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Sociology is a relatively new scientific discipline among other social sciences including

economics, political science, anthropology, and psychology. It has, however, a long

history and can trace its origins to a mixture of common human knowledge, works of art
and philosophy.

Sociology as a scientific discipline emerged in the early 19th century as an academic

response to the challenge of modernity: as the world is becoming smaller and more
integrated, people's experience of the world is increasingly atomized and dispersed.
Sociologists hoped not only to understand what held social groups together, but also to
develop an "antidote" to social disintegration.

Scientific Nature of Sociology. - The foregoing statements represent partially and in

brief the complex material with which the science of society must deal. It must
consider social facts of all kinds and arrange and classify these facts and deduce
therefrom universal principles or laws relating to the growth and activity of human

. It deals with material which has existed from the beginnings of human association,
but proposes to establish the most general fundamental truths concerning its
existence. Sociology today represents the results of studies of different scientists
sometimes along parallel lines, in other instances along converging lines and in still
others, along trajectories which have crossed. Each science views society from a
different standpoint, and sociology will not become a compact, well-defined science
until sociologists are able to generalize the truths discovered by those approaching
social phenomena from various points of view and to agree more or less closely upon
the subject matter and the method of treatment.

The Place of Sociology among the Social Sciences. — This point involves the real
nature and scope of sociology. There is one group of writers who hold that
sociology is a synthesis of all the social sciences, that the science is fabricated by
running a thread through all the sciences and stringing them together in one mass.
Others a little more discriminating hold that it is a synthesis or rather an
amalgamation of the results of other social sciences. Herbert Spencer used the term
" sociology " as a generic term to include all the other social sciences. From a
scientific standpoint such a usage might be of value in showing that all are branches
of one great science called " sociology " just as Spencer included the group of all
natural sciences relating to life under the term " biology."

But the present writers hold that sociology is one of several coordinating social
sciences, the most recent of the group, created for a special purpose and standing on
an independent basis, and that while economics, political science, or ethics may deal
with specific laws relating to parts of society, sociology deals with the general laws
which apply to the whole structure.'

The Differentiation of the Social Sciences. — Let us suppose that there are numerous
phenomena of human society which continually increase with the development of
social order. Society may go on developing from century to century without any
scientific attempt to make an orderly arrangement of these phenomena. But
gradually in the progress of knowledge scholars begin to realize that there are facts
that constantly recur in the social process, for instance, those relating to the moral
conduct of the individual. As a result there is developed the science of ethics. The
classification of these phenomena and deduction of general laws and principles make
this chronologically the first of the social sciences. Again, some observe that there
are other groups of facts relating to government, and that there are certain
principles involved in the development of social control. These facts are collected,
classified, the principles established, and the science of government is brought forth.
But there are other social phenomena unclassified and other purposes unsatisfied.
The processes of obtaining and distributing wealth as independent activities may not
be involved in either ethics or politics. And so a new science called political economy
is created. These various sciences continue to expand in their natural order but there
still exist, outside their legitimate boundaries, other social phenomena unclassified.
and other scientific purposes still unsatisfied. No one yet has shown the universal
forces at work in the growth, development, and structure of society as a whole. The
laws of social being have not yet been set forth. Political, religious, ethical, and
economic life have been presented from specific standpoints, but the general laws of
society, the regularities to be found in man's thoughts, feelings, and purposes when
engaged in any of his social relationships, whether they be economic, political,
ethical, or religious, have not been developed. Here, then, is the opportunity for a
new science called sociology. It refuses to be included in any of the other social
sciences, and the other social sciences refuse to be grouped under it or to be
absorbed or assimilated by it. From scientific and pedagogical considerations it
stands alone. It has a definite purpose and a specific body of classified knowledge, as
well as a body of laws and principles of its own.

The Pedagogic Limits of Sociology. — For pedagogic reasons, if for no other,

sociology should have a definite boundary. It should not attempt to displace or
absorb either political economy, ethics, political science, or any other well-
established social science. It should not attempt to be merely a generic term
including them all in a group, nor indeed is it a science built up of the parts of the
several social sciences. Much less is it a classification or coordination of the results of
the independent social sciences. It is an independent science having a separate
existence and its own methods of investigation. Nevertheless it does obtain data
from economics, politics, and other social sciences. So, too, does it obtain material
from biology and psychology, and yet no one would think of including these within
the scope of sociology.

