Sociology may be defined as the scientific study of the group life of human beings. Sociology as a field is not a social philosophy, a system of values meant to tell people how they ought to organize themselves and otherwise behave. Sociologists attempt to describe and explain as thoroughly and objectively as possible (as scientifically as possible) how and why people interact in groups. A sociologist may have very strong feelings or beliefs about how society ought to organize itself or treat certain of its members.
Sociology may be defined as the scientific study of the group life of human beings. Sociology as a field is not a social philosophy, a system of values meant to tell people how they ought to organize themselves and otherwise behave. Sociologists attempt to describe and explain as thoroughly and objectively as possible (as scientifically as possible) how and why people interact in groups. A sociologist may have very strong feelings or beliefs about how society ought to organize itself or treat certain of its members. As a professional, a sociologist is obliged to report on and analyze objectively whatever group living (such as in families, social classes, or communities) and its byproducts (values, traditions, and customs) are.
History of Sociology
Sociology is the youngest of the social sciences. The word “sociology” was coined in 1838 by Auguste Comte, a Frenchman, in his work Positive Philosophy. Comte is generally referred to as the father of sociology. He believed that the science of sociology should be based on systematic observation and classification.
Herbert Spencer, an Englishman, in 1876 developed a theory of “social evolution” which, after being accepted and then rejected, is now being reaccepted in modified form. Spencer applied Darwin’s theory of evolution to human societies. He believed that there exists a gradual evolution of society from the primitive to the industrial. In his writings he indicated that this was a natural evolutionary process that should not be interfered with by humans.
Lester Ward, an American, published Dynamic Sociology in 1883. In this work he advocated social progress through social action guided by sociologists.
Emile Durkheim in 1895 published Rules of Sociological Method, outlining the methodology used in his classical study of suicide in various population groups. Durkheim was one of the real pioneers in the development of sociology. He firmly believed that societies were bound together by the commonly shared beliefs and values of their members.
Max Weber (1864-1920) believed that the methods used in the natural sciences could not be applied to the problems explored in the social sciences. Weber argued that because social scientists study the social world in which they live, there must be a certain degree of subjective understanding in their investigations. He believed that in their work sociologists should be value-free, never allowing personal biases to influence either their research or their conclusions.
Courses in sociology were offered at many universities in the 1890s. In 1895 the American Journal of Sociology began publishing, and in 1905 the American Sociological Society was founded.
Most early American sociologists came from rural backgrounds, and many were social workers and from ministers’ families. In their early work they attempted to solve social problems created by urbanization and industrialization.
Why do people study Sociology?
The study of sociology is important for a number of reasons. Through sociology we are able to take a fresh look at the social environment and to reexamine our place in society along with groups which we seldom or never have contact with. By using the tools available to us, we can view other worlds and other cultures that we previously knew little or nothing about. Sociology can enable us to understand the origin of viewpoints and attitudes that are quite different from our own, and ultimately we may understand the social forces that influence our own behavior and the behavior of those around us.
A major objective of sociology is to predict and control behavior. For example, American government in frame of providing adequate services effectively for the American people, government must be able to predict what conditions will be in future years and identify needs that must be met. Using the findings of sociologists, social planners must be able to forecast future needs for schools, medical facilities, correctional institutions, and retirement centers, to name just a few. By understanding past social trends and their causes along with present conditions, we can plan for the future with some degree of certainty.
Sociology and Other Sciences
The sciences are customarily divided into two major branches, the natural sciences and the social sciences. The natural sciences concern themselves with the study of physical phenomenal, the social sciences study the broad spectrum of human behavior. Sociology is a social science. Other social sciences include psychology (the study of individual behavior); social psychology (the study of the individuals’ relationship with a group); political science (the study of government, political philosophy, and administrative decision making); economics (the study of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services in a society); and anthropology (including archaeology, the study of the remains of extinct civilizations; linguistics, the study of language; physical anthropology, the study of human evolution; and cultural or social anthropology, the study of the ways of life among communities throughout the world). The disciplines of sociology and cultural and social anthropology share many common concepts. Geography (the study of the role of people in various processes such as the growth, decline, and movement of world populations) and history (the recording and explanation of past events in terms of human activities) are also related to sociology.
Sociology covers topics such as culture; status and role; socialization and personality; social groups; social institutions; the family; social control; deviant behavior; social class; social mobility; population and ecology; rural and urban community; collective behavior; race and ethnic relations; formal organizations; social power; social movements; social and cultural change.