Module 1 Introduction to Sociology
In the family of social sciences, Sociology is comparatively a new entrant. But because of its dealing with social problems, social relationships and social interactions the importance of the study of this subject has considerably increased. It has considerably developed in methodology, scope and approach. Sociology is the systematic study of social behavior and human groups. It focuses primarily on the influence of social relationships upon people’s attitudes and behavior and on how societies are established and change.
Sociology emerged at the end of the 19th century through the work of sociologists such as Augste Comte, Max Weber, Émile Durkheim, Georg Simmel, Robert E. Park and Albion Small. According to Jonathan H. Turner 1982, Max Weber defines sociology, as a “science, which aims at the interpretative understanding of social behaviour in order to gain an explanation of its causes, its course and its effects”.
The term sociology is a combination of two words. The first part of the term is a Latin, socius- that may variously mean society, association, togetherness or companionship. The other word, logos, is of Greek origin and the term is generally understood as study or science. Thus, the etymological, literal definition of sociology is that it is the word or speaking about society. A simple definition here is that it is the study of society and culture.
Sociology is the study of man’s behavior in groups or of the interaction among human beings of social relationships and the processes by which human group activity takes place.
Sociology can be defined as, “the systematic study of human society”. More technically, sociology is the analysis of the structure of social relationships as constituted by social interaction.
Auguste Comte (1798-1857) the French philosopher and sociologist is considered as the ‘Father of Sociology’
Sociology is being defined differently by sociologists
Auguste Comte defines Sociology “as the science of social phenomena subject to natural and invariable laws, the discovery of which is the object of investigation."
According to L.F. Ward, “Sociology is the science of society or of social phenomena”.
George Simmel opines that it is a subject which studies human inter-relationship.
According to W.F. Ogburn, Sociology is a body of learning about Society. It is a description of of ways to make society better. It is social ethics, a social philosophy. Generally, however, it is defined as a science of society
Max Weber has viewed sociology as “Science which attempts the interpretative understanding of social action”.
From all these definitions it becomes clear that sociology is concerned with social relationships and studies society, human interactions, inter-personal and intra-personal relations. It tries to study scientifically social institutions, organizations and systems.
To summarise this section, therefore:
Sociology is a social science concerned with the study of human social relationships and the various ways these relationships are patterned in terms of social groups, organisations and societies.
1.3 Development of Sociology
Sociology is a relatively new academic discipline among other social sciences including economics, political science, anthropology, history, and psychology. The ideas behind it, however, have a long history and can trace their origins to a mixture of common human knowledge and philosophy.
Auguste Comte coined the word 'sociology' in his “Positive Philosophy” published in 1838. He believed that a science of sociology should be based on systematic observation and classification, not on authority and speculation. This was a relatively new idea at that time. Herbert Spencer in England published his Principles of Sociology in 1876. He applied the theory of organic evolution to human society and developed a grand theory of social evolution.
Lester F Ward, an American published his Dynamic Sociology in 1883 calling for social progress through intelligent social action which sociologists should guide. All these founders of sociology were basically social philosophers. They proclaimed that sociologists should collect, organize and classify factual data and derive sound social theories from these facts. While they called for scientific investigation they did relatively little of it themselves.
Emile Durkheim gave the most notable early demonstration of scientific methodology in sociology. In his Rules of sociological Method published in 1895, he outlined the methodology which he pursued in his study 'Suicide' published in 1897. Instead of speculating upon the causes of suicide, he first planned his research design and then collected a large mass of data on the characteristics of people who commit suicide and then derived a theory of suicide from these data.
Courses in sociology appeared in many universities in the 1890s.The American Journal of Sociology began publication in 1895 and the American Sociological Society was organized in 1905.Whereas most of the early European sociologists came from the fields of history, political economy or philosophy many of the early American sociologists had been social workers, ministers and nearly all were from rural backgrounds.
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.
Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)
He was French. His primary goal was of getting sociology recognized as a separate academic discipline. His systematic study comparing suicide rates among several countries revealed an underlying social factor:
People were more likely to commit suicide if their ties to others in their communities were weak. He identified the key role of social integration in social life.
Max Weber (1864-1920)
Max Weber was a German. He used cross-cultural and historical materials in order to determine how extensively social groups affect people’s orientations to life.
Urbanization and industrialization were creating grave social problems and these early sociologists were looking for scientific solutions. They saw sociology as a scientific guide to social progress. The early volumes of the American Journal of Sociology contained relatively few articles devoted to scientific description or research but carried many sermons filled with advice etc.
By 1930s the several sociological journals were well filled with research articles and scientific descriptions. Sociology was becoming a body of scientific knowledge with its theories based upon scientific observation rather than upon impressionistic observation.
Sociology in India
The study of Sociology in India started in 1919 at the University of Bombay, it was in 1930 that its study as a separate discipline started. Prominent Indian sociologists like G.S Ghurye, R.K Mukherjee, H.T Mazumdar, A.R Desai have also made original contributions to Sociological studies.
1.4 Characteristics of Sociology
Sociology as a branch of knowledge has its own characteristics. It is different from other social sciences. Let us discuss in brief the characteristics of sociology.
1. Sociology is an independent science:
Sociology as an independent science has its own field of study, its own boundary and methods. It is not treated and studied as a branch of any other science like philosophy, Political science and History.
2. Sociology is a Social science and not a Physical science:
Sociology is a humanistic science i.e. it deals with the social universe and not with the physical universe. It is particularly concerned with social facts and man's relationships, social activities and social life. It is intimately related to the social sciences like History, Political science, Economic, Psychology, Anthropology etc. It can be distinguished from Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry and other physical sciences.
3. Sociology is a Categorical and not a normative discipline:
Sociology as a science cannot deal with problem of good and evil, right and wrong and moral or immoral. It does not make any recommendations on matters of social policy or legislation or programme. It maintains a neutral posture making no value judgments of social issues. It only critically analyses social facts, objectively and scientifically. It confines itself to "what is" and not "what should be" or "what ought to be".
4. Sociology is a pure science and not an applied science:
Pure science refers to the acquisition of knowledge and applied science is converted with the applicability of knowledge of that science. Sociology is a pure science because its main purpose is to acquire knowledge about human society. It never bothers about the utilisation of knowledge. It only helps in the systematic analysis of social facts and issues, which ultimately helps the policy planners to utilise this knowledge for solutions. But sociologists themselves do not utilise this knowledge to life.
5. Sociology is relatively as Abstract Science and not a Concrete Science:
Sociology is not interested in concrete manifestations of human events. It is more concerned with the form of human events and their patterns. It is not concerned with a particular war or revolution in general as social phenomena. It analyses the types of social phenomena, social conflict and social control. Sociology does not confine itself to the study of this society or that particular society. It is in this simple sense that sociology is an abstract and not a concrete science.
6. Sociology is a Generalising and not a Particularising Science:
It aims to establish general laws or principles about inter-human interaction and associations; it seeks to find general principles about the nature, form, content and structure of human groups and societies. But it does not make a comprehensive description of particular events or societies.
7. Sociology is a General Science and not a Special Science:
Sociology as a science is concerned with human interaction and human life in general. Other social sciences like Economics, Political Science and History also study human interaction, but not the all-inclusive aspect of human relationship. The other social sciences concentrate on certain aspects of human interaction and activities. For example, Economics deals with the economic activities and political science deals with political activities and so on and so forth. Sociology of course, does not investigate economic, religious, political or any other kind of special phenomena. It studies human activities is a general way.
8. Sociology is both Rational and Empirical science:
Rational approach stresses on reason, logic and theories that result from logical inference. Empirical method stresses on facts and figures and not on speculation. Empiricists collect facts and rationalists co-ordinate and arrange them. Both theories and facts are necessary in the construction of knowledge. It is also required in sociological inquiry. If a theory is not backed by facts, then it is just a matter of opinion. Similarly, facts without theories are blind and directionless. Isolated facts are meaningless without theorization. Thus, sociology is both empirical and rational in nature.
