Sociology | Wikipedia audio article


Sociology is the scientific study of society,
patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture of everyday life. It is a social
science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop
a body of knowledge about social order, acceptance, and change or social evolution. Many sociologists
aim to conduct research that may be applied directly to social policy and welfare, while
others focus primarily on refining the theoretical understanding of social processes. Subject
matter ranges from the micro-sociology level of individual agency and interaction to the
macro level of systems and the social structure.The different traditional focuses of sociology
include social stratification, social class, social mobility, religion, secularization,
law, sexuality, gender, and deviance. As all spheres of human activity are affected by
the interplay between social structure and individual agency, sociology has gradually
expanded its focus to other subjects, such as health, medical, economy, military and
penal institutions, the Internet, education, social capital, and the role of social activity
in the development of scientific knowledge. The range of social scientific methods has
also expanded. Social researchers draw upon a variety of qualitative and quantitative
techniques. The linguistic and cultural turns of the mid-20th century led to increasingly
interpretative, hermeneutic, and philosophic approaches towards the analysis of society.
Conversely, the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s have seen the rise of new analytically,
mathematically, and computationally rigorous techniques, such as agent-based modelling
and social network analysis.Social research informs politicians and policy makers, educators,
planners, legislators, administrators, developers, business magnates, managers, social workers,
non-governmental organizations, non-profit organizations, and people interested in resolving
social issues in general. There is often a great deal of crossover between social research,
market research, and other statistical fields.==History=====Origins===Sociological reasoning predates the foundation
of the discipline. Social analysis has origins in the common stock of Western knowledge and
philosophy, and has been carried out from as far back as the time of ancient Greek philosopher
Plato, if not before. The origin of the survey, i.e., the collection of information from a
sample of individuals, can be traced back to at least the Domesday Book in 1086, while
ancient philosophers such as Confucius wrote about the importance of social roles. There
is evidence of early sociology in medieval Arab writings. Some sources consider Ibn Khaldun,
a 14th-century Arab Islamic scholar from North Africa (Tunisia), to have been the first sociologist
and father of sociology (see Branches of the early Islamic philosophy); his Muqaddimah
was perhaps the first work to advance social-scientific reasoning on social cohesion and social conflict.The
word sociology (or “sociologie”) is derived from both Latin and Greek origins. The Latin
word: socius, “companion”; the suffix -logy, “the study of” from Greek -λογία from
λόγος, lógos, “word”, “knowledge”. It was first coined in 1780 by the French essayist
Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès (1748–1836) in an unpublished manuscript. Sociology was later
defined independently by the French philosopher of science, Auguste Comte (1798–1857) in
1838 as a new way of looking at society. Comte had earlier used the term social physics,
but that had subsequently been appropriated by others, most notably the Belgian statistician
Adolphe Quetelet. Comte endeavoured to unify history, psychology, and economics through
the scientific understanding of the social realm. Writing shortly after the malaise of
the French Revolution, he proposed that social ills could be remedied through sociological
positivism, an epistemological approach outlined in The Course in Positive Philosophy (1830–1842)
and A General View of Positivism (1848). Comte believed a positivist stage would mark the
final era, after conjectural theological and metaphysical phases, in the progression of
human understanding. In observing the circular dependence of theory and observation in science,
and having classified the sciences, Comte may be regarded as the first philosopher of
science in the modern sense of the term. Comte gave a powerful impetus to the development
of sociology, an impetus which bore fruit in the later decades of the nineteenth century.
To say this is certainly not to claim that French sociologists such as Durkheim were
devoted disciples of the high priest of positivism. But by insisting on the irreducibility of
each of his basic sciences to the particular science of sciences which it presupposed in
the hierarchy and by emphasizing the nature of sociology as the scientific study of social
phenomena Comte put sociology on the map. To be sure, [its] beginnings can be traced
back well beyond Montesquieu, for example, and to Condorcet, not to speak of Saint-Simon,
Comte’s immediate predecessor. But Comte’s clear recognition of sociology as a particular
science, with a character of its own, justified Durkheim in regarding him as the father or
founder of this science, in spite of the fact that Durkheim did not accept the idea of the
three states and criticized Comte’s approach to sociology.
Both Auguste Comte and Karl Marx (1818–1883) set out to develop scientifically justified
systems in the wake of European industrialization and secularization, informed by various key
movements in the philosophies of history and science. Marx rejected Comtean positivism
but in attempting to develop a science of society nevertheless came to be recognized
as a founder of sociology as the word gained wider meaning. For Isaiah Berlin, Marx may
be regarded as the “true father” of modern sociology, “in so far as anyone can claim
the title.”To have given clear and unified answers in familiar empirical terms to those
theoretical questions which most occupied men’s minds at the time, and to have deduced
from them clear practical directives without creating obviously artificial links between
the two, was the principal achievement of Marx’s theory. The sociological treatment
of historical and moral problems, which Comte and after him, Spencer and Taine, had discussed
and mapped, became a precise and concrete study only when the attack of militant Marxism
made its conclusions a burning issue, and so made the search for evidence more zealous
and the attention to method more intense. Herbert Spencer (27 April 1820 – 8 December
1903) was one of the most popular and influential 19th-century sociologists. It is estimated
that he sold one million books in his lifetime, far more than any other sociologist at the
time. So strong was his influence that many other 19th-century thinkers, including Émile
Durkheim, defined their ideas in relation to his. Durkheim’s Division of Labour in Society
is to a large extent an extended debate with Spencer from whose sociology, many commentators
now agree, Durkheim borrowed extensively. Also a notable biologist, Spencer coined the
term survival of the fittest. While Marxian ideas defined one strand of sociology, Spencer
was a critic of socialism as well as strong advocate for a laissez-faire style of government.
His ideas were closely observed by conservative political circles, especially in the United
States and England.===Foundations of the academic discipline
===The first formal Department of Sociology in
the world was established by Albion Small – at the invitation of William Rainey Harper
– at the University of Chicago in 1892, and the American Journal of Sociology was founded
shortly thereafter in 1895 by Small as well. However, the institutionalization of sociology
as an academic discipline was chiefly led by Émile Durkheim (1858–1917), who developed
positivism as a foundation to practical social research. While Durkheim rejected much of
the detail of Comte’s philosophy, he retained and refined its method, maintaining that the
social sciences are a logical continuation of the natural ones into the realm of human
activity, and insisting 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, publishing his Rules of the Sociological Method (1895). For Durkheim,
sociology could be described as the “science of institutions, their genesis and their functioning”.Durkheim’s
monograph Suicide (1897) is considered a seminal work in statistical analysis by contemporary
sociologists. Suicide is a case study of variations in suicide rates among Catholic and Protestant
populations, and served to distinguish sociological analysis from psychology or philosophy. It
also marked a major contribution to the theoretical concept of structural functionalism. By carefully
examining suicide statistics in different police districts, he attempted to demonstrate
that Catholic communities have a lower suicide rate than that of Protestants, something he
attributed to social (as opposed to individual or psychological) causes. He developed the
notion of objective sui generis “social facts” to delineate a unique empirical object for
the science of sociology to study. Through such studies he posited that sociology would
be able to determine whether any given society is ‘healthy’ or ‘pathological’, and seek social
reform to negate organic breakdown or “social anomie”.
