Nursing Sociology GS Purushothama
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“Sociology has a long past but only a short history”. Society has been a subject for speculation and inquiry since the dawn of civilization. But it is only within the last hundred and fifty years that the study of society has become a separate subject, Historically the term ‘sociology’ was coined in 1839 by French philosopher and sociologist Auguste comte. He proposed that like other phenomena the society also should be studied scientifically.
Etymologically, the word sociology has hybrid origin of two languages—latin and greek. The word ‘socius’ is latin term meaning friend, companion or associate. The Greek ‘logos’ or ‘ology’ mean study of. It also means doctrine, discourse, or theory. By combining the words, it can be illustrated as socios + logos = sociology (study of human association). Thus literally, sociology is the study of companionship, meaning social interaction and its resultant relationship that exists between companion or group of human beings.
According to Auguste Comte sociology is the study of social phenomena, that is subject to “natural invariable laws, the discovery of which is the object of investigation”. According to Durkheim, sociology is the “science of social institution”. According to MacIver and page sociology is the “science of social relationships”.2
According to Alex Inkeles”, sociology is the study of society, institutions and social relationships”.
In the words of Ginsberg “In the broadest sense, sociology is the study of human interactions and interrelations, their conditions and consequences.
In the words of Max Weber, “sociology is a science which attempts the interpretative understanding of social action in order thereby to arrive at a casual explanation of its cause and effects”.
A review of these definitions reveals that they mention the phenomena studied by sociology. The levels of social reality studied by sociology are broadly – social relationship, institutions and society. The founder thinker comte emphasizes the scientific nature of the study. Weber's reference “to interpretative understanding” draws our attention to the role of subjective factors in social reality. While most of the other definitions focus on different levels of social structure.
The factors which contribute to the emergence of sociology, could be traced to the second half of the nineteenth century. As pointed out earlier while a scientific study of sociology is a recent development, reflections about society have a long history.
According to Bottomore, these could be broadly divided into social and intellectual conditions.
The following are some of the social conditions which led to the emergence of sociology.
  1. Social conditions
    1. Geographical discovery
    2. Industrial revolution
    3. Urbanization
    4. French revoulution
    5. Growth of science.
  2. Intellectual conditions
    1. Political philosophy
    2. Philosophy of history
    3. Biological theories of evolution
    4. Movements for social and political reforms resulting in social surveys
Social Conditions
Geographical Discoveries
The extensive geographical discoveries and expanations extended the contact of cultures. The expantion of Europe and colonization brought Europeans in contact with the most diverse and advanced cultures like the culture of India, China, etc. as well as those of the most primitive tribes. This resulted in the development of comparative ethnology. As a result many imaginative descriptions of the primitive tribes were substituted by concrete descriptions of actual primitive life. Trying to systematize the knowledge about many different types of cultures many early thinkers used the evolutionary approach.
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial revolution which swept through many western societies, mainly in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was one of the key factors of social change. Large number of people left agricultural work for the occupations offered by the factories. They became part of a vast and anonymous industrial work force, working away from home for strangers who owned the factories. Within this system, few capitalists who established the factories profited, while the majority the workers worked for long hours for low wages. The misery and suffering of the workers inspired many to propose a number of schemes for social and economic reconstruction.
As a result of the Industrial Revolution large numbers of people were uprooted from their rural homes. They moved to urban 4settings, because the jobs created by the industrial system were in the urban areas. The extensive urban growth that took place across the European continent changed people's lives dramatically cities were full of strangers. The expansion of the cities led to widespread urban problems such as overcrowding, pollution, crime, inadequate housing etc. there social crisis stimulated the development of sociological perspective.
French Revolution
The new economy and the rapid growth of cities also brought about changes in the political thought. As against the medieval notions of society reflecting God's will. The writings of the thinkers of this period like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, J Rousseau, Adam Smith, etc. Support for the idea that society is the product of self-interest. The new political climate emphasized individual liberty, individual rights, etc. the American Declaration of Independence, which celebrates the separation of the American colonies from England. The political revolution in France that began in 1789, which are even more dramatic effort to break with political and social traditions. The long series of political revolutions that occurred after the French Revolution was another Major factor in rise of sociology. The impact of these revolutions on the society was enormous. There was also chaos and disorder especially in France. Many of the early thinkers tried to find new basis of order in these societies. The issue of social order was one of the major concerns of classical sociology thinkers especially comte and Durkheim.
The Growth of Science
The success of natural sciences had a powerful impact on eighteenth century political and social philosophy. Early thinkers like Comte and Durkheim wanted to model sociology after the successful physical and biological sciences.5
Intellectual Condition
Political Philosophy
The writings of many of the political philosophy of eighteenth century such as Burke, Fitchte, etc. contained observations of sociological nature. They maintained that social institutions like government and religion, are the natural growth of an organic evolutionary development. This encouraged many thinkers to give more attention to the social and cultural foundations of social institutions, this was a distinctly sociological trend.