So, from the above discussion, we can conclude that sociology is an independent, a social, a categorical, a pure, an abstract, a generalizing and both a rational and empirical general social science.
1.5 Importance of Sociology
1. Sociology makes a scientific study of society: Prior to the emergence of sociology the study of society was carried on in an unscientific manner and society had never been the central concern of any science. It is through the study of sociology that the truly scientific study of the society has been possible. Sociology because of its bearing upon many of the problems of the present world has assumed such a great importance that it is considered to be the best approach to all the social sciences.
2. Sociology studies role of the institutions in the development of the individuals: It is through sociology that scientific study of the great social institutions and the relation of the individual to each is being made. The home and family ,the school and educaton,the church and religion, the state and government ,industry and work ,the community and association, these are institutions through which society functions. Sociology studies these institutions and their role in the development of the individual and suggests suitable measures for restrengthening them with a view to enable them to serve the individual better.
3. Study of sociology is indispensable for understanding and planning of society: Society is a complex phenomenon with a multitude of intricacies. It is impossible to understand and solve its numerous problems without support of sociology. It is rightly said that we cannot understand and mend society without any knowledge of its mechanism and construction. Without the investigation carried out by sociology no real effective social planning would be possible. It helps us to determine the most efficient means for reaching the goals agreed upon. A certain amount of knowledge about society is necessary before any social policies can be carried out.
4. Sociology is of great importance in the solution of social problems: The present world is suffering from many problems which can be solved through scientific study of the society. It is the task of sociology to study the social problems through the methods of scientific research and to find out solution to them. The scientific study of human affairs will ultimately provide the body of knowledge and principles that will enable us to control the conditions of social life and improve them.
5. Sociology has drawn our attention to the intrinsic worth and dignity of man: Sociology has been instrumental in changing our attitude towards human beings. In a specialized society we are all limited as to the amount of the whole organization and culture that we can experience directly. We can hardly know the people of other areas intimately. In order to have insight into and appreciation of the motives by which others live and the conditions under which they exist knowledge of sociology is essential.
6. Sociology has changed our outlook with regard to the problems of crime etc:It is through the study of sociology that our whole outlook on various aspects of crime has change. The criminals are now treated as human beings suffering from mental deficiencies and efforts are accordingly made to rehabilitate them as useful members of the society.
7. Sociology has made great contribution to enrich human culture: Human culture has been made richer by the contribution of sociology. The social phenomenon is now understood in the light of scientific knowledge and enquiry. Sociology has given us training to have rational approach to questions concerning oneself, one's religion, customs, morals and institutions. It has further taught us to be objective, critical and dispassionate.
8. Sociology is of great importance in the solution of international problems: The progress made by physical sciences has brought the nations of the world nearer to each other. But in the social field the world has been left behind by the revolutionary progress of the science. The world is divided politically giving rise to stress and conflict. Men have failed to bring in peace. Sociology can help us in understanding the underlying causes and tensions.
9. The value of sociology lies in the fact that it keeps us update on modern situations: It contributes to making good citizens and finding solutions to the community problems. It adds to the knowledge of the society. It helps the individual find his relation to society. The study of social phenomena and of the ways and means of promoting what Giddens calls social adequacy is one of the most urgent needs of the modern society.
1.6 Scope of Sociology
There are two schools of thought with different viewpoints regarding scope and subject matter of sociology- formal school and synthetic school. According to formal school sociology was conceived to be a social science with a specifically defined field. This school had George Simmel, Ferdinand Tonnies, Alfred Vierkandt and Leopord Von Wiese as its main advocates. On the other hand the synthetic school with Durkheim, Hobhouse and Sorokin advocated a synthesis in form of coordination among all social sciences.
