As the study of humans in their collective aspect, sociology is concerned with all group activities—economic, social, political, and religious. Sociologists study such areas as bureaucracy, community, deviant behavior, family, public opinion, social change, social mobility, social stratification, and such specific problems as crime, divorce, child abuse, and substance addiction. Sociology tries to determine the laws governing human behavior in social contexts; it is sometimes distinguished as a general social science from the special social sciences, such as economics and political science, which confine themselves to a selected group of social facts or relations.
The Evolution of Sociology
A number of Western political theorists and philosophers, including Plato, Polybius, Machiavelli, Vico, Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, and Rousseau, have treated political problems in a broader social context. Thus Montesquieu regarded the political forms of different states as a consequence of the working of deep underlying climatic, geographic, economic, and psychological factors. In the 18th cent., Scottish thinkers made inquiries into the nature of society; scholars like Adam Smith explored the economic causes of social organization and social change, while Adam Ferguson considered the noneconomic causes of social cohesion.
It was not until the 19th cent., however, when the concept of society was finally separated from that of the state, that sociology developed into an independent study. The term sociologywas coined (1838) by Auguste Comte. He attempted to analyze all aspects of cultural, political, and economic life and to identify the unifying principles of society at each stage of human social development. Herbert Spencer applied the principles of Darwinian evolution to the development of human society in his popular and controversial Principles of Sociology (1876–96). An important stimulus to sociological thought came from the work of Karl Marx, who emphasized the economic basis of the organization of society and its division into classes and saw in the class struggle the main agent of social progress.
The founders of the modern study of sociology were Émile Durkheim and Max Weber. Durkheim pioneered in the use of empirical evidence and statistical material in the study of society. Weber’s major contribution was as a theorist, and his generalizations about social organization and the relation of belief systems, including religion, to social action are still influential. He developed the use of the ideal type—a working model, based on the selective combination of certain elements of historical fact or current reality—as a tool of sociological analysis. In the United States the study of sociology was pioneered and developed by Lester Frank Ward and William Graham Sumner.
The most important theoretical sociology in the 20th cent. has moved in three directions: conflict theory, structural-functional theory, and symbolic interaction theory. Conflict theory draws heavily on the work of Karl Marx and emphasizes the role of conflict in explaining social change; prominent conflict theorists include Ralf Dahrendorf and C. Wright Mills. Structural-functional theory, developed by Talcott Parsons and advanced by Robert Merton, assumes that large social systems are characterized by homeostasis, or “steady states.” The theory is now often called “conservative” in its orientation. Symbolic interaction, begun by George Herbert Mead and further developed by Herbert Blumer and others, focuses on subjective perceptions or other symbolic processes of communication. 3. Sociology – it views human behavior a consequence of man being a social being. – came from a Latin term socius which means companion or associate, and logos a Greek term for study. – the study of man in relation with his companions or associates.
4. Like other social scientists, sociologists and psychologists are interested in the study of human behaviour but they differ presumably in one fundamental count. While sociologists tend to study the whole human society, as well as specific groups, institutions, and social organizations, psychologist seem to focus their concern on just single entity – the individual person 5. Our society has pervasive effects on our attitudes and manifested behaviors – more specifically on the way we think, feel, and act. So far-reaching its effects that Peter Berger considered it to be a “forbidding prison” and its members its “easy captives”. 6. In this connection, he raised the following significant points: Society does not only determines what we do but also what we are. It supplies our values, our logic and the store of information that constitutes our knowledge. Our language is not chosen by ourselves but imposed upon us by the particular social group that is in charge of our initial socialization. Society predefines for us that fundamental symbolic apparatus with which we grasp the world, order our experience, and interpret our own experience.
