Sociology is the study of human social life, groups, societies and institutions

Sociology is the study of human social life, groups, societies and institutions

It is a dazzling and compelling enterprise, as its subject matter is our own behavior as social beings. Most of us see the world in terms of the familiar features of our own lives. Sociology demonstrates the need to take a much broader view of why we are as we are and why we act as we do. It teaches us that what we regard as natural, inevitable, good or true may not be such and that the ‘givens’ of our life are strongly influenced by historical and social forces.

The development of sociology as a discipline emerged in the early nineteenth century as an academic response as a challenge to modernity. As the world was becoming smaller and more integrated, peoples experience of the world was increasingly atomized. Social institutions are studied by sociologists, examining their influence on human behavior. Behavior is conditioned by rules and procedures that are put in place by these institutions such as the family, education systems and religious systems.

Values, norms and status influence the outcome of behaviors that are portrayed by individuals. Values indicate what is important and worthwhile; it s something worth striving toward. Norms are the rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behavior. Status is the social order or prestige attached to someone’s position in society. An English scholar, Herbert Spencer (1 820 – 1 903), known as one of the most brilliant intellects of modern times, contributed a great deal to the establishment of sociology as a systematic discipline.

His three volumes of “Principles of Sociology”, published in 1877 were the first systematic study devoted mainly to the sociological analysis. He was much more precise than Comet in specifying the topics or special fields of sociology. Augusta Comet (1798 – 1 857) was the father of Positivism and inventor of the term sociology. He played a key role in the development of the social sciences and was highly influential on thoughts about progress in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Comet believed that the progress of the human mind had followed an historical sequence which he described as the law of three stages; theological, metaphysical and positive. Although the sociological theory of Herbert Spencer has but a small following today, his work was quite popular urine his lifetime, particularly in America. Spence’s theory of society does represent an advance over Contain theory, even though Spencer, like Comet, characterized himself as a positivist and derived his concepts of structure and function from the field of biology.

Spencer used the Contain terms of social static and social dynamics, but not in a descriptive way as Comet did to refer to all types of societies, but rather in a normative way to describe his version of the future ideal society. Furthermore, Spencer was more interested in studying the progress of the external world or objectivity, while Comet soused more on the subjective nature Of the progress Of human conceptions. Finally, there are important political differences between Spencer and Comet.

Spencer had little regard for centralized political control and believed that the government should allow individuals the maximum freedom to pursue their private interests. Comet, on the other hand, desired society to be led by the high priests of positivistic religion. The English functionalist sociologist Herbert Spencer developed his ideas about social evolution at the same time Darwin was developing his ideas about biological evolution. Spencer believed in the ideas of evolution which is evident during the late Victorian era.

He defined sociology as the study of societal evolution and believed that the ultimate goal of societal evolution is complete harmony and happiness. Spencer theory of evolutionary change is built upon three basic principles: integration, differentiation and definiteness. He argued that homogeneous phenomena are inherently unstable, which makes them subject to constant fluctuations. These fluctuations force homogeneous systems to differentiate, which results in greater multiform. That is to say, homogeneous systems grow to become heterogeneous.

The phrase “survival of the fittest” is sometimes used as a kind of metaphor to explain what is meant by “evolution by means of natural selection”. The phrase was first applied not by a biologist but by an economist. Darwin did incorporate this phrase into later editions of, using it as a synonym for “natural selection. According to Spencer, the weak- those unsuited to survival in a particular environment- must perish to ensure the healthy genetic development of a species. In this theory, competition is the key to genetic and evolutionary progress.

If society were to evolve and become more successful, the most able and the hardest working would have been allowed to keep the rewards of their efforts. The weak, the incompetent and the lazy should be condemned to a life of poverty because it was no more than they deserved. Social groups, as stated by Spencer, strive towards greater harmony and cooperation through the division Of labor and the State. He was a social realist in that he viewed society as an entity in and of itself- thus, the whole of society can live on even if its component parts die. As society grows, it becomes more complex and differentiated.

Structures accompany this growth, which function to regulate external concerns like military activities and sustain internal issues like economic activities. Augusta Comet the founder of sociology, deemed that the scientific study of society should be confined to collecting information about phenomena that can be objectively observed and classified. He also believed he had discovered a law that all human societies passed through three stages: the theological, the metaphysical and the positive. The first stage states “all theoretical conceptions, whether general or special bear a supernatural impress”.

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