Sociology: Meaning, Definitions, and Nature6 min read


Sociology primarily deals human relation and their interactions, particularly the relationship between individual to individual, individual to society, society to society, individual to the world and society to the state. Sociology in fact deals about social institutions.  The major key issues for the sociological studies are social order, power and social control, inequality and social stratification-and laid down the foundations of sociology as a scientific discipline (Slattery, 2003).

Each individual has close ties with society since birth to death and they have close interaction in the different places, mainly in school, workplace, rituals, festivals, parties, business companies, playgrounds, families and political parties. The word sociology derives from the Latin word “Socius” and Greek “logos”- Socius indicate “companion” and “logus indicate “study of”. In fact, it is a science which explains about companionship (Abercrombie, Hill & Turner, 2000). It urges that scientific study of persons in actual association, and with their actual process of association at the centre of observation… (Small, 1908).

Sociology deals about social relation, social behavior, social interaction, social movements and social institutions. The term sociology first used by August Comte in 1839 in his book “Positive Philosophy”. Likewise, sociologists study human society and their behavior scientifically. Sociologists would see families, tribes, communities and governments as well as great varieties of social, religious, political, business and other organizations. Sociology is a science which employed specific methods for the knowledge exploration.  

Peter Berger (1963) describes the role of sociologists in his book “Invitation to sociology” as someone who is intensively, endlessly, shamelessly in the doing of human. Sociologist takes the society as their “living laboratory” where they would see the varieties of human behavior. More specifically, they explore the origin, development, organization and activities of human being in detail.

Kathy S. Stolley’s approach to Sociology

  1. It helps to understand the social issue and human behavior. It supports to understand the social rules, norms and values and how these things are created, design and implemented by the individual and group of people in their day-to-day life.
  2. Sociology helps us identify what we have in common within, between, cultures and societies. There is different culture, art, languages, beliefs, norms and values; however, there would be a common concern. Sociologists can help the group find common concern, understand other groups, perspectives and find ways to work together rather than work odds with each other.
  3. Sociology helps us understand why and how societies have been changing over time.
  4. Sociology provides us theoretical perspectives within which to frame this understanding and research method that allows us to study social life sciences.

Definitions of Sociology

  1. Sociology is the study of human social life, groups and societies. It is a dazzling and competing enterprise, having matter our own behavior as social being. (Anthony Gidden, 1989)
  2. Science of social phenomena subject to natural invariable laws, the discovery of which is the object of investigation. (August Comte, nd)
  3. The science which attempts to interpretative understanding of social action in order thereby to arrive at a causal explanation of its course and effects. (Max Weber, nd)

Sociology as Science

Sociology is the science which employs the scientific procedure to test and retest the sociological variable to verify the knowledge. The social phenomena could be organized, analysed through the specific methods. Horton and Hunt (2014) states that “sociology is a science to the extent that it develops a body of organized and verified knowledge which is based on scientific investigation”. Sociology applies the scientific methods to see the relationship between the individuals and sociologists tends to employ the systematic process of observation and classified the social phenomena as per the nature of the social world.

Sociologists’ investigation based on the anecdotal evidences and empirical facts, which mainly investigate the myths, folklore, legends and poverty. Their way of exploration is unlike the natural scientists. Their exploration of knowledge is backed by certain theories. Sociological investigation primarily focuses on a group of human being and their behaviour and their research depend on inanimate objects through the implication of different tools and techniques such as questionnaires, interviews, observation and case studies. Sociologists’ explanation mainly divided into two camps idealists and materialists. The idealists claim that everything is created by god, whereas materialists interpret as per material facts; ideas and mind are products of the brain.

In sociology there are mainly two approaches to see the world: Positivistic approach and interpretative approach. The positivists argued that the laws of human behaviour are similar to laws of natural world positivists are Marx, Engle and August Comte. They employed the similar kind of methodology as Natural scientist follows and see the social world as physicist, chemist and biologists. Interpretativist mainly emphasize upon the actions and behavior of human being. Interpretivist see the ideas, thoughts and mind as mere social and mental construct, we cannot fully understand the world because we take our own individual view points to what is happening.

Nature of Sociology   

There are some special natures of sociology as other social science. It has some scientific characters and unique methods to study. Robert Bierstedt had mentioned about the nature of sociology as in the following points in his book “The Social Order”.

  1. Sociology is an Independent: Sociology is not taken as branch of other social sciences or philosophy because it has its own methods and techniques to look at the society.
  2. Sociology is a science not physical science: It is social science it studies, social phenomena which mainly focuses on social behavior, social activities, family business, social institutions and individual role in day-to-day activities.
  3. Sociology is a categorical not a normative discipline: Sociology confines itself to statements about what is, not what should be or ought to be. It does not have any kind of value judgment and largely neutral subject.
  4. Sociology is a pure science not an applied science: The applied science often use in the day-to-day life or put into use, pure science only tends to works towards the acqution of knowledge. It gives the knowledge on human society. Its knowledge may or may not useful in day to day life. They have wide varieties field for the knowledge application such as administration, diplomacy, social work. Sociology is a pure science because it aims at acquisition of human society, but not the utilization of the knowledge.
  5. Sociology is an abstract not concrete science: Sociology is not interested on concrete manifestation on human events rather it believe on forms of human events and patterns. Its study does not limit particular society, war, revolution and organizations.
  6. Sociology is generalized and not a particularizing or individualizing science: The sociological explanation mainly generalizes the knowledge on the basis of particular events or there is specialization. Its generalization process largely depends on some selected events not study all the activities.
  7. Sociology is a general social science, not a special social science: It is a general social science which depends on the human interactions and activities. It only studies human behavior and their interaction in general way. Sociologists do not investigate special kinds of phenomena in relation to human life and their everyday activities.
  8. Sociology is both rational and empirical science: Sociological studies based on observation and experiments which gives the concrete result, so that we explain that it’s an empirical science. Sociology is based on reasoning and theories which gives the logical inference to visualize the world.
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