1643 words essay on the origin of Sociology

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Sociology which is known as the science of society, is one of the youngest as well as one of the oldest of the social sciences. It is one of the youngest sciences because only recently it came to be established as a distinct branch of knowledge with its own distinct set of concepts and its own methods of inquiry.

Sociology is also one of the oldest of the sciences. Since the dawn of civilization, society has been as a subject for speculation and inquiry along with other phenomena which have agitated the restless and inquisitive mind of man.

Even centuries ago men were thinking about society and it should be organized and held views on man and his destiny, the rise and fall of the peoples and civilizations. Though they were thinking in sociological terms they were called philosophers, historians, thinkers, law-givers or seers.

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Thus, “Broadly it may be said that sociology had a four fold origin: in political philosophy, the philosophy of history, biological theories of evolution and movements for social and political reforms.

Though sociology came to be established as a separate discipline in the 19th –century due to the efforts of the French Philosopher Auguste Comte. It is wrong to suppose that no social thought existed before him.

Four thousands of years men have reflected upon societies in which they lived. In the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Manu,. Kautilya. Confucius, Cicero and others we find major attempts to deal methodically with the nature of Society Law, Religion, Philosophy, etc.

Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Politics, Kautilya’s Arthashastra, Confucius Analets, Cicero’s ‘ On Justice” are some of the ancient sources of social thought. However, sociology as an independent science came to be established only in the 19th century.

The Founding Fathers of Sociology:

Auguste Comte (1798-1857)

Auguste Comte, the French philosopher, is traditionally considered as the Father of Sociology. Comte who invented the term Sociology was the first man to distinguish the subject-matter of Sociology from all the other sciences. He worked out in a series of books, a general approach to the study of society.

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Comte is regarded as the father of Sociology not because of any significant contributions to the science as such, but because of the great influence he had upon it’. It would be more appropriate to regard him as a philosopher of science rather than as a sociologist.

Auguste Comte introduced the word sociology for the first time in his famous work ‘Positive Philosophy At About 1839’. The term “Sociology” is derived from the Latin word ‘Socius’, meaning companion or associate, and the Greek word ‘Logos’, meaning study of science.

Thus the etymological meaning of sociology is the phenomena subject to natural and invariable laws, the discovery of which is the object of investigation.

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Auguste Comte devoted his main efforts to an inquiry into the nature of human knowledge and tried to classify all knowledge and to analyse the methods of achieving it.

He concentrated his efforts to determine the nature of human and development. He also laboured to ‘establish the methods to be employed in studying social phenomena.

Auguste Comte believed that the science follows one another in a definite and logical order and that all inquiry goes through certain stages, (namely the theological, the metaphysical and the positive or scientific or empirical). Finally they arrive at the last or scientific stage or as he called the positive stage.

In the positive stage, objective observation is substituted for speculation. Social phenomena like physical phenomena, he maintained, can be studied objectively by making use of the positive method.

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He thought that was time for inquiries into social problems and social phenomena ) enter into this last stage. So he recommended that the study of society be called the science of society, i.e. sociology.

Comte proposed sociology to be studied in two main parts: (i) the social statics and (ii) the social dynamics. These two concepts represent a basic division in the subject matter of sociology. The social statics deals with the major institutions of society such as family, economy or polity.

Sociology is conceived of as the study in interrelation between such institutions. In the words of Comte, “the statistical study of sociology consists in the investigations of laws of action and reaction of different parts of the social system. He argued that the parts of society cannot be studied separately, “as if they had an independent existence”.

If statics examines how the parts of societies are interrelated social dynamics focuses’ on whole societies as the unit of analysis and reveals-how they developed and changed through time.

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“We must remember that the laws of social dynamics are most recognisable when they relate to the largest societies” he said.

Comte was convinced that all societies moved through certain fixed stages of development and that they, progressed towards ever increasing perfection.