Sociology quickly evolved as an academic response to the perceived challenges of modernity,
such as industrialization, urbanization, secularization, and the process of “rationalization”. The
field predominated in continental Europe, with British anthropology and statistics generally
following on a separate trajectory. By the turn of the 20th century, however, many theorists
were active in the English-speaking world. Few early sociologists were confined strictly
to the subject, interacting also with economics, jurisprudence, psychology and philosophy,
with theories being appropriated in a variety of different fields. Since its inception,
sociological epistemology, methods, and frames of inquiry, have significantly expanded and
diverged.Durkheim, Marx, and the German theorist Max Weber (1864–1920) are typically cited
as the three principal architects of sociology. Herbert Spencer, William Graham Sumner, Lester
F. Ward, W. E. B. Du Bois, Vilfredo Pareto, Alexis de Tocqueville, Werner Sombart, Thorstein
Veblen, Ferdinand Tönnies, Georg Simmel and Karl Mannheim are often included on academic
curricula as founding theorists. Curricula also may include Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
Marianne Weber and Friedrich Engels as founders of the feminist tradition in sociology. Each
key figure is associated with a particular theoretical perspective and orientation.
Marx and Engels associated the emergence of modern society above all with the development
of capitalism; for Durkheim it was connected in particular with industrialization and the
new social division of labor which this brought about; for Weber it had to do with the emergence
of a distinctive way of thinking, the rational calculation which he associated with the Protestant
Ethic (more or less what Marx and Engels speak of in terms of those ‘icy waves of egotistical
calculation’). Together the works of these great classical sociologists suggest what
Giddens has recently described as ‘a multidimensional view of institutions of modernity’ and which
emphasises not only capitalism and industrialism as key institutions of modernity, but also
‘surveillance’ (meaning ‘control of information and social supervision’) and ‘military power’
(control of the means of violence in the context of the industrialisation of war).===Positivism and anti-positivism=======Positivism====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. Our main goal is to extend scientific rationalism
to human conduct…. What has been called our positivism is but a consequence of this
rationalism. The term has long since ceased to carry this
meaning; there are no fewer than twelve distinct epistemologies that are referred to as positivism.
Many of these approaches do not self-identify as “positivist”, some because they themselves
arose in opposition to older forms of positivism, and some because the label has over time become
a term of abuse by being mistakenly linked with a theoretical empiricism. The extent
of antipositivist criticism has also diverged, with many rejecting the scientific method
and others only seeking to amend it to reflect 20th-century developments in the philosophy
of science. However, positivism (broadly understood as a scientific approach to the study of society)
remains dominant in contemporary sociology, especially in the United States.Loïc Wacquant
distinguishes three major strains of positivism: Durkheimian, Logical, and Instrumental. None
of these are the same as that set forth by Comte, who was unique in advocating such a
rigid (and perhaps optimistic) version. While Émile Durkheim rejected much of the detail
of Comte’s philosophy, he retained and refined its method. Durkheim maintained that the social
sciences are a logical continuation of the natural ones into the realm of human activity,
and insisted that they should retain the same objectivity, rationalism, and approach to
causality. He developed the notion of objective sui generis “social facts” to delineate a
unique empirical object for the science of sociology to study.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 favour of methodological
clarity, replicability, reliability and validity. This positivism is more or less synonymous
with quantitative research, and so only resembles older positivism in practice. Since it carries
no explicit philosophical commitment, its practitioners may not belong to any particular
school of thought. Modern sociology of this type is often credited to Paul Lazarsfeld,
who pioneered large-scale survey studies and developed statistical techniques for analysing
them. This approach lends itself to what Robert K. Merton called middle-range theory: abstract
statements that generalize from segregated hypotheses and empirical regularities rather
than starting with an abstract idea of a social whole.====Anti-positivism====Reactions against social empiricism began
when German philosopher Hegel voiced opposition to both empiricism, which he rejected as uncritical,
and determinism, which he viewed as overly mechanistic. Karl Marx’s methodology borrowed
from Hegelian dialecticism but also a rejection of positivism in favour of critical analysis,
seeking to supplement the empirical acquisition of “facts” with the elimination of illusions.
He maintained that appearances need to be critiqued rather than simply documented. Early
hermeneuticians such as Wilhelm Dilthey pioneered the distinction between natural and social
science (‘Geisteswissenschaft’). Various neo-Kantian philosophers, phenomenologists and human scientists
further theorized how 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.In the
Italian context of development of social sciences and of sociology in particular, there are
oppositions to the first foundation of the discipline, sustained by speculative philosophy
in accordance with the antiscientific tendencies matured by critique of positivism and evolutionism,
so a tradition Progressist struggles to establish itself (Cfr. Guglielmo Rinzivillo, La scienza
e l’oggetto. Autocritica del sapere strategico, Milan, Franco Angeli, 2010, p. 52 e sg., ISBN
978-88-568-2487-2). 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, values, symbols,
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 generalisable” as those pursued by natural scientists. Fellow
German sociologist, Ferdinand Tönnies, theorised on two crucial abstract concepts with his
work on “Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft” (lit. community and society). Tönnies marked a
sharp line between the realm of concepts and the reality of social action: the first must
be treated axiomatically and in a deductive way (“pure sociology”), whereas the second
empirically and inductively (“applied sociology”). [Sociology is] … the science whose object
is to interpret the meaning of social action and thereby give a causal explanation of the
way in which the action proceeds and the effects which it produces. By ‘action’ in this definition
is meant the human behaviour when and to the extent that the agent or agents see it as
subjectively meaningful … the meaning to which we refer may be either (a) the meaning
actually intended either by an individual agent on a particular historical occasion
or by a number of agents on an approximate average in a given set of cases, or (b) the
meaning attributed to the agent or agents, as types, in a pure type constructed in the
abstract. In neither case is the ‘meaning’ to be thought of as somehow objectively ‘correct’
or ‘true’ by some metaphysical criterion. This is the difference between the empirical
sciences of action, such as sociology and history, and any kind of prior discipline,
such as jurisprudence, logic, ethics, or aesthetics whose aim is to extract from their subject-matter
‘correct’ or ‘valid’ meaning. 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?’ The deepest problems of modern life flow from
the attempt of the individual to maintain the independence and individuality of his
existence against the sovereign powers of society, against the weight of the historical
heritage and the external culture and technique of life. The antagonism represents the most
modern form of the conflict which primitive man must carry on with nature for his own
bodily existence. The eighteenth century may have called for liberation from all the ties
which grew up historically in politics, in religion, in morality and in economics in
order to permit the original natural virtue of man, which is equal in everyone, to develop
without inhibition; the nineteenth century may have sought to promote, in addition to
man’s freedom, his individuality (which is connected with the division of labor) and
his achievements which make him unique and indispensable but which at the same time make
him so much the more dependent on the complementary activity of others; Nietssche may have seen
the relentless struggle of the individual as the prerequisite for his full development,
while socialism found the same thing in the suppression of all competition – but in
each of these the same fundamental motive was at work, namely the resistance of the
individual to being leveled, swallowed up in the social-technological mechanism.===Other developments===The first college course entitled “Sociology”
was taught in the United States at Yale in 1875 by William Graham Sumner. In 1883 Lester
F. Ward, the first president of the American Sociological Association, published Dynamic
Sociology—Or Applied social science as based upon statical sociology and the less complex
sciences and attacked the laissez-faire sociology of Herbert Spencer and Sumner. Ward’s 1200
page 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. George Herbert Mead and Charles
Cooley, who had met at the University of Michigan in 1891 (along with John Dewey), would move
to Chicago in 1894. Their influence gave rise to social psychology and the symbolic interactionism
of the modern Chicago School. The American Journal of Sociology was founded in 1895,
followed by the American Sociological Association (ASA) in 1905. The sociological “canon of
classics” with Durkheim and Max Weber at the top owes in part to Talcott Parsons, who is
largely credited with introducing both to American audiences. Parsons consolidated the
sociological tradition and set the agenda for American sociology at the point of its
fastest disciplinary growth. Sociology in the United States was less historically influenced
by Marxism than its European counterpart, and to this day broadly remains more statistical
in its approach.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. Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse and Edvard Westermarck became the lecturers in the discipline
at the University of London in 1907. Harriet Martineau, an English translator of Comte,
has been cited as the first female sociologist. In 1909 the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Soziologie
(German Sociological Association) was founded by Ferdinand Tönnies and Max Weber, among
others. Weber established the first department in Germany at the Ludwig Maximilian University
of Munich in 1919, having presented an influential new antipositivist sociology. In 1920, Florian
Znaniecki set up the first department in Poland. The Institute for Social Research at the University
of Frankfurt (later to become the Frankfurt School of critical theory) was founded in
1923. 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.==Theoretical traditions=====Classical theory===
The contemporary discipline of sociology is theoretically multi-paradigmatic as a result
of the contentions of classical social theory. In Randall Collins’ well-cited survey of sociological
theory he retroactively labels various theorists as belonging to four theoretical traditions:
Functionalism, Conflict, Symbolic Interactionism, and Utilitarianism. Modern sociological theory
descends predominately from functionalist (Durkheim) and conflict-centred (Marx and
Weber) accounts of social structure, as well as the symbolic interactionist tradition consisting
of micro-scale structural (Simmel) and pragmatist (Mead, Cooley) theories of social interaction.