Philosophy of History
The philosophy of history is a creation of the eighteenth century, among its founders were Abbee-de-saint-pierre and Giambattista Vico. Their ideas are reflected in the writings of Motesquieu and Voltaire in France, Herder in Germany and a group of Scottish historians and philosopher of the latter part of eighteenth century such as Ferguson, Millar, Robertson and others. In the early part of the nineteenth century the philosophy of history became important intellectual influence through the writings of Hegel and saint-simon. According to Bottomare the contributions of philosophy of history to sociology are varied. These are on the philosophical side the nations of ‘development’ and ‘progress’ and on the scientific side the concepts of ‘historical periods’ and ‘social types’. These thinkers also proposed a new conception of society. Society was considered as something more than political society or the state. They were concerned with the whole range of social institution.
Biological Theories of Evolution
The success of evolutionary theories in biology also inspired many thinkers to adopt a similar approach in the study of social institutions. Thinkers like Charlie Darwin Margan, Westermark Herbert Spencer proposed evolutionary theories regarding the development of important social institution.6
The Reform Movements Leading to Social Surveys
According to Bottomore social surveys were another important element in the emergence of sociology. Social survey itself was the result of two developments.
  1. Firstly, the growing conviction that the methods of the natural sciences should and could be extended to the study of human affairs.
  2. Secondly, it was the recognition that in industrial societies poverty was the result of human ignorance and exploitation and not a natural phenomenon. Under these two influences social survey came to occupy an important place in the new science of society. It has also remained one of the principal methods of sociological enquiry even now.
Sociology, as a branch of knowledge, has its own unique characteristics. The following are the main characteristics of sociology as enlisted by Robert Bierstedt in his book “The social order”.
  1. Sociology is an independent science: Sociology has emerged into an independent science. It is not treated and studied as a branch of any other science like philosophy or political philosophy or history. As an independent science it has its own subject matter, boundary and methodology.
  2. Sociology is a social science and not a physical science: Sociology belongs to the family of social sciences and not to the family of physical sciences. As a social science it concentrates its attention on man, his social behavior, social activities and social life. As a member of the family of social sciences it is intimately related to other social sciences like history, political science, economics, psychology, anthropology, etc.
  3. Sociology is a catergorical and not a normative discipline: As a science, sociology is necessarily silent about questions of value. It does not make any kind of value-judgements. Its approach is neither moral nor immoral but amoral. It is 7ethically neutral. It cannot decide the directions in which sociology ought to go. It makes no recommendations on matters of social policy or legislation or program. It only means that sociology as a discipline cannot deal with wrong, moral or immoral.
  4. Sociology is a pure science and not an applied science: Sociology is a pure science, because the immediate aim of sociology is the acquisition of knowledge about human society, not the utilization of that knowledge. Sociologists never determine questions of public policy and do not recommend legislators what laws should be passed or replaced. But the knowledge acquired by a sociologist is of great help to the administrator, the legislator, the diplomat, the teacher, the foreman, the supervisor, the social worker and the citizen.
  5. Sociology is relatively an abstract science and not a concrete science: As an abstract science, it deals with the pattern of social phenomena. Sociology is not interested in concrete manifestation of human events. It does not study any particular wars or association. But, it is concerned with war or association as a social phenomena. It is in this sense sociology is an abstract science not a concrete science.
  6. Sociology is a generalizing and not a particularly or individualizing science: It tries to make generalization on the basis of study of some selected events. For example, a sociologist makes generalizations about the nature of secondary groups. He may conclude that secondary groups are comparatively bigger in size, less stable, not necessarily spatially limited, more specialized, and so on.
    Sociology, of course, does not investigate economic, religious, political, legal, moral or any other special kind of phenomena in relation to human life and activities as such. It only studies human activities in a general way.
  7. Sociology is an empirical and rational science: As an empirical science it emphasizes experiences and the facts, that comes to light from observation and experimentation. It collects facts. As a rational science, it upholds reason and 8coordination and arranges the facts collected. If arranged properly, coordinated facts, speaks far themselves. Facts ease theorizing. Theory is based on fact.
It is clear from the above that sociology is an independent, a social, a categorical a pure, an abstract, a generalizing, both a rational and an empirical.
Far practical purpose, we shall classify science in the following ways.
Pure and Applied Sciences
A pure science is concerned with the search for the truth about different types of events for the purpose of obtaining knowledge. It formulates laws and theories and develops a system for the purpose of understanding the subject matter.
An applied science also gathers knowledge; and it tries to apply practically the obtained knowledge.
These two sciences are closely related. The pure science is theoretical science and the applied science is practical. A particular science may have both branches, e.g. Pure Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, Theoretical Sociology an Applied Sociology, Pure Economics and Applied Economics, etc.
