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Sociology (Latin: socius, "companion"; -ology, "the study of", Greek λόγος, lógos, "word", "knowledge") is the study of human societies. It is a social science (with which it is informally synonymous) that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop and refine a body of knowledge on human social activity, often with the goal of applying such knowledge to the pursuit of social welfare. Subject matter ranges from the micro level of agency and interaction to the macro level of systems and social structures.

Sociology is a broad discipline in terms of both methodology and subject matter. Its traditional focuses have included social stratification (i.e. class relations), religion, secularization, modernity, culture and deviance, and its approaches have included both qualitative and quantitative research techniques. As much of what humans do fits under the category of social structure and agency, sociology has gradually expanded its focus to further subjects, such as medical, military and penal organizations, the internet, and even the role of social activity in the development of scientific knowledge. The range of social scientific methods has also been broadly expanded. The linguistic and cultural turns of the mid-20th century led to increasingly interpretative, hermeneutic, and "postmodern" approaches to the study of society. Conversely, recent decades have seen the rise of new mathematically rigorous approaches, such as social network analysis.

History

Origins

Sociological reasoning predates the origin of the term. Social analysis has origins in the common stock of Western knowledge and philosophy, and has been carried out from at least as early as the time of Plato. There is evidence of early sociology in medieval Islam. It may be said that the first sociologist was Ibn Khaldun, a 14th century Arab scholar from North Africa, whose Muqaddimah was the first work to advance social-scientific theories of social cohesion and social conflict.

The word "sociologie" was first coined in 1780 by the Frenchmarker essayist Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès (1748–1836) in an unpublished manuscript. It was later established by Auguste Comte (1798–1857) in 1838. 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 (1844). Comte believed a positivist stage would mark the final era, after conjectural theological and metaphysical phases, in the progression of human understanding.

Founding figures of the academic discipline

Though Comte is generally regarded as the "Father of Sociology", the discipline was formally established by another French thinker, Émile Durkheim (1858–1917), who developed positivism in greater detail. Durkheim set up the first European department of sociology at the University of Bordeaux in 1895, publishing his Rules of the Sociological Method. In 1896, he established the journal L'Année Sociologique. Durkheim's seminal monograph, Suicide (1897), a case study of suicide rates amongst Catholic and Protestant populations, distinguished sociological analysis from psychology or philosophy. It also marked a major contribution to the concept of structural functionalism.
Sociology evolved as an academic response to the challenges of modernity, such as industrialization, urbanization, secularization, and a perceived process of enveloping rationalization. The field predominated in continental Europe, with Britishmarker anthropology and statistics generally following on a separate trajectory. By the turn of the 20th century, however, many theorists were active in the Anglo-American 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 epistemologies, methods, and frames of enquiry, have significantly expanded and diverged.

A course entitled "sociology" was taught in the United States at Yalemarker in 1875 by William Graham Sumner, drawing upon the thought of Comte and Herbert Spencer rather than Durkheimian theory. In 1890, the oldest continuing American course in the modern tradition began at the University of Kansasmarker, lectured by Frank Blackmar. The Department of History and Sociology at the University of Kansas was established in 1891. The Department of Sociology at the University of Chicagomarker was established in 1892 by Albion W. Small. George Herbert Mead and Charles Cooley, who had met at the University of Michiganmarker 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.

The first sociology department to be established in the United Kingdommarker was at the London School of Economics and Political Sciencemarker (home of the British Journal of Sociology) in 1904. In 1905, the American Sociological Association, the world's largest association of professional sociologists, was founded, and in 1909 the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Soziologie (German Society for Sociology) was founded by Ferdinand Tönnies and Max Weber, among others. In 1919, Weber established the first department in Germany at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munichmarker, having presented an influential new antipositivist sociology. In 1920, Florian Znaniecki set up the first department in Poland. 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.

Durkheim, Marx and Weber are typically cited as the three principal architects of social science. Their thought is central to the modern sociological paradigms of functionalism, conflict theory and anti-positivism respectively. Vilfredo Pareto, Ludwig Gumplowicz, Ferdinand Tönnies, and Georg Simmel are occasionally included on academic curricula as further founding theorists. Each key figure is associated with a particular theoretical perspective and orientation.

Positivism and anti-positivism

The methodological approach toward sociology by early theorists was to treat the discipline in broadly the same manner as natural science. An emphasis on empiricism and the scientific method was sought to provide an incontestable foundation for any sociological claims or findings, and to distinguish sociology from less empirical fields such as philosophy. This perspective, called positivism, is based on the assumption that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge, and that such knowledge can come only from positive affirmation of theories through strict scientific and quantitative methods. Émile Durkheim was a major proponent of theoretically grounded empirical research, seeking correlations between "social facts" to reveal structural laws. His position was informed by an interest in applying sociological findings in the pursuit of social reform and the negation of social "anomie". Today, scholarly accounts of Durkheim's positivism may be vulnerable to exaggeration and oversimplification: Comte was the only major sociological thinker to postulate that the social realm may be subject to scientific analysis in the same way as noble science, whereas Durkheim acknowledged in greater detail the fundamental epistemological limitations.
Reactions against positivism began when German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich 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 Hegel 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. Marx rejected Comtean positivism but nonetheless endeavoured to produce a science of society grounded in historical materialism. Hermeneuticians and neo-Kantian philosophers, such as Wilhelm Dilthey and Heinrich Rickert, argued that empirical analysis of the social world differs to that of the natural world due to the irreducibly complex aspects of human society and culture.

