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Society and Culture with Family Lesson No.

Planning and HIV/SARS Awareness
Lesson Title Overview of Sociology and its development as a discipline
Lesson Target Explain important events that led to the development of sociology
and the ideas of the proponents of sociology
Title Sociology in our times: The Essentials
Sociology: A brief Introduction
Sociology: The Core
The Basics of Sociology
Author Kendal, D. (2010) Page 18, 19
Schaefer, R. & Lamm, R. (1997) Number(s) 7, 8
Vander Zanden, J. (1999) 10-13
Stolley, Kathy S. (2005) 2-7

Understanding sociology

The history and origins of sociology

Sociology is rooted in the works of philosophers, including Plato (427–347 B.C.), Aristotle (384–
322 B.C.), and Confucius (551–479 B.C.). Some other early scholars also took perspectives that
were sociological. Chinese historian Ma Tuan-Lin developed, in the thirteenth century, a
sociological history by looking at the social factors influencing history in his general-knowledge
encyclopedia Wen Hsien T’ung K’ao (General Study of the Literary Remains). Ibn Khaldun (1332–
1406), profiled below, conducted studies of Arab society (Restivo 1991, 18–19).Enlightenment
thinkers also helped set the stage for the sociologists that would follow. The Enlightenment was
the first time in history that thinkers tried to provide general explanations of the social world.
They were able to detach themselves, at least in principle, from expounding some existing
ideology and to attempt to lay down general principles that explained social life” (Collins 1994,
17). Writers of this period included a range of well-known philosophers, such as John Locke;
David Hume; Voltaire (the pseudonym of Francois-Marie Arouet); Immanuel Kant; Charles-
Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brede et de Montesquieu; Thomas Hobbes; and Jean-Jacques
Rousseau.As Macionis (1995, 12) explains to introductory students, scholars have been
interested in the nature of society throughout history. They typically focused on what the ideal
society would be like. During the 1800s, however, scholars began studying how society actually
is and how social arrangements actually operate (how society “works”). Armed with this
knowledge, they felt they could better attack social problems and bring about social change
(Collins 1994, 42). These scholars became the first sociologists.

The term sociology was coined by French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798–1857), who
would become known as the “Father of Sociology.” He first publicly used the term in his
work Positive Philosophy (1896, orig. 1838; Abercrombie, Hill, and Turner 2000, 67).
Originally an engineering student, Comte became secretary and pupil to French social
philosopher Claude Henri de Rouvroy Comte de Saint-Simon (1760–1825).
Saint-Simon was an advocate for scientific and social reform. He advocated applying
scientific principles to learn how society is organized. Armed with this knowledge, he
believed he could ascertain how best to change, and govern, society to address social
problems such as poverty.
Comte saw history as divided into three intellectual stages. The first, or theological, stage
included the medieval period in which society was seen as reflecting the will of a deity.
The second, or metaphysical, stage arose during the Enlightenment and focused on forces
of “nature,” rather than God, to explain social events. Comte considered his own time
period the third stage, which he termed the positivistic, or scientific, stage.
During Comte’s lifetime, scientists were learning more about the laws that govern the
physical world. For example, in the area of physics, Sir Isaac Newton (1641–1727) had
developed the law of gravity. Advances were also being made in other natural sciences,
such as biology.
Comte felt that science could also be used to study the social world. Just as there are
testable facts regarding gravity and other natural laws, Comte thought that scientific
analyses could also discover the laws governing our social lives. It was in this context
that Comte introduced the concept of positivism to sociology—a way to understand the
social world based on scientific facts. He believed that, with this new understanding, people
could build a better future. He envisioned a process of social change in which
sociologists played crucial roles in guiding society.

