What is Sociology?


Sociology is the study of the issues, concepts, investigations, and results of individuals living together. While sociology's focus is on groups, this focus should not exclude an emphasis on individuals. After all, individuals constitute groups and groups produce individuals. How can we study and fully understand one without the other? We can't...nor can we study them as if they were merely in competition with each other...that's too simple. Rather, as a study of people...by people...sociology is a personal encounter with the social forces which shape our lives, especially those that affect our awareness (and ignorance) of how we create, maintain, and change those very social forces.

Sociology is the systematic study of relationships among people, the assumption being that behavior is influenced by social, political, occupational and intellectual groupings and by the particular settings in which individuals find themselves. It is the study of human association and group life. It describes and seeks to explain social processes that give rise to, sustain, and change us and our social world. Some topics in Sociology include conformity and deviance, freedom and transcendence in the social order, stratification, power, alienation, race, gender, and social change.

The simplest definition of Sociology is that it is the study of human societies. Through the synthesis of theoretical analysis and empirical research, Sociology provides a critical and systematic understanding of the processes which structure the society in which we live. Through focusing on the social patterns and forces which influence humans Sociology provides a counterbalance to the individualistic manner in which life in modern societies is usually viewed. This means that for sociologists the lives of individuals can only be understood through studying the social context in which they live. Therefore, studying sociology enables individuals to understand the nature of patterns in groups and collective life in which they are a part of, for example families, youth cultures, workplaces, ethnic communities or society as a whole. As such, the discipline of sociology examines that which constitutes our daily experience and social life. Reflecting the diversity of sociology as a discipline sociologists have developed and drawn upon a range of concepts and methodologies to inform their studies. Within this there are two significant ways in which society has been studied by sociologists. Firstly, as a series of exchanges between individuals in groups in which individuals influence each other and create meaning. Secondly, that social life occurs within large-scale social structures and institutions which, are unrelated to any single individual but impact upon how individuals act and experience their social life.

Sociological research and sociological concepts can help to explain many dimensions of social life. It can help explain the day-to-day interactions that occur in families, between men and women, as well as the larger social problems including poverty and other forms of inequality. As such, Sociology gives a systematic and disciplined approach to the problems, conflicts and dynamics of contemporary society. In doing so it provides a rigorous understanding of the causes and consequences of social order and social change.