Positive and Normative Sciences
A positive science studies facts as they are, ie. Without any subjective bias or without any distortion of facts. It is concerned with objective truth. The purpose of positive sciences is to ascertain facts as they are and to know the laws that govern the phenomena. Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Astronomy, Biology, etc. are positive sciences.
A normative science is based on norms as standards. It makes subjective evaluation or value judgement. It studies things as they should be, i.e. with reference to a norm or standard. The 9approach of a normative science is evaluative for instance, ethics, aerthetics, philosophy, psychology and logic, etc. are normative science.
Natural and Social Sciences
Natural sciences study natural phenomena. Natural sciences are classified into physical sciences and biological sciences.
Physical Sciences
Physical sciences are exact sciences. Mostly, they deal with natural, inanimate objects. They are more precise, objective science. Any number of repeated experiments may be conducted in physical sciences and hence, cause effect relationship is more easily established. They can predict things. Consequently it is easier to establish universal laws in physical sciences. Mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology, etc. are physical sciences.
Biological Sciences
Biological sciences study the phenomena concerning living beings. Botany and zoology are included in this category.
Social Science
Social science study the phenomena concerning the life of human beings in society, i.e. Their behavior, institutions, groups etc. Social sciences are less exact and less precise. Laboratory experimentation in its stricket sense is almost impossible in social sciences. Social scientist cannot establish cuase-affect relationship. Theories and laws formulated by them are relative and are applicable to only societies concerned. Thus universal generalization are not possible in social sciences. Sociology, history, economics, political science, philosophy, etc. are social sciences.10
Difference between Social Sciences and Physical Sciences
Social Sciences
Physical Sciences
  1. Social sciences investigate laws related to man or man's social behavior
  2. Social sciences proceed upon physical the assumption that man is the central figure
  3. The fundamental elements of social sciences are psychologically related
  4. The basic elements of social sciences are man, his mental state and behaviour
  5. The basic elements of the social sciences cannot be separated analytically
  6. Being related to the study of society the social sciences
  7. Because of their lesser exactness, social science can make comparatively fewer predictions
  8. For this reason objectivity is achieved with difficulty in social sciences.
  1. The physical sciences search for physical laws in natural phenomena
  2. There is no equivalent in sciences
  3. The basic elements of physical sciences have physical relation
  4. The basic elements of the physical science are to physical elements like hydrogen, etc.
  5. The basic elements of the physical sciences can be separated by analysis
  6. Because they study physical elements the physical sciences possess greater exactness
  7. The physical sciences can make more predictions due to a higher degree of exactness
  8. Objectivity is attained easily in physical sciences.
Sociology is a young science, a certain of the 19th century. But observations and ideas which are relevant to modern society may be found in the writings of philosopher, religious leaders and legislators of all civilizations and epochs. Since the dawn of civilization society has been an important subject for speculation and enquiry.
Some of the oldest documents have recorded man's attempts to analyze and understand social order. For instance in Greece 11plato's ‘The Republic’ reflects his ideas about a rightly organized society and gives an analysis of the city community in all its aspects. This book ‘The laws’ gives fullest details of social reforms. His ‘dialogues’ sheds light on men's motives and behavior. Machiavelli's ‘The Prince’ and Montespuieu's ‘The spirit of laws’ reflect many different phares of social life. Aristotle's ‘Ethics and politics’ gives a systematic analysis of law, state and society.
Subsequently, many other thinkers too have focused on social phenomena. Prominent among them were St. Augustine, Sir Thomas More, Sir Francis Bacon, James Harrington, Campanella and others.
St Augustine stressed the unity of mankind. Sir Thomas More, in his imaginary ideal state of ‘Utopia’, contrasts the moral decadence and disunity of contemporary Christian Europe with the tolerance and prosperity found in Utopia ‘New Atlantics’ of Becon, ‘Common Wealth’ of oceana of James of Harrington, ‘city of the sun’ of campanella were rich in suggestions. Thomas Hobbes, John locke and Rousseau all are widely known for their ‘social contract theory’.
In the east too, there were number of important works reflecting society. Important are the ‘Path-Hotep’, which is a summary of the rules of social conduct used in Egyptian schools, ‘Teachings of confucius’ which discussed men's social relationship, ‘Code of Hammurabe’ referring to the social classes, ‘Zend Avesta’ of Zaroaster describing the social regulations regarding the manners and customs of the people. Ibn Khaldun, in his Muqadimma, explained the principles of causation underlying social phenomena. In India, Vedas, the Upanishads, the puranas Epics, Neethishastra of Shukracharya, Manu's Dharmashastra, etc. reflect the philosophy of the Hindus. Arthashastra of Kautilya was a complete treatise on social subjects. All these works show that the subjects of sociology is as old as human records themselves. But these studies were speculative in nature.12
There are two main schools of thought among the sociologists on this issue.