Sociology therefore occupies a very important place in the group of social sciences.
As already stated, it occupies much the same position with reference to the social
sciences that biology holds to the natural sciences dealing with organic phenomena.

On the other hand, psychology deals with the mental powers and habits of the
individual. Its whole aim is to discover normal and abnormal action of the mind.
These two sciences dealing alone with the individual have completed the range of
their scientific investigation when they have discovered and classified all the
phenomena concerning the individual ; the one, those manifested by him as a living
being, the other, those manifested by him as a being who thinks, feels, and wills. It
is true that biology incidentally touches upon some phases of social life influenced by
biological conditions, and also that psychology branches out occasionally into social
psychology for the purpose of interpreting individual characteristics. But in neither
case is there any aim or purpose to present systematically the phenomena of social
life. On the other hand, sociology has to do with the association of the bio-psychical
units. It does not inquire into the growth of the individual man, either as to his
origin, structure, or evolution, but deals with the phenomena arising from his
association with his fellows.

Various Conceptions of Sociology. — While various writers have viewed sociology

from many different standpoints, such as economics, philosophy of history,
anthropology, biology, and political science, there are other writers who see
sociology as a general science, distinct from any of these special sciences, and who
seek to find some single unifying principle on which to base it. They differ, however,
as to what is the fundamental social fact on which society is built up, and
consequently as to the central principle or conception in sociology. For example, M.
Tarde in his Laws of Imitation, has laid unusual stress upon a single feature of social
action, viz., imitation. This is made to dominate everything else. Later, in his Social
Laws, he has attempted to reduce sociology to three fundamental conceptions ;
namely, " repetition, opposition, and adaptation." Giddings, in his Principles, viewed
sociology from a single fundamental principle, " The consciousness of kind." In his
later works, however, Giddings has broadened out his structure of sociology and has
reduced " consciousness of kind " to a subordinate place, where, although it is a very
important concept, it occupies its true position. Gumplowicz, in his Der Rassenkampf
(War of Races), has viewed society from the standpoint of the contact of races,
group-struggles being the fundamental fact. Novicow, in his Les Luttes entre
societies humaines (Struggle Among Human Societies), has approached this same
idea from a different stand-point. And, finally, we have a new conception termed by
Ward " unconscious social constraint," which represents a number of writers who try
to show that society has been built through the moral or psychic action of individuals
in association, and that this represents, indeed, an important characteristic — an
idea which is essential to all rightly constructed society. This view prevails in special
studies of sociologists rather than as the foundation of a completed system. Such
works as Ross's Social Control, Spencer's Ceremonial Institutions, and Durkheim's
Laws and Methods of Sociology are good examples of this concept of sociology,
although each one sees it in a somewhat different light.

The Foundation of Sociology. Notwithstanding the importance of all the above

concepts of sociology, the science rep-resents a much broader foundation than any
one of them. A complete sociology must take all that is true in each one of these
ideas and weave the whole matter into a logically constructed science. Such a work
would be a monumental treatise of the subject. It would be beyond the range of
possibility of an ordinary textbook to give it an adequate presentation. At present we
must be content to direct the mind of the student along the highway of general
development, pointing out certain movements of society and the laws that govern

ELLWOOD, CHARLES A. Sociology in its Psychological Aspects, Chap. III. GIDDINGS,

F. H. The Principles of Sociology, Chap. I I; Inductive Sociology, Chap. II.
SMALL, ALBION W. Methodology of Sociology.

SMALL, ALBION W., and VINCENT, GEORGE E., Introduction to the Study of Society,
Bk. I, Chap. III.

WARD, LESTER F. Pure Sociology, Chaps. II and III; "Contemporary Sociology,"

American Journal of Sociology, Vol. VII, pp. 475-500, 629-658, 749-762. Reprinted
as brochure, Chicago, 1902, p. 70. Outlines of Sociology, Chap. I.

Sociology' which had once been treated as social philosophy, or the philosophy of the
history, emerged as an independent social science in 19th century. Auguste Comte, a
Frenchman, is traditionally considered to be the father of sociology. Comte is accredited
with the coining of the term sociology (in 1839). "Sociology" is composed of two words :
socius, meaning companion or associate; and 'logos', meaning science or study. The
etymological meaning of "sociology" is thus the science of society. John Stuart Mill,
another social thinker and philosopher of the 19th century, proposed the word ethology
for this new science. Herbert Spencer developed his systematic study of society and
adopted the word "sociology" in his works. With the contributions of Spencer and others
it (sociology) became the permanent name of the new science.

