Sociology 101: A Primer

 1. What is Sociology?
Sociology is the scientific study of human society and its origins, development, organizations, and institutions. It is a social science which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity, structures, and functions.

2. What is the etymology of the term ‘Sociology’?
The word sociology (or "sociologie") is derived from the Latin word: socius, "companion"; the suffix -logy, "the study of". It was first coined in 1780 by the French essayist Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès (1748–1836).
In 1838, Sociology was defined independently by the French philosopher of scienceAuguste Comte (1798–1857) who used this term to describe a new way of looking at society. He proposed that social ills could be remedied through sociological positivism.

3. What is the usual goal of the sociologists?
The goal of many sociologists is to conduct research which may be applied directly to social policy and welfare, while others focus primarily on refining the theoretical understanding of social processes.

4. What are the areas involved in the study (Sociology)?
But sociology has expanded its focus to other related subjects, such as healthmedicalmilitary and penal institutionsthe Internetenvironmental sociologypolitical economy and the role of social activity in the development of scientific knowledge.

5. Who are considered the founders of Sociology as a discipline?
Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx, and Max Weber are typically cited as the three principal architects of social science, though Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer are also key figures in the field.
Auguste Comte and Karl Marx developed their respective systems in the wake of European industrialization and secularization.Herbert Spencer (27 April 1820 – 8 December 1903) was influential in 19th century that he had sold about a million books in his lifetime. So strong was his influence that many other 19th century thinkers, including Émile Durkheim, defined their ideas in relation to his. Spencer coined the term "survival of the fittest", was a critic of socialism as well as strong advocate for a laissez-faire style of government.
William Graham SumnerLester F. WardVilfredo ParetoAlexis de TocquevilleWerner SombartThorstein VeblenFerdinand TönniesGeorg Simmel and Karl Mannheim are occasionally included on academic curricula as founding theorists in social science.

6. How was Sociology as an academic discipline founded?
Formal academic sociology was established by Émile Durkheim (1858–1917), who developed positivism as a foundation to practical social research. He maintained that the social sciences are a logical continuation of the natural ones and that they may retain the same objectivity, rationalism, and approach to causality. Durkheim set up the first European department of sociology at the University of Bordeaux in 1895. Durkheim  described sociology as the "science of institutions, their genesis and their functioning".

7. When was the course sociology first taught?
The first college course entitled "Sociology" was taught in the United States at Yale in 1875 by William Graham SumnerLester F. Ward’s 1200-page Sociology book was used as core material in many early American sociology courses. In 1890, the oldest continuing American course in the modern tradition began at the University of Kansas, lectured by Frank W. Blackmar. The Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago was established in 1892 by Albion Small, who also published the first sociology textbook: “An introduction to the study of society” (1894). 
The first sociology department to be established in the United Kingdom was at the London School of Economics and Political Science (home of the British Journal of Sociology) in 1904. Harriet Martineau, an English translator of Comte, has been cited as the first female sociologist. Max Weber established the first department in Germany at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in 1919. In 1920, Florian Znaniecki set up the first department in Poland.

8. What are the early international sociological organizations?
International co-operation in sociology began in 1893, when René Worms founded the Institut International de Sociologie, an institution later eclipsed by the much larger International Sociological Association (ISA), founded in 1949.

9. What is positivism?
It is the theory that knowledge can be acquired only through direct observation and experimentation, and not through metaphysics or theology.
In Sociology, positivism is broadly understood as a scientific approach to the study of society.

10. What was the influence of positivism to Sociology?
The overarching methodological principle of positivism is to conduct sociology in broadly the same manner as natural science. An emphasis on empiricism and the scientific method is sought to provide a tested foundation for sociological research based on the assumption that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge, and that such knowledge can only arrive by positive affirmation through scientific methodology.
The variety of positivism that remains dominant today is termed instrumental positivism. This approach eschews epistemological and metaphysical concerns (such as the nature of social facts) in favor of methodological clarity, replicabilityreliability and validity. This positivism is more or less synonymous with quantitative research. Modern sociology of this type is often credited to Paul Lazarsfeld,who pioneered large-scale survey studies and developed statistical techniques for analyzing them.

11. What is anti-positivism in Sociology?
Various neo-Kantian philosophers, phenomenologists and human scientists theorized that the analysis of the social world differs to that of the natural world due to the irreducibly complex aspects of human society, culture, and being.
At the turn of the 20th century the first generation of German sociologists formally introduced methodological anti-positivism, proposing that research should concentrate on human cultural norms,valuessymbols, and social processes viewed from a resolutely subjective perspective. Max Weber argued that sociology may be loosely described as a science as it is able to identify causal relationships of human "social action"—especially among "ideal types", or hypothetical simplifications of complex social phenomena. As a non-positivist, however, Weber sought relationships that are not as "historical, invariant, or generalizable" as those pursued by natural scientists.

