Sociology is often defined as “The study of society; human social interaction”.
This field considers social structures, both Cognitive and Material. An example of a Cognitive Social Structure is the established institution of religion and how its operation affects the collective awareness. For instance, Prolife Christians share a disposition that human”life” is a separate element of nature and that killing an unborn fetus is wrong. Concurrently, the competition based monetary system has proponents putting forth ideas such as how competition is the most productive social state that humans can engage in.
Material Social Structures, on the other hand, are very obvious and they exist in the form of corporations and governments, each having a strong influence on society. Of course, all Material Social Structures bleed over into the Cognitive realm, for they always have an ideology behind them.
Now, a common sociological issue has to do with “Human Nature” and its effect in a collective sense. For instance, most people have been taught that human beings are naturally competitive with each other, along with the assumption that social stratification or hierarchy is also a “natural human tendency”. This is a fallacy.
If you look to, say, a pack of lions, you will see social hierarchy and violent competition for food in most cases. This comparison is what leads people to think it is a natural occurrence in human society as well (war, greed, ego, etc.). What is overlooked however, are the Environmental Conditions present in each case. The pack of Lions exist in a world of Scarcity. They do not have the ability to create traps for food, nor is food accessible in an ‘on demand’ basis. They have to hunt and fight with each other. This creates competition naturally, for in order to survive, the lions MUST be aggressive with each other. In turn, hierarchy is developed for the strongest of these lions wins the most, and in turn exert their dominance in a stratified way.
Likewise, in our current Human Society, the exact same thing is going on. Humans have been living in the same sort of scarcity since the dawn of existence. However, as time has gone on, we have become more and more “civilized” due to our ability to Create. Unlike the Lions, humans are able to create tools and set in motion processes that free the human being from a particular chore or problem, reducing Scarcity.
Given this “insight” we then see that on a fundamental level that if scarcity could be eradicated, then human behavior would undergo a dramatic change, moving away from competition, dominance and stratification.
Likewise, outmoded ideologies that do not stand up to the test of time, such as theistic religion, compound this myth that humans/society are built a certain way. For example, the Catholic ideology states that humans are “born with sin”. This is outmoded and based on a primitive understanding of human behavior.
There is no difference in behavior between a “Ghandi” baby or a “Hitler” baby… it is the environment that shapes the person and hence the society (and vice versa).
Therefore, true Sociological change will come from removing the conditions that cause the aberrant behavior patterns which pollute our societies. Prison, Police and Laws end up being patchwork to these problems and, in fact, tend to make things worse, over time.
Ultimately, it is going to take a redesign of our culture to bring about a change in human behavior – for the better.