Utilitarianism, also known as Rational Choice or Social Exchange, although often associated
with economics, is an established tradition within sociological theory. Lastly, as argued
by Raewyn Connell, a tradition that is often forgotten is that of Social Darwinism, which
brings the logic of Darwinian biological evolution and applies it to people and societies. This
tradition often aligns with classical functionalism. It was the dominant theoretical stance in
American sociology from around 1881 to 1915 and is associated with several founders of
sociology, primarily Herbert Spencer, Lester F. Ward and William Graham Sumner. Contemporary
sociological theory retains traces of each of these traditions and they are by no means
mutually exclusive.====Functionalism====A broad historical paradigm in both sociology
and anthropology, functionalism addresses the social structure, referred to as social
organization in among the classical theorists, as a whole and regarding the necessary function
of its constituent elements. A common analogy (popularized by Herbert Spencer) is to regard
norms and institutions as ‘organs’ that work towards 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. Functionalism also has an anthropological basis in the work of theorists such as Marcel
Mauss, Bronisław Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown. It is in Radcliffe-Brown’s specific usage
that the prefix ‘structural’ emerged. Classical functionalist theory is generally united by
its tendency towards biological analogy and notions of social evolutionism, in that the
basic form of society would increase in complexity and those forms of social organization that
promoted solidarity would eventually overcome social disorganization. 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 analysing 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).”====Conflict theory====Functionalist theories emphasize “cohesive
systems” and are often contrasted with “conflict theories”, which critique the overarching
socio-political system or emphasize the inequality between particular groups. The following quotes
from Durkheim and Marx epitomize the political, as well as theoretical, disparities, between
functionalist and conflict thought respectively: To aim for a civilisation beyond that made
possible by the nexus of the surrounding environment will result in unloosing sickness into the
very society we live in. Collective activity cannot be encouraged beyond the point set
by the condition of the social organism without undermining health. The history of all hitherto existing society
is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian,
lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood
in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open
fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary re-constitution of society
at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.====Symbolic Interactionism====Symbolic interaction; often associated with
Interactionism, Phenomenological sociology, Dramaturgy, Interpretivism, is a sociological
tradition that places emphasis on subjective meanings and the empirical unfolding of social
processes, generally accessed through micro-analysis. This tradition emerged in the Chicago School
of the 1920s and 1930s, which prior to World War II “had been the center of sociological
research and graduate study”. The approach focuses on creating a framework for building
a theory that sees society as the product of the everyday interactions of individuals.
Society is nothing more than the shared reality that people construct as they interact with
one another. This approach sees people interacting in countless settings using symbolic communications
to accomplish the tasks at hand. Therefore, society is a complex, ever-changing mosaic
of subjective meanings. Some critics of this approach argue that it only looks at what
is happening in a particular social situation, and disregards the effects that culture, race
or gender (i.e. social-historical structures) may have in that situation. Some important
sociologists associated with this approach include Max Weber, George Herbert Mead, Erving
Goffman, George Homans and Peter Blau. It is also in this tradition that the radical-empirical
approach of Ethnomethodology emerges from the work of Harold Garfinkel.====Utilitarianism====Utilitarianism is often referred to as exchange
theory or rational choice theory in the context of sociology. This tradition tends to privilege
the agency of individual rational actors and assumes that within interactions individuals
always seek to maximize their own self-interest. As argued by Josh Whitford, rational actors
are assumed to have four basic elements, the individual has (1) “a knowledge of alternatives,”
(2) “a knowledge of, or beliefs about the consequences of the various alternatives,”
(3) “an ordering of preferences over outcomes,” (4) “A decision rule, to select among the
possible alternatives” Exchange theory is specifically attributed to the work of George
C. Homans, Peter Blau and Richard Emerson. Organizational sociologists James G. March
and Herbert A. Simon noted that an individual’s rationality is bounded by the context or organizational
setting. The utilitarian perspective in sociology was, most notably, revitalized in the late
20th century by the work of former ASA president James Coleman.===20th-century social theory===
Following the decline of theories of sociocultural evolution, in the United States, the interactionism
of the Chicago School dominated American sociology. As Anselm Strauss describes, “We didn’t think
symbolic interaction was a perspective in sociology; we thought it was sociology.” After
World War II, mainstream sociology shifted to the survey-research of Paul Lazarsfeld
at Columbia University and the general theorizing of Pitirim Sorokin, followed by Talcott Parsons
at Harvard University. Ultimately, “the failure of the Chicago, Columbia, and Wisconsin [sociology]
departments to produce a significant number of graduate students interested in and committed
to general theory in the years 1936–45 was to the advantage of the Harvard department.”
As Parsons began to dominate general theory, his work predominately referenced European
sociology—almost entirely omitting citations of both the American tradition of sociocultural-evolution
as well as pragmatism. In addition to Parsons’ revision of the sociological canon (which
included Marshall, Pareto, Weber and Durkheim), the lack of theoretical challenges from other
departments nurtured the rise of the Parsonian structural-functionalist movement, which reached
its crescendo in the 1950s, but by the 1960s was in rapid decline.By the 1980s, most functionalisms
in Europe had broadly been replaced by conflict-oriented approaches and to many in the discipline,
functionalism was considered “as dead as a dodo.” “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.”====Pax Wisconsana====
While some conflict 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, or “grand”, theoretical orientation. John Levi Martin refers to this
“golden age of methodological unity and theoretical calm” as the Pax Wisconsana, as it reflected
the composition of the sociology department at the University of Wisconsin–Madison:
numerous scholars working on separate projects with little contention. Omar Lizardo describes
the Pax Wisconsana as: “a Midwestern flavored, Mertonian resolution of the theory/method
wars in which [sociologists] all agreed on at least two working hypotheses: (1) grand
theory’ is a waste of time; (2) [and] good theory has to be good to think with or goes
in the trash bin.” Despite the aversion to grand theory in the later half of the 20th
century, several new traditions have emerged that propose various syntheses: structuralism,
post-structuralism, cultural sociology and systems theory.====Structuralism====The structuralist movement originated primarily
from the work of Durkheim as interpreted by two European anthropologists. Anthony Giddens’
theory of structuration draws on the linguistic theory of Ferdinand de Saussure and the French
anthropologist 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.The second tradition of structuralist thought, contemporaneous with Giddens, emerges
from the American school of social network analysis, spearheaded by the Harvard Department
of Social Relations led by Harrison White and his students in the 1970s and 1980s. This
tradition of structuralist thought argues that, rather than semiotics, social structure
is networks of patterned social relations. And, rather than Levi-Strauss, this school
of thought draws on the notions of structure as theorized by Levi-Strauss’ contemporary
anthropologist, Radcliffe-Brown. Some refer to this as “network structuralism,” and equate
it to “British structuralism” as opposed to the “French structuralism” of Levi-Strauss.====
Post-structuralism====Post-structuralist thought has tended to reject
‘humanist’ assumptions in the conduct of social theory. Michel 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 or phenomena, but occasionally construed
as a method.==Central theoretical problems==
Overall, there is a strong consensus regarding the central problems of sociological theory,
which are largely inherited from the classical theoretical traditions. This consensus is:
how to link, transcend or cope with the following “big three” dichotomies: subjectivity and
objectivity, structure and agency, and synchrony and diachrony. The first deals with knowledge,
the second with action, and the last with time. Lastly, sociological theory often grapples
with the problem of integrating or transcending the divide between micro, meso and macro-scale
social phenomena, which is a subset of all three central problems.===Subjectivity and objectivity===The problem of subjectivity and objectivity
can be divided into a concern over the general possibilities of social actions, and, on the
other hand the specific problem of social scientific knowledge. In the former, the subjective
is often equated (though not necessarily) with the individual, and the individual’s
intentions and interpretations of the objective. The objective is often considered any public
or external action or outcome, on up to society writ large. A primary question for social
theorists is how knowledge reproduces along the chain of subjective-objective-subjective,
that is to say: how is intersubjectivity achieved? While, historically, qualitative methods have
attempted to tease out subjective interpretations, quantitative survey methods also attempt to
capture individual subjectivities. Also, some qualitative methods take a radical approach
to objective description in situ. The latter concern with scientific knowledge
results from the fact that a sociologist is part of the very object they seek to explain.
