These studies claim that people are poor due to many different reasons. Their fates are determined by race, background, religion, location, etc., not merit or hard work. People residing in poor neighborhoods tend to stay there. Many college professors even say that social mobility is rare, and that the smart, wealthy, good-looking white people are the ones who will keep all the wealth due to tax loopholes, as well as the benefits of capitalism that everyone else doesn't have the luxury of experiencing. They also allude to the idea that a dollar earned is a dollar taken from somebody else--a dollar not given for an object of equal value. Are these studies (something I look at as a breeding ground for socialist ideology) legitimate, let alone relevant?
There are a number of references to sociology in the literature of Objectivism, overwhelmingly negative. It's even mentioned in Atlas Shrugged, in the character of a sociology professor aboard the doomed train heading for the tunnel. One illuminating reference that I found appears in Ayn Rand's 1972 article, "Fairness Doctrine for Education," published as Chapter 16 in PWNI, where she surveys the state of higher education. Regarding sociology, she writes (p. 263 in the Signet paperback edition):
Sociology departments are dominated by the fact that no one has ever defined what sociology is.
Today, in 2013, the "Sociology" article in Wikipedia offers an attempt at a definition, as well as providing considerable overview of the whole field and its origins. The main content of the field does, indeed, match the brief description in the question and the disapproving mentions of it in the literature of Objectivism.
There is also a less extensive Wikipedia article on "Socioeconomics" (also known as "social economics"), which "studies how economic activity affects social processes." What kind of "economic activity"? From the description in the question, it does not appear that the economic activity of free markets is studied seriously at all. Yet free markets, if allowed to operate, tend to erode traditional social boundaries, as the expression, "melting pot," once recognized when capitalism in America was at its height. In contrast, the mixing of freedom and controls tends to induce individuals of all persuasions to run for protection in a group of some kind and engage in "pressure-group warfare" in political life. That is a philosophical influence fundamentally, with economic effects as a consequence of the more fundamental ideas shaping the society. The role of philosophy evidently is not studied or even recognized in "social economics," but merely taken for granted as an unacknowledged, non-essential "given" that lingers in the background, rising or falling by inexplicable cultural forces of some kind, allegedly social and economic. The causal force is actually philosophical, as Leonard Peikoff discusses in The DIM Hypothesis and in OPAR, and as Ayn Rand describes in works such as FNI and PWNI.
answered Aug 25 '13 at 14:18
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