7. Our emotions and self-interpretation like our actions are predefined for us by society. It not only control our movements, but shapes our identity, our thoughts and our emotions. The structures of society become the structures of our own consciousness. It antedates us and it will survive us. It was there before we were born and it will be there after we are dead. Our lives are but episodes in its majestic march through time. In sum, society is the walls of our imprisonment in history . 8. Sociology considered the youngest social science, is classified as such because it has nothing to do with human beings in their living together and dealing with one another. It treat man’s relations with his fellowmen, seeking to explain how humans fit their activities together in orderly ways. Sociology is dynamic and its dynamic lies on how people actually relate with one another.
9. Sociology was founded amidst conditions of widespread unrest and turbulence in Europe. The people then were decisively ripe for social change since they had been through a long period of stagnation and indecision. Ever since its inception, this discipline has primarily focused on the behaviour of people as members of society as they are greatly influenced by various social events. The manner they act and react is not incidental but it is rather consequential. 10. “ Man is one but he is too many.” A paradox that is sociologically acceptable, meaning that all human beings have exactly the same needs but meeting such needs entails different, varied ways. For instance, all men eat but they differ in the kind of food they eat, in preparing it, and even the manner of eating it. The Chinese, for example, use the chopsticks; the Americans, use spoon and fork; and hosts of others, with their bare hands
11. As a synthesizing science, it attempts to come up with certain generalizations about human interactions and association, and about the nature, form, content, and structure of human groups and a particular society. In looking at human relationship, the sociologist looks at its encompassing and unifying aspects. It is in this account that makes it the direct opposite of history. While history is a particularizing and individualizing discipline, sociology is a generalizing one. 12. As a pure science, sociology aims to provide knowledge about human society, not the utilization of that knowledge. A sociologist is like a physicist who does not build bridges but provide engineers with the theoretical framework so they can put up concrete structures. He seeks knowledge, not social reforms. His is to study the society, not to change it. However, this study can produce information useful to others like the administrators, the legislators, the diplomats, the law enforcers, the guidance counselors, the social workers, and also the common citizens.
13. The traditional view of sociology lies on orienting it at the societal level – how the social structures and processes affect the behavior of every individual. However, a re-definition of this discipline is recently emerging and evolving. Sociology is defined as the study of the agreements that people make, organize, break, and change it. It is also the study of disagreements.
14. Sociology is not only macro but also holistic. Its studies all aspects of society from time of human conception to the time of death. Obviously, every aspect of group activity becomes great concern of every sociologist. Making sociology a subject that claims to deal with every aspect of man’s social life. It covers extremely broad range that includes aspects of human social conditions like population studies, social behavior, social institutions, cultural influences, and social change. 15. As a categorical discipline, it is a body of knowledge about human society, and not a system of ideas and values. It describes society for what it is not and what it should be or ought to be. It studies how men actually behave and treat one another, without trying to say what they ought to do. It does not decide on the directions in which society ought to go but rather it sees the presents realities about the society that may lead up to a certain direction. 16.
17. When two people meet in the streets, they don’t form a society, neither do a group of people sitting in the park. It is only when these people link together, connect ideas and mind that a society is formed. Thus, society is living associated with others, those so living companionship, company, association, club, people taken collectively. 18. Just like a system, society is also made up of interrelated parts. It is made up of orderly combination or arrangements of parts into a whole. In a system, everything has a connection or manner of connection of parts as related to the whole. Similarly, a society is a state or quality of being in order. In a plan, everything and everybody fits perfectly. What happens to a part has implications to other parts and system as a whole. It is composed of the sum of parts plus the relations among them. 19. Therefore, a society according to the functionalist point of view, is “a vast network of connected parts, each of which contributes to the maintenance of the system as a whole.”
It is a system of usages, a totality made up of interrelated and inter-dependent parts. It is a collection of people who feel bound together. The following are the elements of a system: Societies consist of a number of parts. These parts are interdependent so that changes in one part produces in at least one another part. That there will be a tendency for these parts to maintain some degree of equilibrium, balance, stabilities, steadiness in their relationships through the system.
