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Since ancient times, people have been fascinated by the relationship between individuals and the societies to which they belong. Many of the topics that are central to modern sociological scholarship were studied by ancient philosophers. Many of these earlier thinkers were motivated by their desire to describe an ideal society. What has sociology got to do with our life? Let us say are we influence by what we see on television? Do you use the Internet? Did you vote in the last election? Are you familiar with binge drinking on campus? Do you use alternative medicine? These are just a few of the everyday life situations told to our self. Thus we use sociology to investigate why thousands of jobs have moved from the United States to developing nations, what social forces promote prejudice, what leads someone to join a social movement and work for social change, how access to computer technology can reduce social inequality, and why relationship between men and women in Seattle differ from those in Singapore. Sociology is, very simple, the systematic study of social behavior and human groups. It focuses on social relationships, how these relationships influence peoples behavior, and how societies, the sum total of these relationships, develop and change. Sociology is one attempt to understand the human being. It centers on our social life. It does not focus on the individuals personality as the cause of behavior, but examines social interaction, social patterns (for example, roles, class, culture, power, conflict), and ongoing socialization. For example, sociologists examine the rules that develop as people interact, the expectations that arise among them, and the truths they come to share. Sociologists see the significance of the student role, being middle class, and being a man or a woman in modern American society. We notice how actors change as they shift groups or organizations, influenced by the inevitable socialization (attempts by people in the organization to form them) that comes with joining. Sociology begins with the idea, then, that humans are to be understood in the context of their social life, that we are social animals influenced by interaction, social patterns, and socialization. Sociology is really a late arrival to the academic community and is one of the youngest sciences. Most sociologists find it convenient to place sociologys origins in the early nineteenth century with the work of French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798-1857), the first to use the term sociology and who defined sociology as the science of sociology. Like all perspectives, the development of sociology was linked to social conditions. After all, perspectives are ways of defining what is out there, and not all societies encourage their members to examine society objectively and carefully. Nineteenth-century Europe, however, was ripe for self-analysis. Several developments came together to bring about the right climate for the questioning spirit to grow and flourish.


Sociology was defined by Comte as the science of society, and it was indeed the development of science that was an important inspiration for early sociologists. Sociology grew out of a desire by some intellectuals too apply the techniques of science to the study of society. Before sociologists there were social philosophers, historians, political scientists, economists, and religious thinkers who looked at society or aspects of it. Most of
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these intellectuals examined the political world primarily, and the majority of their efforts were a mixture of understanding human society and searching for what human society should be. Often, objective investigation was not the goal. Sociologists, however, took the advice of the Enlightenment thinkers of the eighteenth century: we can understand the laws of human society through applying the tools of science. From its start, sociology borrowed from the natural sciences he tools that were being used to fashion new discoveries about the stars, the earth, and the human body. The universe is comprised of natural laws: so, too, society must be governed by such laws, and sociology would discover these laws by applying scientific procedures. Its purpose would be to describe what society is, not primarily to say what it should be.


Not only was sociology born in a time of science, but also in a time when industrialization and urbanization were transforming the very basis of society. Some of the early sociologists saw industrialization as they saw science: a means by which the problems that plagued humanity would be banished. Poverty, disease, famine, even war would be ended. Other sociologists, such as Karl Marx, reacted to the extremes, of inequality and poverty that the industrial Revolution telescoped; still others, such as Durkheim and Weber, saw basic changes in the old ways of society occurring changes such as the declining important of traditional religion and the growing bureaucratic organization of society. In a real sense, sociology in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was an attempt by a number of thoughtful people to understand and clarify these profound changes.