At the turn of the 20th century the first generation of German sociologists formally introduced methodological antipositivism, proposing that research should concentrate on human cultural norm, values, symbols, and social processes viewed from a subjective perspective. Max Weber argued that sociology may be loosely described as a 'science' as it is able to identify causal relationships—especially among ideal types, or hypothetical simplifications of complex social phenomena. As a nonpositivist, however, one seeks relationships that are not as "ahistorical, invariant, or generalizable" as those pursued by natural scientists. Ferdinand Tönnies presented Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft (lit. community and society) as the two normal types of human association. Tönnies drew a sharp line between the realm of conceptuality and the reality of social action: the first must be treated axiomatically and in a deductive way ('pure' sociology), whereas the second empirically and in an inductive way ('applied' sociology).



Both Weber and Georg Simmel pioneered the Verstehen (or 'interpretative') approach toward social science; a systematic process in 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 critique of the limits of perception, asking 'What is society?' in a direct allusion to Kant's question 'What is nature?'

Functionalism and conflict theory

Structural functionalism is a broad paradigm, both in sociology and anthropology, which addresses the social structure in terms of the necessary function of its constituent elements. A common analogy (popularized by Herbert Spencer) is to regard norms, values and institutions as 'organs' that work toward the proper-functioning of the entire 'body' of society. The perspective is implicit in the original sociological positivism of Comte, but was theorized in full by Durkheim, again with respect to observable, structural laws. Although functionalism shares an history and theoretical affinity with the empirical method, later functionalists, such as Bronisław Malinowski and Talcott Parsons, are to some extent antipositivist. Similarly, whilst functionalism shares an affinity with 'grand theory' (e.g. systems theory in the work of Niklas Luhmann), one may distinguish between structural and non-structural conceptions. It is also simplistic to equate the perspective directly with conservative ideology. In the most basic terms functionalism concerns "the effort to impute, as rigorously as possible, to each feature, custom, or practice, its effect on the functioning of a supposedly stable, cohesive system."

Conflict theories, by contrast, are perspectives which critique the overarching socio-political system, which emphasize the inequality of a particular social group, or which otherwise detract from structural functionalism (though they may also be 'structural'). Conflict theories draw attention to power differentials, such as class conflict, and generally contrast traditional or historically-dominant ideologies. The term is most commonly associated with Marxism, but as a reaction to functionalism and the scientific method may be associated with critical theory, feminist theory, queer theory, postmodern theory, post-structural theory, postcolonial theory, and a variety of other perspectives.

Twentieth-century developments

In the early 20th century, sociology expanded in the U.S.marker, including developments in both macrosociology, concerned with the evolution of societies, and microsociology, concerned with everyday human social interactions. Based on the pragmatic social psychology of George Herbert Mead, Herbert Blumer and, later, the Chicago school, sociologists developed symbolic interactionism. In the 1920s, Georg Lukács' History and Class Consciousness (1923) was released, whilst a number of works by Durkheim and Weber were published posthumously. In the 1930s, Talcott Parsons developed action theory, integrating the study of social order with the structural and voluntaristic aspects of macro and micro factors, while placing the discussion within a higher explanatory context of system theory and cybernetics. In Austria and later the U.S., Alfred Schütz developed social phenomenology, which would later inform social constructionism. During the same period members of the Frankfurt school developed critical theory, integrating the historical materialistic elements of Marxism with the insights of Weber, Freud and Gramsci —in theory, if not always in name— often characterizing capitalist modernity as a move away from the central tenets of enlightenment.
During the Interwar period, sociology was undermined by totalitarian governments for reasons of ostensible political control. After the Russian Revolution, sociology was gradually "politicized, Bolshevisized and eventually, Stalinized" until it virtually ceased to exist in the Soviet Unionmarker.Elizabeth Ann Weinberg, The Development of Sociology in the Soviet Union, Taylor & Francis, 1974, ISBN 0710078765, Google Print, p.8-9 In China, the discipline was banned along with semiotics and comparative linguistics as "Bourgeois pseudoscience" in 1952, not to return until 1979. During the same period, however, sociology was also undermined by conservative universities in the West. This was due, in part, to perceptions of the subject as possessing an inherent tendency, through its own aims and remit, toward liberal or left wing thought. Given that the subject was founded by structural functionalists; concerned with organic cohesion and social solidarity, this view was somewhat groundless (though it was Parsons who had introduced Durkheim to American audiences, and his interpretation has been criticized for a latent conservatism).
In the mid-20th century there was a general trend for American sociology to be more scientific in nature, due to the prominence at that time of action theory and other system-theoretical approaches. In 1949, Robert K. Merton released Social Theory and Social Structure, a major work in his functionalist project. By the mid-1950s, new types of quantitative and qualitative research had been developed, and sociological research was increasingly employed as a tool by governments and businesses worldwide.

