What is sociology? Explained

What is sociology? Explained


  1. Introduction
  2. Concept of Society and Culture
  3. Emergence of Sociology
  4. Social Groups
  5. Kinds of Social Group


Compared to other social sciences such as economics and political science, sociology is a young discipline. You could say it dates back about one hundred and fifty years, but in the last fifty or sixty years the subject has developed more rapidly. This is partly due to a desire, particularly after World War II, to better understand people's behavior in social situations. All social science topics deal with human behavior, but each examines different aspects. However, sociology deals with social relations in general and social groups and institutions in particular.

Concept of Society and Culture

Society has been defined as a relatively self-contained, usually large, group of people who interact directly or indirectly through a culture. Culture is generally understood as the shared language, beliefs, goals, artifacts and experiences that together form a single pattern. In other words, culture is a society's way of life (Stebbins, Robert A. 1987; p-172)

Emergence of Sociology

In the 19th century, sociology emerged in Europe as an independent social science whose object was the study of society. Auguste Comte, Spencer, and Emile Durkheim, among several other social thinkers, sought to establish the idea of ​​society as a unique subject in itself. They studied society as a whole - it is greater than the sum of its parts. Society is more than the actions, thoughts, values, beliefs and desires of its individual members. It is a complex and abstract reality; yet all people live in one society. 

A sociologist is interested in the general study of social behavior as it occurs in groups, large or small, with particular emphasis on understanding social life in today's world. The word "general" was used because other social science disciplines deal with more specific areas. For example, a political scientist studies the functions and activities of government, and an economist studies the production and distribution of goods. However, it is difficult to draw a precise limit of the difference. Social psychology, social anthropology, political science and economics all have, in some sense, human social life as their general subject. Because sociology is a relatively young discipline compared to the disciplines of philosophy, economics, and political science, it is sometimes confused with social work. Sociology is used in the discipline of social work to analyze and understand social problems. Social work deals with the upliftment of those who are socially disadvantaged, physically disabled, etc. Sociology is not concerned with the reform of society as such, nor is it directly involved in social planning or direct change. Sociological understanding and research can help to plan better and find ways and means to adopt best practices, in formulating development policies and programmes. It is generally accepted that sociologists do not intervene in social processes. They are supposed to be value-neutral, which means they are supposed to have no bias or bias in analyzing social behavior. Currently, however, some question this and believe that sociologists should play an active role in the development process.

We have defined sociology as the study of social life and group interaction and social behavior. To understand social life, sociology is interested in the study of the organization and functioning of societies or social groups.

Social Groups

Just as every human being is born into a society, social life everywhere is lived in groups, large or small. The term "group" is used in different ways. There could be a group watching a game in progress, there could be a group of people crossing a street. Sociology looks at the group differently. It has already been understood that the fundamental concern of sociology is human social behavior. This leads to an investigation into how people relate or interact with each other. The social group should therefore have:
  • i) a group of people (two or more);
  • ii) an interaction pattern (that is, there is a regularity in social relationships, based on shared beliefs, values ​​and norms); and
  • iii) the interaction lasts for a certain amount of time.

Groups are formed to satisfy certain human needs. A basic need is survival and a family, which is an example of a group, allows us to satisfy this need. As an individual it is not possible to meet all needs. Needs are met by groups. We get a lot of satisfaction from living in a group and so being part of the group becomes important. The cohesion of a group depends on the frequency of interactions and the emotional bond.

Kinds of Social Group

The classification of social groups into two broad types is based on the degree of attachment an individual would have with a group. The main classifications are (i) primary groups and (ii) secondary groups.

  • i) A core group has been defined as a group in which members have very close or intimate relationships and emotional involvement. It has also been defined as primary because it is this group that is primarily responsible for promoting the social ideas of the individual. From the description above, we can proceed to a very precise definition. The personality of an individual is involved in a primary group. The best example of the primary group is the family. By trying to analyze its behavior within the family and the functions that the family performs for each individual member, one can understand the importance of a primary group in the formation of members' ideas, beliefs and norms. Primary groups (family, playgroups, community, etc.) also act as a link between the individual and society in general.
  • ii) Unlike the primary group, there are secondary groups. In the secondary group, members interact with each other in a very specific range of activities. The relationships in the secondary group are looser, more impersonal and more determined. A large number of university students are a secondary group because they interact as students. People who work in a factory are also an example of a secondary group because they are related to each other as workers. You can see for yourself how much family and work relationships differ. From there you will be able to tell the difference between primary and secondary groups. Understanding the nature of groups and their functions is very important for understanding social behavior.

Further Readings

  • Mc. Kee, James B., 1981. Sociology : The Stu& of Society. Holt, Rinehart and Winston: New York. Nature and Scope of Sociology 
  • Ogburn and Nimkoff, 1972. A Handbook of Sociology. Eurasian Publishing House: New Delhi


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