The French Revolution exerted a powerful force on the development of sociology. The French Revolution was an unequaled social upheaval that began in 1789 and continued through the Napoleonic Wars ending in 1815, transforming the society of France and influencing all Europe and North America as well. The Intellectual community inherited that revolution-its ideals, its excesses, and the questions it posed. The debate of nineteenth-century Europe is still with us and has influenced the beginning of sociology: why do revolutions occur? What do they accomplish? How is order maintained in society and problems solved? How can a society deal with the excesses of inequality of power and privilege? Sociology grew out of the twin concerns of inequality and order that the French Revolution inspired. Some early sociologists feared change; some welcomed it. Some wondered about the effects of declining tradition; some were amazed at how well the old held on. Some feared disorder; some hated inequality. All, however, were influenced by the memory of the French Revolution.

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The new interest in society was also encouraged by the march of empire the colonization of non-Western societies that followed centuries of discovery and exploration. As people learn about other societies, they may be thankful we dont live like that, or they may come to see new alternative of living never imagined: they may see opportunities to save those who are less fortunate, or they may decide that other people are inferior and incapable of profiting from the benefits of civilization. In any case, thinking people are encouraged to examine their own societies from a new angle, are forced to compare, contrast, and seek answers to new questions about the nature of society in general. European intellectuals began this kind of examination when other lands were first discovered, but it began in earnest as other societies became laboratories, places to explore rather than just to conquer. Out of this development, too, sociology was born out of an interest in society spurred b y the realization that things dont have to be this way; after all, look at the way other live. Various factors paved the way for emergence of sociology. We will focus briefly on a few of the most important social conditions of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, conditions that were of the utmost significance in the development of sociology.


Along with the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution, science, and the exploration of new lands, something else happened to encourage the development of sociology. European society was increasingly open to new ideas. This was a trend that went back a long time, but in a way, the nineteenth century was ready for sociology, ready for more critical, objective approach to society. Not all societies encourage scholars to investigate social issues objectively. The preference is too often praising society not studying it; listing its virtues rather than trying to discover its problems. The freedom that accompanied the great revolutions of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries encouraged the development of all the social sciences. Thus Sociologys time had come.

The political revolution path the way for theorizing sociology by French Revolution in 1789 and carrying over through the nineteenth century was the most important factor. The impact of these revolutions on many societies was enormous, and many positive changes resulted. However, what attracted the attention of many early theorists was not the positive consequences, but the negative effects f such changes. These writers were particularly disturbed by the resulting chaos and disorder, especially in France. They were united in a desire to restore order to society. Some of the more extreme thinkers of this period literally wanted a return to the peaceful and relatively orderly days of the Middle Ages. The more sophisticated thinkers recognized that social change had made such a return impossible. Thus they sought instead to find new bases of order in societies that had been overturned by the political revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This interest in the
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issue of social order was one of the major concerns of classical sociological theorists, especially Comte and Durkheim.


Political revolution was also at least as important in the shaping of sociological theory was the Industrial Revolution, which swept through many Western societies, mainly in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Industrial Revolution was not a single event but many interrelated developments that culminated in the transformation of the Western world from a largely agricultural to an overwhelmingly industrial system. Large numbers of people left farms and agricultural work for the industrial occupations offered in the burgeoning factories. The factories themselves were transformed by a long series of technological improvements. Large economic bureaucracies arose to provide the many services needed by industry and the emerging capitalist economic system. In this economy, the ideal was a free marketplace where the many products of an industrial system could be exchanged. Within this system, a few profited greatly while the majority worked long hours for low wages. A reaction against the industrial system and against capitalism in general followed and led to the labor movements as well as to various radical movements aimed at overthrowing the capitalist system. The Industrial Revolution, capitalism, and the reaction against them all involved an enormous upheaval in Western society, an upheaval that affected sociologists greatly. Four major figures in the early history of sociological theory Karl Marx, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, and George Simmel were preoccupied, as were many lesser thinkers, with these changes and the problems they created for society as a whole they spent their lives studying these problems, and in many cases they endeavored to develop programs that would help solve them.

