Sociology is not a matter of interest only to sociologists. Covering all areas of human coexistence – from family relationships to the organization of large companies, from the role of politics in society to religious behavior -, Sociology is of particular interest to administrators, politicians, businessmen, lawyers, teachers in general, publicists, journalists, planners, priests, but also to the common man.
Sociology does not explain or intend to explain everything that occurs in society or all human behavior. Many human events are beyond your criteria. It touches, however, on all domains of human existence in society.
For this reason, the sociological approach, through its concepts, theories and methods, can be an excellent instrument for people to understand the situations they face in daily life, their multiple social relationships and, consequently, themselves as inevitably social beings.
Currently, she studies human organizations, social institutions and their social interactions, mainly using the comparative method. This discipline has been particularly concentrated on complex organizations of industrial societies.
Contrary to the philosophical explanations of social relations, the explanations of Sociology do not start simply from cabinet speculation, based, at most, on the casual observation of some facts. Many of the theorists who aimed to give sociology the status of science, sought in the natural sciences the bases of their already more advanced methodology, and the more developed epistemological discussions. In this way, statistical methods, empirical observation, and methodological skepticism were employed in order to root out the “uncontrollable” and “doxic” elements that are recurring in a science that is still very new and given to great explanations. One of the first and greatest concerns for sociology was to eliminate value judgments made in its name. Unlike ethics, which aims to discern between good and evil,
As a science, Sociology must obey the same general principles valid for all branches of scientific knowledge, despite the peculiarities of social phenomena when compared to phenomena of nature and, consequently, the scientific approach of society. Such peculiarities, however, were and continue to be the focus of many discussions, sometimes trying to bring the sciences closer together, sometimes moving them away and, even, denying the human beings such status based on the impossibility of any control of the typically human data, considered by many, unpredictable and impassive of an objective analysis.
The 18th century can be considered a period of great importance for the history of Western thought and for the beginning of Sociology. Society was experiencing an era of impact changes in its political, economic and cultural environment, which brought new situations and also new problems. Consequently, this dynamic and confusing context contributes to two major revolutions – the Industrial Revolution in England and the French Revolution.
The task that the founders of sociology assume, therefore, is to stabilize the new order. Comte is also very clear on this issue. For him, the new theory of society, which he called “positive”, should teach men to accept the existing order, leaving aside their negation.
Proceeding in this way, this initial sociology had an undisguised stabilizing content, linking itself to the conservative reform movements of society. The officialization of sociology was therefore largely a creation of positivism , and once constituted, it will seek to achieve the intellectual legitimation of the new regime.
Comparison with other Social Sciences
In the early 20th century, sociologists and anthropologists who conducted studies on non-industrialized societies offered contributions to Anthropology . It should be noted, however, that even Anthropology does research in industrialized societies; the difference between Sociology and Anthropology has more to do with the theoretical problems posed and the research methods than with the objects of study.
As for social psychology, in addition to being more interested in behaviors than in social structures, it is also concerned with external motivations that lead the individual to act in one way or another. Sociology’s focus, on the other hand, is on the action of groups, on general action.
Economics, on the other hand, differs from Sociology in that it studies only one aspect of social integration, that which refers to the production and exchange of goods. In this respect, as shown by Karl Marx and others, research in economics is often influenced by sociological theories.
Finally, social philosophy seeks to generalize the explanations and procedures observed in society, trying to construct a theory that can even explain the variances in social behavior; Sociology, in turn, is more specific in time and space.
List of some sociologists and their theories
Alain Touraine (Hermanville-sur-Mer, 3 August 1925) is a French sociologist. He became known for being the father of the expression “post-industrial society”. His work is based on the “sociology of action”; he believes that society shapes its future through structural mechanisms and its own social struggles.
Emile Durkheim(Épinal, April 15, 1858 – Paris, November 15, 1917) He is widely recognized as one of the best theorists of the concept of social coercion. Starting from the statement that “social facts should be treated as things”, he provided a definition of the normal and the pathological applied to each society, in which the normal would be what is both mandatory for the individual and superior to him, the which means that society and collective consciousness are moral entities, even before they have a tangible existence. This preponderance of society over the individual must allow the realization of this, as long as it is able to integrate itself to this structure. For a certain consensus to prevail in this society, the appearance of solidarity among its members must be favored. Since solidarity varies according to the degree of modernity of society,
Georg Simmel (Berlin, March 1, 1858 – Strasbourg, September 28, 1918) was a German sociologist . Simmel was one of the sociologists who developed what became known as micro-sociology, an analysis of phenomena at the micro level of society. Simmel developed a tradition known as Formalism, which establishes the study of forms as a priority. The German thinker made a distinction between forms and contents, indicating that, from the study of forms, it would be possible to understand the functioning of social life.