Sociology has been defined in a number of ways by different sociologists. No single

definition has yet been accepted as completely satisfactory. In fact, there are lot of
definitions of sociology as there are sociologists. For our purpose of study a few
definitions may be cited here.

1. Auguste Comete, the founding father of sociology, defines sociology as the

science of social phenomena "subject to natural and invariable laws, the discovery
of which is the object of investigation".
2. Kingsley Davis says that "Sociology is a general science of society".
3. Harry M. Johnson opines that "sociology is the science that deals with social
4. Emile Durkheim: "Science of social institutions".
5. Park regards sociology as "the science of collective behavior".
6. Small defines sociology as "the science of social relationships".
7. Marshal Jones defines sociology as "the study of man-in-relationship-to-men".
8. Ogburn and Nimkoff : "Sociology is the scientific study of social life".
9. Franklin Henry Giddings defines sociology as "the science of social phenomena".
10. Henry Fairchild: "Sociology is the study of man and his human environment in
their relations to each other".
11. Max Weber defines sociology as " the science which attempts the interpretative
understanding of social action in order thereby to arrive at a casual explanation of
its course and effects".
12. Alex Inkeles says, "Sociology is the study of systems of social action and of their
13. Kimball Young and Raymond W. Mack say, "Sociology is the scientific study of
social aspects of human life".
14. Morris Ginsberg: of the various definitions of sociology the one given by Morris
Ginsberg seems to be more satisfactory and comprehensive. He defines sociology
in the following way: "In the broadest sense, sociology is the study of human
interactions and inter-relations, their conditions and consequences".

A careful examination of various definitions cited above, makes it evident that

sociologists differ in their opinion about definition of sociology. Their divergent views
about the definition of sociology only reveal their distinct approaches to its study.
However, the common idea underlying all the definitions mentioned above is that
sociology is concerned with man, his social relations and his society.

Anthony Giddens (“Sociology”, 1989) provides the following general definition:

“Sociology is the study of human social life, groups and societies. It is a dazzling and
compelling enterprise, having as its subject matter our own behaviour as social beings.

The scope of sociology is extremely wide, ranging from the analysis of passing
encounters between individuals in the street up to the investigation of world-wide social

As you will no-doubt note, Giddens - in this particular extract - is more-concerned with
describing the sociological enterprise in very general terms than with trying to nail-down
a specific definition...

In “The Complete A-Z Sociology Handbook” (1996) Tony Lawson and Joan Garrod -
two writers with recent experience of being am AQA Chief Examiner - provide the
following definition:

“Sociology is the study of individuals in groups and social formations in a systematic

way, which grew out of the search for understanding associated with the industrial and
scientific revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries. It is now an established discipline in
post-16 education and has offered generations of students insights into the social world
they inhabit. Often accused by the right of being left-wing, it includes individuals of
every political opinion who are united by a commitment to search for knowledge and
understanding through providing evidence for the theories and insights they offer”.
history of the social sciences begins in the roots of ancient philosophy. In Ancient
history, there was no difference between mathematics and the study of history, poetry or
politics. Significant contributions to the social sciences were made by Muslim scientists
in the Islamic civilization during the Middle Ages. This unity of science as descriptive
remains and deductive reasoning from axioms created a scientific framework.

The Age of Enlightenment saw a revolution within natural philosophy, changing the
basic framework by which individuals understood what was "scientific". In some
quarters, the accelerating trend of mathematical studies presumed a reality independent of
the observer and worked by its own rules. Social sciences came forth from the moral
philosophy of the time and was influenced by the Age of Revolutions, such as the
Industrial revolution and the French revolution.[1] The social sciences developed from the
sciences (experimental and applied), or the systematic knowledge-bases or prescriptive
practices, relating to the social improvement of a group of interacting entities.[5][6]

The beginnings of the social sciences in the 18th century are reflected in various grand
encyclopedia of Diderot, with articles from Rousseau and other pioneers. The growth of
the social sciences is also reflected in other specialized encyclopedias. The modern
period saw "social science" first used as a distinct conceptual field.[7] Social science was
influenced by positivism,[1] focusing on knowledge based on actual positive sense
experience and avoiding the negative; metaphysical speculation was avoided. Auguste
Comte used the term "science social" to describe the field, taken from the ideas of
Charles Fourier; Comte also referred to the field as social physics.[1][8]