20. “ Society as a social system” has been the most and accepted manner of defining society. A social system, meanwhile, an organized set of interdependent social persons, activities, or forces. It maintains equilibrium or constancy among people. Similarly, a society is a special social system aiming for balance through interactions between individuals. Society under this category, is basically a system wherein interactions among group of people are vital, thus forming social relationships that become the primary foundation of the society 21. Even if such social interrelations exist, a society will not exist unless there is a commonality or, specifically, a shared culture within a particular group. This is because society as a term cannot be separately considered apart from the concept of culture. A society could not exist without a culture, for it would simply disintegrate, and similarly, a culture cannot exist without a society to maintain it.
22. Society is an organized collectivity of interacting people whose activities become centered around a set of common goals. It is a number of persons united for common interest and companionship. It may also be defined as a group of human beings cooperating in the pursuit of several of their major interests, which includes self-maintenance and self-perpetuation. Society as a goal-attaining mechanism gives us a clear picture of how a society should really be instead of being merely a group of people gathered in one place but may have contradicting goals in life. 23. Having a system of relationships, common qualities, and a collective goal are not enough to be able to understand the concept of society. One must consider that society is a unique but patterned system. Society or institutions represents the organized and patterned interactions among diverse individuals. It is made up o independent individuals, capable of free action and choice, guided by various desires and therefore bound to clash and disagree.
24. Society being unique and pattered does not actually show us its context on larger scale. Adopted from Peter Berger’s concept, society is now taken as totality which seems to be greater than itself. The concept of society includes continuity, complex associational relationships, and a composition including representatives of fundamental human types, specifically men, women, and children. According to Alfred Comte, it is no more decomposable into individuals than a geometric surface is into lines, or a line into points. 25. Parsons defined society as “a type of social system, in any universe of social systems, which attains the highest level of self-sufficiency as a system in relation to its environments.” It possesses the characteristics of political independence, that is a society is not a subsystem of any other system. It can also be seen as a relatively independent or self-sufficient population characterized by internal organization, territoriality, cultural distinctiveness and sexual recruitment.
26. As an ever-changing arrangement, society then contains variables that make it as such. Society is made up of characteristics created by human beings and are learned and modified by each new generation. It is a system which is in a continual state of conflict. Because of this, all societies evolve complex cultures that serve as a script to guide the many details of daily life. Moreover, we reshape society which we leave the next generation. It is also a web of social relationships characterized by an every changing complex system. 27. A society constitutes a wide scope of people. Having many assemblies of people makes it possible to form a society which becomes the “mother” group of these sub-groups. Society is an organized collectivity of persons, made up of a network of interconnected groups and organizations, which constitutes the structure of the society. It is not simply a series of interacting individuals. A society then can be categorized as such for it presents to us different hubs of people which serve as concrete manifestations of the orderly interaction between many thousands of people and groups.
28. Society does not actually dictate rather it serves a guide for the people in order to become better individual. Society is an organization which limits the activities of men by setting up standards for them to follow and maintain; whatever the imperfections and tyrannies it has exhibited in human history, it is a necessary condition with every fulfillment of life. It is a set of external constraining forces by which we are to judge the acceptability of political ideology. 29. Society in this category, may seem vague and quite idealistic at first glance. But then, one will discover truth in this with the following definitions below. Without society, we simply would face away for it is the dominant partner of the individual. It also gives content direction, and meaning to our lives. Also, every society has to meet certain fundamental requirements if it is to survive and provide a satisfying life for its members. Society is also a nurturant and supportive for the individual.
30. “ God is society and society is God.” Society does not only made up of individuals and their surroundings but also an orderly divine will at work in nature and society. Interaction in the society as a consequence, tends to have a deeper emotional significance. In simpler terms, society becomes the primary element in achieving oneness with the divine being. It doesn’t necessarily mean that society is based on Catholicism, or any religion for that matter. It only suggest that society, because it consists of people that are united in God, as a result becomes a symbol of the Lord as well. 31. Society is not state of cooperation, harmony, peace and order but conflict and division as well. It is a struggle between the patricians and the plebeians, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, the dominating group and subordinating group, capitalists and the laborers, and others. Society means a system which is in a continual state of conflict. The groups and individuals persons composing the society are believed to have conflicting interests and are continuously involved in a highly contested struggle.
