Origin & Development of Sociology as a Separate Science

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  • Topic: Sociology, Auguste Comte, Émile Durkheim
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Origin & Development of Sociology as a Separate Science

Sociology is one of the oldest of the sciences. Since the dawn of civilization, society has been as a subject for speculation and inquiry along with other phenomena which have agitated the restless and inquisitive mind of man. Even centuries ago men were thinking about society and it should be organized and held views on man and his destiny, the rise and fall of the peoples and civilizations. Though they were thinking in sociological terms they were called philosophers, historians, thinkers, law-givers or seers.

Though sociology came to be established as a separate discipline in the 19th –century due to the efforts of the French Philosopher Auguste Comte. It is wrong to suppose that no social thought existed before him.

Four thousands of years men have reflected upon societies in which they lived. In the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Manu, Kautilya, Confucius, Cicero and others we find major attempts to deal methodically with the nature of Society Law, Religion, Philosophy, etc. However, sociology as an independent science came to be established only in the 19th century and there were some founders of this.

The Founding Fathers of Sociology:

Auguste Comte (1798-1857)

Auguste Comte, the French philosopher, is traditionally considered as the Father of Sociology. Comte who invented the term Sociology was the first man to distinguish the subject-matter of Sociology from all the other sciences. He worked out in a series of books, a general approach to the study of society. He introduced the word sociology for the first time in his famous work ‘Positive Philosophy At About 1839’. The term "Sociology" is derived from the Latin word ‘Socius’, meaning companion or associate, and the Greek word ‘Logos’, meaning study of science.

Auguste Comte believed that the science follows one another in a definite and logical order and that all inquiry goes through certain stages, (namely the theological, the metaphysical and the positive or scientific or empirical). Finally they arrive at the last or scientific stage or as he called the positive stage.

In the positive stage, objective observation is substituted for speculation. Social phenomena like physical phenomena, he maintained, can be studied objectively by making use of the positive method.

He thought that was time for inquiries into social problems and social phenomena enter into this last stage. So he recommended that the study of society be called the science of society, i.e. sociology.

Comte proposed sociology to be studied in two main parts: (i) the social statics and (ii) the social dynamics. These two concepts represent a basic division in the subject matter of sociology. The social statics deals with the major institutions of society such as family, economy or polity. He was convinced that all societies moved through certain fixed stages of development and they progressed towards ever increasing perfection.

He felt that the comparative study of societies as a whole was a major subject for sociological analysis. His major works are: (i) Positive philosophy and (ii) Positive polity.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)

It was the Englishman Herbert Spencer, known as one of the most brilliant intellects of modern times who contributed a great deal to the establishment of sociology, as a systematic discipline. His three volumes of principles of sociology published in 1877 where the first systematic study devoted mainly to the sociological analysis. He was much more precise than Comte in specifying the topics of special fields of sociology.

According to Spencer, the fields of sociology are mentioned in the sociological study of associations, communities, the divisions of labor, social differentiation and stratification, the sociology of knowledge and of science and the study of arts and aesthetics. He stressed on the obligation of sociology to deal with interrelations between the different...
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