Definition of Sociology
(noun) The systematic study of society and social interactions to understand individuals, groups, and institutions through data collection and analysis.
Types of Sociology
Etymology of Sociology
- Coined by Auguste Comte (1798–1857) in 1834, though originally called social physics. Comte also established sociology as a systematic field of study.
- American English – /soh-see-AH-luh-jee/
- British English – /soh-si-O-luh-jee/
International Phonetic Alphabet
- American English – /ˌsoʊsiˈɑlədʒi/
- British English – /ˌsəʊsɪˈɒlədʒi/
- Plural: sociologies
- The point of view used in sociology is called the sociological perspective and is described by Peter Berger (1929–2017) in Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective (1963) as “seeing the general in the particular.”
- A (noun) sociologist studies society from the (adjective) sociologic or (adjective) sociologistic or (adjective) sociological perspective to understand social interactions (adverb) sociologically.
- “Anthropology seeks to understand human existence over geographic space and evolutionary time, whereas sociology seeks to understand contemporary social organization, relations, and change” (Kendall 2006:7).
- “Each of us is a social being. We are born into a social environment; we fully develop into human beings in a social environment; and we live our lives in a social environment. What we think, how we feel, and what we say and do all are shaped by our interactions with other people. The scientific study of these social interactions and of social organization is called sociology” (Hughes and Kroehler 2008:3).
- “Ethnocentrism is one of sociology’s distinctive concepts. Comprehension of this concept is a major step in the acquisition of a sociological outlook. Students of introductory sociology are often left, at the end of the course, with a feeling that the term “ethnocentrism” denotes a flaw in human nature. Some of them may also be persuaded that their exposure to academic sociology has helped to immunize them against this natural but supposedly lamentable tendency to react ethnocentrically to people in other societies” (Catton 1960:201).
- “Sociology, then, is a powerful scientific tool both for acquiring knowledge about ourselves and for intervening in social affairs to realize various goals” (Hughes and Kroehler 2008:3).
- “Sociology, through its emphasis on observation and measurement, allows us to bring rigorous and systematic scientific thinking and information to bear on difficult questions associated with social policies and choices, including those related to poverty, health, immigration, crime, and education. Many people interested in these issues do not realize that more than concern is need to solve problems. Action must be informed by knowledge” (Hughes and Kroehler 2008:3).
- “The discourse of sociology and the concepts, theories, and findings of the other social sciences continually ‘circulate in and out’ of what it is that they are about. In so doing they reflexively restructure their subject matter, which itself has learned to think sociologically. Modernity is itself deeply and intrinsically sociological” (Giddens 1991:43).
- “We study sociology to understand how human behavior is shaped by group life and, in turn, how group life is affected by individuals. Our culture tends to emphasize individualism, and sociology pushes us to consider more complex connection between our personal lives and the larger world” (Kendall 2006:37).
- “We thus arrive at the point where we can formulate precisely the field of sociology. It includes only one specific group of phenomena. A social fact is recognized by the power of external coercion which it exercises, or is capable of exercising, over individuals; and the presence of this power is in turn recognizable by the existence of some specific sanction, or by the resistance that it offers to any individual action that would violate it” (Durkheim  2004:49).
- “Without distorting the meaning of this expression, we can, in fact, call all beliefs and all modes of behaviour instituted by the collectivity ‘institutions‘; sociology can then be defined as the science of institutions, their genesis and their functioning” (Durkheim  2004:46).
- Word origin of “sociology” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
- Ballard, Chris, Jon Gubbay, and Chet Middleton, eds. 1997. The Student’s Companion to Sociology. London: Blackwell.
- Bauman, Zygmunt. 1990. Thinking Sociologically. Oxford: Blackwell.
- Bennett, Tony, and Diane Watson, eds. 2002. Understanding Everyday Life. Oxford: Blackwell.
- Berger, Peter L. 1963. Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective. New York: Anchor Books.
- Bottomore, Thomas Burton, and Robert Nisbet. 1978. A History of Sociological Analysis. New York: Basic Books.
- Coser, Lewis A. 1971. Masters of Sociological Thought: Ideas in Historical and Social Context. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
- Giddens, Anthony. 1971. Capitalism and Modern Social Theory: An Analysis of the Writings of Marx, Durkheim, and Max Weber. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Levin, Jack. 2008. Sociological Snapshots. 5th ed. Newbury Park, CA: Pine Forge.
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- Mills, Charles Wright. 1959. The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Nisbet, Robert A. 1967. The Sociological Tradition. London: Heinemann.
- Noble, Trevor. 2000. Social Theory and Social Change. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
- Parsons, Talcott. 1951. The Social System. New York: The Free Press.
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- Durkheim, Émile
- Marx, Karl
- Weber, Max
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Cite the Definition of Sociology
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “sociology.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved June 5, 2023 (https://sociologydictionary.org/sociology/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
sociology. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/sociology/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “sociology.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed June 5, 2023. https://sociologydictionary.org/sociology/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“sociology.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 5 Jun. 2023. <https://sociologydictionary.org/sociology/>.