Bourdieu puts this problem rather succinctly: How can the sociologist effect in practice
this radical doubting which is indispensable for bracketing all the presuppositions inherent
in the fact that she is a social being, that she is therefore socialised and led to feel
“like a fish in water” within that social world whose structures she has internalised?
How can she prevent the social world itself from carrying out the construction of the
object, in a sense, through her, through these unself-conscious operations or operations
unaware of themselves of which she is the apparent subject===Structure and agency===Structure and agency, sometimes referred to
as determinism versus voluntarism, form an enduring ontological debate in social theory:
“Do social structures determine an individual’s behaviour or does human agency?” In this context
‘agency’ refers to the capacity of individuals to act independently and make free choices,
whereas ‘structure’ relates to factors that limit or affect the choices and actions of
individuals (such as social class, religion, gender, ethnicity, and so on). Discussions
over the primacy of either structure and agency relate to the core of sociological epistemology
(“What is the social world made of?”, “What is a cause in the social world, and what is
an effect?”). A perennial question within this debate is that of “social reproduction”:
how are structures (specifically, structures producing inequality) reproduced through the
choices of individuals?===Synchrony and diachrony===
Synchrony and diachrony, or statics and dynamics, within social theory are terms that refer
to a distinction emerging out of the work of Levi-Strauss who inherited it from the
linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure. The former slices moments of time for analysis,
thus it is an analysis of static social reality. Diachrony, on the other hand, attempts to
analyse dynamic sequences. Following Saussure, synchrony would refer to social phenomena
as a static concept like a language, while diachrony would refer to unfolding processes
like actual speech. In Anthony Giddens’ introduction to Central Problems in Social Theory, he states
that, “in order to show the interdependence of action and structure … we must grasp
the time space relations inherent in the constitution of all social interaction.” And like structure
and agency, time is integral to discussion of social reproduction. In terms of sociology,
historical sociology is often better positioned to analyse social life as diachronic, while
survey research takes a snapshot of social life and is thus better equipped to understand
social life as synchronized. Some argue that the synchrony of social structure is a methodological
perspective rather than an ontological claim. Nonetheless, the problem for theory is how
to integrate the two manners of recording and thinking about social data.==Research methodology==Many people divide sociological research methods
into two broad categories, although many others see research methods as a continuum:
Quantitative designs approach social phenomena through quantifiable evidence, and often rely
on statistical analysis of many cases (or across intentionally designed treatments in
an experiment) to create valid and reliable general claims
Qualitative designs emphasize understanding of social phenomena through direct observation,
communication with participants, or analysis of texts, and may stress contextual and subjective
accuracy over generalityMany sociologists are divided into camps of support for particular
research techniques. These disputes relate to the epistemological debates at the historical
core of social theory. While very different in many aspects, both qualitative and quantitative
approaches involve a systematic interaction between theory and data. Quantitative methodologies
hold the dominant position in sociology, especially in the United States. In the discipline’s
two most cited journals, quantitative articles have historically outnumbered qualitative
ones by a factor of two. (Most articles published in the largest British journal, on the other
hand, are qualitative.) Most textbooks on the methodology of social research are written
from the quantitative perspective, and the very term “methodology” is often used synonymously
with “statistics.” Practically all sociology PhD programmes in the United States require
training in statistical methods. The work produced by quantitative researchers is also
deemed more ‘trustworthy’ and ‘unbiased’ by the greater public, though this judgment continues
to be challenged by antipositivists.The choice of method often depends largely on what the
researcher intends to investigate. For example, a researcher concerned with drawing a statistical
generalization across an entire population may administer a survey questionnaire to a
representative sample population. By contrast, a researcher who seeks full contextual understanding
of an individual’s social actions may choose ethnographic participant observation or open-ended
interviews. Studies will commonly combine, or ‘triangulate’, quantitative and qualitative
methods as part of a ‘multi-strategy’ design. For instance, a quantitative study may be
performed to gain statistical patterns or a target sample, and then combined with a
qualitative interview to determine the play of agency.===Sampling===Quantitative methods are often used to ask
questions about a population that is very large, making a census or a complete enumeration
of all the members in that population infeasible. A ‘sample’ then forms a manageable subset
of a population. In quantitative research, statistics are used to draw inferences from
this sample regarding the population as a whole. The process of selecting a sample is
referred to as ‘sampling’. While it is usually best to sample randomly, concern with differences
between specific subpopulations sometimes calls for stratified sampling. Conversely,
the impossibility of random sampling sometimes necessitates nonprobability sampling, such
as convenience sampling or snowball sampling.===Methods===
The following list of research methods is neither exclusive nor exhaustive: Archival research or the Historical method:
draws upon the secondary data located in historical archives and records, such as biographies,
memoirs, journals, and so on. Content analysis: The content of interviews
and other texts is systematically analysed. Often data is ‘coded’ as a part of the ‘grounded
theory’ approach using qualitative data analysis (QDA) software, such as Atlas.ti, MAXQDA,
NVivo, or QDA Miner. Experimental research: The researcher isolates
a single social process and reproduces it in a laboratory (for example, by creating
a situation where unconscious sexist judgements are possible), seeking to determine whether
or not certain social variables can cause, or depend upon, other variables (for instance,
seeing if people’s feelings about traditional gender roles can be manipulated by the activation
of contrasting gender stereotypes). Participants are randomly assigned to different groups
that either serve as controls—acting as reference points because they are tested with
regard to the dependent variable, albeit without having been exposed to any independent variables
of interest—or receive one or more treatments. Randomization allows the researcher to be
sure that any resulting differences between groups are the result of the treatment.