In 1959, Erving Goffman published The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, whilst C. Wright Mills presented The Sociological Imagination, encouraging humanistic discourse and a rejection of abstracted grand theory. Parallel with the rise of various social movements in the 1960s, particularly in Britain, the cultural turn saw a rise in conflict theories emphasizing social struggle, such as neo-Marxism and second-wave feminism. Ralf Dahrendorf and Ralph Miliband presented politically influential theory on class conflict and industrialized nation states. The sociology of religion saw a renaissance in the decade with new debates on secularisation thesis and the very definition of religious practise. Theorists such as Gerhard Lenski and John Milton Yinger formulated functional definitions of what constitutes a religion, thus analysing new social movements for their religious role. Theorists in the tradition of Western Marxism continued to scrutize consumerism and ideology in analogous terms.
In the 1970s so-called post-structuralist and postmodernist theory, drawing upon structuralism and phenomenology as much as classical social science, made a considerable impact on frames of sociological enquiry. Often understood simply as a cultural style 'after-Modernism' marked by intertextuality, pastiche and irony, sociological analyses of postmodernity have presented a distinct era relating to (1) the dissolution of metanarratives (particularly in the work of Lyotard), and (2) commodity fetishism and the 'mirroring' of identity with consumption in late capitalist society (Debord; Baudrillard; Jameson). Postmodernism has also been associated with the rejection of enlightenment conceptions of the human subject by thinkers such as Claude Lévi-Strauss, Michel Foucault, and, to a lesser extent, in Louis Althusser's anti-humanist defence of Marxism.
Most theorists associated with the movement actively refused the label, preferring to accept postmodernity as a historical phenomenon rather than a method of analysis, if at all. Nevertheless, self-consciously postmodern pieces continue to emerge within the social and political sciences in general.
In the 1980s, theorists outside of France tended to focus on globalization, communication, and reflexivity in terms of a 'second' phase of modernity, rather than a distinct new era per se. Jürgen Habermas established communicative action as a reaction to postmodern challenges to the discourse of modernity, informed both by critical theory and pragmatism. Fellow German sociologist, Ulrich Beck, presented The Risk Society (1992) as an account of the manner in which the modern nation state has become organized. In Britain, Anthony Giddens set out to reconcile recurrent theoretical dichotomies through structuration theory. During the 1990s, Giddens developed work on the challenges of "high modernity", as well as a new 'third way' politics that would greatly influence New Labour in U.K. and the Clinton administration in the U.S. Leading Polish sociologist, Zygmunt Bauman, wrote extensively on the concepts of modernity and postmodernity, particularly with reference to the Holocaust and consumerism. Whilst Pierre Bourdieu gained significant critical acclaim for his continued work on cultural capital, certain French sociologists, particularly Jean Baudrillard and Michel Maffesoli, were criticised for perceived obfuscation and relativism.
Functionalist-structuralist systems theorists such as Niklas Luhmann remained dominant forces in sociology up to the end of the century. In 1994, Robert K. Merton won the National Medal of Science for his contributions to the sociology of science. The positivist tradition is popular to this day, particularly in the United States. The discipline's two most widely cited American journals, the American Journal of Sociology and the American Sociological Review, primarily publish research in the positivist tradition, with ASR exhibiting greater diversity (the British Journal of Sociology, on the other hand, publishes primarily non-positivist articles). The 1990s gave rise to improvements in quantitative methodologies. Longitudinal studies were employed to follow populations over the course of years and decades, enabling researchers to study long-term phenomena and gain greater reliability. Increases in the size of data sets was facilitated by new statistical computer software packages such as SAS, Stata, or SPSS. Social network analysis is an example of a new paradigm in the positivist tradition. The method, pioneered by theorists such as Harrison White, J. Clyde Mitchell, and Mark Granovetter, is now common in various subfields, as well as other related disciplines. There has also been a minor revival of a more independent, empirical sociology in the spirit of C. Wright Mills and his studies of the Power Elite in the United States, according to Stanley Aronowitz.

Research

Methodology

Social interactions and their consequences are studied in sociology.
Sociological research methods may be divided into two broad categories:

  • Quantitative designs attempt to quantify social phenomena and analyse numerical data, focusing on the links among a smaller number of attributes across many cases.


  • Qualitative designs emphasise personal experiences and interpretation over quantification, are concerned with understanding the meaning of social phenomena, and focus on links among a larger number of attributes across relatively few cases.


Sociologists are divided into camps of support for particular research techniques. These disputes relate to the historical core of social theory (positivism and antipositivism; structure and agency). While very different in many aspects, both qualitative and quantitative approaches involve a systematic interaction between theory and data. 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 representitive sample population. By contrast, a researcher who seeks full contextual understanding of an individuals' 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 an agents' own reflexivity.

