Sociology refers to the study of people living in groups as well as any other form of social formation that has been organized in a systematic manner. According to the Complete A-Z Sociology handbook, sociology as a study provides a clear picture into the functioning of society. The study focuses on the human social life and the mannerisms of humans in groups. The study also focuses on the rules that govern these social set ups which are factors that bind and separate the humans at both the individual level as well as at a global level (Johnson, p.15, 1966).
Sociological imagination is a fundamental term in sociology that has a varied number of definitions. From Mills’ perspective, sociological imagination refers to the process by which an imaginative thought is applied in questioning and answering the challenges or questions that have been posed by the sociological set up of society. When a person utilizes their sociological imagination, then they are able to think of themselves as detached from the routines that they are commonly used to in their daily environments (Mills and Gitlin, 2000).
Sociological imagination is an important component in sociology and has innumerable value in determining the path that a particular society takes as a whole and the general quality of life that the people in that society live. The value of sociological information is evident in the link that it provides between everyday life and the life in social world perspective. This linkage provides an important channel through which people are able to associate with situations that they encounter as they go about their daily lives, at the local, national and also global level. Societies in which the people’s sociological imagination is limited or infringed upon makes them unable to have an independent social view on the social problems that they have, consequently they are not able to see that several issues need to be dealt with and changed in order to make their daily lives a better experience. In such societies, ruling regimes have been the norm and the people in such set ups have been confined to poor and deplorable state of living for a very long time (Brym and Lie, p.58, 2009).
A social problem refers to a situation or condition that is undesirable to the people within a particular social set up. A problem can only be classified as a social problem when its effects touch on a majority of people within the society. The society generally must regard that even as harmful or one that predisposes their lives to danger and the values that have been established within that community. Furthermore, the society generally agrees that some form of action need to be taken to mitigate the situation. In our current society, several problems can be directly cited to be social problems since they are only considered at a social level. These include problems such as poverty, human rights injustices, and crime in the society as well as violence. These are problems that the whole society has to deal with as they not only interrupt the social system of livelihood, but also place people’s lives at risk (Jamrozik and Nocella,p. 88,1998).
On the other hand, a personal problem is a problem that has a direct negative impact on an individual’s social interaction or threatens their lives as an individual rather than communally. As a differential factor, personal problems are only experienced by the single person whom the issue affects and others may not experience the same. More often than not, personal problems arise from a person’s own doing and the deliberate choices that they make. The choices that the individual makes, has consequences that apply to the individual alone. For instance, if an employee loses their job as a result of consistently arriving at work late due to their extensive late night outs, then the problem is a personal problem. This is because it is the decision to stay out late at night those results in arriving at work late, with the consequence of losing their source of income, their jobs. This is a personal problem. With regards to an individual’s locus of control, which is the extent that an individual believes they control the events that occur to them, personal problem revolve around such loci. An event, a decision is made personally and the consequences felt later.
This paper will give the sociological perspective of a selected song that is considered to have a social problem as one of its themes. The song that was chosen for this paper is titled, “Toxicity.” The song was done by the rock band System of a Down commonly known as SOAD. The song is part of the group’s second album that has the same name, “Toxicity.” The album was compiled from March 2001 to July 2001 at the Cello Studios in Hollywood, California. The song ‘Toxicity,’ was recorded on February to March 2001. It was written by Serj Tankian, Shavo Odadjian and Daron Malakian. The producers of both the album and the song ‘Toxicity’ were Daron Malakian, Rick Rubin and Serj Tankian (LLC, General Books, et al,2010). This song was chosen for this study for several reasons. To begin with, the song the appeal of the song was a strong motivator in choosing it. The song appeals to a wide expanse of fans of the rock group. This is evident from the position that the song attained in its rankings. The song was voted in at number 14 on VH1’s list of the top 40 Greatest metal songs. Due to its wide fan base, the song is believed to have reached many people and the theme must have reached a wide population. Consequently due to such familiarity among the fans, the song provided a good means of communicating a social problem that has beleaguered many in society. It was also chosen for the study because the theme its speaks about is a common theme that is common in many societies all around the world.
One of the social issues that the song speaks about is social disorder. Social disorder refers to the jumbling up of social processes thus affecting the social set up. This is the dominant theme of the song ‘Toxicity.’ This problem is issues all over the world with many activities leading to social disorder for example when youths play loud music within their neighborhood constantly disrupting the peace of other people, this is a social disorder such as that described in the song. Whereas a personal problem affects a single individual in the society, a social problem such as social disorder and the disruption of any social system that is in place affects the whole community. The song encompasses the social disorder that exists in the world, which is toxic. This means that the social disorder destroys the world. In essence, the social disorder makes the world an intolerable place to live in, it is no longer habitable and not pleasing to be in a toxic world. Social disorder, results in wars and terror activities, the song mentions, ‘The toxicity of our city.’ This means there is rampant crime and violence, it could also mean the world has been polluted as there are no controls to the social events, it paints the picture of social anarchy, where there is no peace and living in the world brings no happiness. This toxicity is at a societal level and not an individual level. This makes it a strong social problem rather than an individual problem. Toxicity at such a level presents a problem that needs immediate attention in order to make the world a better place and to improve the living standards of people all over the world. This is social problem requires proper social imagination that will help solve social problems that the world faces. The solution lies with the people within the social set up.
