Sociology Essays

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According to the American Sociological Association, sociology is: “the study of society; a social science involving the study of the social lives of people, groups, and societies; the study of our behavior as social beings, covering everything from the analysis of short contacts between anonymous individuals on the street to the study of global social processes; the scientific study of social aggregations, the entities through which human move throughout their lives; [and] an overarching unification of all studies of humankind, including history psychology, and economic.” What this broad definition makes clear is that while sociology is a relatively new academic discipline, it can trace its roots to many other ways of studying, describing, and controlling human behavior including: philosophy, history, psychology, economics, culture, and religion. In fact, the modern study of sociology continues to interact with other fields to such a high degree that many people confuse it with similar studies of human behavior. However, it is important to keep in mind that sociology focuses on group behavior, rather than individual behavior.

The term “sociology” was coined by Auguste Comte, who is known as the “Father of Sociology.” Comte believed that science could be used to describe the social world and introduced the concept of positivism to sociology. Positivism is regarded by some as a philosophical approach, but actually signaled a significant break from philosophy. Rather than dealing with the esoteric, Comte believed that facts about human social groups could be described using logic and mathematics. This reliance on facts means that understanding of statistics and the scientific method is critical for sociology students. Must-know components of the scientific method include: the hypothesis; independent and dependent variables; and operational definitions. Sociology students must also understand: univariate and multivariate research designs; data analysis; and qualitative and quantitative designs. In fact, while sociology depends, in large part, on quantifiable data, qualitative studies are equally important because of the impossibility of designing adequate quantitative research studies for certain sociological constructs.

Furthermore, like many modern sociologists, Comte believed that this ability to describe social groups could provide the insight people needed to help foster social change. Like other social sciences, the development of sociology was intertwined with the historical events of that time period. Sociology developed at the same time as some of the most historic clashes between economic and political groups in recent history. Therefore, the study of socioeconomic classes and the relative merits and drawbacks of capitalism and socialism were important components of early sociological theories. Some early sociological theorists who focused on these issues include: Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, W.E.B. DuBois, and Harriet Martineau. However, the most famous classical sociological theorist from that time is mistakenly thought, by many, to have been a politician. Karl Marx’s theory of Marxism, which certainly influenced political theories and political systems from the late nineteenth century through the present time, was actually a sociological theorist.

As the study of group behavior became more popular around the world, it developed into an academic discipline. In 1876, Yale University offered the United States’ first sociology course. By the early 1900s, sociology was offered at most United States’ colleges. Sociology focuses on a diverse variety of areas, including: economics, religion, politics, mental health, education, work, children, families, the elderly, emotions, sexuality, gender, and the law.