Other events of that time period also influenced the development of sociology.
The nineteenth and twentieth centuries were times of many social upheavals and
changes in the social order that interested the early sociologists. As George Ritzer (1988,
6–12) notes, the political revolutions sweeping Europe during the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries led to a focus on social change and the establishment of social order
that still concerns sociologists today. Many early sociologists were also concerned with
the Industrial Revolution and rise of capitalism and socialism. Additionally, the growth
of cities and religious transformations were causing many changes in people’s lives.
These “early founders of sociology all had a vision of using sociology” (Turner 1998, 250).
Sharing Comte’s belief, many early sociologists came from other disciplines and made
significant efforts to call attention to social concerns and bring about social change.
In Europe, for example, economist and philosopher Karl Marx (1818–83) teamed with
wealthy industrialist Friedrich Engels (1820–95) to address class inequality. Writing
during the Industrial Revolution, when many factory owners were lavishly wealthy and
many factory workers despairingly poor, they attacked the rampant inequalities of the
day and focused on the role of capitalist economic structures in perpetuating these
In Germany, Max Weber (1864–1920) was active in politics. In France, Emile Durkheim
advocated for educational reforms.
In the United States, social worker and sociologist Jane Addams (1860–1935) became an
activist on behalf of poor immigrants. Addams established Chicago’s Hull House, a
settlement house that provided community services such as kindergarten and day care,
an employment bureau, and libraries. It also provided cultural activities, including an
art gallery, music and art classes, and America’s first Little Theater.
Louis Wirth (1897– 1952) built child-guidance clinics. He applied sociology to
understand how social influences impacted children’s behavioral problems and how
children could be helped by using this knowledge.
During World War II, sociologists worked to improve the lives of soldiers by studying
soldiers’ morale and attitudes as well as the effectiveness of training materials (Kallen,
Sociologists are also responsible for some of the now familiar aspects of our everyday
lives. Sociological perspectives are also the basis of many concepts and terms we use on
a daily basis. Lawyers plead “extenuating circumstances” on their clients’ behalf, an
acknowledgment of the sociological position that social forces influence human
behavior; to talk about “fighting the system” acknowledges that social structures exist
and influence our lives (Babbie 1996).
In recent years, efforts have been undertaken to reinvigorate the voices of the “lost”
sociologists. What we know about their lives and works shows some truly outstanding
For example, Comte’s Positive Philosophy (1896, orig. 1838) was translated into English by
Harriet Martineau (1802–76), who is profiled below. Comte was so pleased with the
results of her translation that he had her abridgment retranslated back into French.
Martineau was a prolific writer and bestselling author in her own right on a variety of
social issues. Her work earned her recognition as the first female sociologist and
“Mother of Sociology.”
Today, women and persons of color continue to make important contributions to the
discipline and beyond.

What is sociology?

Sociology is defined as the scientific study of social interaction and organization.

A systematic study of how society and human groups behave and how social
relationships affect people’s attitudes and behavior and how society is established and

What does sociology offer?

Sociology provides an understanding of social issues and patterns of behavior.

Sociology helps us understand the workings of the social systems within which we live
our lives.
Sociology helps us understand why we perceive the world the way we do.
Sociology helps us identify what we have in common within, and between, cultures and
Sociology helps us understand why and how society changes.
Sociology provides us theoretical perspectives within which to frame these
understandings and research methods that allow us to study social life scientifically

Development of sociology:
Prompted by industrial revolution
Production created demand for workers
Conflict emerged
Challenged the way of life of people
Political and social thinkers introduced alternatives to explain the problems

The way of life created a new system of economic and social arrangements which complicated
the problems. Thus, according to Vander Zanden (1999) stipulates that the excesses of the
industrial system led some thinkers like Marx to scrutinize (to look) the operation of social and
economic institutions and to propose alternative to them. Other thinkers also developed a
perspective (idea or concept) to explain the situation.

Proponents of sociology

Auguste Comte

Coined the term “sociology”, founder of sociology

Social statics - involves those aspects of social life that have to do with order and
stability and that allow societies to hold together and endure.
Social dynamics refers to those aspects of social life that have to do with social change
and that pattern institutional development.

Abu Zaid Abdal Rahman Ibn Khaldun

Abu Zaid Abdal Rahman Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406) was a historian, philosopher, and
founder of Arab social science.
He wrote a lengthy history of world that laid groundwork for sociology.
In seven volumes, he covered the history of Arabs and Berbers, the nature of civilization,
and the meaning of historical events (Baali 1988).
He advocated empirical research and has been called an excellent deductive sociologist
who was“more positivistic than Durkheim” (Gellner 1975, 203).
After the attacks on New York and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, interest in Ibn
Khaldun’s work and his analysis of civilizations was revived (e.g.,Ahmed 2002). Today,
the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development (ICDS), an independent applied-social-science
research institution in Egypt that applies social science perspectives to serve Egypt and
Arab development, bears his name.