He felt that the comparative study of societies as a whole was a major subject for sociological analysis. His major workes are: (i) Positive philosophy and {ii) Positive polity.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)

It was the Englishman Herbert Spencer, known as one of the most brilliant intellects of modern times who contributed a great deal to the establishment of sociology, as a systematic discipline.

His three volumes of principles of sociology published in 1877 where the first systematic study devoted mainly to the sociological analysis. He was much more precise than Comte in specifying the topics of special fields of sociology.

According to Spencer, the fields of sociology are mentioned in the sociological study of associations, communities, the divisions of labour, social differentiation and stratification, the sociology of knowledge and of science and the study of arts and aesthetics.

Herbert Spencer stressed on the obligation of sociology to deal with interrelations between the different elements, in his story to give an account of how the parts influence the whole and are in turn related upon.

He insisted that sociology should take the whole society as its note for analysis. He maintained that the parts of society are not arranged unsystematically.

The parts bore some constant relation and this made society as such a meaningful” entity, a fit subject for scientific enquiry.

Herbert Spencer’s another contribution is his famous “Organic Analogy” in which society is compared with the human organism. Spencer was influenced by the theory of organic evolution of his contemporary, Charles Darwin.

Even L.F. Ward, Summer and Giddings who were highly influenced by the organism theory of society advocated by Spencer’s principles of sociology and the man versus the state.

Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)

Prof. Durkheim, the French thinker, like Spencer, considered societies as such to be important units of sociological analysis. He stressed the importance of studying different types of society comparatively. “Comparative sociology is not a particular branch of sociology, it is sociology itself” he maintained.

In Durkheim’s theory ultimate social reality is the group, not the individual social life has to be analysed in terms of social facts. According to him, social facts are nothing but collective ways of thinking, feeling and acting which though coming from the individual “constraint” or pressure on him.

These social facts are the proper study of sociology and to them all social phenomena should be reduced, he opined. Further, each social fact, he felt, must be related to a particular social milieu, to a definite type of society.”

Emile Durkheim also mentioned various fields of sociological enquiry such as general sociology, sociology of religion, sociology of law and morals including subsections on political organizations, social organization, marriage and family.

The sociology of crime, economic sociology including sub-section on measurement of value and occupational groups, Demography including studies on urban and rural communities, and sociology of Aesthetics.

His major works are—The division of labour in society, The rules of sociological method, Suicide, The elementary forms of the republic life and so on.

Max Weber (1864-1920)

Max Weber’s approach is almost contrary to that of Durkheim. For Weber, the individual is an unit of society. He opines that the finding of sociological laws is nothing but a means to understand man.

In his system sociological laws are “empirically established probabilities or statistically generalisations of the course of social behaviour of which an interpretation can be given in terms of typical motives and intentions.

Sociological method is a combination of inductive or statistical generalisation with Verstchen (understanding) interpretation by aid of an ideal type of behaviour, that assumed to be rationally or purposefully determined.

Weber devoted much of his efforts to expound a special method of understanding for the study of social phenomena. He stressed the importance of maintaining objectivity and neutrality of value judgements in social, sciences.

He wrote much on such topics as religion, various aspects of economic life, including money and division of labour, political parties and other forms of political organisation and authority, bureaucracy and other varieties of large- scale organisation, class and caste, the city and music.

His influence on contemporary sociologists especially those of analytical school is rapidly increasing. His major works are: Economics and society, The protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism, The City and Bureaucracy and various others books and essays.

These four founding fathers “Comte, Spencer, Durkheim and Weber-it seems, agreed upon the proper subject matter of sociology.

(1) Firstly all of them urged the sociologists to study a wide range of institutions from the family to the state.

(2) Secondly, they agreed that a unique subject-matter for sociology is found in the inter-relations among different institutions.

(3) Thirdly they came to the common consensus on the opinion that society as a whole can be taken as distinctive unit of sociological analysis. They assigned sociology the talks of explaining wherein and why societies are alike or different.

(4) Finally, they insisted that sociology should focus on social acts or social relationship regardless of their institutional setting. This view was most clearly expressed by Weber.

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