Sampling

Typically a population is very large, making a census or a complete enumeration of all the values in that population infeasible. A 'sample' thus forms a manageable subset of a population. In positivist research, statistics derived from a sample are analysed in order to draw inferences regarding the population as a whole. The process of collecting information from a sample is referred to as 'sampling'. Sampling methods may be either 'random' (random sampling, systematic sampling, stratified sampling, cluster sampling) or non-random/nonprobability (convenience sampling, purposive sampling, snowball sampling).

Types of method

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 are systematically analysed. Often data is 'coded' as a part of the 'grounded theory' approach using qualitative data analysis (QDA) software, such as NVivo..
  • Experimental research: The researcher isolates a single social process or social phenomena and uses the data to either confirm or construct social theory. Participants (also referred to as "subjects") are randomly assigned to various conditions or "treatments", and then analyzes are made between groups. Randomization allows the researcher to be sure that the treatment is having the effect on group differences and not any extraneous factors.
  • Survey research: The researcher produces data using interviews, questionnaires, or similar feedback from a set of people chosen (including random selection) to represent a particular population of interest. Survey items from an interview or questionnaire may be open-ended or closed-ended. Quantitative data may be tested using statistical software such as PASW (SPSS).
  • Life history: A study of the personal life experiences and trajectories of a participant. Through semi-structured interviews, the researcher may probe into the decisive moments or various influences in their life.
  • 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 behavior. Observation techniques can be either participant observation or non-participant observation. 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 acquire a deep understanding of it. Data acquired through these techniques may be analyzed either quantitatively or qualitatively.


Practical applications

Social research informs economists, politicians and public policy, educators, planners, lawmakers, 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.

Epistemology and ontology

The extent to which the discipline should be conducted scientifically remains a salient issue with respect to basic ontological and epistemological questions. Controversies continue to rage on how to emphasize or integrate subjectivity, objectivity, intersubjectivity and practicality in the conduct of theory and research. Though essentially all major theorists since the late 19th century have accepted that sociology is not a science in the traditional sense of the word, the ability to determine causal relationships invokes the same fundamental philosophical discussions held in science meta-theory. Whereas positivism has sometimes met with caricature as a breed of naive empiricism, the word has a rich history of applications stretching from Comte to the logical positivism of the Vienna Circle and beyond. By the same token, successful positivism would be open to the same critical rationalist non-justificationism presented by Karl Popper , which is itself disputed through Thomas Kuhn's conception of epistemic paradigm shift. The linguistic and cultural turns of the mid-20th century led to a rise in abstracted philosophic and hermeneutic material in sociology, as well as so-called "postmodern" perspectives on the social acquisition of knowledge. In recent years sociologists have frequently engaged with figures such as Ludwig Wittgenstein and Jacques Derrida, just as social philosophy has often met with social theory. One notable critique of social science is found in Peter Winch's Wittgensteinian text The Idea of Social Science and its Relation to Philosophy (1958). Michel Foucault provides a potent critique in his archaeology of the human sciences, though Jürgen Habermas and Richard Rorty have both argued that Foucault merely replaces one such system of thought with another.
Structure and agency forms an enduring 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' refers to factors which 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, and the possibility of agential reflexivity, relate to the core of social ontology ("What is the social world made of?", "What is a cause in the social world, and what is an effect?"). One attempt to reconcile postmodern critiques with the overarching project of social science has been the development, particularly in Britain, of critical realism. For critical realists such as Roy Bhaskar, traditional positivism commits an 'epistemic fallacy' by failing to address the ontological conditions which make science possible: that is, structure and agency itself. A general outcome of incredulity toward overly-structural or agential thought has been the development of multidimensional theories, most notably the Action Theory of Talcott Parsons and Anthony Giddens's Theory of Structuration.

Despite meta-theoretical criticisms of sociological positivism, statistical quantitative methods remain extremely common in practise. Michael Burawoy has contrasted public sociology, emphasising strict practical applications, with academic or professional sociology, which largely concerns dialogue amongst other social/political scientists and philosophers.

Scope and topics

Culture

Cultural sociology involves a critical analysis of the words, artifacts and symbols which interact with forms of social life, whether within subcultures or societies at large. For Simmel, culture referred to "the cultivation of individuals through the agency of external forms which have been objectified in the course of history". Culture was a prevalent object of historical materialist analysis for members of the Frankfurt School, such as Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin. Loosely-distinct to culture as a general object of sociological inquiry is the discipline of Cultural Studies. Birmingham School cultural theorists such as Richard Hoggart, Stuart Hall and Raymond Williams emphasized the reciprocity in how mass-produced cultural texts are used, questioning the valorized division between 'producers' and 'consumers' evident in earlier neo-Marxist theory. 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 youth as they relate to the dominant classes.

Criminality and deviance

Criminologists analyse the nature, causes, and control of criminal activity, drawing upon methods across sociology, psychology, and the behavioral sciences. The sociology of deviance focuses on actions or behaviors that violate norm, 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 deviance is central in contemporary structural functionalism and systems theory. Robert K. Merton produced a typology of deviance, and also established the terms "role model", "unintended consequences", and "self-fulfilling prophecy".

