Sociology as a branch of knowledge has its own characteristics. It is different from other social sciences. Let us discuss in brief the characteristics of sociology.
1) Sociology is an independent science:
Sociology as an independent science has its own field of study, its own boundary and methods. It is not treated and studied as a branch of any other science like philosophy, Political science and History.
2) Sociology is a Social science and not a Physical science:
Sociology is a humanistic science i.e. it deals with the social universe and not with the physical universe. It is particularly concerned with social facts and man’s relationships, social activities and social life. It is intimately related to the social sciences like History, Political science, Economic, Psychology, Anthropology etc. It can be distinguished from Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry and other physical sciences.
3) Sociology is a Categorical and not a normative discipline:
Sociology as a science cannot deal with problem of good and evil, right and wrong and moral or immoral. It does not make any recommendations on matters of social policy or legislation or programme. It maintains a neutral posture making no value judgments of social issues. It only critically analyses social facts, objectively and scientifically. It confines itself to “what is” and not “what should be” or “what ought to be”.
4) Sociology is a pure science and not an applied science:
Pure science refers to the acquisition of knowledge and applied science is converted with the applicability of knowledge of that science. Sociology is a pure science because its main purpose is to acquire knowledge about human society. It never bothers about the utilisation of knowledge. It only helps in the systematic analysis of social facts and issues, which ultimately helps the policy planners to utilise this knowledge for solutions. But sociologists themselves do not utilise this knowledge to life.
5) Sociology is relatively as Abstract Science and not a Concrete Science:
Sociology is not interested in concrete manifestations of human events. It is more concerned with the form of human events and their patterns. It is not concerned with a particular war or revolution in general as social phenomena. It analyses the types of social phenomena, social conflict and social control. Sociology does not confine itself to the study of this society or that particular society. It is in this simple sense that sociology is an abstract and not a concrete science.
6) Sociology is a Generalising and not a Particularising Science:
It aims to establish general laws or principles about inter-human interaction and associations; it seeks to find general principles about the nature, form, content and structure of human groups and societies. But it does not make a comprehensive description of particular events or societies.
7) Sociology is a General Science and not a Special Science:
Sociology as a science is concerned with human interaction and human life in general. Other social sciences like Economics, Political Science and History also study human interaction, but not the all-inclusive aspect of human relationship. The other social sciences concentrate on certain aspects of human interaction and activities. For example. Economics deals with the economic activities and political science deals with political activities and so on and so forth. Sociology of course, does not investigate economic, religious, political or any other kind of special phenomena. It studies human activities is a general way.
8) Sociology is both Rational and Empirical science:
Rational approach stresses on reason, logic and theories that result from logical inference. Empirical method stresses on facts and figures and not on speculation. Empiricists collect facts and rationalists co-ordinate and arrange them. Both theories and facts are necessary in the construction of knowledge. It is also required in sociological inquiry. If a theory is not backed by facts, then it is just a matter of opinion. Similarly, facts without theories are blind and directionless. Isolated facts are meaningless without theorisation. Thus, sociology is both empirical and rational in nature.
So, from the above discussion, we can conclude that sociology is an independent, a social, a categorical, a pure, an abstract, a generalising and both a rational and empirical general social science.