What is Sociology? Definition, Evolution, Examples: Essay

Sociology is rich in scope, and it analyzes the significance of various social institutions in an individual’s life. This essay highlights the evolution of the discipline and, with the help of examples related to day-to-day life, further explains its implications. The essay also expounds on the contributions made to society by sociology. Additionally, it explores the importance of the subject and its scope. This essay, in brief, explains the essential place sociology holds in the functioning of society.

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What is Sociology? definitions, examples, images

Sociology, as the name implies, deals with different aspects of society. It is a relatively new discipline as compared to other social sciences. It deals with the structure and formation of society and how individual and collective decisions impact society. Sociology studies different patterns of society, its history and its evolution. In short, it focuses on understanding why humans behave in a certain way, how different functions of society impact them and how they act in their surrounding environment. In addition to studying a minuscule part of society, it can also look at a huge portion of society. At the individual level, sociology studies different aspects of an individual’s life like marriage, divorce, family and adoption. At the level of community, it is indulged in community practices to explore concepts like socialisation, social stratification, religion and conflict. It also helps to develop a social lens and perspective around global issues like racism, poverty, economic systems, labour markets, and politics.

This subject aims to study how individuals are influenced by their social surroundings and how it is evident in their behaviour, thoughts and action. The word Sociology was coined in the early 1930s by eminent Frenchman Auguste Comte and he described it as the scientific study of society. He is referred to as the “Father of Sociology”. He insisted that society needs decisive facts to solve its problems, which can be achieved through scientific study. Comte also believed that merely theories, assumptions or superstitions won’t work in the favour of society. Many noteworthy sociologists in the upcoming years redefined the path of sociology and taken it to great heights.

Herbert Spencer compared society with a living organism and highlighted how different organs of the society are keeping it alive and helping it function. He often referred it to as Social Darwinism and compared it to Darwin’s Theory of Survival of the Fittest. He explained it with the help of social inequality between the rich and the poor, the rich survive and keep getting rich whereas the poor and marginalised sections have to face the brunt.

Karl Marx, a German Philosopher noticed the stark difference between the two significant classes of society and the exploitation among them. He gave rise to conflict theories. He firmly believed that a society without inequality, exploitation, or conflict, where every individual irrespective of their social background is given an equal chance, will prosper.

Emile Durkheim described sociology as the study of social facts through social institutions. He was the first philosopher and sociologist actually to use scientific methods to understand social notions. Durkheim used statistics to understand the behaviour of individuals. He compiled theories on different forms of suicides and their reasons with the help of statistical data.

Max Weber, a German Sociologist annotated sociology as the study of social action. Weber stressed that sociologists need to study and observe different phenomena from the perspective of individuals in society and study them from the eyes of people rather than studying the events only.

Kingsley Davis says that sociology is a general science of society.  Park and Burgess define sociology as the study of collective behaviour.

Evolution of Sociology

  • It is believed by many that the roots of sociology lie in the questions asked by Ancient Greeks concerning human nature and human norms. Human nature is inane while norms are certain rules consciously and subconsciously generated by society, for society. Sociology was born from the questions raised by ancient Greek philosophers such as Aristotle, who described man as a social creature, and Plato and Socrates, who contributed to social philosophy. The interdisciplinary approach helped to lay the foundations of sociology.
  • General Study of Literary Remains, a seminal work by Chinese historian Ma Tuan-Lin in the 13th century, identified social dynamics as an underlying component of historical development. The study traced the evolution of Chinese state administration. It was in the next century that scholar Ibn Khaldun of Tunisia emerged, considered by some the world’s first sociologist. In Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History, Al-Khaldun offers insights into “the nature of things that are born of civilization” based on his observations of historical processes. These studies did give an insight into the development and evolution of civilization and society.
  • Sociology as a modern discipline was founded, however, in the 19th century through three major changes that changed the way people viewed society and sociology. The first one is the development of scientific and modern technology. It enabled social scientists to study and analyse society beyond morals and norms and evaluate and understand it with the help of science and statistics. It helped to develop a perspective around sociology, that social problem can be solved with the help of advancements in science and technology. The second event which boosted the significance of sociology was the emergence of democratic governments. The French and American revolutions and the formation of the People’s Republic of China brought an end to the age-old forms of Government based on Monarchy or God. It gave an insight into the structure of society and the capacity it holds for change. The third change had a drastic impact on the world. With the industrial revolution at its peak, new concepts like urbanisation, capitalist competition and individualism transformed society. On the other hand, poverty, class conflict, exploitation and crimes gave rise to social conflicts. People’s beliefs changed drastically. As a result, a new form of social culture emerged that was irrespective of class, creed, or religion. As people united for revolution and protested, they shared their needs and demands. A new kind of society was visible, which many sociologists later on presented with the help of their different perspectives and theories.
  • Even though this evolution didn’t happen by itself, it was a series of events and changes in society that led to the creation of a new field of study known as sociology.

