MAJOR CONCERNS OF SOCIOLOGY
Sociology seeks to study society and to analyze it in terms of the social relations that have a pattern. Sociology addresses itself to three basic questions:
- How and why do societies emerge?
- how and why do societies persist? and
- how and why do societies change?
Sociology has been concerned with the evolution of society. It has tried to analyze the factors and forces underlying the historical transformations of society. For example, societies have evolved from primitive tribal states to rural communities. How villages have become important centers of commercial activity or of art and culture and grown into towns and cities.
Sociology has also been concerned with the units of social life. The attempt has been to look at various types of groups, communities, associations, and societies. The effort has been to study the pattern of social relationships in these units. An important area that sociology deals with is social institutions. The institutions provide a structure for the society and perform functions, which enable the society to meet its needs. In any society, there are five basic social institutions; family, political institutions, economic institutions, religious institutions, and educational institutions. However, in more complex societies there may be many other institutions such as bureaucracy, military organizations, welfare, and recreational organizations, etc.
Another area of study and analysis by sociologists is social processes. In one sense, the social institutions provide stability and order whereas social processes are the dynamic aspects of social relations. Among the various processes that will be dealt with in the latter units are socialization, social control, cooperation, conflict, social deviation, and social change.
Concept of Culture
‘Culture’ is another very important concept. As mentioned earlier, we are immersed in culture from birth onwards, we take culture for granted. It is difficult to imagine what life would be like without culture. Culture provides a summing up of past experiences, which are the necessary foundation for living in the present. Culture is learned and shared among members of the group. Culture in a sense, can seem to be the chief means of survival and adaptation.
On each of the topics mentioned, which are concerns of sociology, there will be units that will deal in much greater detail. Society is dynamic and is changing, consequently, the areas of interest of sociologists are increasing. Today, there is the sociology of knowledge, the sociology of science and art, the sociology of health, the sociology of development, etc. This indicates the expanding nature of sociology.
Sociology and Science
At times, Sociology has been defined as the science of society. This raises the question as to what science is. Some have thought of science as an approach whereas others have thought about it in terms of the subject matter. Simply stated, we might say that the scientific approach consists of certain assumptions that the phenomena studied have a regularity and hence, a pattern. The method emphasizes observation and verification of social phenomena. This involves a systematic approach to the study of phenomena.
The systematic approach consists of:
- defining a problem for study;
- collecting data on the problem defined;
- analyzing and organizing the data; which would help in the formulation of a hypothesis; and
- further testing of the hypothesis and on the basis of this, develop new concepts and theories.
Sociology has been using a systematic approach in the study of social life. On the basis of the knowledge gathered through the systematic approach, it has tried to build a body of reliable knowledge. From this knowledge, it has tried to establish the patterns of relationships from which effort can be made to understand social behavior.
If we look at sociology from the point of view of its approach to the study of society, then sociology can be considered to be a science.
Sociology is the scientific study of human social behavior and the influence of society on this behavior. Sociology has many major concerns, but some of the most common ones are:
- How and why does society emerge, persist, and change?
Sociology seeks to explain the origins, development, structure, and function of various social institutions and processes that shape human societies. Sociology also examines the causes and consequences of social change, such as industrialization, urbanization, globalization, social movements, revolutions, etc.
- How do individuals and groups interact within and across societies?
Sociology analyzes the patterns of social interaction and communication among individuals and groups, such as families, friends, communities, organizations, cultures, etc. Sociology also explores the factors that affect social interaction, such as norms, values, roles, statuses, power, authority, etc.
- How do social structures and cultures affect human behavior and outcomes?
Sociology investigates the impact of social structures and cultures on human behavior and outcomes, such as crime, deviance, education, health, religion, politics, economy, etc. Sociology also studies how human behavior and outcomes influence social structures and cultures in return.