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Sociology Notes

Sociology Notes

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Published by: question86 on Apr 09, 2010
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is the study of society.It is asocial science(with which it is informally synonymous) that uses various methods of empirical investigationandcritical analysisto develop and refine a body of knowledge and theory about human social activity, often with thegoal of applying such knowledge to the pursuit of social welfare. Subject matter ranges from themicrolevel of agencyandinteractionto themacrolevel of systems andsocial structures.  Sociology is both topically and methodologically a very broad discipline. Its traditionalfocuses have includedsocial stratification(i.e.,class relations),religion,secularization, modernity,cultureanddeviance, and its approaches have included bothqualitativeand quantitative researchtechniques. As much of what humans do fits under the category of social  structure and agency,sociology has gradually expanded its focus to further subjects, such asmedical,militaryand penal institutions,the internet, and even the role of social activity in the development of scientific knowledge. The range of social scientific methods has also broadlyexpanded. Thelinguisticandcultural turnsof the mid-20th century led to increasingly interpretative,hermeneutic, and philosophicapproaches to the analysis of society. Conversely, recent decades have seen the rise of new mathematically andcomputationallyrigoroustechniques, such asagent-based modellingandsocial network analysis.
Auguste ComteSociological reasoning pre-dates the foundation of the discipline.Social analysishasorigins in the common stock of Western knowledgeand philosophy, and has been carried out from at least as early as the time of Plato. There is evidence of earlysociology in medieval Islam. It may be said that the first sociologist wasIbn Khaldun,a 14th century Arab scholar from North Africa, whose 
was the first work to advance social-scientific theories of social cohesionandsocial conflict. The word
) is derived from theLatin: 
, "companion";
, "the study of", andGreek  λόγος,
, "word", "knowledge". It was first coined byAuguste Comte (1798–1857), in 1838. Comte had earlier used the term "social physics", but thathad subsequently been appropriated by others, most notably the Belgian statisticianAdolphe Quetelet. Comte endeavoured to unify history, psychology and economics through the scientificunderstanding of the social realm. Writing shortly after the malaise of theFrench Revolution,he  proposed that social ills could be remedied through sociological  positivism, an epistemological approach outlined in
The Course in Positive Philosophy
[1830–1842] and
(1844). Comte believed a positivist stagewould mark the final era, after conjecturaltheological andmetaphysicalphases, in the progression of human understanding.
Foundations of the academic discipline
Though Comte is generally regarded as the "Father of Sociology", the academic subjectwas formally established by another French thinker,Émile Durkheim(1858–1917), whodeveloped positivism in greater detail. Durkheim set up the first European department of sociology at theUniversity of Bordeaux in 1895, publishing his
. In 1896, he established the journal
. Durkheim's seminalmonograph,
 (1897), a case study of suicide rates amongstCatholicandProtestant   populations, distinguished sociological analysis from psychologyor  philosophy. It also marked a major contribution to the concept of structural functionalism.A course entitled "sociology" was taught in the United States at Yalein 1875 byWilliam  Graham Sumner , drawing upon the thought of Comte andHerbert Spencerather than Durkheimian theory. In 1890, the oldest continuing American course in the modern tradition began at theUniversity of Kansas, lectured byFrank Blackmar . The Department of History and Sociology at the University of Kansas was established in 1891. The Department of Sociology attheUniversity of Chicagowas established in 1892 by Albion W. Small. George Herbert Mead  andCharles Cooley, who had met at theUniversity of Michiganin 1891 (along withJohn  Dewey), would move to Chicago in 1894.
Their influence gave rise tosocial psychologyand thesymbolic interactionismof the modern Chicago School. The
wasfounded in 1895, followed by the
(ASA) in 1905.A bustof Ferdinand TönniesinHusum,Germany The first sociology department to be established in theUnited Kingdomwas at theLondon School of Economics and Political Science(home of the
 British Journal of Sociology
) in1904. Leonard Trelawny Hobhousebecame a lecturer in the discipline at theUniversity of   Londonin 1907. In 1909 the
 Deutsche Gesellschaft für Soziologie
(German Society for  Sociology) was founded byFerdinand Tönniesand Max Webe,among others. Weber  established the first department in Germany at theLudwig Maximilians University of Munich in 1919, having presented an influential newantipositivistsociology. In 1920,Florian Znanieckiset up the first departmentin Poland. The
) was founded in 1923. International co-operation in sociology began in 1893, whenRené Worms founded the
an institution later eclipsed by the much larger International Sociological Association (ISA), founded in 1949.Sociology evolved as an academic response to the challenges of  modernity, such as industrialization,urbanization, secularization, and a perceived process of enveloping rationalization.The field predominated incontinental Europe,withBritish anthropologyand statistics generally following on a separate trajectory. By the turn of the 20th century, however,many theorists were active in theAnglo-Americanworld. Few early sociologists were confinedstrictly to the subject, interacting also witheconomics, jurisprudence, psychologyand  philosophy, with theories being appropriated in a variety of different fields. Since its inception,sociological epistemologies, methods, and frames of enquiry, have significantly expanded anddiverged.
Durkheim,Karl Marxand Weber are typically cited as the three principal architects of social science. Their thought is central to the modern sociological paradigms of functionalism,conflict theoryandanti-positivismrespectively. Vilfredo Pareto, Alexis de Tocqueville, Adam  Ferguson,Robert Michels,Werner Sombart, Ferdinand Tönnies,Georg Simmel and Karl  Mannheimare occasionally included on academic curricula as further founding theorists. Eachkey figure is associated with a particular theoretical perspective and orientation.Marx and Engels associated the emergence of modern society above all with thedevelopment of capitalism; for Durkheim it was connected in particular with industrializationand the new social division of labour which this brought about; for Weber it had to do with theemergence of a distinctive way of thinking, the rational calculation which he associated with theProtestant Ethic (more or less what Marx and Engels speak of in terms of those 'icy waves of egotistical calculation'). Together the works of these great classical sociologists suggest whatGiddens has recently described as 'a multidimensional view of institutions of modernity' andwhich emphasizes not only capitalism and industrialism as key institutions of modernity, but also'surveillance' (meaning 'control of information and social supervision') and 'military power'(control of the means of violence in the context of the industrialization of war).
Positivism and anti-positivism
Themethodologicalapproach toward sociology by early theorists was to treat thediscipline in broadly the same manner asnatural science. An emphasis onempiricism and the scientific methodwas sought to provide a tested foundation for sociological research, and todistinguish sociology from less empirical fields such as philosophy.This perspective, called  positivism, is based on the assumption that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge,and that such knowledge can come only from positive affirmation of theories through strictscientific andquantitativemethods.Émile Durkheimwas a major proponent of theoretically grounded empirical research, seeking correlations between"social facts"to reveal structurallaws. His position was informed by an interest in applying sociological findings in the pursuit of social reform and the negation of social "anomie". Accounts of Durkheim's positivism may bevulnerable to exaggeration and oversimplification: Comte was the only major sociologicalthinker to postulate that the social realm may be subject to scientific analysis in the same way asnoble science, whereas Durkheim acknowledged in greater detail the fundamentalepistemologicallimitations.Karl MarxReactions against social empiricism began when German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegelvoiced opposition to both empiricism, which he rejected as uncritical, anddeterminism, which he viewed as overly mechanistic.Karl Marx's methodology borrowed fromHegel dialecticismbut also a rejection of positivism in favour of critical analysis, seeking to supplement the empirical acquisition of "facts" with the elimination of illusions. He maintainedthat appearances need to be critiqued rather than simply documented. Marx rejected Comtean positivism but nonetheless endeavoured to produce a
 science of society

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