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Introduction to Sociology

THE ORIGINS OF SOCIOLOGY:Auguste Comte, The Fields of Sociology

THE SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE:Society affects what we do >>

THE ORIGINS OF SOCIOLOGY

Origin of sociology is the core topic of sociology; sociology is the scientific study of human social life, groups and societies.
There was no sociology as a distinct discipline before the advent of 19th century. As a distinct discipline it
emerged about the middle of the 19th century when European social observers began to use scientific
methods to test their ideas. It looks that three factors led to the origins of sociology.
The first was the Industrial revolution.

origin of sociology

  • By the mid 19th century Europe was changing from agriculture to factory production. There was
    the emergence of new occupations as well as new avenues of employment away from the land.
  • Masses of people migrated to cities in search of jobs. Pull and push factors were instrumental in
    such migrations. In the countryside, due to the nature of agricultural society, there were no
    occupations that could be alternatives to agriculture. Hence people got pushed to look for new
    places whereas the urban/industrial places with new job opportunities provided a pull to the same
    population.
  • At the new places there was anonymity, crowding, filth, and poverty. Ties to the land, to the
    generations that had lived there before them, and to the ways of their life were abruptly broken.
    Eventually the urban life brought radical changes in the lives of people.
  • The city greeted them with horrible working conditions: low pay; long and exhausting working
    hours; dangerous work; foul smoke; and much noise. To survive the vagaries of life, families
    had to permit their children to work in these uncongenial conditions.
  • People in these industrial cities developed new ideas about democracy and political rights. They did
    not want to remain tied to their rulers. Therefore the ideas about individual liberty, individual
    rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness emerged, which actually laid the foundation to future
    political revolution.

The second factor that stimulated the development of sociology was imperialism. Europeans successfully
conquered many parts of the world. They were exposed to radically different cultures. Startled by these
contrasting ways of life, they began to ask why cultures differed.
The third impetus for the development of sociology was the success of the natural sciences. People moved
to question fundamental aspects of their social world. They started using the scientific method (systematic
observation, objectivity) to the study of human behaviour.

Auguste Comte

To find the origin of sociology the idea of applying the scientific method to the social world, known as positivism, was apparently first
proposed by Auguste Comte (1798-1857). He was French. He migrated from a small town to Paris. The
changes he himself experienced, combined with those France underwent in the revolution, led Comte to
become interested in the two interrelated issues: social order (social static) and social change (social
dynamics).

What holds the society together (Why is there a social order)? And once the society is set then what causes
it to change? Why its directions change?
Comte concluded that the right way to answer such questions was to apply the scientific method to social
life. There must be laws that underlie the society. Therefore we should discover these principles by applying
scientific method to social world. Once these principles discovered then we could apply these for social
reform.

He advocated origins of sociology for building new societies on twin foundations of science and industry rather than on religion
and landowner-serf relationship.
This will be a new science and Comte named it as Sociology (1838) – the study of society. Comte is
credited with being the founder of sociology.
Other early pioneer names are:

Herbert Spenser (1820-1903)

He was an Englishman and is sometimes called second founder of sociology. He too believed that society
operates under some fixed laws. He was evolutionary and considered that societies evolve from lower to
higher forms. In this way he applied the ideas of Darwin to the development of human society, and hence
this approach may be called as Social Darwinism.
By following the basic principle of Social Darwinism Spenser advocated that ‘let the fittest survive’. There
should be no reform because it will help in the survival of lower order individuals. (Charity and helping the
poor were considered to be wrong). Spenser was a social philosopher rather than a social researcher.

Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Karl Marx was a German. According to him the key to human history is Class Conflict.
Not really a sociologist but wrote widely about history, philosophy, economics, political science.
Because of his insights into the relationship between the social classes, he is claimed to be an early
sociologist. He introduced one of the major perspectives in sociology – conflict perspective.

Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)

He was French. His primary goal was of getting sociology recognized as a separate academic discipline. His
systematic study comparing suicide rates among several countries revealed an underlying social factor:
People were more likely to commit suicide if their ties to others in their communities were weak. He
identified the key role of social integration in social life.

Max Weber (1864-1920)

Max Weber was a German. He used cross-cultural and historical materials in order to determine how
extensively social groups affect people’s orientations to life.

