Sociology and Economics as social sciences have close relations. Relationship between the two is close that one is often treated as the branch of the other. According to Thomas, Economics is, in fact, but one branch of the comprehensive science of sociology. In the word of Silverman, it may be regarded for ordinary purposes as an offshoot of the parent science. Sociology, which studies the general principles of all social relations. But this does not mean that economics is a branch of sociology.
Economics deals with the economic activities of man. Dr. Alfred Marshall defines economics as “On the one side the study of wealth, and on the other and more important side a part of the study of man”. Prof. Lionel Rohbins defines economics as the science of human behavior in its relations with ends and scarce means, which have attractive uses. It can also be understood as the science of wealth in its three stages namely; production and consumption.
Economics studies man as a wealth getter and a wealth disposer. Wealth constitutes the central problem of economics. It studies inter-relations of purely economic factors and forces. The relations of price and supply, money flows, input-output ratios and the like. It studies the structure and function of economic organizations like banks, factories, markets, business firms, corporations, transport etc. Recently economists have shown more interest in motivation behind man’s economic action.
Economics and Sociology are helpful to each other. Economic relationship bears a close relation to social activities. At the same time, social relationships are also affected by economic activities. Because of this close relation, Thomas regarded Economics as the branch of Sociology. But this is an extreme view. Economics may be specified here as an independent science.
It is said that Economics is the study of man’s activities devoted to obtaining the material means for the satisfaction of his wants. Economics is primarily concerned with the earning and spending of wealth, in other words, it studies man as a wealth-getter and wealth-disposer and is, thus concerned with economic relationships.
Sociology on the other hand is the study of social relationships and social activities. It is well known that there is an intimate connection between economic and social relationships. Owing to this reason, Economics is regarded as a branch of Sociology. Thus, both economics and sociology are closely related to each other, Economic welfare is considered as a part of social welfare. It is not possible to study economic welfare without an adequate knowledge about social laws.
Economics seeks the help of Sociology in this connection. For instance, the economists are interested in solving the economic problems like poverty, unemployment, beggary, etc. For this purpose, they do not forget to take into account the social phenomena existing at that particular period. Economic generalizations are based on date collected from Sociology. In this respect, sociology is of immense help to economics. Note that economics is not helpful to sociology in the same way.
Economic relationships affect social relationships to a considerable extent. The economic forces play a vital role in man’s social life as man’s happiness depends upon economics to a great extent. Owing to this reason, sociologists are concerned with economic institutions. In other words, they study the social aspect of economic life. The sociologists study social problems like crime, slavery, prostitution, unemployment, beggary, poverty, population growth, suicide, etc. They never forget to take into account the economic factors in order to find out the causes and explanations of these said problems.
Differences between Sociology and Economics:
In spite of these resemblances between the two and their inter-dependence, both economics and sociology are regarded as independent social sciences. The two disciplines differ from each other in the following respects.
(1) Economics is concerned with economic relation, which constitutes only one aspect of man’s social life. On the other hand, it is sociology, which studies man’s social relations such as legal, political, religious, and economic and the like.
(2) The scope of economics is restricted by the study of man’s economic relations and activity only. On the other hand, sociology comprehends the whole society within its scope. Thus, the scope of sociology is considered much wider than that of economics.
(3) Economists are mainly interested in economic activities, which are considered to be in dispensable for enhancing material prosperity of the human beings. For this purpose, they are concerned with the methods and techniques of production, distribution and consumption. On the other hand, sociologists are not interested at all in such mechanisms of production and distribution. They are rather more interested in the social aspect of economic activities or life of the people.
(4) Economics is concerned with the individual’s economic activities and relations. But it is sociology which aims at studying society as a whole. If the individual is regarded as the unit of economics, society is then regarded as the unit of sociology.
(5) Economics is considered to be much older than sociology. Although sociologists include economics within the scope of sociology, it must he admitted that sociology is comparatively a new social science. But it is economics which is regarded as a well developed social science.