Sociology as a science and particularly as a separate field of study is of recent origin. It is the youngest of the social sciences. August Comte, the father of sociology, first of conceived the word ‘sociology’ in, 1839. He had intended to name the new science social physics, but he rejected this term after a Belgian scholar, Adolphe Quetelet, began to make statistical studies of society and to call his area of Endeavour social physics.
The word sociology is a barbaric combination of Latin word ‘socius’ and Greek word Logus, Logus connotes study on a high level and socius points to society. Thus, etymologically, sociology means the study of society on a highly generalised or abstract level. In other words, the etymological meaning of sociology is the ‘science of society’.
In a primary way, society may be defined as men or human beings in interdependence. Men in interdependence therefore may be taken as the subject matter of sociology. Other sciences study men as individuals or as collections of individuals but do not study their interdependence.
Sociology is the science of society as a whole. No other social science endeavours to study society in totality. Social sciences like history, economics, political science, anthropology, psychology etc. deal with particular aspect of society. Political science deals with political institutions and political activities.
History deals with unique events relating to past. Economic is concerned with activities relating to production and consumption. These social sciences do not give a complete picture of the society. Sociology on the other hand, studies society in its entirety.
It essentially and fundamentally deals with that network of social relationships we call society. Science has been defined as a body of knowledge. Sociology is also a body of knowledge about society. Sociology as science of society refers to a body of knowledge about society which has been empirically tested. Society may be defined as the complicated network and ever-changing pattern of social relationships. Sociology is the science of society, thus defined.
Sociology has been defined in number of ways by different scholars. There are as many definitions of sociology as there are sociologists. To understand more fully what sociology is about some of its definitions may be cited as follows:
In 1839, Comte defined sociology as the science of human association or the study of gregarious life. In 1851, he attempted to give more flesh and blood to the said definition in his work System of Positive Politics. He conceived of sociology as an abstract theoretical science of social phenomena. According to him it is the business of sociology to discover and abstract social laws and thereby to explain the social phenomena.
Sociology is the study of groups. According to many sociologists, sociology studies man as a member of the -group and as a participant in culture. Man is never an individual in isolation. It has been said that the group is the datum of sociology, not the individual human being. Sociology studies human beings in their group relations, human behaviour in terms of groups and groupings.
Harry M. Johnson writes,” Sociology is the science that deals with social groups: their internal forms or modes of organisation, the processes that tend to maintain or change these forms of organisation, and the relations between groups.”
Sociology is the study of social relationships. Small defines sociology as “the science of social relations”. According to R.E. Park and F.W. Burgess, “Sociology is the science of collective behaviour. Sociology may be defined as a body of scientific knowledge about human relationships, says J. F. Cuber.
“In the broadest sense, sociology is the study of human interactions and interrelations, their conditions and consequences”, says Morris Ginsberg.
According to Maclver and Page “sociology is ‘about’ social relationships, the network of relationship we call society”.
F.H. Giddings defines sociology as “the science of social phenomena”
Max Weber defines Sociology as “the science which attempts the interpretative understanding of social action in order thereby to arrive at a causal explanation of its cause and effects”.
A careful examination of definitions shows that sociologist differ in their opinion about the definitions of sociology. However, we may find following views about its definitions.
1. Sociology is a science of society.
2. Sociology is the study of groups or social system.
3. Sociology is the study of social relationships.
4. Sociology is the study of human interactions and interrelations, their conditions and consequences.
5. Sociology is the study of social action.
6. Sociology is the study of social phenomena.
Sociology is the scientific study of human social life and groups. It is study of societies, giving special emphasis on modern societies. Sociology is the systematic study of social institutions; their nature, functions and interactions, sequences of continuity and change.