Ongoing political debates about sociology in Canada’s House of Commons

A collection of sayings from a recent debate in Canada’s House of Commons on the country’s involvement in fighting ISIS includes some thoughts on sociology:

Sociology, bad: “We must remind ourselves that the root cause of terrorism is the terrorist himself. He, and he alone, has chosen his path,” said Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre.

Sociology, good: “I am saying to the prime minister that it is time for him to consider sociology, social sciences and political sciences, indeed all our world knowledge, both in Canada and elsewhere in the West, and think about effective ways of intervening so that we never have to go through this experience again…,” said NDP MP Denis Blanchette.

On the first quote: individuals do indeed make choices, both good and bad. Yet, to completely pin a decision on a person without any recognition of the broader social forces around them is odd. Think of the typical admonition from parents to their kids to watch out who they hang out with because they don’t want their kids to get in with a bad crowd. People are affected by those around them, even as the vast majority of people around the world in tough situations don’t choose terrorism or crime.

On the second quote: this refers back to comments from Stephen Harper who has suggested several times that sociology provides excuses for criminal and terrorist behavior. Again, explaining why things happen doesn’t necessarily mean saying that people don’t have any agency and that they shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions.

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