Sociology may be defined as the study of human society and human social behaviour. Sociology is a way of thinking about society and social behaviour that goes beyond common-sense understanding. In sociology, common sense refers to ideas about the world which may be widely held by people in a particular society. Sociological knowledge, however, has greater validity than most forms of commonsense knowledge because it has been tested through some form of observation. In simple terms, sociologists try to base their statements about human behaviour on evidence rather than simple assumption. Sociology understanding is supported by evidence and seeks to be systematic and objective.
When we talk about the sociological perspective, we are talking about the particular way that sociologists, as opposed to non-sociologists, try to understand human social behaviour.
Not all sociologists look at the social world from exactly the same perspective or viewpoint. However, it is possible, to identify a number of common ideas which most, if not all, sociologists believe.
Sociology can be known as the systematic study of human societies which gives particular importance to modern, industrialized systems. The practice of sociology involves a number of varied abilities. It is necessary that one has the ability to think imaginatively and isolate oneself from personalized ideas about social life.
In the past many comprehensive changes that have come about were unsolved. Sociology was created on the attempt to understand the changes in our societies over the past two or three centuries. Changes included not only those of large scale but those concerned with change in the close and personal characteristics of people’s lives (Giddens 2006).
To establish what sociology is, it is important to look at the classical founders of sociology. Throughout the mid-nineteenth century Auguste Comte (1798-1857) and Karl Marx (1818-83) established some of the basic issues of sociology. These were later expanded by Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) and Max Weber (1864-1920).
The term ‘sociology’ was first introduced by Comte, who wanted it to be a scientific discipline i.e. concerned only with ‘observable entities that are known directly to experience’, an idea now better none as the term ‘positivism’ (Giddens 2006). For Comte, sociology was the scientific study of society, which seeks to provide understanding of it so as to promote changes. He believed that by applying the methods and assumptions of the natural sciences, it could be shown that human behaviour was governed by the same ‘invariable laws’ or principles of cause and effect (Giddens 2006).
Although Durkheim continued this he went further with the emphasis on social facts and the application of natural science methods to social inquiry. Durkheim sees the threat to social consistency caused by the growing complexity of division labour and the ‘anomie’ (Giddens 2006 p.14) which individuals experience as a result.
Unlike Comte and Durkheim, Marx also sought to explain the changes that were taking place in society during the Industrial Revolution but had different concepts. Capitalism and the separation of society into capital owners and wage labourers were Marx’s main focus. Two groups whose interests were in conflict in itself. Weber’s work can be seen as in debate with Marx but with greater emphasis on the role of ideas and beliefs in social change and less reliance on the power of class conflict.
We have seen that although sociologists generally agree about a number of basic aspects of human behaviour they do not all agree about how society is defined or how it can be studied?
Sociological study has highlighted the extent of regularities in social behaviour, which is often predictable. It is argued that while we might think of ourselves as individuals who always make...