Following this period, there were five paths of development that sprang forth in the
Social Sciences, influenced by Comte or other fields.[1] One route that was taken was the
rise of social research. Large statistical surveys were undertaken in various parts of the
United States and Europe. Another route undertaken was initiated by Émile Durkheim,
studying "social facts", and Vilfredo Pareto, opening metatheoretical ideas and individual
theories. A third means developed, arising from the methodological dichotomy present, in
which the social phenomena was identified with and understood; this was championed by
figures such as Max Weber. The fourth route taken, based in economics, was developed
and furthered economic knowledge as a hard science. The last path was the correlation of
knowledge and social values; the antipositivism and verstehen sociology of Max Weber
firmly demanded on this distinction. In this route, theory (description) and prescription
were non-overlapping formal discussions of a subject.

Around the turn of the 20th century, Enlightenment philosophy was challenged in various
quarters. After the use of classical theories since the end of the scientific revolution,
various fields substituted mathematics studies for experimental studies and examining
equations to build a theoretical structure. The development of social science subfields
became very quantitative in methodology. Conversely, the interdisciplinary and cross-
disciplinary nature of scientific inquiry into human behavior and social and
environmental factors affecting it made many of the natural sciences interested in some
aspects of social science methodology.[9] Examples of boundary blurring include
emerging disciplines like social research of medicine, sociobiology, neuropsychology,
bioeconomics and the history and sociology of science. Increasingly, quantitative
research and qualitative methods are being integrated in the study of human action and its
implications and consequences. In the first half of the 20th century, statistics became a
free-standing discipline of applied mathematics. Statistical methods were used

In the contemporary period, Karl Popper and Talcott Parsons influenced the furtherance
of the social sciences.[1] Researchers continues to search for a unified consensus on what
methodology might have the power and refinement to connect a proposed "grand theory"
with the various midrange theories which, with considerable success, continue to provide
usable frameworks for massive, growing data banks; for more, see consilience. At present
though, the various realms of social science progress in a myriad of ways, increasing the
overall knowledge of society. The social sciences will for the foreseeable future be
composed of different zones in the research of, and sometime distinct in approach
toward, the field.[1]

The term "social science" may refer either to the specific sciences of society established
by thinkers such as Comte, Durkheim, Marx, and Weber, or more generally to all
disciplines outside of noble science and arts. By the late 19th century, the academic social
sciences were constituted of five fields: jurisprudence and amendment of the law,
education, health, economy and trade, and art.[5]


Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt was the founder of experimental psychology

Psychology is an academic and applied field involving the study of behavior and mental
processes. Psychology also refers to the application of such knowledge to various spheres
of human activity, including problems of individuals' daily lives and the treatment of
mental illness.

Psychology differs from anthropology, economics, political science, and sociology in

seeking to capture explanatory generalizations about the mental function and overt
behaviour of individuals, while the other disciplines focus on creating descriptive
generalizations about the functioning of social groups or situation-specific human
behavior. In practice, however, there is quite a lot of cross-fertilization that takes place
among the various fields. Psychology differs from biology and neuroscience in that it is
primarily concerned with the interaction of mental processes and behavior, and of the
overall processes of a system, and not simply the biological or neural processes
themselves, though the subfield of neuropsychology combines the study of the actual
neural processes with the study of the mental effects they have subjectively produced.
Many people associate Psychology with Clinical Psychology which focuses on
assessment and treatment of problems in living and psychopathology. In reality,
Psychology has myriad specialties including: Social Psychology, Developmental
Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Mathematical
psychology, Neuropsychology, and Quantitative Analysis of Behaviour to name only a
few. The word psychology comes from the ancient Greek ψυχή, psyche ("soul", "mind")
and logy, study).

Psychology is a very broad science that is rarely tackled as a whole, major block.
Although some subfields encompass a natural science base and a social science
application, others can be clearly distinguished as having little to do with the social
sciences or having a lot to do with the social sciences. For example, biological
psychology is considered a natural science with a social scientific application (as is
clinical medicine), social and occupational psychology are, generally speaking, purely
social sciences, whereas neuropsychology is a natural science that lacks application out
of the scientific tradition entirely. In British universities, emphasis on what tenet of
psychology a student has studied and/or concentrated is communicated through the
degree conferred: B.Psy. indicates a balance between natural and social sciences, B.Sc.
indicates a strong (or entire) scientific concentration, whereas a B.A. underlines a
majority of social science credits.