Performative Education: Do Sociology Need Non-Humanitarian Specialties?


The article analyses the teaching of humanitarian disciplines in Russian universities that train non-humanitarian specialists. The main focus of the authors is on sociology, the situation of which has worsened in the educational programs of vocational training in recent years. Against the background of the observed trends in the staffing of the curriculum discipline "performative" nature have been reduced training hours or has been completely eradicated course on sociology. The authors analysed the curricula of higher education and presented arguments that the study of humanitarian subjects is practice-oriented and effective. The "performativity" of studying sociology, in the opinion of the authors, is expressed on an individual level in the formation of a person's self-consciousness, the formation of a professional integrated into social relations, the development of the ability to carry out analytical and prognostic activities characterizing social transformations, maintaining the value basis and civil-law culture in society. Performability of sociology at the level of society, along with philosophy, culturology, ethics, etc., is manifested in the formation of social regulators necessary to achieve and maintain economic stability and development.

Keywords: Humanitarian disciplinessociologyProfessional educationperformativity


Modern advanced society in the minds of most associated with characteristics such as democratic, open, fair in which quality education is the key to successful economic growth and professional self-realization of people, followed by a well-deserved career advancement. The social institute of education in Russia has been the object of reform throughout the last quarter of a century. The transformation was not only the structure of education system, but also the priorities in the content of vocational education in the direction of increasing the share of applied academic disciplines and reduce training courses general humanitarian character, including minimized or completely lost its place in the curricula of sociology.

Problem Statement

Obviously, the reduction or elimination in the curriculum of classes in humanities disciplines, at least, does not contribute to the intellectual and spiritual development of students, but rather vice versa - impoverishes the personality of the learner. The restructuring of the structure and content of vocational education, at first glance, should be aimed at strengthening the professionalization of graduates of universities. But surveys of both young professionals and employers indicate a continuing dissatisfaction with the level of training of yesterday's students (bachelors and masters). According to various estimates, from 30 to 60% of the Russian employers surveyed are dissatisfied with the level of training graduates of universities (, 2014; Glotova, 2014). In this connection, the question arises: how justified are the decisions on the reduction of general humanities subjects (namely sociology) and the number of study hours allocated for their development?

Research Questions

The article presents reflections on the increasing role of education and humanitarian disciplines in the knowledge society, the place of sociology in modern education, the potential of sociological knowledge in the formation of a modern professional.

Purpose of the Study

On the example of sociology, reveal the practical importance of the disciplines of the humanitarian cycle in the professional training of students in universities.

Research Methods

Review of Russian and foreign publications, analytical and synthetic method, content analysis of organizational and methodological documentation accompanying the educational process in universities and presented on their websites.


Modern transformation in Russian professional education many people associated with the "Bologna process", and their quintessence for the majority is division into bachelor's and master's degrees. But acquaintance with the history of the issue demonstrates the lack of meaningfulness and clarity in the goal setting of reforming activities and, consequently, the contradictoriness and unsatisfactory results of the receipt of professional education by consumers of these services at all levels: by students, graduates, employers, society.

The reform of the educational system in Russia got its start in the late 80's - early 90-ies of XX century. It covered all stages of education (Pankova, 1997). Changes have become a response to the crisis in society, total reform of all its spheres and the formed opinion about the "ineffectiveness" of the Soviet education system, where people are allegedly taught "too much" and make it "unreasonably universal" (Kruglikov & Kasyanik, 2015; Sergeev, 2014). The main content of the reform of higher education was "the humanization and fundamentalization of educational programs, the rationalization and decentralization of university management, the diversification of education and the introduction of its multi-level structure, the further development of democratization and self-government in universities" (The best teachers of Russia, 2016).The restructuring of the programs (for bachelor's programs, specialist training programs and master's programs) was fixed in the form of amendments to the Law of the Russian Federation №3266-1 "On Education" in 2007 and further in Federal Law №263 "On Education in the Russian Federation" in 2012. This was preceded by the signing of the Bologna Declaration by Russia, adopted on June 19, 1999.

An important thesis in the text of the Bologna Declaration is that the training of specialists should be relevant to the European labour market as an appropriate level of qualification (The European Higher Education Area (EHEA)). This provision shows that at the end of the twentieth century, Europe was confronted with the problems of finding employment for graduates of higher professional schools and the discrepancy between their professional education and the required level of qualifications. The response to this problem was the reflection of J.Liotard, who pointed to the "performativity" of all institutions of society, especially knowledge and education in the situation of postmodernity. This means that any production of knowledge and educational activities acquire meaning only in terms of their relevance and effectiveness (Makarova, 2007, p. 29). Universities, according J.Liotara, lose their monopoly on the "search for truth", which now becomes a matter of choice between the various criteria of usefulness. Therefore, there are risks of the quality and the need for changes in the content of education and educational qualifications as the simplest solution. Evidently, knowledge of general humanities disciplines, for example, philosophy, sociology, culturology, does not give it the owner of direct professional knowledge, skills as capitalization instruments. Consequently, these disciplines do not correspond to the principle of performativity, in contrast, for example, from such as "Finance and Credit", "Medicine" or "Thermal Physics of Buildings." "Practically in all countries of the world in school, colleges, universities, the volume of the humanities studied is decreasing. ... this knowledge quickly loses its position in the curriculum, and at the same time in the minds and hearts ... " (Nussbaum, 2014, p. 16).