12. What is interpretative method in social science?
Both Weber and Georg Simmel pioneered the "Verstehen" (or 'interpretative') method in social science; a systematic process by which an outside observer attempts to relate to a particular cultural group, or indigenous people, on their own terms and from their own point-of-view. Through the work of Simmel, in particular, sociology acquired a possible character beyond positivist data-collection or grand, deterministic systems of structural law. Relatively isolated from the sociological academy throughout his lifetime, Simmel presented idiosyncratic analyses of modernity more reminiscent of the phenomenological and existential writers than of Comte or Durkheim, paying particular concern to the forms of, and possibilities for, social individuality. His sociology engaged in a neo-Kantian inquiry into the limits of perception, asking 'What is society?' in a direct allusion to Kant's question 'What is nature?'

13. What are the contemporary theoretical frameworks in Sociology?
Functionalism, conflict theory, and 2oth century social theory.

14. What is functionalism?
A broad historical paradigm in both sociology and anthropology, functionalism addresses the social structure as a whole and in terms of the necessary function of its constituent elements. A common analogy (popularized by Herbert Spencer) is to regard norms and institutions as 'organs' that work toward the proper-functioning of the entire 'body' of society. The perspective was implicit in the original sociological positivism of Comte, but was theorized in full by Durkheim, again with respect to observable, structural laws.
Classical functionalist theory is generally united by its tendency towards biological analogy and notions of social evolutionism. As Giddens states: "Functionalist thought, from Comte onwards, has looked particularly towards biology as the science providing the closest and most compatible model for social science. Biology has been taken to provide a guide to conceptualizing the structure and the function of social systems and to analyzing processes of evolution via mechanisms of adaptation ... functionalism strongly emphasizes the pre-eminence of the social world over its individual parts (i.e. its constituent actors, human subjects)."

15. What is conflict theory?
Functionalism aims only toward a general perspective from which to conduct social science. Methodologically, its principles generally contrast those approaches that emphasize the "micro", such as interpretivism or symbolic interactionism. Its emphasis on "cohesive systems", however, also holds political ramifications. Functionalist theories are often therefore contrasted with "conflict theories" which critique the overarching socio-political system or emphasize the inequality of particular groups. The works of Durkheim and Marx epitomize the political, as well as theoretical, disparities, between functionalist and conflict thought respectively.

16. What is 20th century social theory?
The functionalist movement reached its crescendo in the 1940s and 1950s, and by the 1960s was in rapid decline. By the 1980s, functionalism in Europe had broadly been replaced by conflict-oriented approaches. While some of the critical approaches also gained popularity in the United States, the mainstream of the discipline instead shifted to a variety of empirically-oriented middle-range theories with no single overarching theoretical orientation. To many in the discipline, functionalism is now considered "as dead as a dodo."
As the influence of both functionalism and Marxism in the 1960s began to wane, the linguistic and cultural turns led to myriad new movements in the social sciences: "According to Giddens, the orthodox consensus terminated in the late 1960s and 1970s as the middle ground shared by otherwise competing perspectives gave way and was replaced by a baffling variety of competing perspectives. This third 'generation' of social theory includes phenomenologically inspired approaches, critical theory, ethnomethodology, symbolic interactionism, structuralism, post-structuralism, and theories written in the tradition of hermeneutics and ordinary language philosophy."
The structuralist movement originated from the linguistic theory of Ferdinand de Saussure and was later expanded to the social sciences by theorists such as Claude Lévi-Strauss. In this context, 'structure' refers not to 'social structure' but to the semiotic understanding of human culture as a system of signs. One may delineate four central tenets of structuralism: First, structure is what determines the structure of a whole. Second, structuralists believe that every system has a structure. Third, structuralists are interested in 'structural' laws that deal with coexistence rather than changes. Finally, structures are the 'real things' beneath the surface or the appearance of meaning.
Post-structuralist thought has tended to reject 'humanist' assumptions in the conduct of social theoryMichel Foucault provides a potent critique in his archaeology of the human sciences, though Habermas and Rorty have both argued that Foucault merely replaces one such system of thought with another.The dialogue between these intellectuals highlights a trend in recent years for certain schools of sociology and philosophy to intersect. The anti-humanist position has been associated with "postmodernism," a term used in specific contexts to describe an era orphenomena, but occasionally construed as a method.

 Sociology 101: A Primer



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