Sociology is a science
Sociology is a science aimed at understanding human actions. It is a science-based on interpretative analysis of society and explanation of causes of social movements. Sociology is a science because it has its concepts and uniformities, it is based on empirical processes and theories. Sociology, as a science, is focused on action (human behavior). Action is referred to as social when it is attached to the actions of individuals, their behaviors, and interactions with other social units. Action is referred to as not social when it is not oriented towards human behavior (Gerth 1946). For example, two people communicating with each other represent social action, while a person starting a car does represent mechanical action, not social. Sociology, as a science, studies actions in which participate many people, groups of people, or individuals. Scientific sociology investigates human behavior as the result of the actions of others.
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From early history, sociology has been founded on methodology: observation, comparison, experiment, and historical research. The same methodology is used in such science as biology. For example, empirical research is used for suicide analysis. Only statistical rate is used to establish sociological argument on suicide. According to Max Weber, sociology is aimed at explaining the meaning: actual meaning for specific cases (average meaning for plural cases) and theoretical meaning of hypothetical cases (Gerth 1946). Sociology, similar to history, is an empirical science, while ethics and jurisprudence are dogmatic disciplines. Some critics point out that the relationship between action and reactive behavior cannot be traced empirically. Nevertheless, meaningful action cannot be found in most of the psychophysical processes as well.
Sociology is an applied discipline focused on the study of social interaction. Sociology is closely related to other sciences such as economy, psychology, biology, physiology, behavioral genetics, and even ecology. Moreover, without the contribution of sociology, many of these sciences would be deficient. Sociology does not have a uniform definition. Social stratification, for example, investigates social inequalities. Demography, as a part of sociology science, is focused on population size and type. Criminology studies deviance, while political sociology investigates laws. The most valuable contribution of sociology is that it is widely applied in non-academic settings. In particular, sociological research is used by lawmakers, developers, and educators to resolve social problems and develop public policy. Sociologists, unlike chemists, are not a committee to scientific methods. Sociological hypotheses are hard to prove, however, systematic research is inherently marked as flawed.
Sociology examines the society and behavior of humans, it is focused on social institutions formed by people; it studies diverse social, business, and even religious organizations. Sociologists collect, analyze, and provide valuable information on characteristics of social groups and institutions, it investigates how individuals affect each other. Sociology aims at finding the answer to whether such social characteristics as sex, age, and race influence the life of people. Sociologists examine social stratification, mobility, ethnic relations, family issues, education, sex roles, demography, criminology, and gerontology. Without research carried out by sociologists, laws would not meet the needs of people, criminology would not be able to draw the prevent crimes, and business leaders would not be aware of the target marketing. Sociology is important for diverse sciences because it contributes valuable information about all aspects of human behavior, social interactions, and population trends.
Sociology: from ancient times till the present day
As early as in the 14th century Ibn Khaldun has introduced a concept of social philosophy – he has formulated the basic theory of social cohesion and conflict (Levine 1995). However, it took five centuries for sociology to emerge as a science. The early 19th century was marked with a challenge of modernity; the world was becoming more integrated and the experiences of people were more uniform. Sociologists of that time aimed at understanding how social groups co-existed. Auguste Comte (1830th) has introduced the word “sociology” – the unifying concept of all social studies (economics, history, and psychology). Comte assumed that all humans pass through the same historical stages and if to understand the progress, it is possible to find the solution to social ills.
Emile Durkheim, Ferdinand Tonnies, and Vilfredo Pareto are classical sociology theorist. However, their works had extensively influenced religion, theology, ethics, law, education, philosophy, and economics. Notably, the first publications containing the word “sociology” in a title, were published in 1854 by American lawyers Henry Hughes and George Fitzhugh (Levine 1995). Both authors addressed the issue of slavery. Frank Blackmar was the first to teach sociology as a discipline at the University of Kansas. Within forty years, sociology became international science: Rene Worms established the International Sociological Association. American Sociology Association has been formed in 1905 by Lester Ward (Levine 1995).
As Comte assumed, sociology would eventually subsume all human sciences. Sociology is not aimed at replacing other science, moreover, it contributes to other sciences. The modern focus of sociology is on organizations, social instructions, and interactions. The comparative method is the most widely used sociological tool. The globally-used word “Western” (describing the life of the American community) has been introduced by sociologists who have noted that the American lifestyle is different from other national units. In addition to multi-cultural studies, today’s sociology investigates micro-structures of society (race, social class, and gender roles), institutions (family), social deviations (crime and divorce), and interpersonal interactions (Giddens 2006). To describe social relations and develop models aimed at predicting social changes, sociologists rely on quantitative methods of research. Such methods as focused interviews, ethnographic studies, and group discussions provide valuable information on social processes.
In conclusion, sociology as a science is relatively young, however, its importance cannot be underestimated. Sociologists contribute to all sciences and improve the understanding of social changes and processes. Sociology helps lawmakers to meet the needs of the majority, it assists criminologists in developing patterns for crime rate control and prevention, and it enables business leaders to target customers. Even though sociological assumptions are hard to prove, their findings are practical and can be applied to social analysis. It helps to understand why people this or that way, why the behavior of people differs, and how the community influences the actions of its members.
Gerth, H. H. & Mills, C. W. (1946). From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.
Giddens, A. (2006). Sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Levine, D. N. (1995). Visions of the Sociological Tradition. University Of Chicago Press.