Formal School of Sociology
Formal school argued in favor of giving sociology a definite subject matter to make it a distinct discipline. It emphasized upon the study of forms of social relationships and regarded sociology as independent.
According to Simmel sociology is a specific social science which describes, classifies, analyses and delineates the forms of social relationships or in other words social interactions should be classified into various forms or types and analysed.
Simmel argued that social interactions have various forms. He carried out studies of such formal relationships as cooperation, competition, sub and super ordinate relationships and so forth. He emphasized on the process of abstraction of these forms from human relationship which are common to diverse situations.
Vierkandt maintained that sociology should be concerned with ultimate forms of mental or psychic relationship which knit the people together in a society.
Tonnies divided societies into two categories namely Gemeinschaft (community) and Gesellschaft (association) on the basis of degree of intimacy among the members of the society. He has on the basis of forms of relationship tried to differentiate between community and society.
Max Weber also makes out a definite field for sociology. According to him the aim of sociology is to interpret or understand social behaviour. But social behavior does not cover the whole field of human relations. Indeed not all human interactions are social. Sociology is concerned with the analysis and classification of types of social relationships.
Criticism of formal School
Formal school has been criticized on the issue that it has emphasized on merely abstract forms and neglected the concrete contents of social life. Abstract forms separated from concrete relations cannot be studied. Ginsberg says that a study of social relationships would remain barren if it is conducted in the abstract without the full knowledge of the terms to which in concrete life they relate. Sociology doesn't alone study the forms of social relationship. Political science, International law also studies forms of social relationship. The conception of pure sociology is not practical as no social science can be studied in isolation from other social sciences.
Synthetic School of Sociology
Synthetic school wanted sociology to be synthesis of the social sciences and thus wanted to widen the scope of sociology. According to Durkheim, sociology has three principal divisions' namely-Social morphology, social physiology and general sociology.
Social morphology is concerned with geographical or territorial basis of life of people such as population, its size, density and distribution etc. This can be done at two levels -analysis of size and quality of population which affects the quality of social relationship and social groups. Secondly, the study of social structure or description of the main forms of social groups and institutions with their classification.
Social physiology deals with the genesis and nature of various social institutions namely religion, morals, law and economic institutions etc.
In general sociology the main aim is to formulate general social laws. Attempt is made to find out if there are links among various institutions which would be treated independently in social physiology and in the course to discover general social laws.
Hobhouse perceived sociology as a science which has the whole social life of man as its sphere. Its relations with the other social sciences are considered to be one of mutual exchange and mutual stimulation.
Karl Mannheim's divides sociology into two main sections-systematic and general sociology and historical sociology. Systematic sociology describes one by one the main factors of living together as far as they may be found in every kind of society. The historical sociology deals with the historical variety and actuality of the general forms of society. It falls into two sections-comparative sociology and social dynamics. Comparative sociology deals mainly with the historical variations of the same phenomenon and tries to find by comparison general features as separated from industrial features. Social dynamics deals with the interrelations between the various social factors and institutions in a certain given society for example in a primitive society.
Ginsberg has summed up the chief functions of sociology as it seeks to provide a classification of types and forms of social relationships especially of those which have come to be defined institutions and associations. It tries to determine the relation between different parts of factors of social life for example the economic and political, the moral and the legal, the intellectual and the social elements. It endeavors to disentangle the fundamental conditions of social change and persistence and to discover sociological principles governing social life.
Thus on the basis of viewpoints of different sociologists we can get a general outline of the scope of sociology.
Firstly the analysis of various institutions, associations and social groups which are results of social relationships of individuals should be the concern of sociology.
Secondly the links among different parts of society should be studied. This objective is dealt with justice by functionalist school of sociology and Marxist school also gives importance to this viewpoint. Thus social structure should be given adequate importance in subject matter of sociology.
Thirdly sociology addresses itself to the factors which contribute to social stability and social change.
Fourthly sociology should also explain the trend of the changing pattern and the aftermath of the changes in the society.
