An Overview of Social Science and Sociology

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Sociology is the scientific study of societies and relationships between groups of people. These relationships may be between individuals of various social classes, various races, and even various religions. Sociology may seem very straightforward to most people as we experience it first-hand every day. However, a sociologist is trained in a way to look at social cues in a different way from the average person. A sociologist will look at these relationships from a scientific perspective, just as a biologist would look at biology or a chemist would look at chemistry.

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To be considered a science, a discipline must follow a set protocol called the scientific method. This method ensures all new information is void of bias and allows for repetition of the experiment to improve accuracy. There are several variations of the scientific method but generally follows these five rules: The development of a hypothesis, the designing of an experiment, the collection of data from said experiment, the analyzing and statistical analysis of data collected, and the repetition of the experiment in order to validate the results.

Sociologists follow this same procedure as any other scientist. However, a sociological study may look a lot different from what one thinks of when they think of a study. The general conception of a study is a biologist working in a lab looking through a microscope or a chemist mixing various chemicals in order to synthesize a new drug. However, a sociologist may employ a survey to various individuals in order to collect data, or may observe and collect results of peoples’ reactions when placed in a specific social situation. By analyzing the data collected, a sociologist may be able to draw conclusions and provide knowledge to the world just as any other scientist though.

A social science is one that studies social interactions between people rather than naturally occurring interactions. Because sociology is a social science, many different outcomes can be drawn from different social groups of people. For example, a study on smoking in the United States may be dissimilar to a study on smoking in China. Additionally, study on abortion may net different results based on the religion (or lack thereof) of the interviewee. All of these social implications provide a never-ending field for the sociologists to study.

Other examples of social sciences include the disciplines of anthropology, psychology, political science and economics. Anthropology is a history/sociology hybrid. It involves studying human cultures, past and present. Anthropology also involves some biological aspects such as the evolution of man throughout prehistory. Psychology and sociology are extremely intertwined; however, psychology involves more study of the individual than the society. Political science is study of politics and governments on all scales of size. It encompasses a lot of sociology as it deals with groups of people and the way they will vote. Lastly, economics is the study of the transfer of money, goods, and services a fundamental part of society. Like they say, money makes the world go ‘round.

Comte argues that society is composed of interrelated parts, each contributing its own unique perspective to society. This is named the social theory of functionalism, as each unit is simplified down to its basic functional unit. Comte draws this theory from various disciplines such as biology and physics as each can be broken down into fundamental units. In biology, an organism can be broken down from the organism to organ systems, the organ system to organs, the organs to tissues, and tissues to cells- each tier contributing to the survival of the organism. In physics, an atom can be broken down into protons, neutrons and electrons, with protons and neutrons being broken down further into quarks, ultimately leading to the chemical and physical properties of an element. Comte also discusses both the static and dynamic features of society. A static feature of society is one that remains changeless while a dynamic feature of society is one that changes. An example of a static feature of society would be the fundamental belief of Christianity-Christ was the son of God and gave His life to forgive us for our sins. However, there are many dynamic features of Christianity, some denominations accept the Theory of Evolution, while others refute it. Albeit all denominations still maintain the static feature of society stating that Christ was the son of god and gave His life to forgive us for our sins.

Marx states that society is caused by economic inequality between its citizens. The tow acclaimed classes in Marx’s theory are the famous bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The bourgeoisie were the capitalists, the wealthy business owners who controlled the means of production while the proletariat is the working class that works for the bourgeoisie.

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