Tuesday, July 5, 2011

1. Sociology - The Discipline:

1. Sociology - The Discipline:

Sociology can be defined as a study of society or social life, of group interaction and of Social behaviour. The scope of Sociology is extremely wide starting from the street quarrels to the global process of Islamic fundamentalism.

(a) Modernity and social changes in Europe and emergence of sociology.

Study of society is a recent development whose development date back to the late 1700s and 1800s.The background to the origins of sociology was the series of sweeping changes ushered in by the French Revolution of 1789 and emergence of Industrial Revolution in Europe. The shattering of traditional ways of life brought by these changes in the attempts of thinkers to develop a new understanding of both social and natural worlds.

A key development was the use of science instead of religion to understand the world. The types of questions these nineteenth-century thinkers sought to answer-what is human nature? Why is society structured like it is? How and why do societies change?- are the same questions sociologists try to answer today our modern world is radically different from that of past: it is sociology’s task to help us understand this world and what the future is likely to hold.


Auguste Comte (1798-1857)

The three stages, according to him, in which the society moves, were:

i) the theological or the religious


ii) the metaphysical or the philosophical


iii) the positive or the scientific stage.

In the first stage. people thought, all phenomena were caused by supernatural forces. Abstract forces of either a religious or secular type were considered to be the source of

knowledge in the second stage. In the last stage, scientific laws were supposed to determine both the natural and the social worlds.

He also talked about two broad areas -'social statistics', which deals with the orderly and, stable aspects of social life and patterns of behaviour (family, occupational, polity. etc.). The second area called 'social dynamics' emphasises the study of changes in a social system. According to him, sociology was to be the queen of all sciences.

Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)

Durkheim was also interested in sociology being a scientific discipline. He wrote a book in 1895 entitled: Rules of Sociological Method. To him, social solidarity was one of the main principles of human life. He distinguished between two kinds of solidarity: 'mechanical solidarity' based on common assumptions, beliefs, sentiments like those found in traditional societies and 'organic solidarity' based on the division of labour and inter-related interests as found in industrial societies. When solidarity is broken, there would be social disorganisation and confusion in society.

Max Weber (1864-1920)

Weber used the concept of social action rather than social relations. A comprehensive Max Weber study of social action, to him, meant understanding the meanings human beings give to their behavioural pattern. The social behaviour was not merely a mechanical learning of norms but how people interpreted the social values. Sociology studies all kinds of social action without making any value judgements.

Weber was concerned with understanding of inter-relations between parts of society and also, with comparative studies of different societies. He studied religion in different societies. His work on Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism is one of the well known works in sociology.

Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Marx has helped through his ideas in understanding the nature of society, particularly, how conflicts occur. . Marx writes in 1848 that all history is a history of classes and class struggles. The society gets divided between the oppressors and the oppressed masters and slaves, lords and serfs and in the modern times, capitalists and workers. To analyse the structure of society, it was necessary to understand the forces of production and relations of production. The contradiction between the forces and the relations of production leads to class struggle.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)

Spencer also emphasised a total view of society. According to him, the study of sociology covers the fields of family, politics, religion and social control, division of labour and social stratification. He emphasised the study of whole more than the study of parts.

(b) Scope of the subject and comparison with other social sciences.

Sociology as a science- Sociology is considered as a science only in its approach towards the society not as a subject matter because the approach consists of observation and verification of social phenomena.

The systematic approach consists of:

i) defining a problem for study;

ii) collecting data on the problem defined;

iii) analysing and organising the data; which would help in formulation of hypothesis;


iv) further testing of the hypothesis and on the basis of this, develop new concepts

and theories.

If we look at sociology from the point of view of its approach to the study of society,

then sociology can be considered to be a science.

Social Psychology and Sociology

Social psychology is the study of social and cultural influences on the individual. It

focuses on the behaviour of a single person and hence, differs from sociology, which is

more concerned with relations among groups.

Sociology and Anthropology

There are many fields in anthropology, namely; archaeology, linguistics, physical

anthropology and social anthropology. Although, anthropology has been regarded as

the study of early (primitive) cultures, and sociology of the more contemporary society.

This distinction is no longer valid. Many of the early village studies in India have been

done by social anthropologists. The tribal communities in India have, by and large,

been studied by anthropologists, in both their physical and social aspects. There is,

hence, some overlap between the areas of study of sociology and anthropology,

particularly, social anthropology. Culture and social organisations are concepts studied

in both these disciplines.

Sociology and Economics

Sociology and economics both study industry but do so differently. Economics would

study economic factors of industry, productivity, labour, industrial policy, marketing,

etc., whereas a sociologist would study the impact of industrialisation on society.

Basic and Applied Sociology

Sociologists are interested in conducting research studies in the area of social life and

developing theories with regard to human social behaviour. The purpose is to build a

body of reliable knowledge through which various aspects of social life can be understood

and explained. While this is important, it is necessary to make use of this knowledge

in various aspects of human affairs. There are many factors, which have an impact on

social relations. Increased use of technology is one such area. Sociologists could

anticipate as to how people will receive and react to new technology and changes it

might bring about in social relations. There are many programmes of development

that are launched. Sociologist can indicate what care needs to be taken in introducing;

changes without affecting their way of life so that suggested programmes can be

accepted. The reactions towards the innovations - acceptance, resistance or non acceptance

should be noted, when studies could also provide further insight into social

values and social behaviour.

(c) Sociology and common sense.

Many people mistakenly believe that sociology is the study of the obvious. They claim that sociology is nothing but the application of common sense. But equating any science with simple common sense could not be further from the truth! Common sense is not always “common,” nor “sensible.” Statements like “Birds of a feather flock together” and “Opposites attract,” while supposedly based on common knowledge, contradict each other. Because common sense does not always accurately predict reality, people need something else.

Not every sociological finding is revolutionary; many findings do appear consistent with common sense. By systematically testing common sense beliefs against facts, sociologists can sort out which popular beliefs hold true and which do not. To accomplish this, sociologists use a variety of social science research designs and methods.

Sociology as a discipline is more than common sense. Sociology is a method of inquiry that requires the systematic testing of beliefs against evidence. Sociologists, therefore, make determining whether specific ideas are fact or fiction their job.


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  2. Thanks a lot for such valuable notes on Sociology as a discipline.

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  5. thanks a lot for giving such important material for preparation of IAS with sociology. But, I could not find topics for Sociology paper II. I found all the topics properly for Sociology I paper. Please upload material as per syllabus of sociology paper II. It will be act of great kindness.

    thanks again

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