Is There a Distinction of Sociology from the Other Social Sciences

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In today’s modern world it is the desire of the practitioners of the social sciences or social scientists as they are called to be clearly distinguished one from the other, instead of being placed into one general category as suggested by a “Professor Small” in his manifesto entitled “The Relation Between Sociology and the Other Social Sciences”. (Hoxie 739) An anthropologist would certainly not want to be identified as a Psychologist or vice versa, and since the need for clear distinction exists in respect to titles relative to academic disciplines, then this leads me to answer in the affirmative, the question: is there a clear distinction of sociology from the other social sciences? To begin discussing this argument one must first ask the question: What is sociology? Sociology can be defined as, “the systematic study of human society”. (Macionis & Plummer 4) More technically, sociology is the analysis of the structure of social relationships as constituted by social interaction, but no definition is entirely satisfactory because of the diversity of perspectives. (Abercrombie 232) Sociology then, is a systematic approach to thinking about, studying and understanding society, human social behaviour and social groups. It is based on the premise that these areas of social life can be better understood through systematic study and observation. The term sociology was coined in 1838 by French social thinker, Auguste Comte. Comte along with other early pioneers of modern sociology, such as Emile Durkheim, Max Weber and Karl Marx were not known as sociologists then. Weber was a German Economist, Durkheim, a French social theorist and Marx, a German philosopher. The work of these early pioneers gave rise to sociology, a social science which was distinctly different from the other social sciences of the day, as it focused on analyzing groups that formed society and society as a whole, while the others tended to be individualistic in their approaches. A brief look at some other social sciences includes:

Anthropology: looks at cultures within society and not the society as a whole. Psychology: takes the individual out of the society to examine mental processes. Economics: deals with the production and distribution of society’s goods. Management Studies: evaluates human behaviour in an organizational setting. Political Science: deals with society’s present and future governments. Is there a need for a clear distinction of one social science from the others? The answer is yes and is supported by Hoxie, who stated, “the real ground of distinction between modern social sciences is, I take it, the fact that human experience presents to the observer a number of distinct problems. That is to say, human experience is capable of being viewed, and is habitually viewed, from the standpoint of many different interests and presents thus many different aspects”. (745) Individuals are faced with many different challenges, and the attendant problems see some individuals incapable of effectively dealing with them. According to Hoxie, to one man it is all a matter of ethical relations, to another a struggle for wealth, to a third a process of political institutional development while the fourth may be having struggles with his individuality” (745). Each individual presents with a different case and needs a solution. One individual sees suicide as a way out; another uses traditional methods (obeah, prayer, etc) while the others opt to seek professional help. Each individual has a specific problem but the individual who may be contemplating suicide needs more urgent attention. The potential suicide victim could not be referred to the economist but to a social worker, a psychologist or a sociologist. Sociology differs in key ways from the other social sciences in their approaches to understanding human behaviour. It focuses heavily on the influences of social groups and the wider society, the operative word being society. This social science...
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