The Fields of Sociology

There is a big diversity in fields of interest in Sociology. There is long list of fields that have been provided
by the American Sociological Association as a Guide to Graduate Departments which is given below:

origins of sociology
Source: American Sociological Association Guide to Graduate departments, 1992: 290-308.

Table of Contents:
  1. THE ORIGINS OF SOCIOLOGY:Auguste Comte, The Fields of Sociology
  2. THE SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE:Society affects what we do
  3. THEORETICAL PARADIGMS:Salient Paradigms, Critical Evaluation
  4. SOCIOLOGY AS SCIENCE:Empirical, Verifiable, Cumulative, Self-Correcting
  5. STEPS IN SOCIOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION:Exploration/Consultation
  6. SOCIAL INTERACTION:Social Status, ROLE, The Social Construction of Reality
  7. SOCIAL GROUPS:Primary and Secondary Groups, Reference Group, Networks
  8. ORGANIZATIONS:Utilitarian Organizations, Coercive Organizations
  9. CULTURE:Universality, Components of Culture, Symbols, Language
  10. CULTURE (continued):Beliefs, Norms, Cultural Diversity
  11. CULTURE (continued):Culture by social class, Multiculturalism, Cultural Lag
  12. SOCIALIZATION: HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, NATURE, Social Isolation
  13. UNDERSTANDING THE SOCIALIZATION PROCESS
  14. AGENTS OF SOCIALIZATION:The Family, The School, Peer Groups, The Mass Media
  15. SOCIALIZATION AND THE LIFE COURSE:CHILDHOOD, ADOLESCENCE
  16. SOCIAL CONTROL AND DEVIANCE:Crime, Deviants, Stigma, Labeling
  17. THE SOCIAL FOUNDATIONS OF DEVIANCE:Cultural relativity of deviance
  18. EXPLANATIONS OF CRIME:Sociological explanations
  19. EXPLANATIONS OF CRIME -- CONTINUED:White-Collar Crime, Conflict Theory
  20. SOCIAL DISTRIBUTION OF CRIME: EXPLANATIONS, Gender and Crime
  21. SOCIAL STRATIFICATION: INTRODUCTION AND SIGNIFICANCE
  22. THEORIES OF CLASS AND STRATIFICATION I:Critical evaluation
  23. THEORIES OF SOCIAL CLASS AND STRATIFICATION II
  24. THEORIES OF CLASS AND SOCIAL STRATIFICATION III
  25. SOCIAL CLASS AS SUBCULTURE
  26. SOCIAL MOBILITY:Structural factors, Individual factors, Costs
  27. THE FAMILY: GLOBAL VARIETY, Marriage Patterns, Patterns of Descent
  28. FUNCTIONS OF FAMILY:Reproduction, Social placement
  29. FAMILY AND MARRIAGE IN TRANSITION:Family is losing functions
  30. GENDER: A SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION, Gender socialization
  31. GENDER SOCIALIZATION:Role of family, Gender Stratification
  32. EXPLANATIONS OF GENDER INEQUALITY:Conflict Explanations, Feminism
  33. FUNCTIONS OF SCHOOLING:Cultural Innovation, School Tracking
  34. ISSUES IN EDUCATION:Low Enrollment, High Dropout, Gender Disparity
  35. POPULATION STUDY AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE:Crude Birth Rate
  36. THEORY OF POPULATION GROWTH:Theory of Demographic Transition
  37. POPULATION PROFILE OF PAKISTAN:World Population Growth
  38. POPULATION PROFILE OF PAKISTAN (Continued):Age Distribution, Sex Composition
  39. IMPLICAIONS OF POPULATION GOWTH:Additional GDP needed per year
  40. POPULATION POLICY:Goals of Population Policy, Objectives, Strategies
  41. ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY:Global Dimension, Historical Dimension
  42. ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES:Preserving Clean Water, Clearing the Air
  43. SOCIAL CHANGE:Social change is controversial.
  44. CAUSES OF SOCIAL CHANGE:Culture and Change, Conflict and Change, Modernization
  45. MODERNITY AND POST MODERNITY:Cultural Patterns, Post-modernity