Sociology is a discipline in social sciences concerned with the human society and human social activities. It is one of the youngest social sciences. Auguste Comte, a French social thinker, is traditionally known as the ‘Father of Sociology’ as he coined the term ‘Sociology’ in 1839.
Sociology is the study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behavior. Sociology refers to social behavior, society, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds everyday life. It is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis:3–5 to develop a body of knowledge about social order and social change.:32–40 Sociology can also be defined as the general science of society. While some sociologists conduct research that may be applied directly to social policy and welfare, others focus primarily on refining the theoretical understanding of social processes. Subject matter can range from micro-level analyses of society (i.e., of individual interaction and agency) to macro-level analyses (i.e., of systems and the social structure).
Sociologists investigate the structure of groups, organizations, and societies and how people interact within these contexts. Since all human behavior is social, the subject matter of sociology ranges from the intimate family to the hostile mob; from organized crime to religious traditions; from the divisions of race, gender and social class to the shared beliefs of a common culture. (21st Century Careers with an Undergraduate Degree in Sociology, 2014).
Traditional focuses of sociology include social stratification, social class, social mobility, religion, secularization, law, sexuality, gender, and deviance. As all spheres of human activity are affected by the interplay between social structure and individual agency, sociology has gradually expanded its focus to other subjects and institutions, such as health and the institution of medicine; economy; military; punishment and systems of control; the Internet; education; social capital; and the role of social activity in the development of scientific knowledge.
The range of social scientific methods has also expanded, as social researchers draw upon a variety of qualitative and quantitative techniques. The linguistic and cultural turns of the mid-20th century, especially, have led to increasingly interpretative, hermeneutic, and philosophic approaches towards the analysis of society. Conversely, the turn of the 21st century has seen the rise of new analytically, mathematically, and computationally rigorous techniques, such as agent-based modelling and social network analysis.
Social research has influence throughout various industries and sectors of life, such as among politicians, policy makers, and legislators; educators; planners; administrators; developers; business magnates and managers; social workers; non-governmental organizations; and non-profit organizations, as well as individuals interested in resolving social issues in general. As such, there is often a great deal of crossover between social research, market research, and other statistical fields.
Scope of Sociology
Scope means the subject matter or the areas of study or the boundaries of a subject. What we have to study in a particular subject is known as its scope. Every science has its own field of inquiry. It becomes difficult to study a science systematically unless its boundary or scope is determined precisely. Sociology as a social science has its own scope or boundaries. But there is no one opinion about the scope of Sociology. However, there are two main schools of thought regarding the scope of Sociology:
The Specialistic or Formalistic school and (2) the Synthetic school. There is a good deal of controversy about the scope of Sociology between the two schools.
The supporters of this school of thought are George Simmel, Vierkandt, Max Weber, Von Wiese, Small and F. Tonnies. They believe that Sociology is a specific, pure and independent science and thus its scope should be limited.
The supporters of synthetic school are the sociologists like Durkheim, Ginsberg, Comte, Sorokin, Spencer, F. Ward, and L.T. Hobhouse. According to this School Sociology is closely related with other social sciences. It is a synthesis of social sciences. Thus its scope is very vast.
Nature and Characteristics of Sociology
To begin with, sociology has developed as a value-free discipline. It is concerned with what is, not with what ought to be. The values which a society upholds and which influence the social behaviour of men are accepted by sociologists as facts’ and analysed objectively.
They do not analyse values themselves. It is thus not a normative discipline like Ethics or Religion. Further, the sociologists simply indicate the directions towards which the society is moving and refrain from expressing views on the directions in which society should, go. In this respect it is to be distinguished from Social and Political Philosophy.
Secondly, Sociology is an empirical discipline. It is guided by rational considerations in its analysis of social phenomena, and not in terms of ideology.
Thirdly, Sociology has developed as an abstract discipline like Physics, Chemistry or Mathematics, and not as an applied science like Engineering or Computer Science. A sociologist analyses society from different angles and acquires knowledge about society and patterns of social interactions.
Fourthly, Sociology is a general and not a -special social science. It is concerned with human relationships and patterns of social interactions in general, and not any particular aspects of the same. An economist confines his attention to interactions in the economic sphere only.
Likewise, a political scientist is primarily concerned only with interactions in the political field. A sociologist, however, focuses his attention on human or social relationships which are common to all these specialised fields.
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