Longitudinal study: An extensive examination of a specific person or group over a long
period of time. Observation: Using data from the senses, the
researcher records information about social phenomenon or behaviour. Observation techniques
may or may not feature participation. In participant observation, the researcher goes into the
field (such as a community or a place of work), and participates in the activities of the
field for a prolonged period of time in order to acquire a deep understanding of it. Data
acquired through these techniques may be analysed either quantitatively or qualitatively. In
the observation research, a sociologist might study global warming in some part of the world
that is less populated. Survey research: The researcher gathers data
using interviews, questionnaires, or similar feedback from a set of people sampled from
a particular population of interest. Survey items from an interview or questionnaire may
be open-ended or closed-ended. Data from surveys is usually analysed statistically on a computer.===Computational sociology===Sociologists increasingly draw upon computationally
intensive methods to analyse and model social phenomena. Using computer simulations, artificial
intelligence, text mining, complex statistical methods, and new analytic approaches like
social network analysis and social sequence analysis, computational sociology develops
and tests theories of complex social processes through bottom-up modelling of social interactions.Although
the subject matter and methodologies in social science differ from those in natural science
or computer science, several of the approaches used in contemporary social simulation originated
from fields such as physics and artificial intelligence. By the same token, some of the
approaches that originated in computational sociology have been imported into the natural
sciences, such as measures of network centrality from the fields of social network analysis
and network science. In relevant literature, computational sociology is often related to
the study of social complexity. Social complexity concepts such as complex systems, non-linear
interconnection among macro and micro process, and emergence, have entered the vocabulary
of computational sociology. A practical and well-known example is the construction of
a computational model in the form of an “artificial society”, by which researchers can analyse
the structure of a social system.==Scope and topics=====Culture===Sociologists’ approach to culture can be divided
into a “sociology of culture” and “cultural sociology”—the terms are similar, though
not entirely interchangeable. The sociology of culture is an older term, and considers
some topics and objects as more-or-less “cultural” than others. Conversely, cultural sociology
sees all social phenomena as inherently cultural. Sociology of culture often attempts to explain
certain cultural phenomena as a product of social processes, while cultural sociology
sees culture as a potential explanation of social phenomena.For Simmel, culture referred
to “the cultivation of individuals through the agency of external forms which have been
objectified in the course of history”. While early theorists such as Durkheim and Mauss
were influential in cultural anthropology, sociologists of culture are generally distinguished
by their concern for modern (rather than primitive or ancient) society. Cultural sociology often
involves the hermeneutic analysis of words, artefacts and symbols, or ethnographic interviews.
However, some sociologists employ historical-comparative or quantitative techniques in the analysis
of culture, Weber and Bourdieu for instance. The subfield is sometimes allied with critical
theory in the vein of Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and other members of the Frankfurt
School. Loosely distinct from the sociology of culture is the field of cultural studies.
Birmingham School theorists such as Richard Hoggart and Stuart Hall questioned the division
between “producers” and “consumers” evident in earlier theory, emphasizing the reciprocity
in the production of texts. Cultural Studies aims to examine its subject matter in terms
of cultural practices and their relation to power. For example, a study of a subculture
(such as white working class youth in London) would consider the social practices of the
group as they relate to the dominant class. The “cultural turn” of the 1960s ultimately
placed culture much higher on the sociological agenda.====Art, music and literature====Sociology of literature, film, and art is
a subset of the sociology of culture. This field studies the social production of artistic
objects and its social implications. A notable example is Pierre Bourdieu’s 1992 Les Règles
de L’Art: Genèse et Structure du Champ Littéraire, translated by Susan Emanuel as Rules of Art:
Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field (1996). None of the founding fathers of sociology
produced a detailed study of art, but they did develop ideas that were subsequently applied
to literature by others. Marx’s theory of ideology was directed at literature by Pierre
Macherey, Terry Eagleton and Fredric Jameson. Weber’s theory of modernity as cultural rationalization,
which he applied to music, was later applied to all the arts, literature included, by Frankfurt
School writers such as Adorno and Jürgen Habermas. Durkheim’s view of sociology as
the study of externally defined social facts was redirected towards literature by Robert
Escarpit. Bourdieu’s own work is clearly indebted to Marx, Weber and Durkheim.===Criminality, deviance, law and punishment
===Criminologists analyse the nature, causes,
and control of criminal activity, drawing upon methods across sociology, psychology,
and the behavioural sciences. The sociology of deviance focuses on actions or behaviours
that violate norms, including both formally enacted rules (e.g., crime) and informal violations
of cultural norms. It is the remit of sociologists to study why these norms exist; how they change
over time; and how they are enforced. The concept of social disorganization is when
the broader social systems leads to violations of norms. For instance, Robert K. Merton produced
a typology of deviance, which includes both individual and system level causal explanations
of deviance.====Sociology of law====
The study of law played a significant role in the formation of classical sociology. Durkheim
famously described law as the “visible symbol” of social solidarity. The sociology of law
refers to both a sub-discipline of sociology and an approach within the field of legal
studies. Sociology of law is a diverse field of study that examines the interaction of
law with other aspects of society, such as the development of legal institutions and
the effect of laws on social change and vice versa. For example, an influential recent
work in the field relies on statistical analyses to argue that the increase in incarceration
in the US over the last 30 years is due to changes in law and policing and not to an
increase in crime; and that this increase significantly contributes to maintaining racial
stratification.===Communications and information technologies
===The sociology of communications and information
technologies includes “the social aspects of computing, the Internet, new media, computer
networks, and other communication and information technologies”.====Internet and digital media====The Internet is of interest to sociologists
in various ways; most practically as a tool for research and as a discussion platform.
The sociology of the Internet in the broad sense regards the analysis of online communities
(e.g. newsgroups, social networking sites) and virtual worlds, thus there is often overlap
with community sociology. Online communities may be studied statistically through network
analysis or interpreted qualitatively through virtual ethnography. Moreover, organizational
change is catalysed through new media, thereby influencing social change at-large, perhaps
forming the framework for a transformation from an industrial to an informational society.
One notable text is Manuel Castells’ The Internet Galaxy—the title of which forms an inter-textual
reference to Marshall McLuhan’s The Gutenberg Galaxy. Closely related to the sociology of
the Internet, is digital sociology, which expands the scope of study to address not
only the internet but also the impact of the other digital media and devices that have
emerged since the first decade of the twenty-first century.====Media====As with cultural studies, media study is a
distinct discipline that owes to the convergence of sociology and other social sciences and
humanities, in particular, literary criticism and critical theory. Though the production
process or the critique of aesthetic forms is not in the remit of sociologists, analyses
of socializing factors, such as ideological effects and audience reception, stem from
sociological theory and method. Thus the ‘sociology of the media’ is not a subdiscipline per se,
but the media is a common and often-indispensable topic.===Economic sociology===The term “economic sociology” was first used
by William Stanley Jevons in 1879, later to be coined in the works of Durkheim, Weber
and Simmel between 1890 and 1920. Economic sociology arose as a new approach to the analysis
of economic phenomena, emphasizing class relations and modernity as a philosophical concept.
The relationship between capitalism and modernity is a salient issue, perhaps best demonstrated
in Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905) and Simmel’s The Philosophy
of Money (1900). The contemporary period of economic sociology, also known as new economic
sociology, was consolidated by the 1985 work of Mark Granovetter titled “Economic Action
and Social Structure: The Problem of Embeddedness”. This work elaborated the concept of embeddedness,
which states that economic relations between individuals or firms take place within existing
social relations (and are thus structured by these relations as well as the greater
social structures of which those relations are a part). Social network analysis has been
the primary methodology for studying this phenomenon. Granovetter’s theory of the strength
of weak ties and Ronald Burt’s concept of structural holes are two best known theoretical
contributions of this field.====Work, employment, and industry====The sociology of work, or industrial sociology,
examines “the direction and implications of trends in technological change, globalization,
labour markets, work organization, managerial practices and employment relations to the
extent to which these trends are intimately related to changing patterns of inequality
in modern societies and to the changing experiences of individuals and families the ways in which
workers challenge, resist and make their own contributions to the patterning of work and
shaping of work institutions.”===
Education===The sociology of education is the study of
how educational institutions determine social structures, experiences, and other outcomes.