What is Sociology 101?

Sociology aims at understanding human behaviour, the working of different societies, and the influence of various social institutions such as religion, culture, hierarchy, and power on individuals. Sociology 101 is a meticulously crafted sociology course that provides knowledge about the sociological study of society. A student will gain an understanding of various theories and tools used by researchers and sociologists to understand social phenomena. It will help one understand different social norms and phenomena such as social influence, which has a significant impact on decision-making for most people in society, especially when interacting with a group. Various institutes and colleges provide courses on Sociology 101 which one can take irrespective of their academic background.

Examples of Sociology in Everyday Life-

From marriage to divorce, child adoption to surrogacy, racism to gender inequality, and urbanism to deforestation, everything is absolutely and entirely linked to society and its impact on it. Sociologists believe that human decisions are based on multiple variables like the current trends, peer pressure, morals, beliefs, the environment in which they are brought up and their social interactions. Let’s see examples to understand the impact of sociology on day-to-day life.

  • Since childhood, various people enter our lives and they play different roles. A role of a parent is to tell you what is right or wrong until you could figure it out, a teacher teaches you how to be confident and plays a role in developing your skills. Friends, peers or classmates portray their role in developing your social, communication and interpersonal skills. Socialisation begins at a very young age and when we start interacting with different people, everyone directly or indirectly plays certain roles in our life which we call social roles. These roles, consciously or subconsciously, impact our behaviour, decisions and personality. A deeper study of the influence of these roles on an individual can be studied with the help of sociology.
  • Another example of the existence of sociology in daily life is one which everyone nowadays goes through. In the age of social media, a specific image or emoji or gif can mean anything. Misinterpretations like these happen frequently when people want to convey something but the receiver or listener interprets and understands something else. For instance, if one friend is joking about the other on their chat and that friend sends a smiling emoji, it can lead to many interpretations. One he was genuinely laughing or second, he might be angry and was suppressing it. The receiver might receive mixed signals because of this gesture. It is called symbolic interpretation in sociology. In a society, different gestures, behaviours, and events may mean different things. It leads to confusion, seldom violence. These events which happen to almost everyone, are a part of sociology.
  • We see social inequalities in our day-to-day lives. Some people have privileges while some have to struggle to make ends meet. These inequalities often give rise to conflicts or crimes in society. Social situations like these also give rise to human emotions like anger, frustration or desperation. The poor or vulnerable section might feel left out of society. The middle-class section might be envious of the privilege the higher-income class gets. A sociologist would indulge in studying various factors that are intertwined to get to the root cause of certain actions. All these emotions are visible to us in day-to-day life and there is a source behind all of them. Partiality at the workplace, inequality in pay scales with respect to gender or toxic work culture gives rise to conflicts. Here a human resource head would introspect all the factors and try to resolve the conflict. Every social issue has multiple reasons behind them and they need to be solved with the help of in-depth research and analysis of the problem.

Contributions – How it useful for Society

  • Society studies contribute to social policy formulation, which requires knowledge of society. Sociological descriptive research provides valuable information that can be used to make social policy decisions. Governments and multinational companies have been able to formulate policies, and schemes for the betterment of society with the help of sociology.
  • Sociology has contributed to various aspects of society. With the help of specialised courses on gender studies, environment, regulatory policies, and urban policies, individuals are being able to gain holistic knowledge of the topic and then indulge in creating an impact or bringing a change.
  • Sociology has made way for community organisation and development practices all around the world. It has equipped, NGOs, Social Workers and Non-Profits with knowledge, skills and compassion to work towards a social cause. Studying sociology helps them understand different dynamics of society and then act according to them. In turn, it has helped many people in need.
  • Sociology strives for the betterment and improvement of society. It analyses the problems within society and strives to find solutions for the smooth functioning of society. Every crime is equally inappropriate and wrong, but sociologists along with punishing the criminals also indulge in understanding the mindset behind such crimes. With the help of criminology, the motive behind the crime can be understood and prevented in future.
  • In Sociology, each member of an organization learns how cooperation helps them advance in life. A negative attitude towards others must be renounced by the association if they are to advance in their lives. There are plenty of ways and means for sociology to set everything in the right direction because of its broad subject matter.