Partly as a result of the Industrial Revolution, large numbers of people in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were uprooted from their rural homes and moved to urban settings. This massive migration was caused, in large part, by the jobs created by the industrial system in the urban areas. But it presented many difficulties for those people who had to adjust to urban life. In addition, the expansion of the cities produced a seemingly endless list of urban problems overcrowding, pollution, noise, traffic, and so forth. The nature of urban life and its problems attracted the attention of many early sociologists, especially Max Weber and George Simmel. In fact, the first major school of American sociological, the Chicago school, was in large part defined by its concern for the city and its interest in using Chicago as a laboratory in which to study urbanization and its problems.

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Social changes brought on by political revolutions, the Industrial Revolution, and urbanization had a profound effect on religiosity. Many early sociologists came from religious backgrounds and were actively, and in some cases professionally involved in religion. They brought to sociology the same objectives as they had in their religious lives. They wished to improved peoples lives. For some (such as Comte), sociology was transformed into a religion. For others, their sociological theories bore an unmistakable religious imprint. Durkheim wrote one of his major works on religion. A large portion of Webers work also was devoted to the religions of the world. Marx, too, had an interest in religiosity, but his orientation was far more critical.


As Sociological theory was being developed, there was an increasing emphasis on science, not only in colleges and universities but in society as a whole. The technological products of science were permeating every sector of life, and science was acquiring enormous prestige. Those associated with the most successful sciences (physics, biology, and chemistry) were accorded honored places in society. Sociologists (especially Comte and Durkheim) from the beginning were preoccupied with science, and many wanted to model sociology after the successful physical and biological sciences. However, a debate soon developed between those who wholehearted accepted the scientific model and those (such as Weber) who thought that distinctive characteristics of social life made wholesale adoption of a scientific model difficult and unwise. The issue of the relationship between sociology and science is debated to this day, although even a glance at the major journals in the field indicates the predominance of those who favor sociology as a science.


Montesquieu, Saint-Simon, Comte, and many others were the real beginners of sociology. However, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, four European thinkers were especially important to the discipline; together, they could be called the classical sociologists. They are Karl Marx, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, and George Simmel. They exert a powerful influence to the present day: they are models for us, they inspire our ideas and studies, and their definitions of concepts are the places at which we still begin. By 1920, all the four men had died, but together they left a strong sociological tradition in European Universities. Between 1900 and 1920, sociologists increasingly put reform aside to gain respectability in the university and scientific communities. They worked to have sociology become a legitimate social science in major universities, especially in the Midwestern and eastern United States. After 1920, American sociology entered a period of major work in both scientific theory and scientific research. An attempt to build a discipline of specialization accumulated scientific studies, ideas that had good evidence to back them up. At this time, an important school (or perspective) in sociology known as functionalism developed in the United States. Until the 1960s, functionalism was very influential, but since then its influence has declined. People in this school have concerned themselves with the same issues as Durkheim issues that focus on the problem of social order. Functionalists want to know how society works, how order is established, how the various parts of society family, education, religion, law and so on function in society. There is an
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emphasis here on institutions, societys patterns, social organization, and social order. It is macrosociology. Functionalism contributed much to the study of social organization in the United States but has become progressively less important in the past thirty years. Since the early 1960s, sociology has veered in several directions. First, in the United States, the scientific community has become increasingly specialized, building on the research studies of previous decades. New ideas and empirical studies have divided the discipline into distinct fields: family sociology, sex roles, religion, health, bureaucracy, deviance, the military, government, social mobility and so on. This is a predictable direction for any science, and there is every reason to believe that it will continue. Second, conflict sociology has emerged, concerned less with science and more with social issues, especially those related to inequality: class, poverty, sexism racism, corporate power, white-collar crime, and social conflict. Karl Marx, a nineteenth-century German thinker, and C. Wright Mills, a mid-twentieth century American sociologist, are most influential in the development of this school. At first, this school was called radical sociology but by the 1980s, it had clearly become a leading perspective in the discipline, had become broader in scope, and was associated with many who are less radical. Like the functionalist, the conflict sociologist trends to be a macrosociologist. Conflict sociology is sometimes called critical sociology. It asks serious questions about society and the direction of sociology-our loyalty to science, for example, our claim to objectivity, and our refusal to work for change. This conflict sociology has put forward a number of exciting ideas and studies and has become a vital alternative to the scientific specialists and functionalists. Conflict sociology tends to be macrosociology, and focuses on the nature of society. The scientific specialists focus on societal institution, often at the macro level, sometimes at the micro level. Interestingly, the late1970s and the early 1980s have seen the emergence of yet a third trend: an increasing interest in microsociology face-to-face interaction, socialization, communication, the creation and maintenance of social patterns in small groups, presentation of self to others in situations, language, identity, roles, and so on. A number of schools have taken a microsociological approach. Historically, the most important of these approaches is called symbolic interactionism, but increasingly important are the ethnomethodologists, dramaturgical sociologists, and phenomenologists. Grouping these together, we might call this a school interactionism. Specialization, conflict sociology, and interactionism are three important trends in the discipline of sociology in the United States. Other direction also seem to be driving the discipline for example, more emphasis on understanding gender inequality, more concern about the future of modern and postmodern-life, more attempts to understand human beings by relying less on quantitative science, and greater use of techniques such as interviewing, observation in real-life situations, analyzing and comparing various societies, and using written content from historical and contemporary societies. Throughout its history, sociology has been filled with people who honestly and seriously disagree with one another about many basic issues and about the direction in which we should go. We still disagree about the nature of good science and the meaning of society. We still disagree about what sociology should focus on and what concepts are the most useful for studying society. We disagree about the meaning and extent of inequality in society, the reasons for social change, the degree to which human beings are free within society, and which social problems are the most serious. Some are champions of Marx, others consider Max Weber to be the model sociologist. Other regard Emile Durkheim, George Herbert Mead, or Erving Goffman to be the most useful today, and still others are excited about some contemporary European thinkers who are beginning to create a real niche for themselves. There are many
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sociologists who are not interested in any big ideas, but are more concerned with testing c oncrete ideas in carefully done empirical studies. The excitement of sociology is that it is so alive with controversy and self-criticism. Ideas and studies are not taken for granted because there are so many of us lying in wait to criticize. As in all science, disagreement and criticism are necessary to ensure that accumulated knowledge is accurate.