Specialistic or Formalistic School of Thought and Synthetic Schools of Thought
According to the formalistic school, the subject matter of sociology consists of forms of social relationships. George Simmel, Small, Vier Kanalt-Max Weber, Tonnier, Von Wiser are the main advocates of their schools of thought. These sociologists want to keep the scope of sociology distinct from other social sciences. They regard sociology as pure and independent. According to George Simmel, sociology should confine its study to formal behavior instead of studying actual behavior. In the same way sociology, too, comprehends the forms of social relationships and activities, not the relationships themselves. Sociology is a specific social science which describes, classifies, analyzes and delineates the forms of social relationships, the processes of socialization and social organization, etc.
George Simmel has mentioned some forms of relationship, e.g. Competetion, domination, imitation, division of labor, subordination, etc. Small's way of thinking concurs with Simmel's. According to Small, sociology does not undertake to study all the activities of society. Every science has a delimited scope. The scope of sociology is the study of the genetic forms of social relationships, behaviors and activities, etc. It has been said by Vier Kandt that sociology can be definite science only when it abstains from a historic study of concrete societies. According to Max Weber, the scope of sociology consist in the interpretation of social behavior.
According to Von Wiese, the scope of sociology is the study of forms of social relationships. He has divided these social relationships into several kinds, which make a material contributation towards the understanding of the contentions of the formalistic school. Tonnies has supported the idea of pure 13sociology. He has differentiatied between the society and community on the basis of forms of relationships. In this way, according to the specific aspect of social relationships and behavior, their forms, and its cope is limited to them.
The following arguments have been advanced against the opinion of the formalistic school.
  1. Other sciences also study forms of social relationships.
  2. The establishment of pure sociology is impractical.
  3. Forms of social relationships differ from the forms of geometry.
  4. Separated from the concrete relations, abstract forms cannot be studied.
Synthetic School
As against the specialistic school the synthetic school wants to make sociology as synthesis of the social sciences or a general sciences.
Emile Durkheim, Hobhouse and sorokin subscribe to this point of view. According to this opinion, sociology is the science of sciences and all social sciences are included in its scope, it synthesizes all of them. According to this contention all the aspects of social life are inter-related, hence the study of one aspect cannot suffice to understand the entire fact.
In this way, the subject matter of sociology and the other sciences are the same, only there is a difference in their respective view points. In studying any social phenomena, it is necessary to contemplate upon all its aspects. Suppose you want to analyze and study the causes of family disorganization from the sociological view point, then you will have to seek the assistance of economics, history, psychology and other science. This wide field has been divided into the following classes:
Social morphology: This includes all those subjects which are fundamentally demographic, such as population, its size, density, distribution, etc.
Social physiology: It is inclusive of all those subjects which are studied by particular social sciences, such as religion, economy, language, morals, law, etc.14
General sociology: This is the philosophical part of sociology. Its function is the formulation of general social laws.
Social control: It consists of the study of factors such as law, religion, customs, norms, etc. which exercise some kind of control over the individual in society.
Social processes: In this, they studied those internal relation like co-operation and conflict, etc. which exist among men or groups of human beings.
Social pathology: This grouping studies the factors leading to social disorganization and ways and means of preventing social disorganization.
It would have become evident after a perusal of the field of sociology mentioned above, that the scope of sociology is very wide. It studies all the various aspects of society such as social traditions, social processes, social morphology, factor of social control, social pathology, and mutual relationships of social incidents, effect of extrasocial elements upon social relationships and phenomena, etc. of social life. Actually, it is neither possible nor essential to determine the scope of sociology.
Sociology is a science. It is necessary to know what science is. Some people look upon some specific subject matter as science, systemic body of knowledge. Common people base their distinction between art and science on this meaning. But science is a method, a way of investigation, a way of looking at the world systematic body of knowledge. The test of science is its approach and method, not its contents and material.
In the scientific method, the subject matter in a limited scope is systematically studied. This method needs great patience, courage, diligence, a creative imagination and objectivity.
Characteristics of Science/Scientific Method
The following are the main characterisitcs of science and scientific method:15
Scientific knowledge is objective. Objectivity means the ability to see and accept facts as they are, not as one might wish them to be. To be objective, one has to guard against his own biases, beliefs, wishes, values and preferences. Objectivity demands that one must set aside all sorts of the subjective considerations and prejudices.
Science rests upon sense data, i.e. data gathered through our senses—eye, ear, nose tongue and touch. Scientific knowledge is based on verifiable evidence (concrete factual observations) so that other observers can observe, weight or measure the same phenomena and check out observation for accuracy.
Science does not have answers for everything. It deals with only those questions about which verifiable evidence can be found.
Ethical Neutrality
Science is ethically neutral. It only seeks knowledge. How this knowledge is to be used, is determined by societal values. Knowledge can be put to differing uses. Knowledge about atomic energy can be used to cure diseases or to wage atomic warfare. Ethical neutrality does not mean that the scientist has not values. It here only means that he must not allow his values to distort the design and conduct of his research. Thus, scientific knowledge is value-neutral or value-free.
