Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
History of sociology
Sociology is a relatively new academic discipline among other social sciences including economics, political science, anthropology, and psychology. The ideas behind it, however, have a long history and can trace their origins to a mixture of common human knowledge, works of art and philosophy.
Sociology as a scientific discipline emerged in the early 19th century as an academic response to the challenge of modernity: as the world is becoming smaller and more integrated, people's experience of the world is increasingly atomized and dispersed. Sociologists hoped not only to understand what held social groups together, but also to develop an "antidote" to social disintegration.
The term was coined by Auguste Comte in 1838 from Latin socius (companion, associate) and Greek logia (study of, speech). Comte hoped to unify all studies of humankind--including history, psychology and economics. His own sociological scheme was typical of the 19th century; he believed all human life had passed through the same distinct historical stages and that, if one could grasp this progress, one could prescribe the remedies for social ills.
The first books with term 'sociology' in their title were written in mid-19th century by the English philosopher Herbert Spencer. In the United States, the discipline was taught by its name for the first time at the University of Kansas, Lawrence in 1890 under the course title Elements of Sociology (the oldest continuing sociology course in America) and the first full fledged university department of sociology in the United States was established in 1892 at the University of Chicago by Albion W. Small, who in 1895 founded the American Journal of Sociology . The first European department of sociology was founded in 1895 at the University of Bordeaux by Emile Durkheim, founder of L'Année Sociologique (1896). In 1919 a sociology department was established in Germany at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich by Max Weber and in 1920 in Poland by Florian Znaniecki. The first sociology departments in the United Kingdom were founded after the Second World War.
International cooperation in sociology began in 1893 when Rene Worms founded the small Institut International de Sociologie , eclipsed by much larger International Sociologist Association from 1949. In 1905 the American Sociological Association, the world's largest association of professional sociologists, was founded.
Other "classical" theorists of sociology from the late 19th and early 20th centuries include Karl Marx, Ferdinand Toennies, Emile Durkheim, Vilfredo Pareto, and Max Weber. In a manner similar to Comte, none thought of themselves as purely "sociologists". In particular, their works address religion, education, economics, psychology, ethics, philosophy, and theology. With the exception of Marx, their most enduring influence has been on sociology, and it is in this field that their theories are still considered most applicable.
Early sociology studies have considered it to be similar to natural sciences like physics or biology. Therefore many researchers argued that methods and methodology used in those sciences are perfectly suited to be used in the study of sociology without any changes. The positive effects of this attitude, like the use of scientific method and stress on empiricism, allowed sociology to be distinguished from theology and metaphysics and be recognized as a true science. Those early views, supported by August Comte, led to methodologies known as positivism and based on the view of sociological naturalism.
Even in the 19th century positivism and naturalism have been questioned by scientists like Wilhelm Dilthey and Heinrich Rickert, who argued that the world of nature is not the same as the world of society, as human society have unique aspects like meanings, symbols, rules, norms, values - all that can be described as the culture. This view was further developed by Max Weber, who introduced the antipositivism (humanistic sociology). According to this view, closely related to antinaturalism, sociology research must concentrate on humans and their cultural values. This has lead to some controversion on how one can draw the line between subjective and objective research, and influenced the hermeneutics studies.
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