Sociology is being misunderstood by the common man or lay men because they do not understand the meaning of society and therefore its being important to understand what we do, are, and think. It is easier and more concrete to understand human being from a biological or psychological perspective. Many people are not willing to accept a scientific study of social life, often because they do not understand science, and sometimes because they do not think we can generalize about human life. To sociologists, however, it is very important to understand the human being carefully and objectively, using scientific principles wherever possible. Nothing is as fascinating as understanding why human beings act as they do and nothing is as important. Sociology, then, is an academic discipline that began in the nineteenth century. It is one perspective on the human being, and its focus is on our social life, interaction, social patterns, and socialization. Sociologists are interested in the nature of the human being, social order, and social inequality. They examine society, social organization, institutions, interaction, and social problems. Sociology is a scientific discipline. Like other sciences, it tries to be objective in how it studies the universe, it seeks to understand cause, it requires empirical evidence, it is an attempt to generalize, and it consists of a community of scholars who criticize and build on each others work. Sociology began with the work of Auguste Comte, and it was inspired by the development of science, industrialization, the French Revolution, exposure to other societies, and a climate favorable to new ideas. The most important sociologists were Marx, Weber, Durheim, and Simmel. In the United States, sociology has gone in four different directions: functionalism, scientific specialization, conflict sociology, and interactionism or microsociology. Sociology is filled with disagreement and debate, but this is what makes it alive and exciting.

Charon, Joel M., The meaning of Sociology / Joel M. Charon. - - 6th editions: Printed in the United States of America. ISBN 0-13-798042-6 Ritzer, George, Sociological Theory / George Ritzer. 5th editions: printed in Singapore. ISBN 0-07229605-4 Schaefer, Richard T. Sociology / Richard T. Schaefer. 9th ed., The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., ISBN 0-07-288692-7 (student edition) ISBN 0-07-294173-1

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