By The End Of The SuBtopic Learners Should Be Able To;
  1. Outline the development of Sociology.
  2. Identify the main proponents of Sociology.
  3. Discuss factors that led to the development of Sociology.

    Introduction to sociology

    Sociology attempts to ensure that candidates understand the distinctive nature of sociological explanations and that they appreciate something of the contribution of other disciplines to social understanding.
    The study of sociology tries to bring out the relationship between individual human being and the society as a whole.
    In order to show understanding of the sociological concepts, the learners are expected to answer questions using sociological perspectives and sociological speech.
    Learners are expected to use contemporary Zimbabwean examples building to regional and global sociological understanding. The examples should directly link with sociological perspectives learnt.

    Development of sociology

    What is Sociology?

    • It is the study of human behaviour as social beings, covering everything from the analysis of short contacts between anonymous individuals on the street to the study of global social processes.
    • It is a scientific study of the society, including patterns of social relationships, social interaction and culture of people in a society.
    • Sociology is rooted in questions of social change, social conflict and social problems brought in by urbanization and industrialization.

    How did sociology begin?

    Sociology emerged in the middle of the nineteen century in Europe.
    The three factors that led to the development of sociology are:
    1. Industrial Revolution
    2. Travel
    3. Success of natural sciences
    • The development of sociology as a discipline emerged in the 19th century in response to modernity. Problems that arose from modernity include industrialization, urbanization, rationalization and bureaucratization.
    •  The difference between 'traditional' and 'modern' led to the term 'modernity' and the modern world of the 19th century was shaped by the Industrial Revolution.
    • The Industrial Revolution brought about massive changes in areas such as culture, industry, politics, technology, science and communication. This new society needed theorists to understand and explain how the effects of the changes impacted on society. The Industrial Revolution saw aristocratic and religious societies change to liberal and more science based societies.
    • The Industrial Revolution created dramatic changes in every part of social life.
    • Machines were created which overtook manual labour. Factories and industrial towns were built and people left rural areas and their ways of life to go to the cities for work.
    • Canals and roads were built which made transportation easier and increased production of goods. Capitalism grew with technological change as factory owners who controlled the means of production became wealthy.
    • Changes in the political structure occurred due to the capitalists replacing agrarian land owners as leaders of the nation's economy and power structure.
    • Technological advances were seen with the invention of electricity, which improved the production in factories and made life easier, and the railways and steam ships, which helped improve travel.
    • All these changes would have been overwhelming as people went from their 'old world' of working on the land and having satisfaction for the work they did to the 'new world' of mass populated, industrial areas where they sold their labour.
    • Sociology is the scientific study of human social life, groups and societies.There was no sociology as a distinct discipline before the advent of 19th century.
    • Sociology as a distinct discipline emerged during the mid-19th century when European social observers began to use scientific methods to test their ideas. Three factors led to the development of sociology.
    • The first was the Industrial revolution. By the mid-19th century Europe was changing from agriculture to factory production. There was the emergence of new occupations as well as new avenues of employment away from the land.
    • Volumes of people migrated to cities in search of jobs. Pull and push factors were instrumental in such migrations. In the country side, due to the nature of agricultural society, there were no occupations that could be alternatives to agriculture. Hence people got pushed to look for new places whereas the urban/industrial places with new job opportunities provided a pull to the same population.
    • At the new places there was anonymity, crowding, filth and poverty. Ties to the land, to the generations that had lived there before them, and to the ways of their life were abruptly broken.
    • Eventually the urban life brought radical changes in the lives of people. There were horrible working conditions: low pay; long and exhausting working hours; dangerous work; foul smoke; and much noise. To survive this, families had to permit their children to work in these unfriendly conditions.
    • People in these industrial cities developed new ideas about democracy and political rights. They did not want to remain tied to their rulers. Therefore the ideas about individual liberty, individual rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness emerged, which actually laid the foundation to future political revolution.
    • The second factor that stimulated the development of sociology was imperialism. Europeans successfully conquered many parts of the world. They were exposed to radically different cultures. Startled by these contrasting ways of life, they began to ask why cultures differed.
    • The third impetus for the development of sociology was the success of the natural sciences. People moved to question fundamental aspects of their social world. They started using the scientific method (systematic observation and objectivity) to the study of human behaviour.

    1. Auguste Comte and other thinkers

    • Auguste Comte’s idea of applying the scientific method to the social world, known as positivism, was apparently first proposed. He was French. He migrated from a small town to Paris. The changes he himself experienced, combined with those France underwent in the revolution, led Comte to become interested in the two interrelated issues: social order (social static) and social change (social dynamics).
    • What holds the society together (Why is there a social order?) And once the society is set then what causes it to change? Why its directions change? Comte concluded that the right way to answer such questions was to apply the scientific method to social life.
    • There must be laws that underlie the society. Therefore we should discover these principles by applying scientific method to social world. Once these principles discovered then we could apply these for social reform.
    Theological Era Metaphysics Era Positive Era
    World’s Origin Luther French Revolution and Industrial Movement

    • He advocated for building new societies on twin foundations of science and industry rather than on religion and landowner-serf relationship. This will be a new science and Comte named it as Sociology (1838) ­ the study of society.
    • Comte is credited with being the founder of sociology.

    Other early pioneer names are:

    2. Herbert Spenser (1820-1903)

    • He was an Englishman and is sometimes called second founder of sociology. He too believed that society operates under some fixed laws.
    • He was evolutionary and considered that societies evolve from lower to higher forms. In this way he applied the ideas of Darwin to the development of human society, and hence this approach may be called as Social Darwinism.
    • By following the basic principle of Social Darwinism Spenser advocated that 'let the fittest survive'. There should be no reform because it will help in the survival of lower order individuals that is charity and helping the poor were considered to be wrong.
    • Spenser was a social philosopher rather than a social researcher.

    3. Karl Marx (1818-1883)

    He was a German. According to him the key to human history is Class Conflict. Not really a sociologist but wrote widely about history, philosophy, economics, political science. Due to his insights into the relationship between the social classes, he is claimed to be an early sociologist.
    • He introduced one of the major perspectives in sociology ­ conflict perspective.
    • Karl Marx claims that society is in a state of perpetual conflict due to competition for limited resources. It holds that social order is maintained by domination and power, rather than consensus and conformity.
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    4. Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)

    Was French. His primary goal was of getting sociology recognized as a separate academic discipline. His systematic study comparing suicide rates among several countries revealed an underlying social factor: People were more likely to commit suicide if their ties to others in their communities were weak.
    • He identified the key role of social integration in social life.
    Thwarted belongingness I am alone Desire for suicide Perceived burdensomeness
    I am a burden
    Capability for suicide
    Lethal(or near lethal) Suicide attempts

    5. Max Weber (1864-1920)

    Max Weber, one of the three main "fathers of sociology,"contributed to our understanding of the sociological perspective, to the nature of social change, and to the nature of social inequality. Max Weber (1864-1920) helped us to understand the nature of society.

    Weber’s ideas mainly build from Karl Marx’s ideas. He was a German and illustrated how social institutions are dependent on each other. He showed that when a change occurred in the religious institution, it would contribute to a change in the economic institution.

    Max Weber illustrated how social institutions are dependent on each other. In his major work, he showed that when a change occurred in the religious institution during the sixteenth century, it contributed to a change in the economic institution. Previously, most people thought of religion and economics being autonomous and completely separated from each other.