The term 'Sociology' was coined by Auguste Comte, a French philosopher in 1839. It is the youngest of all social sciences. Sociology is the outcome of man's search for a more valid, and precise knowledge about the nature of man and the society.
The word 'Sociology' is derived from the Latin word 'Societus' meaning 'society and the Greek word 'logos' meaning 'study or science'. Thus, the etymological meaning of 'Sociology' is the 'science of society'. In other words, we can say Sociology is the study of man's behaviour in groups or of interaction among human beings of social relationships and the processes by which human group activity takes place.
To make the study more clear, it is wise on our part to discuss some of the definitions given by famous sociologists. Unfortunately, there is no short-cut definition of Sociology so far. It has been defined in a number of ways by different sociologists, but no single definition of Sociology has yet been accepted as completely satisfactory.
Auguste Comte, the founding father of Sociology, defines Sociology "as the science of social phenomena subject to natural and invariable laws, the discovery of which is the object of investigation."
Kingsley Davis defines Sociology as a "general science of society."
Durkheim defines Sociology as the "science of social institution".
Harry M. Jonson opines that "Sociology is the science that deals with social groups." Of the various definitions given by sociologists, the definition of Ginsberg seems to be more satisfactory.
Moris Ginsberg defines Sociology "as the study of human interactions and interrelations, their condition and consequences."
Scope of Sociology
Scope means the subject matter or the areas of study. 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: (1) The Specialist 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 supporter of first school believe that Sociology is a specific science and the scope should be limited whereas others believe that it is a general science and its scope is very vast
(1) Specialistic school:
The supporters of this school of thought are George Simmel, Vierkandt, Max Weber, Vonwise, and F. Tonnies. The main views of the school regarding the scope of Sociology are -
(i) Sociology is a specific, pure and independent social science.
(ii) Sociology studies the various forms of social relationships.
(iii) Scope of Sociology is very narrow and limited.
(iv) Sociology deals with specific form of human relationship.
(v) Sociology need not study all the events connected with social science.
(vi) Simmel believes that it is a specific social science and it should deal with social relationships from different angles.
(i) Sociologist alone does not study the forms of social relationships. Other social scientists also do that.
(ii) The distinction between the forms of social relations and their contents is not practicable.
(iii) Thirdly, the formalistic school has narrowed down the scope of Sociology.
(iv) Finally, the conception of pure Sociology is imaginary.
(2) Synthetic school:
The supporters of synthetic school are the sociologists like Ginsberg, Durkheim, Comte, Sorokin, Spencer, F. Ward, and L.T. Hobhouse.
According to this school-
(i) Sociology is a general and systematic social science.
(ii) Scope of Sociology is very vast.
(iii) Sociology needs help from other social sciences.
(iv) It is a synthesis of social science.
(v) Sociology is closely related with other social sciences.
From the above discussion, we come to know that formalistic school believes in the study of the parts, which makes up the society and synthetic school advocates the study of the whole society. However, both the schools complement to each other. They are not opposed to each other. Thus, Sociology is a general science of society and specialised discipline. Sociology is a growing science. Therefore, it is neither possible nor desirable to restrict its scope.