Systematic Exploration
A scientific research adopts a certain sequential procedure, an organised plan or design of research for collecting and analysis of facts about the problem under study. Generally, this plan includes a few scientific steps—formulation of hypothesis, collection of facts, analysis of facts (classification, coding and tabulation) and scientific generalization and predication.16
Scientific knowledge must occur under the prescribed circumstances not once but repeatedly. It is reproducible under the circumstances stated anywhere and anytime. Conclusions based on casual recollections are not very reliable.
Scientific knowledge is precise. It is not vague like some literary writing. Precision requires giving exact number or measurement. Instead of saying “most of the people are against love marriages,” a scientific researcher says, “Ninety percent people are against love marriages”.
Scientific knowledge is accurace. A physician, like a common man, will not say that the patient has slight temperature or having very high temperature but after measureing with the help of thermometer, he will pronounce that the patient is having 101.2°F temperature. Accurarcy simply means truth or correctness of a statement or describing things in exact words as they are without jumping to unwarranted conclusions.
Science proceeds on a plane of abstraction. A general scientific principle is highly abstract. It is not interested in giving a realistic picture.
Scientists do not merely describe the phenomena being studied, but also attempt to explain and predict as well. It is typical of social science that they have a far lower predictability compared to natural sciences. The most obvious reasons are the complexity of the subject matter and inadequacy at control, etc.17
By examining sociology on the basis of the six foregoing essentials it can be known that sociology possesses all the essential characteristics of a science.
  1. Sociology employs the scientific method: All the methods of sociology are scientific. Scientific methods as scales of sociometry, A schedule, Questionnaire, Interview and case history, etc. in these methods, the first step is the collection of data through observation, which is then systematically recorded. Following this, the data is classified and finally laws are enunciated on the basis of accepted data. The validity of these laws are verified.
  2. Sociology is factual: Sociology makes a scientific study of facts and the general principles involved in them. Comte went to the extent of describing sociology as social physics.
  3. The principles of sociology are universal: In this way, the laws of sociology prove true at all times and places. For example, the principle that individual disorganization and social disorganization depend upon each other, is true in all times and at all places.
  4. Sociology principles are veridical: In this way, the laws of sociology prove true at every verifications and reverification. Their validity can be examined by anyone. For example, wherever the number of divorces are increasing, family disorganization would be showing an upward trend, this principle can be examined anywhere statistics concerning divorces can be obtained.
  5. Sociology delineates cause effect relationships: In the foregoing example of divorces and family disorganization one of its causes sociology has discovered a cause-effect relation between phenomena of divorce and family disorganization. In the same way, sociology traces cause-effect relationships in social disorganization and other incidents, activities, and relationships in society, and the formulates laws concerning them.
  6. Sociology can make predictions: On the basis of cause effect relationship, sociology can be anticipate the future and make predictions concerning social relationships, activities, incidents, etc. If disorganization in the families becomes pronounced, it can make prediction concerning the number of divorces, illicit relationships, and many other thing. It is clearly evident from the foregoing description of sociology is a science. Sociologists think in terms of abstractions. And scientific study is possible only through abstract forms. The laws of these abstracts forms determine the reactions of concrete objects. In this way the laws of sociology are effectively universal and veridical.
Considering the difference between social sciences and physical sciences in respect of their viewpoints, subject-matter and theory, etc. it becomes evident that in calling sociology as science. Sociology can lay a claim to being a science because it employs the scientific method in its study. Its exactness, the capacity to predict, the possibility of measurement in it, etc.
Three paths: According to Alex Inkels, there are three paths available for delineating the subject matter of sociology. They are the historical approach, the empirical approach, the analytical approach.
  1. The historical approach: It seeks to study the classic sociological writing to find out the the central traditional concerns and interests of sociology. In other words, this is the view of founding fathers of sociology.
  2. The empirical approach: This is the method in which the emphasis is on current sociological work. It is to discover those subjects to which the discipline gives most attention. In other words, it asks “what are contemporary sociologists doing?”
  3. The analytical approach: This is the method in which some larger subject matter is divided and delimited arbitrarily and 19allocated to different disciplines. Here the emphasis is on reason.
Though the review of the development of modern sociology covers over 1000 men whose work is important enough, Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber have been considered the central figures in sociology. Hence, we confine to explore the opinions of these four scholars about the subject matter of sociology.
August Comte (1798-1857)
August Comte, the French philosopher who gave sociology its name in his classic ‘Positive Philosophy’, he did propose sociology to be studied under two heads namely social statics and social dynamics. These two concepts represent a basic division in the subject matter of sociology.