Harriet Martineau

She examined religion, politics, child-rearing and immigration

Gave attention to status distinctions, gender and race
Also considered the impact of economy, law, trade, and population on social problems
of contemporary society
Ardent defender of women’s rights
Compared the similarities of position of women in the western world and that of
American slaves
Introduced feminist sociological perspective in issues such as marriage, children,
domestic life, religious and race relations

Herbert Spencer

Coined the term “survival of the fittest” a philosophy came to be known (Social
Darwinism) – this philosophy explains individual’s success by attributing it to their
inherent capability
Depicted society as system made up of interrelated parts
He argued that it is natural that some people are poor and some are rich
For Spencer, societies are bound to change whether we do something or not

Example of Social Darwinism

For example, a social Darwinist might say that students who excel in academics have
the inherent capacity to perform well in class. Their success is due to their qualities.

Emile Durkheim

The collective consciousness is binds individuals together and creates social integration
Social integration is necessary for the maintenance of the social order and for the
happiness of individuals.
Mechanical solidarity – a solidarity found in early societies wherein the social structure
is simple with little division of labor thus, people have a sense of oneness because they
were so much alike.
(For example, tribal societies like Afghanistan, some parts in Pakistan, India and
African countries, in the Philippines we have the aetas, tasadays , and mangyans)
Organic solidarity - society is held together by the interdependence fostered by the
differences among people.
(For example, advanced societies in the world like the US, Japan, South Korea)
Behavior of individuals can be understood within a larger social context
For Durkheim, norms, beliefs, and values make up a collective consciousness – a shared
way of understanding and behaving in the society.
(For example, the Americans’ collective consciousness is their love for freedom and
democracy. That love is what moves them together in situations where freedom is

Max Weber

To understand behavior, we must learn the subjective meanings people attach to their
actions- how they themselves view and explain their behavior (Schaefer & Lamm, 1997).
He was credited for introducing the idea of “ideal type” a model that serves as a
measuring rod against which actual cases can be evaluated.
The idea of ideal type was used to measure how bureaucratic an actual organization is.
The ideal type was also used to study family, religion, authority, and economic systems
and the analysis of bureaucracy.

Karl Marx

Society is divided into those who own the means of producing wealth, and those who
do not, which gives rise to class conflict.
All history, he said is composed of struggles between classes
(for example, struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed) The 1898 revolution
in the Philippines was a struggle of two classes; the Spaniards were the oppressors
while the Filipinos were the oppressed. The revolution represented a struggle of two
opposite classes.
Development depends on the clash of contradictions and the creation of new, more
advanced structures out of these clashes
Marx emphasized the group identifications and associations that influence an
individual’s place in society. Thus, membership in a particular group such as age group,
racial group, or economic class affects a person’s attitudes and behavior.
Class conflict is driven by the desire to control the means of production which is the
driving force of social evolution
In Marx’s dialectic, the class conflict gives rise to a new stage which will lead to a new
development (for example, feudalism leads to capitalism)

Another example of class conflict

In the Philippines, class conflict is always part of every day’s headlines. The
demonstrations staged by groups of jeepney drivers and operators opposed to the
oil price hike are examples of class conflict. The owners of oil companies are rich
while jeepney drivers are poor.

Charles Horton Cooley

Cooley preferred use sociological perspective to look to smaller units such as families,
gangs, and friendship networks because they shape people’s ideals, beliefs, values, and
social nature.
Introduced the concept of the looking glass self – the idea that your perception of
yourself is influenced by what other people’s perceptions of you.

C. Wright Mills

Introduced the idea of sociological imagination – an awareness of the relationship of

individual and the wider society.
Sociological imagination gives you an idea to see personal troubles as public issue/s
Robert Merton

Produced a theory used to explain deviant behavior

For Merton, individual behavior is influenced by society’s approved goals and means
Manifest function – are open, stated, conscious functions which involves the intended,
recognized consequences of an aspect of society
Latent functions – are not seen or unintentional/unplanned functions and may reflect
hidden purposes of an institution.

Talcott Parsons

Parsons views society as a vast network of interrelated/connected parts each contributes

to the maintenance of the system (Schaefer & Lamm, 1997).

George Herbert Mead

Considered as the founder of interactionist perspective

Mead was interested in the symbolism that human gestures represent such as smiles,
frowns, nodding of one’s head