Economics



Economic sociology is the sociological analysis of economic phenomena; the role economic structures and institutions play upon society, and the influence a society holds over the nature of economic structures and institutions. The relationship between capitalism and modernity is a salient issue. Marx's historical materialism attempted to demonstrate how economic forces have a fundamental influence on the structure of society. Max Weber also, though less deterministically, regarded economic processes as key to social understanding. Georg Simmel, particularly in his Philosophy of Money, was important in the early development of economic sociology, as was Emile Durkheim with works such as The Division of Labour in Society. Economic sociology is often synonymous with socioeconomics. In many cases, however, socioeconomists focus on the social impact of specific economic changes, such as the closing of a factory, market manipulation, the signing of international trade treaties, new natural gas regulation, and so on.

Environment

Environmental sociology is the study of societal-environmental interactions, typically placing emphasis on the social factors that cause environmental problems, the impacts of those issues, and the efforts to resolve them. Attention is paid to the processes by which environmental conditions become defined and known to a society. (See also: sociology of disaster)

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, including the expansion of higher, further, adult, and continuing education.

Family and childhood

The sociology of the family examines the family unit by means of various theoretical perspectives, particularly with regard to the modern historical emergence of the nuclear family and its distinct gender roles. The concept of motherhood forms a central topic in the feminist sociology of Nancy Chodorow and Jessie Bernard.

Gender and sexuality

Sociological analyses of gender and sexuality observe and critique these categories, particularly with respect to power and inequality, both at the level of small-scale interaction and in terms of the broader social structure. At the historical core of such work is feminist theory and the concern for patriarchy: the systematic oppression of women apparent in many societies. Feminist thought may be divided into three 'waves' relating to (1) the initial democratic Suffrage movement of the late-19th century, (2) the second-wave feminism of the 1960s and the development of increasingly complex academic theory, and (3) the current, 'third wave', which has tended to do-away with all generalizations regarding sex and gender and is closely linked with postmodernism, antihumanism, posthumanism and queer theory. Marxist feminism and black feminism are also important perspectives. Studies of gender and sexuality developed side-by-side with sociology rather than strictly within it. As the great majority of universities do not possess a distinct school dedicated to the area, however, it is most commonly taught from within sociology departments.

Internet

The Internet is of interest to sociologists in various ways. The Internet can be used as a tool for research (for example, conducting online questionnaires), a discussion platform, and as a research topic. Sociology of the Internet in the broad sense includes analysis of online communities (e.g. newsgroups, social networking sites) and virtual worlds. Organizational change is catalyzed through new media like the Internet, thereby influencing social change at-large. This creates the framework for a transformation from an industrial to an informational society (see Manuel Castells and, in particular his turn of the century account of "The Internet Galaxy"). Online communities can be studied statistically through network analysis and at the same time interpreted qualitatively through virtual ethnography. Social change can be studied through statistical demographics, or through the interpretation of changing messages and symbols in online media studies.

Knowledge

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.

Law and punishment

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 which examines the interaction of law with other aspects of society, such as the effect of legal institutions, doctrines, and practices on other social phenomena and vice versa. Some of its areas of inquiry include the social development of legal institutions, the social construction of legal issues, and the relation of law to social change. Sociology of law also intersects with the fields of jurisprudence, economic analysis of law and more specialized subjects such as criminology. A law is formal and therefore not the same as a 'norm'. The sociology of deviance, by contrast, examines both formal and informal deviations from normality; both crime and purely cultural forms of deviance. The sociology of punishment examines, without normative or moral judgements, the nature of punitive actions.

Media

As with cultural studies, media studies is a distinct discipline which 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-indespensible topic.

Medical sociology

Medical sociology examines social interactions within medical organizations and clinical institutions, while sociology of health and illness focuses on the social effects of, and public attitudes toward, illnesses, diseases, disabilities and the ageing process. In Britain, sociology was introduced into the medical curriculum following the Goodenough Report (1944).

Military

Military sociology aims toward the systematic study of the military as a social group rather than as an organization. It is a highly specialized subfield 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. See also: sociology of terrorism. Topics include:
  1. the dominant assumptions held by those in the military,
  2. changes in military members' willingness to fight,
  3. military unionization,
  4. military professionalism,
  5. the increased utilization of women,
  6. the military industrial-academic complex,
  7. the military's dependence on research, and
  8. the institutional and organizational structure of military.


Political sociology

Political sociology is the study of the relations between state and society. The discipline uses comparative history to analyze systems of government and economic organization to understand the political climate of societies. By comparing and analyzing history and sociological data, political trends and patterns emerge. Political sociology also concerns the play of power and personality, for instance, the impact of globalization upon identity: "The fragmentation and pluralization of values and life-styles, with the growth of mass media and consumerism and decline of stable occupations and communities, all means that previously taken for granted social identities have become politicized."