The problems of education in the context of performativity are studied by researchers in several aspects. The standardization of education was the result of the creation of a single educational space in accordance with the Bologna Declaration. Standardization has played a major role in producing the templates to making education systems comparable across countries (Brogger, 2016; Steiner-Khamsi, 2016). Performativity as a symptom of the "fear of being outdone" constructs not only the education system, but also political regimes (Krejsler, Olsson, & Petersson, 2012). The performative approach has extended to schooling as an alternative to traditional views, which under the guise of "merit" and justice form social inequality (Giannakaki et al., 2018). Of course, the performative role in modelling the human consciousness (Holloway & Brass, 2018), and attempts to avoid political hopelessness (Amsler & Facer, 2017) belongs to teachers.

Reducing the financing of education in Russia in the late XX - early XXI centuries. and the presentation of the bachelor's degree as a four-year degree of education in the formation of professional and applied knowledge and skills made it possible to apply the approach of performative education in the most reduced form. The universities have been reduced as much as possible, moved outside of classroom work or completely eliminated school hours humanities disciplines cycle. Examples of such transformations are the curricula of modern educational programs of Russian universities. We present some examples. The education of bachelors in the field of "Automation of engineering and construction technologies" in the Moscow State University of Civil Engineering provides for the development of humanitarian disciplines "History", "Philosophy" and "Jurisprudence" (108 hours for each subject with credit) (The Moscow State University of Civil Engineering, 2017). A similar situation is in Tomsk Polytechnic University (The Tomsk Polytechnic University, 2016). The situation at the Admiral Makarov State University of Maritime and Inland Shipping is more favourable for them. The educational training program for Bachelor of "hydraulic construction", besides the previously mentioned objects, includes "Cultural" and "political and social sciences" (108 and 72 hrs., credit) (The Admiral Makarov State University of Maritime and Inland Shipping, 2016). In the Omsk State Transport University, for example, in the Bachelor of "Accounting, Analysis and Audit" as the humanities disciplines study "History", "Philosophy" (144 hours, exams), "Jurisprudence", "Sociology", "Psychology" (for 108 hours, credit) (The Omsk State Transport University, 2017).

We can give many examples of non-humanitarian performative vocational training while minimizing the humanities disciplines. They show that the Russian education has moved faster in this direction than the European or American education. Researchers focus attention on sociology and note that, for example, in France, the acquisition of higher education is accompanied by the preparation for the qualification exam agrégation - "this is a very serious revision of the whole philosophy and the foundations of scientific knowledge, including the sociological classics" with the traditions of the Annales historical school (Sokolov et al., 2015, pp. 64-66). Among the 130 universities in England, most offer sociology courses with reflect the English tradition of orientation toward psychology, political science and economics. In the US sociology is a compulsory discipline for all university students it has a goal to teach students to understand the social processes in society and the world and to teach research methods as tools for social modelling (Dobrenkov, Kravchenko, & Gutnov, 2009, pp. 93, 99-100).

What gives the study of humanitarian disciplines, for example, sociology to future qualified professionals? Can sociology and other humanitarian disciplines carry out a performativity mission?

Performance (effectiveness and practical orientation) of education enriched by humanitarian disciplines and sociology is obvious to sociologists. Modern trends in society point to the need to expand information erudite person, the ability to navigate the changes and find their place in them. There are several interrelated explanations.

1.The nature of work changes with the transition from resource to high-tech and information economy. The employee is required not only to perform labour operations, but also adaptability to changing conditions, the ability to actively transformative work activities in connection with the modernization of the workplace itself. Labour loses standardized operations, work becomes variable, non-repeating and responsible (Polyakov, 2004, p. 292). Therefore, the teaching of students only professional knowledge and skills reflects an utilitarian attitude towards the person serving production, undermines the basis of humanism, reduces the needs and opportunities for its self-realization. it forms intrapersonal sense of inferiority and failure in humans. Performativity sociology reflected in the fact that man-centeredness and socio-centeredness of sociological knowledge can reveal the dynamics of the transformation of ideas from human resources to human capital and then to the human potential. This helps the subject to reconsider his own role in society, identify himself and define the reference group, form ways to counteract social and psychological crises at the personal level and social tension on the public, and raise the level of critical thinking.

2.Now the labor market restructuring in the direction of increasing the number of jobs with the knowledge of high technologies in the production and dissemination of information, the ability to conduct scientific research, simulate and build forecasts. Therefore, the scopes of social and professional groups are diffused, the groups themselves are upgraded, new groups emerge and disappear earlier. This shows the changes in technology and economics from the industrial era to post-industrial. Thus, the working class, the middle class, the elite are those social strata that are "reformatted", the criteria and the obvious signs of listing social groups are changing. Performability of sociology is expressed in that it allows to form an integral picture of the history of scientific knowledge, to demonstrate its influence on the development of society, to trace the dynamics of social changes, to master the technology and algorithm of scientific search, and also to generate socially demanded knowledge and labour actions. This helps active and aware individuals to integrate successfully into new social relations.

