Introducing Sociology: The Study of Human Society


Sociology is a fascinating field that explores human society in a holistic way. It seeks to understand the social relationships, patterns, and structures that shape our lives, our communities, and the world around us. At its core, sociology is the scientific study of society, its institutions, and its functioning.

One of the key insights of sociology is that our social behavior is not just a matter of individual choice, but is shaped by broader social forces. These forces can include culture, economy, political institutions, and historical events. By understanding these social factors, sociologists can better explain why societies and individuals behave in the ways they do.

Sociology is a broad and diverse field, encompassing a wide range of topics and approaches. It is a vital and dynamic field that helps us understand the complexities of human society. By exploring the social world through scientific inquiry, sociologists offer unique insights into the workings of society and help us to identify ways to create a better, more just, and more equitable world.

Sociology is a discipline in social sciences concerned with human society and human social activities. It is one of the youngest social sciences. Auguste Comte, a French social thinker, is traditionally known as the ‘Father of Sociology’ as he coined the term ‘Sociology’ in 1839.

Definition and Meaning of Sociology

  • According to Max Weber, one of the founding figures of sociology, “Sociology is a science concerning itself with the interpretive understanding of social action and thereby with a causal explanation of its course and consequences.”
  • Émile Durkheim, another foundational figure in sociology, defined sociology as “the study of social facts,” which he defined as “ways of acting, thinking, and feeling, external to the individual, and endowed with a power of coercion, by reason of which they control him.”
  • Talcott Parsons, a 20th-century sociologist, described sociology as “the scientific study of the patterned behavior of people in social relationships.”
  • According to C. Wright Mills, sociology is “a way of seeing the general in the particular,” meaning that it is a way of understanding how individual experiences and actions are shaped by larger social structures and processes.
  • Anthony Giddens, a contemporary sociologist, has described sociology as “the scientific study of human social life, groups, and societies.” He emphasizes that sociology is not just concerned with describing social phenomena, but also with explaining why they occur and how they can be changed.
  • Auguste Comte: Comte defines Sociology as the science of social phenomena “subject to natural and invariable laws, the discovery of which is the object of investigation”.
  • Kingsley Davis: “Sociology is a general science of society”.
  • Morris Ginsberg: “In the broadest sense, Sociology is the study of human interactions and inter-relations, their conditions and consequences”.

These definitions highlight sociology’s focus on understanding social phenomena scientifically and its interest in explaining the patterns and dynamics of social life.

Sociology helps us to understand the truth about ourselves and about our society. Everett K. Wilson explains, “We come to know ourselves better because since we are in large measure, social creations, to know our social world and how it influences us is to come to a clearer conception of who we are and {to some degree} why. We come closer to the truth about our society since sociology is the best means of understanding and unraveling the complexities of social live; because it is the best means of learning the methods appropriate for analyzing social reality; and because it helps us go beyond fallible common sense to describe and explain more accurately the classes of social behavior and connections among them.”

– Everett K. Wilson

The normative structure, shaped by human interactions and interrelationships, wields considerable influence over individuals in society. The individuals find themselves constrained and regulated by the structure, although it is created by them. Hence, sociologists primarily focus on examining the processes involved in its creation and maintenance. Additionally, they explore how these normative structures exercise control and regulation over individuals within a society.

In simple words, Sociology is concerned with interacting individuals, i.e., individuals in groups, institutions, and societies.

Nature of Sociology

Like many other social sciences, there are debates surrounding the nature of Sociology, i.e., regarding what type of subject Sociology is. However, most sociologists agreed that Sociology is a scientific discipline that can be further categorized as a Social Science. The nature of Sociology as a discipline or subject/field of inquiry can be understood as follows:

  1. Scientific: Sociology is a social science that employs scientific methods to study human society. Sociologists use systematic observation, experimentation, and analysis to study social phenomena and develop theories that explain social behavior.
  2. Holistic: Sociology takes a holistic approach to understanding human society. It examines the social, cultural, economic, political, and historical factors that shape social behavior, and seeks to understand how these factors interact and influence one another.
  3. Comparative: Sociology is a comparative discipline, meaning that it compares social phenomena across different societies, cultures, and time periods. This enables sociologists to identify similarities and differences in social behavior and to develop general theories that apply across different contexts.
  4. Critical: Sociology is a critical discipline that challenges taken-for-granted assumptions about the social world. It seeks to understand social problems and to develop strategies for addressing them, with an emphasis on promoting social justice, equality, and human rights.
  5. Empirical: Sociology is an empirical discipline, meaning that it relies on data and evidence to support its theories and arguments. Sociologists collect and analyze data using a variety of research methods, including surveys, interviews, experiments, and observations.
  6. Multi-disciplinary: Sociology is an interdisciplinary discipline that draws on insights from other social sciences, such as psychology, anthropology, economics, and political science. It also has connections to other fields, such as history, philosophy, and cultural studies, and often collaborates with practitioners in fields such as social work, education, and public policy.

Robert Bierstedt explained the nature of Sociology in the following way. According to him:

  • Sociology is an Independent Science.
  • Sociology is a social science
  • Sociology is a categorical and not a normative discipline
  • Sociology is a pure science and not an applied science
  • Sociology is a relatively Abstract science and not a Concrete science
  • Sociology is a generalizing and not a particularizing or individualizing science
  • Sociology is a general science and not a special social science
  • Finally, sociology is both rational and empirical science.

Overall, the nature of sociology as a discipline reflects its broad focus on understanding human society through systematic observation, analysis, and comparison, with an emphasis on critical inquiry and empirical evidence. Sociology is considered an independent, social, categorical, pure, abstract, both rational and empirical, and a generalizing social science.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top