It is particularly concerned with the schooling systems of modern industrial societies. A
classic 1966 study in this field by James Coleman, known as the “Coleman Report”, analysed
the performance of over 150,000 students and found that student background and socioeconomic
status are much more important in determining educational outcomes than are measured differences
in school resources (i.e. per pupil spending). The controversy over “school effects” ignited
by that study has continued to this day. The study also found that socially disadvantaged
black students profited from schooling in racially mixed classrooms, and thus served
as a catalyst for desegregation busing in American public schools.===Environment===Environmental sociology is the study of human
interactions with the natural environment, typically emphasizing human dimensions of
environmental problems, social impacts of those problems, and efforts to resolve them.
As with other sub-fields of sociology, scholarship in environmental sociology may be at one or
multiple levels of analysis, from global (e.g. world-systems) to local, societal to individual.
Attention is paid also to the processes by which environmental problems become defined
and known to humans. As argued by notable environmental sociologist John Bellamy Foster,
the predecessor to modern environmental sociology is Marx’s analysis of the metabolic rift,
which influenced contemporary thought on sustainability. Environmental sociology is often interdisciplinary
and overlaps with the sociology of risk, rural sociology and the sociology of disaster.====Human ecology====Human ecology deals with interdisciplinary
study of the relationship between humans and their natural, social, and built environments.
In addition to Environmental sociology, this field overlaps with architectural sociology,
urban sociology, and to some extent visual sociology. In turn, visual sociology—which
is concerned with all visual dimensions of social life—overlaps with media studies
in that it uses photography, film and other technologies of media.====Social pre-wiring====
Social pre-wiring deals with the study of fetal social behavior and social interactions
in a multi-fetal environment. Specifically, social pre-wiring refers to the ontogeny of
social interaction. Also informally referred to as, “wired to be social.” The theory questions
whether there is a propensity to socially oriented action already present before birth.
Research in the theory concludes that newborns are born into the world with a unique genetic
wiring to be social.Circumstantial evidence supporting the social pre-wiring hypothesis
can be revealed when examining newborns’ behavior. Newborns, not even hours after birth, have
been found to display a preparedness for social interaction. This preparedness is expressed
in ways such as their imitation of facial gestures. This observed behavior cannot be
contributed to any current form of socialization or social construction. Rather, newborns most
likely inherit to some extent social behavior and identity through genetics.Principal evidence
of this theory is uncovered by examining Twin pregnancies. The main argument is, if there
are social behaviors that are inherited and developed before birth, then one should expect
twin foetuses to engage in some form of social interaction before they are born. Thus, ten
foetuses were analyzed over a period of time using ultrasound techniques. Using kinematic
analysis, the results of the experiment were that the twin foetuses would interact with
each other for longer periods and more often as the pregnancies went on. Researchers were
able to conclude that the performance of movements between the co-twins were not accidental but
specifically aimed.The social pre-wiring hypothesis was proved correct, “The central advance of
this study is the demonstration that ‘social actions’ are already performed in the second
trimester of gestation. Starting from the 14th week of gestation twin foetuses plan
and execute movements specifically aimed at the co-twin. These findings force us to predate
the emergence of social behavior: when the context enables it, as in the case of twin
foetuses, other-directed actions are not only possible but predominant over self-directed
actions.”.===Family, gender, and sexuality===Family, gender and sexuality form a broad
area of inquiry studied in many sub-fields of sociology. A family is a group of people
who are related by kinship ties :- Relations of blood / marriage / civil partnership or
adoption. The family unit is one of the most important social institutions found in some
form in nearly all known societies. It is the basic unit of social organization and
plays a key role in socializing children into the culture of their society. The sociology
of the family examines the family, as an institution and unit of socialization, with special concern
for the comparatively modern historical emergence of the nuclear family and its distinct gender
roles. The notion of “childhood” is also significant. As one of the more basic institutions to which
one may apply sociological perspectives, the sociology of the family is a common component
on introductory academic curricula. Feminist sociology, on the other hand, is a normative
sub-field that observes and critiques the cultural categories of gender and sexuality,
particularly with respect to power and inequality. The primary concern of feminist theory is
the patriarchy and the systematic oppression of women apparent in many societies, both
at the level of small-scale interaction and in terms of the broader social structure.
Feminist sociology also analyses how gender interlocks with race and class to produce
and perpetuate social inequalities. “How to account for the differences in definitions
of femininity and masculinity and in sex role across different societies and historical
periods” is also a concern. Social psychology of gender, on the other hand, uses experimental
methods to uncover the microprocesses of gender stratification. For example, one recent study
has shown that resume evaluators penalize women for motherhood while giving a boost
to men for fatherhood.===Health, illness, and the body===The sociology of health and illness focuses
on the social effects of, and public attitudes toward, illnesses, diseases, mental health
and disabilities. This sub-field also overlaps with gerontology and the study of the ageing
process. Medical sociology, by contrast, focuses on the inner-workings of medical organizations
and clinical institutions. In Britain, sociology was introduced into the medical curriculum
following the Goodenough Report (1944).The sociology of the body and embodiment takes
a broad perspective on the idea of “the body” and includes “a wide range of embodied dynamics
including human and non-human bodies, morphology, human reproduction, anatomy, body fluids,
biotechnology, genetics. This often intersects with health and illness, but also theories
of bodies as political, social, cultural, economic and ideological productions. The
ISA maintains a Research Committee devoted to “The Body in the Social Sciences”.====Death, dying, bereavement====
A subfield of the sociology of health and illness that overlaps with cultural sociology
is the study of death, dying and bereavement, sometimes referred to broadly as the sociology
of death. This topic is exemplifed by the work of Douglas Davies and Michael C. Kearl.===Knowledge and science===The sociology of knowledge is the study of
the relationship between human thought and the social context within which it arises,
and of the effects prevailing ideas have on societies. The term first came into widespread
use in the 1920s, when a number of German-speaking theorists, most notably Max Scheler, and Karl
Mannheim, wrote extensively on it. With the dominance of functionalism through the middle
years of the 20th century, the sociology of knowledge tended to remain on the periphery
of mainstream sociological thought. It was largely reinvented and applied much more closely
to everyday life in the 1960s, particularly by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann in
The Social Construction of Reality (1966) and is still central for methods dealing with
qualitative understanding of human society (compare socially constructed reality). The
“archaeological” and “genealogical” studies of Michel Foucault are of considerable contemporary
influence. The sociology of science involves the study
of science as a social activity, especially dealing “with the social conditions and effects
of science, and with the social structures and processes of scientific activity.” Important
theorists in the sociology of science include Robert K. Merton and Bruno Latour. These branches
of sociology have contributed to the formation of science and technology studies. Both the
ASA and the BSA have sections devoted to the subfield of Science, Knowledge and Technology.
The ISA maintains a Research Committee on Science and Technology===Leisure===Sociology of leisure is the study of how humans
organize their free time. Leisure includes a broad array of activities, such as sport,
tourism, and the playing of games. The sociology of leisure is closely tied to the sociology
of work, as each explores a different side of the work–leisure relationship. More recent
studies in the field move away from the work–leisure relationship and focus on the relation between
leisure and culture. This area of sociology began with Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the
Leisure Class.===Peace, war, and conflict===This subfield of sociology studies, broadly,
the dynamics of war, conflict resolution, peace movements, war refugees, conflict resolution
and military institutions. As a subset of this subfield, military sociology aims towards
the systematic study of the military as a social group rather than as an organization.