32. People group together because they have something in common. They have the same interests, living in a common dwelling and have likeness and identified themselves with one another. This commonality binds them resulting in the formation of a society. Through this, society means a number of persons in a community regarded as forming a class having certain common interests, status. It is the broadest grouping of people who have a certain common set of habits, ideas and attitudes or cultures. Although sociology has its roots in the works of philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, and Confucius, it is a relatively new academic discipline. It emerged in the early nineteenth century in response to the challenges of modernity. Increasing mobility and technological advances resulted in the increasing exposure of people to cultures and societies different from their own.
The impact of this exposure was varied, but for some people it included the breakdown of traditional norms and customs and warranted a revised understanding of how the world works. Sociologists responded to these changes by trying to understand what holds social groups together and also to explore possible solutions to the breakdown of social solidarity. Thinkers of the Enlightenment period in the eighteenth century also helped set the stage for the sociologists that would follow. This period was the first time in history that thinkers tried to provide general explanations of the social world. They were able to detach themselves, at least in principle, from expounding some existing ideology and to attempt to lay down general principles that explained social life.
The Birth Of Sociology
The term sociology was coined by French philosopher Auguste Comte in 1838, who for this reason is known as the “Father of Sociology.” Comte felt that science could be used to study the social world. Just as there are testable facts regarding gravity and other natural laws, Comte thought that scientific analyses could also discover the laws governing our social lives. It was in this context that Comte introduced the concept of positivism to sociology—a way to understand the social world based on scientific facts. He believed that, with this new understanding, people could build a better future. He envisioned a process of social change in which sociologists played crucial roles in guiding society. Other events of that time period also influenced the development of sociology. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries were times of many social upheavals and changes in the social order that interested the early sociologists. The political revolutions sweeping Europe during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries led to a focus on social change and the establishment of social order that still concerns sociologists today.
Many early sociologists were also concerned with the Industrial Revolution and rise of capitalism and socialism. Additionally, the growth of cities and religious transformations were causing many changes in people’s lives. Other classical theorists of sociology from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries include Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber. As pioneers in sociology, most of the early sociological thinkers were trained in other academic disciplines, including history, philosophy, and economics. The diversity of their trainings is reflected in the topics they researched, including religion, education, economics, psychology, ethics, philosophy, and theology.
These pioneers of sociology all had a vision of using sociology to call attention to social concerns and bring about social change. In Europe, for example, Karl Marx teamed with wealthy industrialist Friedrich Engels to address class inequality. Writing during the Industrial Revolution, when many factory owners were lavishly wealthy and many factory workers despairingly poor, they attacked the rampant inequalities of the day and focused on the role of capitalist economic structures in perpetuating these inequalities. In Germany, Max Weber was active in politics while in France, Emile Durkheim advocated for educational reform.
Sociology As A Discipline
The growth of sociology as an academic discipline in the United States coincided with the establishment and upgrading of many universities that were including a new focus on graduate departments and curricula on “modern subjects.” In 1876, Yale University’s William Graham Sumner taught the first course identified as “sociology” in the United States. The University of Chicago established the first graduate department of sociology in the United States in 1892 and by 1910, most colleges and universities were offering sociology courses. Thirty years later, most of these schools had established sociology departments. Sociology was first taught in high schools in 1911. Sociology was also growing in Germany and France during this period. However, in Europe, the discipline suffered great setbacks as a result of World Wars I and II.
Many sociologists were killed or fled Germany and France between 1933 and the end of World War II. After World War II, sociologists returned to Germany influenced by their studies in America. The result was that American sociologists became the world leaders in theory and research for many years. Sociology has grown into a diverse and dynamic discipline, experiencing a proliferation of specialty areas. The American Sociological Association (ASA) was formed in 1905 with 115 members.
