This is an exciting time of dramatic social change, both nationally and internationally. Global processes are integrating the world and creating the “global village.” At the same time, old hostilities based on ethnic solidarity are re-emerging and tearing the social fabric of various parts of the world. The U.S. economy is undergoing structural change, which, in turn, is altering the occupational structure; the United States is becoming more multicultural, and the meanings of “community” are shifting. In these changes there are huge benefits for some and heavy costs for others. “Social problems” (e.g., health care availability, poverty, crime, or threats to the environment) are not marginal to societies but integral to them.
Sociologists try to understand these phenomena. For some, this means informing public policy; for others, the social world is simply one of the most interesting things to study. Sociologists study social organization. For some, this means examining societies-how they are structured, how they work, and how they change. Other sociologists study how small social groups work and how they change. This includes the social networks that people form as part of their social life. Issues of race, class, and gender affect the opportunities and constraints faced by different groups in society. Sociologists study how people belong to families, groups, and organizations-how people develop identities and how their social organizations become real. Sociologists also focus on broad patterns of social organization socialization, education, welfare, health care, etc. In short, the social world is endlessly fascinating.
For more information on the sociology major, the sociology minor, and the Department of Sociology, see www.sociology.pitt.edu.