Friday, January 2, 2009

The Difference Between Sociology and Psychology (Theory & Practice)

Ask Metafilter has this great page of answers on the question of the difference between sociology and psychology [link]. I might have read it before, but when I read it this time, all the lights went on like a big Christmas Parade:


[Side note. Read the link above, and then entertain this question: Is Marriage and Family Therapy a sociologically-derived field of therapy?]

In working through Grounded Theory à la Barney Glaser (whose writings tend to be more resolute about "what is" and "what isn't" [read: positivist]), I am beginning to appreciate what Classic Grounded Theory means when it insists on a difference between Theory and Full Conceptual Description. There IS a difference.

Having done my undergrad in one of the top schools of psychology, I understand psychological theory well. A real snob-school will tell you what is and what isn't about psychology--it guards its turf well. Studying the family is about the intersection of sociology and psychology (with sprinklings of anthropology, communication studies, economics, etc). So none of our coursework "taught" us what sociology--specifically--is about. None of that turf-guarding stuff in family studies, and so we end up a little loosey goosey [read: postmodern?].

Anyway, I am having some fun embracing a more boundaried approach to defining what is and what isn't in terms of sociological theory, and even who can do sociological theorizing:

"This book [The Discovery of Grounded Theory] is intended to underscore the basic sociological activity that only sociologists can do: generating sociological theory. Description, ethnography, fact-finding, verfication (call them what you will) are all done well by professionals in other fields and by laymen in various investigatory agencies. But these people cannot generate sociological theory from their work. Only sociologists are trained to want it, to look for it, and to generate it." (Glaser & Strauss, 1967, pp.6-7)

Snobbish, isn't it?

That's okay. I'll play their bluff and pretend to be a sociologist for this dissertation. After all, if MFT is a sociologically-aligned field of therapy (see side note above), then I can very well claim sociology as my field!

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