There are four main areas of research focus in contemporary political sociology:

  1. The socio-political formation of the modern state.
  2. "Who rules"? How social inequality between groups (class, race, gender, etc.) influences politics.
  3. How public personalities, social movements and trends outside of the formal institutions of political power affect politics, and
  4. Power relationships within and between social groups (e.g. families, workplaces, bureaucracy, media, etc).


Race and ethnic relations

Race and ethnic relations is the area of sociology that studies the social, political, and economic relations between ethnicities at all levels of society. It encompasses the study of race and racism, and of complex political interactions between members of different groups. At the level of immigration policy, the issue is usually discussed in terms of either assimilationism or multiculturalism. Anti-racism and postcolonialism are also integral concepts. Major theorists include Paul Gilroy, Stuart Hall, John Rex and Tariq Modood.

Religion

The sociology of religion concerns the practices, social structures, 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. Crucially the sociology of religion does not involve an assessment of the truth-claims particular to a religion, though the process of comparing multiple conflicting dogmas may require what Peter L. Berger has described as inherent 'methodological atheism'. Sociologists of religion attempt to explain the effects of society on religion and the effects of religion on society; in other words, their dialectical relationship. It may be said that the discipline of sociology began with the analysis of religion in Durkheim's 1897 study of suicide rates amongst Catholic and Protestant populations.

Scientific knowledge and institutions



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." Theorists include Gaston Bachelard, Karl Popper, Paul Feyerabend, Thomas Kuhn, Martin Kusch, Bruno Latour, Robert K. Merton, Michel Foucault, Anselm Strauss, Lucy Suchman, Sal Restivo, Karin Knorr-Cetina, Randall Collins, Barry Barnes, David Bloor, Harry Collins, and Steve Fuller.

Social psychology

Sociological social psychology, also known as psychological sociology, is a specialist discipline which focuses on micro-scale social interactions. Theory in this area may be described as adhering to "sociological miniaturism", examining the nature of societies through the study of individual thought processes and emotional behaviours. Social psychology is closely allied with symbolic interactionism and the work of George Herbert Mead. A separate strand of social psychology is taught with psychological emphasis.

Stratification

Social stratification is the hierarchical arrangement of individuals into social classes, castes, and divisions within a society. In modern Western societies stratification traditionally relates to cultural and economic classes comprising of 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 social stratification exists in most state societies, hierarchy must be beneficial in helping to stabilize 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 includes the proletariat itself as the workers can only sell their own labour power (forming the base of the material superstructure). Max Weber critiqued Marxist economic determinism, noting that social stratification is not based purely on economic inequalities, but on other status and power differentials (e.g. patriarchy). Pierre Bourdieu provides a modern example in the concepts of cultural and symbolic capital. Theorists such as Ralf Dahrendorf have noted the tendency toward 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 third world.

Urban and rural spaces

Urban sociology involves the analysis of social life and human interaction in metropolitan areas. It is a normative discipline, seeking to study the structures, processes, changes and problems of an urban area and by doing so providing inputs for planning and policy making. Like most areas of sociology, urban sociologists use statisticial analysis, observation, social theory, interviews, and other methods to study a range of topics, including migration and demographic trends, economics, poverty, race relations, economic trends, and etc. After the industrial revolution theorists such as Georg Simmel in The Metropolis and Mental life (1903) focused on the process of urbanization and the effects it had on social alienation and anonymity. In the 1920s and 1930s The Chicago School produced a major body of works specializing in urban sociology, utilising symbolic interactionism as a method of field research. Rural sociology, by contrast, is a field of sociology associated with the study of social life in non-metropolitan areas.

Work 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."

Sociology and other academic disciplines

Sociology overlaps with a variety of disciplines that study society; in particular, political science, economics, social philosophy, and most significantly social/cultural anthropology. Many comparatively new social sciences, such as communication studies, critical theory, cultural studies, demography, film studies, media studies, and literary theory, draw upon methods that originated in classical sociology. The distinct field of social psychology emerged from the many intersections of sociological and psychological interests, and is further distinguished in terms of sociological or psychological emphasis.

Social anthropology is the branch of anthropology that studies how contemporary living human beings behave in social groups. Practitioners of social anthropology investigate, often through long-term, intensive field studies (including participant observation methods), the social organization of a particular people: customs, economic and political organization, law and conflict resolution, patterns of consumption and exchange, kinship and family structure, gender relations, childrearing and socialization, religion, and so on. Traditionally, social anthropologists analysed non-industrial societies (generally rural) and foreign cultures whereas sociologists focused on industrialized societies in the western world. Social anthropology has, however, now expanded to study modern Western societies and sociology have also expanded into studying variety of societies in other countries, meaning that the two disciplines increasingly converge. Although both belong to separate academic disciplines, these subjects overlap more with each other than most social sciences.

Sociobiology is the study of how social behavior and organization have been influenced by evolution and other biological process. The field blends sociology with a number of other sciences, such as anthropology, biology, zoology, and others. Sociobiology has generated controversy within the sociological academy for giving too much attention to gene expression over socialization and environmental factors in general (see 'nature or nurture').

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), Jurgen Habermas (7), Max Weber (8), and Bruno Latour (10).