In reality, the problem of social disorder is a wide ranging, from crime, human rights injustice, terror as well as wars all over the world. These social problems have become a source for concern for communities as well as governments all over the world. Statistics show devastating levels of social disorder. For instance in 2009, the crime rate in the United States was pegged at 3466 crimes committed for every 100000 community residents. The statistics also show that youths and young adults have become more prevalent to committing crimes. according to statistics by the federal Bureau of Investigation, 14,180 people were reported to have been murdered in the United States (Lynch and Addington, 2006). These statistics are extreme as they involve unnecessary loss of lives in the society. Additionally, this shows that the lives of other people in society are also at risk. A highly, ‘Toxic,’ society.
The band, System of a Down, is a rock band formed by the fusion of both American and Armenian rock. They originated from Southern California and they came together in 1994. The group comprises four members. These are Daron Malakian, whose task is the guitarist and also a vocalist, Serj Tankian, whose is the lead vocalist, plays the keyboard as well as a rhythm guitar, Shavo Odadjian, whose role is background vocalist as well as bass and finally John Dolmayan who plays the drums. The group first started off with Serj Tankian, Daron Malakian, and Shavo Odadjian under the band name Soil. This group did not last long and in 1994, the band, System of a Down was formed. They started off with a recording of a demo tape called the ‘Untitled 1995 Demo Tape.’ This tape was not put up for commercial sales. Later on in 1996, the group released the Demo Tape 2, which was released public. This was followed by a final demo tape, titled, Demo Tape 3. In 1997, the group went ahead and released their first song that was recorded professionally. The song was entitled, Hye Enk,-we’re Armenian-. This compilation was compilation that recognized the Armenian Genocide. At the end of 1997, the group, under producer Rick Rubin, released Demo Tape 4 (Brown, 2009). The recording was to be used to showcase the group’s work to other recording companies to show their talent to the record companies. The group was successfully signed into the American/Columbia Records. The group’s debut album was released in June 1998, entitled, System of a Down. With this album, the group made massive tours to increase their fan base. A second album launch in 2001 flopped due to security reasons as the group’s popularity had grown immensely. The second album was however still released in September 2001, titled, ‘Toxicity,’ and was a success hit, achieving a certification of triple multiplatinum, selling over 12 million copies internationally. In the years, 2004 and 2005, the group released ‘Steal this Album.’ Other group albums include, Mezmerize and Hypnotize. The group then went on a hiatus between 2006 and 2010 before reuniting in 2011 up to date (Myers,2007).
The lyrics to the song are as follows;
Conversion software version seven. Looking at life through the eyes of a tired hub. Eating seeds as a pastime activity. The toxicity of our city, of our city. Now, what do you own the world? How do you own disorder, disorder? Now somewhere between the sacred silence. Sacred silence and sleep. Somewhere, between the sacred silence and sleep. Disorder, disorder, disorder. More wood for the fires, loud neighbors. Flashlight reveries caught in the headlights of a truck. Eating seeds as a pastime activity. The toxicity of our city, of our city. Now, what do you own the world?
How do you own disorder, disorder? Now somewhere between the sacred silence. Sacred silence and sleep. Somewhere between the sacred silence and sleep. Disorder, disorder, disorder.
Now, what do you own the world? How do you own disorder, disorder? Now somewhere between the sacred silence. Sacred silence and sleep. Somewhere between the sacred silence and sleep. Disorder, disorder, disorder. When I became the sun. I shone life into the man's hearts
when I became the sun. I shone life into the man's hearts (System of a Down Lyrics).
Of the four social theories; functionalism, social conflict, feminist perspective, or social imagination, the structural functionalism theory best resonates with the social problem articulated by the song, ‘Toxicity.’ This is because, according to the theory, society is a complex system akin to that of the body that has systems that maintain it in a proper state of balance and continuity. Toxicity in the world destroys the world social systems disrupting the livelihoods of people. The song gives a brief analysis of a failing system and asks a question on what can be done to mitigate the disorders in our social systems (Smart and Ritzer, p.150,2001).
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LLC, General Books, et al. American Recordings Albums: Toxicity, Steal This Album!, System of a Down, Christ Illusion, God Hates Us All, Still Reigning. General Books LLC, 2010. Print.
Lynch, J.P., and L.A. Addington. Understanding Crime Statistics: Revisiting the Divergence of the Ncvs and the Ucr. Cambridge University Press, 2006. Print.
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Myers, B. System of a Down: Right Here in Hollywood. Disinformation Company, 2007. Print.
Smart, B., and G. Ritzer. Handbook of Social Theory. SAGE Publications, 2001. Print.
System of a Down Lyrics, ‘Toxicity.’
Retrieved from: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/systemofadown/toxicity.html. retrieved on; 27/09/2012.