It is a highly specialized sub-field which examines issues related to service personnel
as a distinct group with coerced collective action based on shared interests linked to
survival in vocation and combat, with purposes and values that are more defined and narrow
than within civil society. Military sociology also concerns civilian-military relations
and interactions between other groups or governmental agencies. Topics include the dominant assumptions
held by those in the military, changes in military members’ willingness to fight, military
unionization, military professionalism, the increased utilization of women, the military
industrial-academic complex, the military’s dependence on research, and the institutional
and organizational structure of military.===Political sociology===Historically, political sociology concerned
the relations between political organization and society. A typical research question in
this area might be: “Why do so few American citizens choose to vote?” In this respect
questions of political opinion formation brought about some of the pioneering uses of statistical
survey research by Paul Lazarsfeld. A major subfield of political sociology developed
in relation to such questions, which draws on comparative history to analyse socio-political
trends. The field developed from the work of Max Weber and Moisey Ostrogorsky.Contemporary
political sociology includes these areas of research, but it has been opened up to wider
questions of power and politics. Today political sociologists are as likely to be concerned
with how identities are formed that contribute to structural domination by one group over
another; the politics of who knows how and with what authority; and questions of how
power is contested in social interactions in such a way as to bring about widespread
cultural and social change. Such questions are more likely to be studied qualitatively.
The study of social movements and their effects has been especially important in relation
to these wider definitions of politics and power.Political sociology has also moved beyond
methodological nationalism and analysed the role of non-governmental organizations, the
diffusion of the nation-state throughout the Earth as a social construct, and the role
of stateless entities in the modern world society. Contemporary political sociologists
also study inter-state interactions and human rights.===Population and demography===Demographers or sociologists of population
study the size, composition and change over time of a given population. Demographers study
how these characteristics impact, or are impacted by, various social, economic or political
systems. The study of population is also closely related to human ecology and environmental
sociology, which studies a populations relationship with the surrounding environment and often
overlaps with urban or rural sociology. Researchers in this field may study the movement of populations:
transportation, migrations, diaspora, etc., which falls into the subfield known as Mobilities
studies and is closely related to human geography. Demographers may also study spread of disease
within a given population or epidemiology.===Public sociology===Public sociology refers to an approach to
the discipline which seeks to transcend the academy in order to engage with wider audiences.
It is perhaps best understood as a style of sociology rather than a particular method,
theory, or set of political values. This approach is primarily associated with Michael Burawoy
who contrasted it with professional sociology, a form of academic sociology that is concerned
primarily with addressing other professional sociologists. Public sociology is also part
of the broader field of science communication or science journalism. In a distinct but similar
vein, applied sociology, also known as clinical sociology, policy sociology or sociological
practice, applies knowledge derived from sociological research to solve societal problems.===Race and ethnic relations===The sociology of race and of ethnic relations
is the area of the discipline that studies the social, political, and economic relations
between races and ethnicities at all levels of society. This area encompasses the study
of racism, residential segregation, and other complex social processes between different
racial and ethnic groups. This research frequently interacts with other areas of sociology such
as stratification and social psychology, as well as with postcolonial theory. At the level
of political policy, ethnic relations are discussed in terms of either assimilationism
or multiculturalism. Anti-racism forms another style of policy, particularly popular in the
1960s and 1970s.===Religion===The
sociology of religion concerns the practices, historical backgrounds, developments, universal
themes and roles of religion in society. There is particular emphasis on the recurring role
of religion in all societies and throughout recorded history. The sociology of religion
is distinguished from the philosophy of religion in that sociologists do not set out to assess
the validity of religious truth-claims, instead assuming what Peter L. Berger has described
as a position of “methodological atheism”. It may be said that the modern formal discipline
of sociology began with the analysis of religion in Durkheim’s 1897 study of suicide rates
among Roman Catholic and Protestant populations. Max Weber published four major texts on religion
in a context of economic sociology and social stratification: The Protestant Ethic and the
Spirit of Capitalism (1905), The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism (1915),
The Religion of India: The Sociology of Hinduism and Buddhism (1915), and Ancient Judaism (1920).
Contemporary debates often centre on topics such as secularization, civil religion, the
intersection of religion and economics and the role of religion in a context of globalization
and multiculturalism.===Social change and development===The sociology of change and development attempts
to understand how societies develop and how they can be changed. This includes studying
many different aspects of society, for example demographic trends, political or technological
trends, or changes in culture. Within this field, sociologists often use macrosociological
methods or historical-comparative methods. In contemporary studies of social change,
there are overlaps with international development or community development. However, most of
the founders of sociology had theories of social change based on their study of history.
For instance, Marx contended that the material circumstances of society ultimately caused
the ideal or cultural aspects of society, while Weber argued that it was in fact the
cultural mores of Protestantism that ushered in a transformation of material circumstances.
In contrast to both, Durkheim argued that societies moved from simple to complex through
a process of sociocultural evolution. Sociologists in this field also study processes of globalization
and imperialism. Most notably, Immanuel Wallerstein extends Marx’s theoretical frame to include
large spans of time and the entire globe in what is known as world systems theory. Development
sociology is also heavily influenced by post-colonialism. In recent years, Raewyn Connell issued a critique
of the bias in sociological research towards countries in the Global North. She argues
that this bias blinds sociologists to the lived experiences of the Global South, specifically,
so-called, “Northern Theory” lacks an adequate theory of imperialism and colonialism.
There are many organizations studying social change, including the Fernand Braudel Center
for the Study of Economies, Historical Systems, and Civilizations, and the Global Social Change
Research Project.===Social networks===A social network is a social structure composed
of individuals (or organizations) called “nodes”, which are tied (connected) by one or more
specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, financial exchange, dislike,
sexual relationships, or relationships of beliefs, knowledge or prestige. Social networks
operate on many levels, from families up to the level of nations, and play a critical
role in determining the way problems are solved, organizations are run, and the degree to which
individuals succeed in achieving their goals. An underlying theoretical assumption of social
network analysis is that groups are not necessarily the building blocks of society: the approach
is open to studying less-bounded social systems, from non-local communities to networks of
exchange. Drawing theoretically from relational sociology, social network analysis avoids
treating individuals (persons, organizations, states) as discrete units of analysis, it
focuses instead on how the structure of ties affects and constitutes individuals and their
relationships. In contrast to analyses that assume that socialization into norms determines
behaviour, network analysis looks to see the extent to which the structure and composition
of ties affect norms. On the other hand, recent research by Omar Lizardo also demonstrates
that network ties are shaped and created by previously existing cultural tastes. Social
network theory is usually defined in formal mathematics and may include integration of
geographical data into Sociomapping.===Social psychology===Sociological social psychology focuses on
micro-scale social actions. This area may be described as adhering to “sociological
miniaturism”, examining whole societies through the study of individual thoughts and emotions
as well as behaviour of small groups. Of special concern to psychological sociologists is how
to explain a variety of demographic, social, and cultural facts in terms of human social
interaction. Some of the major topics in this field are social inequality, group dynamics,
prejudice, aggression, social perception, group behaviour, social change, non-verbal
behaviour, socialization, conformity, leadership, and social identity. Social psychology may
be taught with psychological emphasis. In sociology, researchers in this field are the
most prominent users of the experimental method (however, unlike their psychological counterparts,
they also frequently employ other methodologies). Social psychology looks at social influences,
as well as social perception and social interaction.===Stratification, poverty and inequality
===Social stratification is the hierarchical
arrangement of individuals into social classes, castes, and divisions within a society. Modern
Western societies stratification traditionally relates to cultural and economic classes arranged
in three main layers: upper class, middle class, and lower class, but each class may
be further subdivided into smaller classes (e.g. occupational). Social stratification
is interpreted in radically different ways within sociology. Proponents of structural
functionalism suggest that, since the stratification of classes and castes is evident in all societies,
hierarchy must be beneficial in stabilizing their existence. Conflict theorists, by contrast,
critique the inaccessibility of resources and lack of social mobility in stratified
societies. Karl Marx distinguished social classes by
their connection to the means of production in the capitalist system: the bourgeoisie
own the means, but this effectively includes the proletariat itself as the workers can
only sell their own labour power (forming the material base of the cultural superstructure).