See also



Related theories, methods and fields of inquiry



Footnotes

  1. "Comte, Auguste, A Dictionary of Sociology (3rd Ed), John Scott & Gordon Marshall (eds), Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN 0198609868, ISBN 978-0198609865
  2. Giddens, Anthony, Duneier, Mitchell, Applebaum, Richard. 2007. Introduction to Sociology. Sixth Edition. New York: W.W. Norton and Company
  3. H. Mowlana (2001). "Information in the Arab World", Cooperation South Journal 1.
  4. Dr. S. W. Akhtar (1997). "The Islamic Concept of Knowledge", Al-Tawhid: A Quarterly Journal of Islamic Thought & Culture 12 (3).
  5. Amber Haque (2004)m, "Psychology from Islamic Perspective: Contributions of Early Muslim Scholars and Challenges to Contemporary Muslim Psychologists", Journal of Religion and Health 43 (4): 357–377 [375].
  6. Des Manuscrits de Sieyès. 1773–1799, Volumes I and II, published by Christine Fauré, Jacques Guilhaumou, Jacques Vallier et Françoise Weil, Paris, Champion>, 1999 and 2007. See also Christine Fauré and Jacques Guilhaumou, Sieyès et le non-dit de la sociologie: du mot à la chose, in Revue d’histoire des sciences humaines, Numéro 15, novembre 2006: Naissances de la science sociale. See also the article 'sociologie' in the French-language Wikipedia.
  7. A Dictionary of Sociology, Article: Comte, Auguste
  8. Dictionary of the Social Sciences, Article: Comte, Auguste
  9. Gianfranco Poggi (2000). Durkheim. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  10. Gianfranco Poggi (2000). Durkheim. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  11. Habermas, Jurgen, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity: Modernity's Consciousness of Time, Polity Press (1985), paperback, ISBN 0-7456-0830-2, p2
  12. Giddens, Anthony, Duneier, Mitchell, Applebaum, Richard. 2007. Introduction to Sociology. Sixth Edition. New York: W.W. Norton and Company. Chapter 1.
  13. http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O119-Sociology.html
  14. Miller, David (2009). George Herbert Mead: Self, Language, and the World. University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-72700-3.
  15. 1930: The Development of Sociology at Michigan. pp.3–14 in Sociological Theory and Research, being Selected papers of Charles Horton Cooley, edited by Robert Cooley Angell, New York: Henry Holt
  16. http://www.isa-sociology.org/ International Sociological Association Website
  17. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/weber/ Max Weber - Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
  18. Fish, Jonathan S. 2005. 'Defending the Durkheimian Tradition. Religion, Emotion and Morality' Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing.
  19. Rickman, H. P. (1960) The Reaction against Positivism and Dilthey's Concept of Understanding, The London School of Economics and Political Science. p307
  20. *Ferdinand Tönnies (ed. Jose Harris), Community and Civil Society, Cambridge University Press (2001), hardcover, 266 pages, ISBN 0-521-56119-1; trade paperback, Cambridge University Press (2001), 266 pages, ISBN 0-521-56782-3
  21. Levine, Donald (ed) 'Simmel: On individuality and social forms' Chicago University Press, 1971. pxix.
  22. Levine, Donald (ed) 'Simmel: On individuality and social forms' Chicago University Press, 1971. p6.
  23. Bourricaud, F. 'The Sociology of Talcott Parsons' Chicago University Press. ISBN 0-226-067564. p. 94
  24. Fish, Jonathan S. 2005. 'Defending the Durkheimian Tradition. Religion, Emotion and Morality' Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing.
  25. Haralambos & Holborn. 'Sociology: Themes and perspectives' (2004) 6th ed, Collins Educational. ISBN 978-0-00-715447-0.
  26. The Mead Project
  27. Talcott Parsons (1937) The Structure of Social Action. New York: McGraw-Hill
  28. Wagner, H. R. (1983). Alfred Schutz: An Intellectual Biography. Chicago and London, The University of Chicago Press. p5-12
  29. Martin Jay. The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute for Social Research 1923-1950, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1996 ISBN 0-520-20423-9.
  30. Adorno, Theodor. (1973) Negative Dialectics. Translated by E.B. Ashton, London: Routledge, (Published in German in 1966)
  31. Xiaogang Wu, Between Public and Professional: Chinese Sociology and the Construction of a Harmonious Society, ASA Footnotes, May-June 2009 Issue • Volume 37 • Issue 5
  32. Fish, Jonathan S. 2005. 'Defending the Durkheimian Tradition. Religion, Emotion and Morality' Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing.
  33. Bannister, Robert C. (1991) Sociology and Scientism: The American Quest for Objectivity, 1880-1940. University of North Carolina Press. p3