The social statics deals with the major institution such as economy, family or policy. Sociology is conceived of as the study of interrelations between such institutions. The second major division of sociology which comte proposed is social dynamics. It is the study of change. This part deals with societies as they developed and changed through time. He was convinced that all societies moved through certain fixed stages of development, and that they progressed towards ever increasing perfection. Thus, according to Comte, comparative study of societies as whole was a major subject for sociological analysis.
According to Comte, all knowledge passes through three different stages. They are theological stage, the metaphysical stage and positive stage.
In this theological stage, phenomena were explained in terms of supernatural causation. For instance, rainfall, earthquakes, forest fire, flood, etc. were attributed to the will of God.
In the metaphysical stage, explanations were formulated in terms of abstract reasoning. Though there was a decline in the 20influence of supernatural factors, the explanation was not strictly scientific.
In the positive or scientific stage, man began to look for sequences of change, casual relationships and concomitant variations. In brief, this is comte's famous “law of three stages”.
Comte also formulated a scheme of the “Hierarchy of sciences”. According to him knowledge develops from the simple to the complex. Even the complex knowledge can be hierarchically graded- Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Social Physics (later renamed as sociology) coming in that order. Sociology was to be the queen of all sciences.
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)
Herbert Spencer, ranks high among the founders of modern sociology. In 1860, he published his “First Principles”. “Principles of sociology” published in 1877.
According to Spencer, the study of sociology covers such fields as family, politics, religion, work and social control. He also emphasized the study of division of labor, associations, social stratification, sociology of knowledge and art and asthetics. Being influenced by Darwin, LF Ward and others, Spencer compared society with that of human organism. He stressed that the whole society should be considered as a unit of study, comparative prespective, according to him, would better one understanding of society at different stages of development.
Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)
Emile Durkheim a distinguished French scholar, wanted sociology to emerge as a truly scientific discipline and towards his end he formulated his ‘rules of sociology methods.’
Durkheim wanted sociology to take interest in a wide range of social institutions and social processes. Thus, according to him the discipline was to include general sociology as well as religion, sociology of law and morals, sociology of crime, economic sociology and sociology of art and aesthetics.21
Durkheim laid stress on the relationships among institutions and their settings. His analysis of social facts is lucid. Social facts are nothing but the collective ways of thinking, feeling and acting which though coming from the individuals are ‘external’ to him. He emphasized the necessity of studying societies in a comparative prespective. He believed that sociology could be understood by exploring collective representations.
Durkheim also spoke on solidarity. He distinguished between two types of solidarity—mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity.
According to Durkhiem, sociology has three main division or fields of study. They are social morphology, social physiology and general sociology social morphology is the study of the territorial basis of social life concerned with the nature and extent of influence exercised by such factors as geographical location, size and density of population, etc. on the social organization of social life.
Social physiology deals with the genesis and nature of various social institutions, etc. General sociology attempts to discover general social laws. The major works of Durkheim are – The Division of Labor in society. The rules of sociological Method, suicide, The Elementary forms of Religions life. These speak of subjects of Durkheim wanted to include in the scope of sociology.
Max Weber (1864-1920)
Max Weber defined sociology as ‘a science which attempts the interpretative understanding of social action in order to thereby arrive at a causal explanation of its cause and effect’. In this view, sociology is essentially a comprehensive science of social actions. Weber made a fundamental distinction between four types of action in relation to a value, emotional action and traditional action.
According to him, sociology should concern itself with the study of the parts of society as a whole. His classification of 22authority into charismatic, traditional and rationalist is a scientific contribution to sociology.
Weber confined himself to the analysis of concrete institutions. He wrote extensively on religion; various aspects of economic life, including money and division of labor; political parties and other forms of political organization and authority; bureaucracy and other varieties of large scale organization, caste and class, the city and music. These and other topics, according to weber, may be included in the subject matter of sociology.
Major workers of weber are ‘Economy and society’. ‘The Protestant Ethic’ and ‘The spirit of capitalism’. ‘Methodology of social sciences’, ‘Bureaucracy’, ‘The city’.
Pioneers of Sociology of Indian Society
Among them, contribution of GS Ghurye and MN Srinivas, in particular are very significant, Govind Sadashiva Ghurye 1893-1984 known as Father of Indian Sociology, wrote extensively on caste and races in India covering origin and geographical spread of caste, its features, impact of British rule on caste, role of caste in politics, etc. His other contributions are ‘The Aborigines so-called’ and ‘their future’, ‘social tensions in India’, whither India?’ ‘India recreates Democracy’, ‘culture and society’, ‘occidental civilization’, etc. MN Srinivas, a very significant among the social scientists ‘Sankritization’, ‘Westernization’ and ‘Dominant caste’ are the conceptual tools devised by him to understand change in an immobile caste ridden Indian society. ‘Religion and society’ among the coorgs of South India’, ‘remembered village’, ‘caste—its twentieth century avatar’ etc. are his chief contributions Dr Irawathi B Karve, a student of Prof GS Ghurye and the first Indian lady sociologist is known to the students of sociology through her works on Kinship. ‘Kinship organization in India’ published in 1953 is a significant proof of her contributions to the study of family is lucid.
