Sociology: Introduction to Sociology: Meaning and Nature of Sociology

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Society, having both general and particular aspects is created by people, which in turn provides space for the people. The working and existence of a society is based on the web of social relations. Sociology is abroad discipline which deals with the structure and process of society in detail.

Meaning and Nature of Sociology

  • Auguste Comte, the father of sociology is the first one to coin the word sociology. The word is derived from a Latin word “Socius” meaning association and Greek word “Logus” meaning theory. Sociology is the scientific study of social relations, institutions and society. It enquires why people exhibit certain behaviours and why they don’t. Following are some of the sociologist and their view regarding what is sociology.

Auguste Comte

Auguste Comte

Auguste Comte

Auguste Comte (1798-1857)

  • Auguste Comte – Dealt with the problem of defining sociology as a discipline and delineated its nature.

  • Hob house – He explained how sociology studied the interaction of human minds.

  • Park and Burgess-They defined sociology as the science of collective behaviour.

  • Emile Durkheim- he argued that sociology is the study of social phenomena.

  • Max Weber – He said that the subject matter of sociology is constituted by human actions.

  • From these definitions we can conclude sociology is the study of human society and social behaviour as well as a study of social relationships and it forms and sociologist are concerned with man in nature.

  • When the nature of sociology is concerned, it is a scientific discipline because it depends on empirical evidence and interpretation. But, since we are based on human behaviour, it can’t be modelled like other sciences, due to its flexibility and dynamic nature.

What is Science

  • Science refers to the application of objective methods of investigation, reasoning and logic to develop a body of knowledge about given phenomena. It has three goals as follows,

Explain why something happens

Explain Why Something Happens

Explain why something happens

Explain why something happens.

Make generalisations

Make Generalisations

Make generalisations

Make generalisations

Predict and specify future

Predict and Specify Future

Predict and specify future

Predict and specify future in the light of available knowledge.

  • The idea of scientific research in sociology is to acquire objective knowledge free of bias and prejudice which is acquired through analysis of empirical and experimental facts. Why sociology is a scientific discipline is explained by Johnson by relating it to the scientific characters as shown below.

Scientific Characters

Scientific Characters

Scientific Characters

Sociology of Perspectives

Sociological perspectives are broad assumptions about society and social behaviour that provide a viewpoint for the study of specific problems. There are two main descriptive perspectives in sociology.

Positivism: The chief exponent is Auguste Comte. Positivism is the traditional scientific perspective which stresses on accurate, objective understanding and analysis of facts. Comte contributed to knowledge based on scientific research which stressed on neutrality and objectivity. Positivism defines objective world in objective and scientific terms. The processes involved are,

Sociology of Perspectives

Sociology of Perspectives

Sociology of Perspectives

Positivism is again divided into two perspectives; Functionalist and Conflict perspective.

  • The Functionalist perspective/ Structural functionalism: this is rooted in the origin of Sociology and the chief exponents are Herbert Spencer and Emile Durkheim. Here society is considered as a self-regulating, self-maintaining social system. And this system is considered to be in equilibrium if the basic needs like preserving social order, supply of goods and services and protecting their young ones are being carried out properly. Here, the process of order and stability in the social system is emphasised.

  • The Conflict perspective: They stress on inequalities and regard society as a system of individuals or groups conflicting with each other for scarce resources and formed associations to get control over the resources. The conflict perspective focused on macro level. A famous exponent of this perspective is Karl Marx.

Phenomenology: Unlikepositivism. Here they try to understand human behaviour from the subject’s own perspective. The overall implication of this method is that society is constructed through the view point and observations of the actors. There is no social world in the objective sense of the term.

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