  34. Robert K. Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure, Free Press, 1968, ISBN 0-02-921130-1
  35. Macionis, J Plummer, K Sociology: A Global Introduction (3rd) Pearson Hall. ISBN 9780131287464 p31.
  36. Daniel Geary, (2009) Radical Ambition: C. Wright Mills, the Left, and American Social Thought University of California Press. ISBN 0520258363. Chapter 1.
  37. Campbell, Colin. (1971) Toward a Sociology of Irreligion Pan Publishing. 1999.
  38. Campbell, Colin. (1971) Toward a Sociology of Irreligion Pan Publishing. 1999.
  39. La société du spectacle, 1967, numerous editions; in English: The Society of the Spectacle, Zone Books 1995, ISBN 0-942299-79-5. Society of the Spectacle, Rebel Press 2004, ISBN 0-946061-12-2.
  40. Owen, David (ed) Sociology after Postmodernism Sage Publishing. ISDN 0803975155. p1-21
  41. 'Cultural Studies: Theory and Practise'. By: Barker, Chris. Sage Publications, 2005. p446.
  42. Smart, Barry (1994). Michel Foucault: Critical Assessments. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415088887. p.5
  43. Althusser, L. (1969), For Marx, translated by Ben Brewster, 33-34, Verso. ISBN 1-84467-052-X.
  44. Owen, David (ed) Sociology after Postmodernism Sage Publishing. ISDN 0803975155. p1-21
  45. Jürgen Habermas (1984) Theory of Communicative Action, trans. Thomas McCarthy, Boston: Beacon Press.
  46. Giddens, Anthony (1994) Beyond Left and Right — the Future of Radical Politics. Cambridge : Polity (publisher).
  47. Giddens, Anthony (Ed.) (2001) The Global Third Way Debate. Cambridge : Polity (publisher).
  48. Bauman, Zygmunt. Postmodernity and its discontents. New York: New York University Press. 1997. ISBN 0-7456-1791-3
  49. Bourdieu The Guardian obituary, Douglas Johnson 28 January 2002
  50. Norris, Christopher. Uncritical Theory: Postmodernism, Intellectuals and the Gulf War Lawrence and Wishart. 1992.
  51. Serge Paugam, La pratique de la sociologie, Paris, PUF, 2008, p. 117 ; cf. Gérald Houdeville, Le métier de sociologue en France depuis 1945. Renaissance d'une discipline, Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2007, p. 261-302 (ch. 7, "La sociologie mise en cause"), and Bernard Lahire, "Une astrologue sur la planète des sociologues ou comment devenir docteur en sociologie sans posséder le métier de sociologue ?", in L'esprit sociologique, Paris, La Découverte, 2007, p. 351-387.
  52. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/news/03/02/robertKMerton.html
  53. Positivism in sociological research: USA and UK (1966–1990). By: Gartrell, C. David, Gartrell, John W., British Journal of Sociology, 00071315, Dec2002, Vol. 53, Issue 4
  54. Haralambos & Holborn. 'Sociology: Themes and perspectives' (2004) 6th ed, Collins Educational. ISBN 978-0-00-715447-0. Chapter 14: Methods
  55. Haralambos & Holborn. 'Sociology: Themes and perspectives' (2004) 6th ed, Collins Educational. ISBN 978-0-00-715447-0. Chapter 14: Methods
  56. Martin, Patricia Yancey, Turner, Barry A.. (1986). Grounded Theory and Organizational Research. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 22(2), 141. Retrieved June 21, 2009, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 1155984).
  57. Jürgen Habermas. Taking Aim at the Heart of the Present in Hoy, D (eds) 'Foucault: A critical reader' Basil Blackwell. Oxford, 1986.
  58. Richard Rorty. Foucault and Epistemology in Hoy, D (eds) 'Foucault: A critical reader' Basil Blackwell. Oxford, 1986.
  59. chapter 2
  60. Levine, Donald (ed) 'Simmel: On individuality and social forms' Chicago University Press, 1971. pxix.
  61. 'Cultural Studies: Theory and Practise'. By: Barker, Chris. Sage Publications, 2005. p446.
  62. Gordon Marshall (ed) A Dictionary of Sociology (Article: Sociology of Education), Oxford University Press, 1998
  63. Jary, Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 636
  64. Ritzer, George (2008) Sociological Theory. McGraw-Hill. pp. 352-353. ISBN 978-0-07-352818-2.
  65. Watson, Tony J. 2008 Sociology, Work, and Industry. Routledge. ISBN: 0415435552. p392
  66. Sherif, M., and CW Sherif. An Outline of Social Psychology (rev. ed.). New York: Harper & Brothers, 1956
  67. http://nos.org/331courseE/L-3%20SOCIOLOGY%20ITS%20RELATIONSHIP%20WITH%20OTHER%20SOCIAL%20SCIEN.pdf


Bibliography

  • Aby, Stephen H. Sociology: A Guide to Reference and Information Sources, 3rd edn. Littleton, CO, Libraries Unlimited Inc., 2005, ISBN 1-56308-947-5
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  • Nash, Kate. 2000. Contemporary Political Sociology: Globalization, Politics, and Power. Blackwell Publishers. ISBN 0-631-20660-4
  • Scott, John & Marshall, Gordon (eds) A Dictionary of Sociology (3rd Ed). Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-19-860986-8,


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