." Peter Berger (in Barkan, 1997:6) contends "sociology refuses to accept official interpretations of society." Often official interpretations are filled with propaganda. According to Berger, it's the job of sociology to debunk this motif. With this in mind, students of sociology should acquire a healthy skepticism regarding overly simplified (or commonly accepted) conceptions of human affairs. It is tempting to look for simple answers or what Ross Perot (1992) calls "sound bites" to explain complex social phenomena. Example: Hitler blamed Germany's post-World War One problems on the Jews. Example: Few realize the benefits associated with undocumented immigration. Example: Are drugs bad? Many don't consider that the United States exports dangerous drugs (e.g., tobacco). III. The Myth of Objectivity Many often claim to strive for objectivity. Objectivity is sought both in the subject under study and as a strategy for teaching students. At some level, however, the concept of objectivity is a myth. What appears objective may simply be a political event. The positions defined and accepted as objective may, in fact, represent the positions of people, organizations, or governments who happen to hold power. While objectivity in the strictest sense is a myth, it is at least possible, and desirable, to strive for a common understanding. Often, social concepts and even vocabulary is vague. For example, many may state a desire to reduce levels of inequality in the U.S. What, exactly, does 'reducing inequality' mean? Do we mean 'equal opportunity' as inferred by affirmative action? Do we mean reducing the income-gap or wealth-gap between the wealthiest and poorest in our society? Or, do we mean 'radical leveling' as practiced by the Khmer Rouge in the Killing Fields of Cambodia? How can we recognize whether we have achieved our goal? Arguably, Cambodia had greater 'equality' between citizens in 1978 than the United States now has
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