Karl Heinrich Marx(Trier, May 5, 1818 – London, March 14, 1883) was a German intellectual considered one of the founders of Sociology. The relation of the production of practical and material life to ideas is not, however, deterministic and reductionist as at first impression it may seem; there is a dialectical relationship between these two entities. Marx had a practical and political thought that many understood as a method of determining reality, calling it historical and dialectical materialism, which later came to be called Marxism. In addition, the structuralists, who began to read Marx’s writings according to a structuralist view according to which men were only appendages of economic structures, and not their direct creators. As Lukács put it already in the 1920s,
Emil Maximillian Weber (Erfurt, 21 April 1864 – Munich, 14 June 1920) was a German intellectual and one of the founders of Sociology. Rational action in relation to an objective is determined by expectations in the behavior of objects from the outside world as well as other men and uses these expectations as conditions or means to achieve their own purposes rationally evaluated and pursued. It is a concrete action that has a specific purpose, for example: the engineer who builds a bridge.
Herbert Spencer (April 27, 1820 – December 8, 1903) was an English philosopher and one of the representatives of positivism. For Spencer, philosophy must be very precise about evolution and clarify, based on it, the most varied problems. He also believed that evolution is a universal principle that always works. Spencer was the main theorist of social Darwinism, through which he sought to justify European Imperialism on the basis of supposed racial superiority.
Pierre Bourdieu (Denguin, August 1, 1930 – Paris, January 23, 2002) was an important French sociologist. The social world, for Bourdieu, must be understood in the light of three fundamental concepts: field, habitus and capital.
Pierre-Jouseph Proudhon(15 January 1809, Besançon, France – 19 January 1865, Paris, France) He ended up being one of those who started to propose a science of society. According to Proudhon, man should abandon his current economic and moral condition, as it leads to human disharmony, in this subjection of men made by men. The new society should be supported by mutualism, as it would be a cooperation freed by associations, eliminating the coercive power of the State. The absolutism of the individual is also understood, as it is responsible for arbitrariness and injustice. For him, there should have been a continuation of the revolution, since he had succeeded in destroying feudalism. In this modern society there must be resistance from individuals to capitalism (which is beginning to take its first steps), as it would be responsible for the creation of private property. He still defends positive anarchy, in which he discards the Church and the State, so it will end up going against Marx’s ideas about communism. Proudhon saw communism as being used to control men and eliminate equality, as they are concrete acts, founded on freedom, where each party takes its interest and the coercive power of the state is useless.
Celso Monteiro Furtado (Pombal, July 26, 1920 – Rio de Janeiro, November 20, 2004) was an important Brazilian economist and one of the most outstanding intellectuals in the country throughout the 20th century. His ideas about development and underdevelopment differed from the prevailing economic doctrines of his time and stimulated the adoption of interventionist policies on the functioning of the economy.
Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Rio de Janeiro, June 18, 1931) As a sociologist, FHC wrote important works for the theory of economic development and international relations. His theory suggests that underdeveloped countries should associate with each other, seeking an alternative capitalist path to development, freeing themselves from the dependence of the great powers. FHC was against the thesis that third world countries would develop only if they had a socialist revolution.
Raymundo Faoro (Vacaria, RS, April 27, 1925 – Rio de Janeiro, May 15, 2003) In this conception of a patrimonialist state, Faoro places individual property as being granted by the State, characterizing an “over-ownership” of the crown over its subjects and also this state being governed by a sovereign and his officials. The author thus denies the existence of a properly feudal regime in the origins of the Brazilian State. What characterizes the feudal regime is the existence of vassalage intermediating sovereign and subjects and not state officials, as Faoro intends.
Sociology, through its methods of scientific investigation, seeks to understand and explain the structures of society, analyzing historical and cultural relations, creating concepts and theories in order to maintain or change the power relations that exist in it.
In conclusion: it has the objective of maintaining relationships that it establishes consciously or unconsciously, between people living in a community, in a social group or even in different social groups that struggle to live in harmony with each other, establishing limits and seeking to expand the space in which they live for a better organization.