Sociology

About Sociology

When, in a city of 100,000, only one man is unemployed, that is his personal trouble, and for its relief we properly look to the character of the man, his skills, and his immediate opportunities. But when in a nation of 50 million employees, 15 million men are unemployed, that is an issue, and we may not hope to find its solution within the range of opportunities open to any one individual.

C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination, 1959


Almost every part of our daily life is social. Our innermost thoughts are expressed in a language we share with others; our interactions with friends, family, professors, or the person we buy our coffee from, follow scripts that differ from culture to culture; the jobs we choose from – and whether we have a job at all – are defined by the socio-economic system of our society; even our relationship with nature is shaped by a social context beyond the control of any individual. We’re born in to a world of meanings and structures that shape us, that we must adapt to, and in many ways try to re-shape, in order to survive.

Sociology seeks to understand these broad forces, systems, and structures on their own terms. As C. Wright Mills put it, we use our sociological imagination to get beyond the everyday world we take for granted as individuals, and to understand the broader social and historical situation we are in. In what way are the choices we make about the life we want to lead shaped by social structures? How do our ideas of good and bad, justice and fairness, or freedom and oppression relate to the sort of society we live in?

With teaching and research specializations in Criminology & Socio-Legal Studies, Social Structure & Policy, and Theory & Culture, the Department of Sociology at the University of Alberta is one of the best in Canada. Whether completing an undergraduate or graduate degree, you will have the opportunity to work with leading scholars and outstanding teachers to research different aspects of social life – such as gender and sexuality, families, globalization, crime, family, work, the environment, and even death and dying itself. The department is home to several cutting-edge research centres, the Population Research Laboratory and the Intermedia Research Studio

Learn more by reading some recent department newsletters or about our Department History.