The battle between business and sociology majors

Here is one account of the divide in colleges between business and sociology majors:

I attended undergrad at one of the nation’s more so-called “liberal” schools, San Francisco State University. Some of my fondest memories center on the rivalry, for want of a better word, between the College of Business and the College of Behavioral and Social Science.

You could tell that business students hated taking general education courses in the behavioral and social sciences. That came through most clearly in philosophy, sociology, social work, urban poverty and touchy-feely psychology classes. The business students wanted no part of the “useless crap” we learned in those disciplines. They just wanted to fulfill requirements so they could get into Berkeley’s MBA program or somesuch.

Admittedly, social science geeks, serious psychology majors and even the more politically-active policy wonks dreaded business class. For them, a George Bush fundraising rally would have represented better time spent.

Many of us, particularly those headed to graduate school, considered ourselves embarked on a more righteous endeavor than business students. We were making proper use of education, broadening our minds and learning how to think out of the box. Business students were being fed laws that would bring no positive impact to the world and maybe not even apply outside of a classroom. As I have grown older, I have backed off of this rather pompous view of academia and an MBA’s place in it. Of course, it’s all about perspective. Plus, business students often turned that pompous argument around on us.

There are real differences between these disciplines in how they approach the world. Talking from the sociology end, we tend to critique capitalism (or the excesses of “market logic”), look for broad patterns across social groups, and have different aims (crassly put as helping right social wrongs vs. making money – I know these are not mutually exclusive).

But sometimes I wonder why students don’t put these two disciplines together more. Profit-making can be harnessed for good causes. Businesses can provide good jobs, create capital, and enhance a community. It is hard to run a non-profit or a social service agency without knowledge about managing finances. Both disciplines use quantitative analysis (though the variables and the outcomes we care about may differ) so some of these skills are transferable. Sociologists can use real-world training in management and setting up organizations. Doing business requires a lot of interaction with people, something that sociology can help with because you need to have an understanding of what motivates people plus how their context affects their actions (a one-size-fits-all approach is difficult to implement across different social settings). Additionally, sociology can help people in business see the the big picture beyond making money, promoting a longer-term view and more nuanced understanding about where their operation fits within society.

Are there any schools that promote a joint program or have a large number of students who tackle both of these disciplines?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s