WaPo op-ed suggests sociology degree are the antithesis of Wall Street

An opinion piece a few days ago in the Washington Post contrasts those working on Wall Street and sociology majors:

How nice it would be if the 99 percent had never heard of Wall Street – perhaps if it didn’t exist at all.

There would be no need to be jealous of your college classmates’ $10 million paydays while you majored in sociology. No egg on your face if, as a hot-shot investment manager, you had poured $100 million of widows’ and orphans’ money into securities called collateralized debt obligations that you didn’t understand. There would be no collapse in the value of the home you bought in 2005. Several million people who lost their houses to foreclosure might still be proudly mowing their lawns. And your retirement savings would not be shattered because of all those high-flying technology firms that your mutual fund bought back in the 1990s.

The rest of the opinion piece goes on to talk about the downside of Wall Street. But the comparison of wealthy Wall Street employees versus sociology majors is interesting. The main point seems to be that sociology majors don’t make much money. My response: sociology majors aren’t at the bottom of the heap for median earnings.

A more latent point might be that sociology majors might be the most recognizable discipline that is opposed to the free-market capitalism represented by Wall Street. Is there any other discipline that would be even close? This animosity between sociology and neoliberalism or free-market economics could come from two areas:

1. Different explanations for human actions. Economists tend to go with rational choice explanations that humans are motivated by incentives and self-interest. Sociologists would suggest things are more complex and include factors like values, emotions, ideology, social networks, and altruism.

2. Different values: money and resources flowing freely versus a greater sense for a need for economic and social equality.

There are ways to bridge these two approaches, perhaps in subfields like economic sociology. At the same time, it is interesting to see the choice to contrast Wall Street and sociology.

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