3.Focusing students' attention on professional educational disciplines and thus reducing the general humanities forms in them an idea about the fragmentation of the scientific picture of the world, the autonomy of disciplinary knowledge. Consequently, the weakness of interdisciplinary ties and the unformed notions of interrelations and the integrity of social processes are extrapolated to the notion of the isolation of professional activity and the life of society. For applicants (and their parents) it became an ordinary phenomenon to choose a profession and an educational institution based on motives for acquiring the tools, knowledge and skills to earn money for one's own existence. The motives for the benefit to society and service are absent in the rhetoric of entrants (Avralev, Efimova, & Makoveychuk, 2017). Formation of professionals focused primarily on personal enrichment leads to deformation of both the profession and the person performing it. The realization of professional activity must occur on the basis of certain professional principles, rules, norms, knowledge, violation or ignoring of which leads to destabilization of the professional field, the misfunctioning of social institutions or, in the case of self-interested "specialist", abuse and corruption. Performability of sociology in this case is manifested in the disclosure to the future graduates of high schools of social significance of the qualitative performance of professional activities for the specialist and society, in the formation of the ethical code of the profession, the criteria for the success of a professional. For example, failure to comply with fire and building codes leads to fires and destruction of buildings and structures, often with human casualties, violation of production and food preparation technologies - to people's health, bad knowledge of legislation or non-disclosure of certain rules of law fraught with infringement of the rights and interests of clients or misleading them.

4.The "society of labour" is replaced by the "knowledge society". In this society, knowledge and information are the main resources of production, exchange and consumption. There is a constant modernization of labour activity, physical labour gives way to intellectual positions, the requirements for raising the level of education become permanent. Ability to work with databases, the ability to generate new knowledge, constant self-education become today a necessary condition for incorporation, competitiveness, and employment. The performativity of sociology in this aspect is expressed in analytical activity in determining trends of change, the ability to navigate in social reality, to notice the emergence of promising determinants and to form probabilistic forecasts of the development of society.

5.Vocational education and the social institution of education model the value component of human society and the type of personality claimed by society. The state prioritizes educational activities and defines the guidelines and vectors for the development of society, as well as in whose interests these or other technologies will be applied. The reduction of humanitarian disciplines in favour of educational subjects with obvious capitalization of their knowledge is fraught with the fact that the horizon of human creativity is shrinking, there is enslavement of thinking by rigid frameworks of economic benefit and reduction of risky or unprofitable investments that are always necessary for scientific search. The lack of the possibility of self-expression by an individual ultimately leads to the curtailment of democracy in society. The performativity of sociology in this case is expressed in the following. Sociology as interdisciplinary knowledge provides an opportunity for a multilevel analysis from individual social practices of people to social processes in society in a spatio-temporal context. Such specificity of sociology allows to generate in students the capacity for empathy, critical thinking, apart from private interests and look at the problem from the standpoint of "citizen of the world", to oppose injustice, justify the need for social safety nets and human rights. Focusing on these aspects also reflects the "profitable" potential of humanistic values: observance of human rights, protection of its honour, dignity, property and results of labour activity, legal support of professional work, investments. As history shows, in Russia the reduction or expulsion of sociology from educational programs and educational institutions is a harbinger or a testimony to the establishment of an authoritarian regime, the construction of ideological frameworks not only in the humanities, but also in the natural sciences (Dobrenkov et al., 2009, p. 108).


The present analysis reveals the following practical significance (performativity) of sociological knowledge. Sociology education contributes to the formation of self-consciousness of the individual, the formation of a professional integrated into social relations, forms the ability of analytical and prognostic activities characterizing social transformations, helps to maintain the value basis and civil-legal culture in society. Of course, humanitarian disciplines are not an obvious tool for making a profit, their knowledge cannot be described as a "craft". Performability of sociology, along with philosophy, culturology, ethics, etc., is manifested in the formation of social regulators necessary to achieve and maintain economic stability and development. Education does not form a person at all, but a member of a community, with a certain way of thinking, a type of culture. It is impossible to determine what is enough to realize these goals in this or that era, but there is always a lack of knowledge, culture, morality, tolerance, mutual understanding. Therefore, in order to deficiencies, including due to the lack of human knowledge, there was less and from a variety of seeds, "a wise, kind, eternal" guaranteed sprouted shoots of humanism, education should be "excessive." At all times education fulfilled the function of forming a developed personality able to think creatively, develop its abilities. No progressive, economically developed society with a long history can be imagined without the development of human qualities in man and without giving him the opportunity to reflect on himself and society.


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30 December 2018

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Beschasnaya, A. A., & Sidorov, N. M. (2018). Performative Education: Do Sociology Need Non-Humanitarian Specialties?. In V. Chernyavskaya, & H. Kuße (Eds.), Professional Сulture of the Specialist of the Future, vol 51. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1016-1023). Future Academy.