1.7 Sociology and Social work
Sociology is concerned with the study of the social life of man and its relation to the factor of cultural, natural environment, heredity and group.
Sociology is about social relationship, the network of social relationship we call society. The subject matter of sociology is (i)social morphology-population, its qualities, social groups, social institutions and organizations(ii)social processes-cooperation, competition, conflict, accommodation, adaptation, assimilation, adjustment, socialization etc.(iii)Social control-religion, tradition, folklore, morality, laws..etc. (iv) Social Pathology-crime juvenile delinquency, suicide, unemployment, corruption, cultural deviation etc. Thus we can say sociology is the scientific study of human organizations, groups and their interactions.
Social work derives most of its knowledge from sociology because the psycho-social problems of an individual cannot be diagnosed and solved without having the knowledge of his social environment.
The study of sociology is important for social workers because of the following reasons.
The study of social organizations is essential for treatment. Sociology studies the interactions of groups, and individuals whereas social work is responsible for the solution of the problems of these groups. If a social worker does not have the knowledge of individuals and group, he can neither diagnose nor can take any corrective measures.
The knowledge of social relations is essential in social work, whatever the individual be and the type of personality he has. Without understanding the nature of social relations, problems cannot be understood. Social relations are the subject matter of sociology.
Social work lays emphasis on the study of culture. Individuals behavior is mostly conditioned by traditions, customs, folkways, values, norms etc. these are the constituents of the culture which is studied in sociology
Social work always tries to have knowledge of social roles and expectations. When one person fails to perform any of these roles one feels maladjusted. Social worker therefore always tries to understand the roles and thus studies sociology.
Social work studies life, community relations and its characteristics for social development. The function of social work is not only to solve psycho-social problems but it also enters into the field of social development. This work is possible only when the characteristics of groups and community are studied. This knowledge we derive from sociology.
All this does not mean that social work is a branch of sociology. It differs in many ways
Sociology studies principles of social organizations and groups whereas social work studies mutual interactions among individuals.
Sociology is concerned with theory and it has no concern with practice. Social work provides practical shape to theoretical concepts.
Sociology explains problems, it does not try to solve them but the basic aim of social work is to solve these problems.
Sociology presents the development model for the development of society but which model will be suited is determined by social work.
Both sociology and social work look to society as essentially a network of social relationships. But sociology provides a scientific and suitable means and methods for scientific solution.
Ref: Vidya Bhushan, Dr. Sachdeva, An Introduction to Sociology, C.N Shankar Rao, Sociology Principles of Sociology with an Introduction to Social Thought Dr. Satya Pal Ruhela, Introduction to Sociology Sanjay Bhatacharya, Social Work An integrated Approach
Society: Definition, evolution, meaning and characteristics, types of societies, solidarity
The term society is most fundamental to sociology. It is derived from the Latin word socius which means companionship or friendship. Companionship means sociability. It indicates that man always lives in the company of other people. Man is a social animal said Aristotle centuries ago. Man needs society for his living, working and enjoying life. Society has become an essential condition for human life to continue. We can define society as a group of people who share a common culture, occupy a particular territorial area and feel themselves to constitute a unified and distinct entity. It is the mutual interactions and interrelations of individuals and groups.
Definitions of Society
August Comte the father of sociology saw society as a social organism possessing a harmony of structure and function.
Emile Durkheim the founding father of the modern sociology treated society as a reality in its own right.
According to Talcott Parsons Society is a total complex of human relationships in so far as they grow out of the action in terms of means-end relationship intrinsic or symbolic.
Morris Ginsberg defines society as a collection of individuals united by certain relations or mode of behavior which mark them off from others who do not enter into these relations or who differ from them in behavior.
Colee sees Society as the complex of organized associations and institutions with a community.
According to Mac lver and Page society is a system of usages and procedures of authority and mutual aid of many groupings and divisions, of controls of human behavior and liberties. This ever changing complex system which is called society is a web of social relationship
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