Like all other social sciences, sociology also is concerned with the life and activities of man. It studies the nature and character of human society, and also its origin, and development, structure and functions. It analyses the group life of man and examines the bonds of social unity.
Sociology tries to determine the relationship and inter-dependence between different elements of social life; between the moral and the religious, the economic and political, the intellectual and the philosophical and the artistic and the aesthetic, the scientific and the technological, and non-material and so on.
Sociology also discovers the fundamental conditions of social stability and social change. It analyses the influence of economic, political, technological, cultural and other forces and factors on man and his life.
It endeavors to examine the influence of biological and geographic factors on man also. It throws more light on various social problems like poverty, beggary, over-population, crime, unemployment, etc.
1. Emergence of Social Sciences: A Brief Historical Background:
The beginning of the tradition of social sciences has been one of the major developments of the 19th century. Social sciences such as economics, political science and history though have a long story of their own, could get the recognition as “social sciences” only in the 19th century.
Thinkers and writers such as Herodotus [known as the “Father of History”]-, Aristotle [often known as the “Father of Political Science”]-, Manu, the great law giver; Kautilya, an authority on “Arthashastra”, and many others had written good treatises on different areas of social sciences more than 2000 years ago.
The political and social atmosphere of ancient Greece, Rome and India also favoured this kind of intellectual exercises. Due to historical reasons these countries could not maintain the same tempo during the Middle Age. [500 A.D. to 1550 A.D.] But during 17th and 18th centuries the processes of Renaissance, and Enlightenment gave a big impetus to the continuation of the tradition of reasoning. This change in the intellectual atmosphere favoured the development of sciences which came to be called “social sciences”.
2. Impact of the Twin Revolutions: The French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution:
It is often said that social sciences in the 19th century are mostly understood as responses to the problem of order that was created in men’s minds by the weakening of the old order under the twin blows of the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.
The European society was hard hit by these twin Revolutions. The old social order that rested on kinship, land, social class, religion, local community, and monarchy became very shaky.
Thinkers were more concerned about finding ways and means of reconsolidating these elements of social order. Hence the history of 19th century politics, industry, and trade is basically about the practical efforts of human beings to reconsolidate these elements. Thus, it is obvious that the history of the 19th century social thought is about theoretical efforts to reconsolidate them – that is, to give them new contents and meaning.
“In terms of the immediacy and sheer massiveness of the impact on human thought and values, it would be difficult to find revolutions of comparable magnitude in human history.
The political, social and cultural changes that began in France and England at the very end of the 18th century spread almost immediately through Europe and the Americas in the 19th century and then on to Asia, Africa, and Oceania in the 20th.
The effects of the two revolutions, the one overwhelmingly democratic in the thrust, the other industrial capitalist, have been to undermine, shake, or topple institutions that had endured for centuries, even millennia, and with them systems of authority, status, belief and community.