By the end of 2004, it had grown to almost 14,000 members and more than 40 “sections” covering specific areas of interest. Many other countries also have large national sociology organizations. The International Sociological Association (ISA) boasted more than 3,300 members in 2004 from 91 different countries. The ISA sponsored research committees covering more than 50 different areas of interest, covering topics as diverse as children, aging, families, law, emotions, sexuality, religion, mental health, peace and war, and work.
Sociology is the scientific study of human social life, groups and societies. There was no sociology as a distinct discipline before the advent of 19th century. As a distinct discipline it emerged about the middle of the 19th century when European social observers began to use scientific methods to test their ideas. It looks that three factors led to the development of sociology.
The first was the Industrial revolution
By the mid 19th century Europe was changing from agriculture to factory production. There was the emergence of new occupations as well as new avenues of employment away from the land. · Masses of people migrated to cities in search of jobs. Pull and push factors were instrumental in such migrations. In the countryside, due to the nature of agricultural society, there were no occupations that could be alternatives to agriculture. Hence people got pushed to look for new places whereas the urban/industrial places with new job opportunities provided a pull to the same population.
At the new places there was anonymity, crowding, filth, and poverty. Ties to the land, to the generations that had lived there before them, and to the ways of their life were abruptly broken. Eventually the urban life brought radical changes in the lives of people. ·
The city greeted them with horrible working conditions: low pay; long and exhausting working hours; dangerous work; foul smoke; and much noise. To survive the vagaries of life, families had to permit their children to work in these uncongenial conditions. ·
People in these industrial cities developed new ideas about democracy and political rights. They did not want to remain tied to their rulers. Therefore the ideas about individual liberty, individual rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness emerged, which actually laid the foundation to future political revolution.
The second factor that stimulated the development of sociology was imperialism. Europeans successfully conquered many parts of the world. They were exposed to radically different cultures. Startled by these contrasting ways of life, they began to ask why cultures differed. The third impetus for the development of sociology was the success of the natural sciences. People moved to question fundamental aspects of their social world. They started using the scientific method (systematic observation, objectivity) to the study of human behaviour.
The idea of applying the scientific method to the social world, known as positivism, was apparently first proposed by Auguste Comte (1798-1857). He was French. He migrated from a small town to Paris. The changes he himself experienced, combined with those France underwent in the revolution, led Comte to become interested in the two interrelated issues: social order (social static) and social change (social dynamics).
What holds the society together (Why is there a social order)? And once the society is set then what causes it to change? Why its directions change? Comte concluded that the right way to answer such questions was to apply the scientific method to social life. There must be laws that underlie the society. Therefore we should discover these principles by applying scientific method to social world. Once these principles discovered then we could apply these for social reform.
He advocated for building new societies on twin foundations of science and industry rather than on religion and landowner-serf relationship.
This will be a new science and Comte named it as Sociology (1838) the study of society. Comte is credited with being the founder of sociology.
Other early pioneer names are:
Herbert Spenser (1820-1903)
He was an Englishman and is sometimes called second founder of sociology. He too believed that society operates under some fixed laws. He was evolutionary and considered that societies evolve from lower to higher forms. In this way he applied the ideas of Darwin to the development of human society, and hence this approach may be called as Social Darwinism.
By following the basic principle of Social Darwinism Spenser advocated that `let the fittest survive’. There should be no reform because it will help in the survival of lower order individuals. (Charity and helping the poor were considered to be wrong). Spenser was a social philosopher rather than a social researcher.
Karl Marx (1818-1883)
Karl Marx was a German. According to him the key to human history is Class Conflict. Not really a sociologist but wrote widely about history, philosophy, economics, political science. Because of his insights into the relationship between the social classes, he is claimed to be an early sociologist. He introduced one of the major perspectives in sociology conflict perspective.