Also Read: How to Apply this subject in Daily Life

Importance of this Discipline-

  • Sociology is the youngest of all the disciplines in social sciences. It is dynamic and ever-evolving. But still, within such a short period sociology has emerged as one of the most comprehensive disciplines since it addressed multiple facets of society.
  • Before the discovery of sociology, there was no single, scientific and systematic way to understand human behaviour and its complexities. This discipline has made it possible to even understand small factors that contribute to the growth of society.
  • Sociology is important to understand the nature and behaviour of an individual, especially in societies or communities. It is important to understand why individual acts or reacts the way he/she does. It gives us the reason behind every action and decision.
  • Sociology is also essential in understanding various institutions of our lives. Live-in relationships are becoming as prevalent as marriages nowadays. This subject gives us the gist of this shift and changes in people’s perspectives and the social structure of society.
  • It enlightens us with the fact that every small section of society is interlinked and can have an effect on one another. For instance, conflicts at the workplace or small quarrels at school might impact family time at home.
  • Sociology also enriches culture. In this world, there are multiple societies and even more diverse cultures. Culture is a way of life and sociology helps us to explore and respect how different cultures are co-existing together in a society, peacefully.
  • It helps to understand different past and current happenings in society. Racism prevalent worldwide can be studied with the help of sociology. What leads to the shunning of a specific community or religion can be understood with the help of this discipline
  • To solve social problems, it is imperative to study society. In the current world, there are numerous social problems of great magnitude, including poverty, religious discrimination, unemployment, overpopulation, racial problems, crime, addictions, and untouchability. To solve these problems, it is necessary to analyse them carefully, An analysis of this kind can be found in this subject, and also we can under reasons for social pathology
  • Sociology can applicable these subjects to economics, environment, climate change, urban studies, family, poverty, phones, love, etc

Also Read: What are Sociological Perspectives?

Scope and Careers in Sociology –

Sociology is one of the most unexplored careers, it has great potential which has to be utilised. Since it is a developing discipline, the career options and scope in sociology are increasing day by day. Students pursuing sociology majors can craft their future the way they want. It is a flexible subject and is required almost in every sector.

  • Social Worker– Helping people is not an easy task. It involves compassion to deal with sensitive topics. Sociology enthusiasts have the perfect skill set in them to interact and reach out to society. For those who want a career in the social sector, being a social worker opens door to numerous prospects. Learn more about – Social Work
  • Journalism – Sociologist who has a grasp over their writing and communications skills and want to bring to light the social issues prevalent have multiple opportunities in the journalism sector. Top news agencies are often looking for sociology graduates to help them curate articles on socially relevant topics.
  • Administrative support– Sociologists can also work with the Governments or schools and colleges to draft their policies or curriculum. Various issues that may arise during various stages of a programme can be assessed and handled effectively by someone who knows sociology.
  • Counsellor– People with sociological knowledge will find that the counselling sector has amazing prospects if they have compassion for people, great listening skills, and interpersonal skills. The field of family counselling or rehabilitation requires individuals with a broad understanding of social issues. As a result, sociology is the best discipline to study it.
  • Researcher -To formulate any policies or schemes, every institution or organization must conduct a thorough and intricate survey. Since sociologists are well-versed in field research and research methodologies, they can make excellent survey researchers. Their research and analysis skills enable them to find a conclusion after collecting and analysing data.
  • Human Resources-   Sociologists interact with a lot of people every day as part of their jobs. HR specialists analyse job roles, choose candidates who are suitable for a particular role, and conduct interviews to determine who will get the job. They have to indulge in conflict resolution and interact with the employees to understand their sentiments as well as solve their grievances. It might be worth a try for those interested in pursuing a career in the corporate sector.

Also Read: What are more jobs and career jobs for Sociology students

The understanding of society through the discipline of sociology provides a basis for interacting effectively with the myriad social phenomena that shape us throughout our lives. The multidimensional nature of sociology also provides individuals with versatile skills that are quite beneficial across a broad range of careers. Sociology develops critical thinking and expands career opportunities. There are endless possibilities in this sector that is ever-evolving, needed, and have infinite possibilities ahead of it

Read: What do Sociologists do?

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Isha Rane is a sociology graduate with a keen interest in research and analysis, focusing on areas such as Corporate Social Responsibility, Human Resources, and Public Policy. She is an avid reader, particularly enjoying books about the history and political scenario of India. Isha also likes to write about pressing issues and topics that require a voice in the conversation. Her career aspirations lie in the development sector. Additionally, she has a passionate interest in mythology and calligraphy.