The term, sociology has been derived from the Latin word, ‘Societas’ or ‘Socius’ meaning society or associate and the Greek word, ‘Logos’ meaning theory or study or science. Etymologically, then, sociology means the science or theory of human society or of human association.
The term, sociology is not very old. Its origin can be traced to recent past. It was coined by Auguste Comte (1798-1857) the French Philosopher and sociologist in 1833. He introduced it to designate the science of human association. Now it has been regarded as a specialised field of study.
For a clear understanding of what sociology deals with and of its field of investigation, we would do well to examine some important definitions of sociology given by eminent sociologists, But their opinion is divided on its scope and subject matter.
There are as many definitions of sociology as there are sociologists. All of them have discussed sociology from their own view points. They have emphasised on one aspect or the other, depending upon their understanding and interest and few important definitions are given below.
Gillin and Gillin says that in its broadest sense sociology may be described as the study of interaction arising from the association of living beings.
Mac Iver and Page say that sociology is about social relationships, the network of social relationship we call society.
M. Glinsberg thinks that ‘sociology is the study of human interaction and inter-relations, their conditions and consequences.
Ferdinand Tonnies holds the view that ‘Sociology on the whole is the theory of human living together’.
Kimball Young believes that “Sociology deals with the behaviour of man in groups.”
J.F. Cuber is of the opinion that “Sociology is a body Of scientific knowledge about human relationship”.
R.E. Park and F.W. Burgess feel that “Sociology is the science of collective behaviour”.
A.W. Green defines sociolog9 as “the synthesizing and generalising science of man in all his social relationship”.
L.T. Hobhouse defines it as “the study of the interaction of human mind”.
There are many definitions of sociology in addition to the ones already mentioned above. These definitions indicate that sociologists differ from one another in their views on sociology.
Some sociologists have defined sociology as the science of society but they do not agree on the meaning of society. Some sociologists think that sociology is the scientific study of social activities or relationship.
Others believe that sociology is a study of social life, action, behaviour and incidents. According to another group of sociologists sociology is the study of groups.
On the whole, sociology is the systematic study of society and of the social institutions. It studies them as they are. It is not concerned with their origin and growth.
It studies society from scientific point of view. It makes a positive and secular approach to understand the working of the social institutions. Sociology is regarded as a social science which studies society as it is.
It studies the group living of human beings. It takes society as an organic whole, discusses the inter-relations of the institutions that constitute it. It studies society as a whole.
The essence of all the definitions and view points discussed so far is that sociology is primarily concerned with human social relations, society, its subject-matter, but the individual occupies a position of very great significance in its field of investigation. In other words, the individual can by no means be ignored in the study of sociology.