Why I Prefer Todd Schoepflin’s perspective to Orlando Patterson’s

My friend and colleague Todd Schoepflin tweeted earlier today about having enough points on a ‘sub card’ to get a free sub. It’s an exciting moment. I’ve been there, and that sub really does taste better. It’s revealing about the value of money and food, I’d argue, and how emotions and physiological experiences are context dependent. I might be over interpreting that, fine, but there is certainly room for an interesting sociological analysis of sandwich transactions.

Todd later made a somewhat self deprecating tweet about ‘tweeting the mundane.’ I think sociologists can and should say revealing things about the mundane. Most of every life is mostly mundane. It is the routines of the mundane that makes sociology possible in the first place, and it’s a part of human life that I think sociologists have a unique opportunity and skill set to explore. I believe this even in light of the recent conversation on my social media sources about Orlando Patterson’s complaint that sociologists have made themselves irrelevant. First, I’d ask irrelevant to what? Next, I’d say I just don’t think it’s true that we’ve ‘made ourselves’ irrelevant. I think it’s at least as reasonable to argue we’ve been ignored and demonized by policy makers for doing exactly what we should be doing – questioning the ideologies of the powerful.

Yes, sociologists should make their work available to policy makers and do everything we can to affect change through such channels. I know several sociologists who do this very well without finding the limelight or writing Piketty-esque books. But it would be a shame if our collective effort was aimed at becoming part of the power-elite at the expense of paying close attention to how and why folks buy subs, make subs as employment, sit in traffic, parent in public, fall in love, manage the work/life balance, and all the million other mundane things most of us do most of the time.

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