I first had an inkling that things were not going extremely well in sociology when I looked for a definition of collective identity among the works of today's leading sociologists. The state-of-the-art definition I encountered was the following:
Collective identity is something that somehow brings certain people together.
The earth-shattering announcement that collective identity is something came in a very thick and expensively edited book with glossy hard covers that was published by a group of sociologists in 2002.
Then, a Canadian friend who is in sociology begged that I take part in the study conducted by his department. The study consisted of a survey I had to answer online where I was expected to finish the statement "I'm a. . . " 25 times. It became clear to me very soon that they were expecting me to place my salient collective identifications first, and the less salient later. I sat there for a while, staring stupidly at the test. The only answer I could come up with was, "I'm a person." Then, I started providing variations on that. "I'm a beautiful person," "I'm a tired person," "I'm a stupid person who agrees to take part in idiotic sociological studies."
At least once every semester our graduate students in sociology ask us to participate in a study they are conducting. Every single time, the questions they ask us are mind-boggling in their silliness. Last year, an earnest grad student tortured me for 20 minutes with questions about "work-life balance," a concept that I find impossible to comprehend. Work is obviously a part of life (at least for me, given that I am employed). Work and life are not two separate entities. It isn't like I die when I arrive at the office and then come back to life after I leave it. You cannot balance a whole and one of its parts, can you?
When I regaled the grad student with this speech, she looked at me like I was an idiot and said, "This is not how you are supposed to answer. The goal of the study is to prove that for female academics achieving a work-life balance is hard. So you should tell me how hard it is."
Of course, I was not surprised that a sociological study was being conducted in order to achieve predetermined results. Or that it was based on a meaningless set of terms. Or that anybody would want to waste time and resources on such a useless exercise. I just told the student that my work and life were in perfect balance and it wasn't hard at all.
I have no doubt that she excluded my answers from the final results of her study.