KM Kapadia, is widely known for his contributions in the field of marriage, family and Hindu kinship. His contributions 23include ‘Hindu kinship’ 1947’. ‘Marriage and family in India (1955)’, ‘Rural family patterns: a study in urban-rural relations’ (1956). AR Desai's study of the Indian National Movement may be regarded as the first sociological study of social movement. His ‘social background of Indian Nationalism’. Published in 1954 is a masterpiece both among sociologists and historians. ‘Rural Sociology in India’, edited by AR Desai, published in 1960 is a significant contribution to the field of rural sociology.
According to Alex Inkeles, there are three sources to be examined.
  1. Sociological textbooks: The great majority of the teachers teach from textbooks. These books present a basic conception of the field. They are scientific method in sociology, personality in society, culture, human groups, family, population, caste and class, race, social change, economic institution and religion. This list does not exhaust the themes and hence it would be wrong to conclude that whatever is not listed is outside the place of sociology.
  2. Sociology define their field of competence: Some sociologist feel that neither the audience of beginning students nor the authors who wrote textbooks for them are the best authority for deciding what a field is about. They want to know how the profession as a whole defines the subject matter. Thus, they try to ascertain the affiliations they choose when asked to identify themselves with one or another branch of sociology. It is a fact that profession as a whole identifies almost the same ranges of topics as being of sociological interest as do the writers of textbooks.
  3. The test of elite preference: According to Alex Inkeles, it is the elite section which sets the guideposts and determines the shape and direction of work to be followed by the rest.
    Alex Inkeles accepts them as those who play the leading role and publish the materials appearing in leading sociological journals. For instance, in 1957, in USA sociological meetings 24were held to review the ‘Problem and prospects of sociology’, the survey were designed. The materials collected were studied and analyzed by a special program committee consisting of 30 specialists under the chairmanship of Prof RK Menon. The results were published in a tittle called ‘Sociology Today’. The topics that gained preference are: Sociological theory, methodology, the individual in society, the family, the community, ethnic and race relations and so on. Also, the leading sociological journals reflect the interest of most of the active sociologists. For instance, in the American sociological review Indian sociological bulletin the leading topics were social control and deviance, differentiation and stratification, scientific methodology, etc.
  4. The fields of sociological concern: Alex Inkeles gives an outline of the subject matter of sociology and says that almost everyone would agree on it.
General Outline of the Subject Matter of Sociology
Sociological Analysis, Primary units of social life, Basic social institutions, Fundamental social processes, Socialization and indoctrination, Social evaluation (the study of values), Social control, Social deviance (crime, suicide, etc.), Social integration, Social change.
The Analytical approach tries to find out for sociology some distinctive subject matter which is not claimed as the central object of study of any social science.
Alex Inkeles proposes several distinctive subject matters to which sociology could still lay claim. They are: societies, institutions and social relationships.
  1. Sociology as the study of society: Sociology is the study of society. It is a special discipline which takes society as its unit of analysis. It aims to discover the relationship that exists between institution which make up a society.
  2. Sociology as a study of institutions: Istitutions like the family, the religion, the school, the political party, etc. are thus the special fields on which sociology has to concentrate. It deals with the common features of institutions, their functions, dimensions on which they are distinguished etc. in the modern world, the large scale organization has grown in importance. This has renewed interest in and research on the general properties of institutions.
  3. Sociology as the study of social relationship: Just as a society is a complex system of institutions, so institution may be regarded as a complex system of still simpler social relationship. For instance, family, and institution, may be conceived of as a network of relationships those found between man and woman, parent and child, brother and sister, grandparent and grand child, etc. size of the group (dyad, triad, etc. quality of the relationship (dominance, submission. also provides bases for the analysis of social relationships.
There is an array of sociologists who, thus, concentrate on social relationships for instance Max Weber defined sociology as the study of social relationships and acts. Leopold Von Wiese, George simmel, Talcott Parsons, and others share this perspective. Though of late, systematic empirical researchers have focused on social act and social relationship.
In conclusion we may say that sociology is the study of system of social action and of their interrelations. The important system of action are: social acts, social relationships, organizations and institutions, communities and societies.
The study of sociology has a great practical value in the modern world. Some of the uses of sociology are as follows:
  1. Sociology studies society in a scientific way: It is through the study of sociology that the truly scientific study of the society has been possible. Because of its bearing upon many of the problems of the present world has assumed such a great importance. It is considered to be the best approach to 26all social sciences and the key study for the present situations. Scientific knowledge about society is pre-requisite to any marked improvement in the state of human affairs.
  2. Practically sociology gives more knowledge about social institution: The family, education, religion, the state, industry and work, the community and association, these are the great institution through which society functions. Sociology studies these institutions and their role in development of the individual and suggests suitable measures for restrengthening them with a view to enable them to serve the individual better.