Max Weber critiqued Marxist economic determinism, arguing that social stratification is not
based purely on economic inequalities, but on other status and power differentials (e.g.
patriarchy). According to Weber, stratification may occur among at least three complex variables:
(1) Property (class): A person’s economic position in a society, based on birth and
individual achievement. Weber differs from Marx in that he does not see this as the supreme
factor in stratification. Weber noted how managers of corporations or industries control
firms they do not own; Marx would have placed such a person in the proletariat. (2) Prestige
(status): A person’s prestige, or popularity in a society. This could be determined by
the kind of job this person does or wealth. and (3) Power (political party): A person’s
ability to get their way despite the resistance of others. For example, individuals in state
jobs, such as an employee of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or a member of the United
States Congress, may hold little property or status but they still hold immense power
Pierre Bourdieu provides a modern example in the concepts of cultural and symbolic capital.
Theorists such as Ralf Dahrendorf have noted the tendency towards an enlarged middle-class
in modern Western societies, particularly in relation to the necessity of an educated
work force in technological or service-based economies. Perspectives concerning globalization,
such as dependency theory, suggest this effect owes to the shift of workers to the developing
countries.===Urban and rural sociology===Urban sociology involves the analysis of social
life and human interaction in metropolitan areas. It is a discipline seeking to provide
advice for planning and policy making. After the industrial revolution, works such as Georg
Simmel’s The Metropolis and Mental Life (1903) focused on urbanization and the effect it
had on alienation and anonymity. In the 1920s and 1930s The Chicago School produced a major
body of theory on the nature of the city, important to both urban sociology and criminology,
utilizing symbolic interactionism as a method of field research. Contemporary research is
commonly placed in a context of globalization, for instance, in Saskia Sassen’s study of
the “Global city”. Rural sociology, by contrast, is the analysis of non-metropolitan areas.
As agriculture and wilderness tend to be a more prominent social fact in rural regions,
rural sociologists often overlap with environmental sociologists.====Community sociology====
Often grouped with urban and rural sociology is that of community sociology or the sociology
of community. Taking various communities—including online communities—as the unit of analysis,
community sociologists study the origin and effects of different associations of people.
For instance, German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies distinguished between two types of
human association: Gemeinschaft (usually translated as “community”) and Gesellschaft (“society”
or “association”). In his 1887 work, Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, Tönnies argued that Gemeinschaft
is perceived to be a tighter and more cohesive social entity, due to the presence of a “unity
of will”. The ‘development’ or ‘health’ of a community is also a central concern of community
sociologists also engage in development sociology, exemplified by the literature surrounding
the concept of social capital.==Other academic disciplines==
Sociology overlaps with a variety of disciplines that study society, in particular anthropology,
political science, economics, social work and social philosophy. Many comparatively
new fields such as communication studies, cultural studies, demography and literary
theory, draw upon methods that originated in sociology. The terms “social science” and
“social research” have both gained a degree of autonomy since their origination in classical
sociology. The distinct field of social anthropology or anthroposociology is the dominant constituent
of anthropology throughout the United Kingdom and Commonwealth and much of Europe (France
in particular), where it is distinguished from cultural anthropology. In the United
States, social anthropology is commonly subsumed within cultural anthropology (or under the
relatively new designation of sociocultural anthropology).Sociology and applied sociology
are connected to the professional and academic discipline of social work. Both disciplines
study social interactions, community and the effect of various systems (i.e. family, school,
community, laws, political sphere) on the individual. However, social work is generally
more focused on practical strategies to alleviate social dysfunctions; sociology in general
provides a thorough examination of the root causes of these problems. For example, a sociologist
might study why a community is plagued with poverty. The applied sociologist would be
more focused on practical strategies on what needs to be done to alleviate this burden.
The social worker would be focused on action; implementing theses strategies “directly”
or “indirectly” by means of mental health therapy, counselling, advocacy, community
organization or community mobilization.Social anthropology is the branch of anthropology
that studies how contemporary living human beings behave in social groups. Practitioners
of social anthropology, like sociologists, investigate various facets of social organization.
Traditionally, social anthropologists analysed non-industrial and non-Western societies,
whereas sociologists focused on industrialized societies in the Western world. In recent
years, however, social anthropology has expanded its focus to modern Western societies, meaning
that the two disciplines increasingly converge.Sociocultural anthropology, which include linguistic anthropology,
is concerned with the problem of difference and similarity within and between human populations.
The discipline arose concomitantly with the expansion of European colonial empires, and
its practices and theories have been questioned and reformulated along with processes of decolonization.
Such issues have re-emerged as transnational processes have challenged the centrality of
the nation-state to theorizations about culture and power. New challenges have emerged as
public debates about multiculturalism, and the increasing use of the culture concept
outside of the academy and among peoples studied by anthropology. These times are not “business-as-usual”
in the academy, in anthropology, or in the world, if ever there were such times.
Irving Louis Horowitz, in his The Decomposition of Sociology (1994), has argued that the discipline,
while arriving from a “distinguished lineage and tradition”, is in decline due to deeply
ideological theory and a lack of relevance to policy making: “The decomposition of sociology
began when this great tradition became subject to ideological thinking, and an inferior tradition
surfaced in the wake of totalitarian triumphs.” Furthermore: “A problem yet unmentioned is
that sociology’s malaise has left all the social sciences vulnerable to pure positivism—to
an empiricism lacking any theoretical basis. Talented individuals who might, in an earlier
time, have gone into sociology are seeking intellectual stimulation in business, law,
the natural sciences, and even creative writing; this drains sociology of much needed potential.”
Horowitz cites the lack of a ‘core discipline’ as exacerbating the problem. Randall Collins,
the Dorothy Swaine Thomas Professor in Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and a member
of the Advisory Editors Council of the Social Evolution & History journal, has voiced similar
sentiments: “we have lost all coherence as a discipline, we are breaking up into a conglomerate
of specialities, each going on its own way and with none too high regard for each other.”In
2007, The Times Higher Education Guide published a list of ‘The most cited authors of books
in the Humanities’ (including philosophy and psychology). Seven of the top ten are listed
as sociologists: Michel Foucault (1), Pierre Bourdieu (2), Anthony Giddens (5), Erving
Goffman (6), Jürgen Habermas (7), Max Weber (8), and Bruno Latour (10).==Journals==The most highly ranked general journals which
publish original research in the field of sociology are the American Journal of Sociology
and the American Sociological Review. The Annual Review of Sociology, which publishes
original review essays, is also highly ranked. Many other generalist and specialized journals
exist.==See also==Bibliography of sociology
Engaged theory History of the social sciences
Outline of sociology==
References====Further reading====
External links==American Sociological Association (ASA)
Australian Sociological Association (TASA) Bangladesh Sociological Society (BSS)
British Sociological Association (BSA) Canadian Sociological Association (CSA)
Canadian Association of French-speaking Sociologists and Anthropologists
European Sociological Association (ESA) French Sociological Association
German Sociological Association (DGS) Indian Sociological Society (ISS)
International Institute of Sociology (IIS) International Sociological Association (ISA)
Latin American Sociological Association (ALAS) Portuguese Sociological Association (APS)
Sociological Association of Ireland (SAI)