  3. The study of sociology is indispensable for understanding and planning of society: Society is a complex phenomenon, it is impossible to understand it and to solve its various problem without study of sociology. A certain amount of knowledge about the society is necessary before any social policies can be carried out. For example, a policy of decreasing birth rate is considered desirable, the best means for achieving this goal cannot be determined in exclusively economic terms because matters of family organization, customs and traditional values must be taken into account and these require a sociological type of analysis.
  4. Sociology is of a great importance in the solution of social problem: The present world is suffering from many problems which can be solved only through scientific study of the society. It is the task of sociology to study the social problems through the methods of scientific research and to find out solutions for them.
  5. Sociology has been instrumental in changing our attitude towards human beings: It orders to have insight into and appreciation of the motives by which others live and the conditions under which they exist, a knowledge of sociology is essential.
  6. Sociology has changed our outlook with regard to the problem of crime, etc.: The sciences of criminology and penology and social work and social therapy which are rendering commendable service in understanding social 27situations and solving individual problems are but handmaids of sociology.
  7. Sociology has made great contribution to enrich human culture: Human culture has been made richer by the contribution of sociology. Sociology has given us training to have rational approach to questions concerning oneself, one's religion, customs, morals and institutions. It has further taught us to be objective, critical and dispassionate. It enables man to have a better understanding both of himself and of others. By comparative study of societies and groups other than his own he is able to see many things as relevant to his existence which would otherwise escape his notice.
  8. In view of its importance, sociology is becoming popular as a teaching subject also: It is being accorded an important place in the curriculum of colleges and universities.
  9. Sociology for Civil Services: The importance of sociology is further proved by the fact that the subject of sociology is also included in the subjects to be offered by candidates competing for the higher examinations such as IAS, IFS, and the like. It is rightly felt that without the study of sociology, the training and knowledge of the candidate aspiring to hold a high post in the administrative set up of his country will be incomplete and imperfect.
  10. Sociology throws more light on the nature of man and it improves as understanding of society and increases the power of social action. Sociology not only help us to know our society but also others, their manners, motives, aspirations, status ever their culture, etc. The study of society made people to become broad minded and help us to overcome the prejudices, misconception, egoistic, ambitions, class and religions, racial hatreads.
  11. Sociology has helped several governments to promote the welfare of child and women, tribal, youth, SC, ST and others.
To sum up, it keeps us up-to-date on modern situation; it contributes to making good citizens; it contributes to the solution of community problems, it adds to knowledge of the society, it helps the individual find his relation to society, it 28identifies good government with community and it helps one to understand causes of things and so on.
In India, the importance of the study of sociology is still greater. The Indian society is undergoing a rapid transformation. Joint families are disintegrating. The strength of the bond of marriage is waning. The number of broken homes are increasing. Linguism, traditionalism and casterism are raising their ugly heads.
There is wide corruption at every level of governmental machinery. The problem of unemployment is very serious. Increasing urbanization has brought the problems such as homicide, slums, epidemics, crime, juvenile delinquency, group conflicts, etc. the people are adopting more and more to agitational methods. There is a major confusion in the system of education; and a crisis of character everywhere. In first step towards a solution of the various problems besetting the Indian society is to understand the social background of these problems. Sociology will assist in understanding this back ground.
  1. Sociology will help the doctors and nurses to know the culture and social life of the patients so as to make the medical services more effective and meaningful.
  2. Medical sociology is extremely useful for the entire health care services in knowing the significance of social forces in health, health values and motivations. In organizing and administrations of public health programs the sociological knowledge is necessary.
  3. Sociology will help the nurses and doctors to identify the social background of the patients which improves the quality of treatment.
  4. Sociology helps the nurses to improve their care for special groups like children, aged, retarted and diseased, etc. and it helps them to build interpersonal relationship between patients, medical personnel, and the government in the 29implementation of preventive curative and promotive aspects of health in the society.
Medical sociology is the sociological study of the social institutions of medicine, its knowledge, practice and effects medical sociology investigates the social organization and production of health and illness, includes relevant aspects of sociology of the professions and Science and Technology studies that relates to medicine and health care. Medical sociologists works on public health, demography, and social gerontology to explore phenomena at the intersection of the social and clinical sciences.
Early works in medical sociology was conducted by Lawrence J Henderson whose theoretical interests in the work of Vilifredo Pareto inspired Talcott Parsons interests in social system theory. Talcott Parsons is one of the founding Fathers of Medical Sociology and applied social role theory to international relations between sick people and others. Key contributors to medical sociology since the 1950s include Howard Becker, Mikebury, Peter Courad, Jack Dugles, David Silverman, etc.
The field of medical sociology is usually taught as a part of wider sociology, clinical psychology of health studies of graduation and postgraduation studies, where it is sometimes combined with the study of medical ethics or bioethics, etc.