Sociology as a social science
French philosopher, Augustine Comte in 1839 introduced the idea of sociology. This term is resultant of the Latin word, “society” which refers to society, and the Greek term, “Logos” which is taken to imply the study of science. Therefore sociology is the science of society. According to Bid (2006), the term sociology refers to the study of a man’s behavior in gatherings or the dealings among people, of social interactions, and of the ways by which human group activity occurs.
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Sociology is usually said to belong to the field of the social sciences. Science refers to a collection of systematically set information that shows the operation of universal laws (Tischler, 2010). Sociology also happens to employ the same general techniques of investigation that are applied in natural sciences. Like in sciences, sociologists are seen to be allied to the application of the scientific process. The scientific process in this respect refers to the process by which a collection of scientific information is built via observation, experimentation, generalization as well as verification (Tischler, 2010).
Social sciences comprise of the disciplines that apply scientific techniques to the study of human behavior. These interrelated disciplines are as follows: cultural anthropology, psychology, economics, history, political science, and social work. Sociology differentiates itself from these other social sciences in that it studies human society and generally, the social interactions. It helps persons understand the different societies in which they exist. These other social sciences go deeper into the definite and specific areas of the social environment.
Macrosociology Versus Microsociology
The word “macro” usually refers to “large” or “big”. Macrosociology can thus, in this respect be taken to mean the study of vast social phenomena. Microsociology on the other handsets the focal point on the social activities of persons and smaller groups.
Characteristically, macro-level studies of sociology set the focus on the individual or personal thought, interaction as well as action, usually, moving in tandem with the social-psychological approaches. The macro-level investigations on the other side set the focus on the social structures and the currents that organize and divide individuals into groups.
Alexander Jeffrey (1987) asserts that Microsociology and macro sociology are involved in the contrasting theoretical approaches in social life and as a result, give differing explanations. The units that are dealt with differently in the two occasions; the first occasion (microsociology) deals with individuals while the second occasion (macrosociology) deals with populations. The individuals may be poor or rather rich but only collectivities can reveal characteristics of the economic inequality.
The micro-sociology and the macrosociology apply different approaches and seek to come up with different models to explain the social relations and the complex social patterns based on a platform of social relations. Microsociology looks into the fundamental social processes that create relationships between individuals. The focus here is set on social interaction and communication while the vital concepts are reciprocity, dependence, and exchange (Alexander, 1987). Macrosociology tends to analyze the structure of the different positions in a particular population and the consequences of such on social relations. The focus here lies on the external hindrances of the social environment on the relationships of persons, whilst the vital concepts are inequality, differentiation, and heterogeneity.
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Generally, micro-sociology cuts across the internal dynamics of social relations while macro sociology looks at the influences on social relations caused by the external social restraints as well as opportunities. Examples of micro-sociology include the study of the character of a particular student in the class, how a parent relates to one of his sons, or the police’s study of a single criminal. Examples of macro sociology would be the study of the characters of students at Harvard, how parents generally relate to their children in Australia, or the general study of criminals.
Functionalism, the conflict perspective, and symbolic interactions
Functionalism was coined by a man called Durkheim who was concerned with how the society remained stable. In this approach, the society is split into many parts which collectively contribute to the larger whole. These distinct parts are the institutions of the society which are organized to fill the different needs (Anderson and Francis, 2007). The main institutions of the society include education, religion, families, the economies as well as governments. From a functionalist approach, the different parts of the society are dependent on each other as each particular institution has its consequences in the overall structure.
The conflict perspective stresses the importance of coercion as well as power (Andersen & Francis, 2007). Functionalism differs from the conflict approach in that functionalists emphasize the need for cohesion within a given society whereas conflict theorists put more weight on coercion, strife as well as friction. Conflict theory was developed from the work of Karl Marx and it tends to view the society as comprised of groups and subgroups which are constantly competing for social and also economic resources.
This approach holds the belief that sometimes agreement may be attained, but only if it is for the common interest. In this perspective, inequality is not fair but exists as a result of some persons controlling disproportionate portions of the society’s resources. Conflict is here viewed as inherently unfair as opposed to the functionalists who perceive it as beneficial to society. This theory has however been criticized for overlooking the need for shared values and public harmony and overstressing on social inequality and social control.
Symbolic interaction theory is the work of Irving Goffman, which holds that the immediate social interactions form “the society” (Andersen & Francis, 2007). Due to its emphasis on the face to face contact, this theory is a form of micro-sociology whereas functionalism and conflict perspectives are by nature macro-sociological. According to this theory, people behave the way they do out of their beliefs. This approach holds the belief that the world is subjective and it’s only an imagination whose effects are real. This subjective nature of this theory forms the basis for its criticism.
On a personal level, I hold a preference for the functionalist perspective which I consider the most realistic of the three perspectives.
The impact of technology on cultures
In many, if not all societies in the world, technology is expanding. The expansion of technology impacts the values, religion, politics, and all other spheres of human culture (Montgomery, Keegan & Guzzetta, 2005). This section focuses on the impact of mobile phones, the internet, and social networking on cultures as recent technological breakthroughs.
Cell phones are one of the main technological breakthroughs as they have penetrated every part of the universe. Some of their benefits include: all-time communication with loved ones, sending of texts, helping in times of emergencies-for instance fire outbreak, navigation systems help ward off getting lost, can be used as mini PCs with the internet, aid in fighting crime through tracking of criminals, also, they serve as entertainment gadgets and also aid in the transfer of data; mainly through Bluetooth and infra-red technology.
These gadgets have however aided crime where the criminals were not tracked and also their radiations are associated with some human ailments like cancer. This notwithstanding, the cell phone technology continues to advance each day with more features being added; its future cannot be foretold.
The internet is another technological breakthrough that is transforming the ways of life for individuals across the globe. This technology has been accredited with the following benefits among others. Communication- through e-mails, easy and fast sending and receiving of data, aiding shopping, marketing, and facilitating access to a vast body of information. On the other side, the internet has also caused havoc. Sometimes hackers have succeeded to breach security through the internet and made away with valuable information as well as endangering the security of the masses. In the future, the internet may replace document cabinets as data stores.
Social networking service is an online practice that builds social relationships among people who feel to have something in common. Examples of common social networks include Facebook, Twitter, my space, Nexopia, Bebo among many others.
These networks have been used to pursue political interests, to create social interactions on a global platform, sharing of experiences as well as instant messaging. On the flip-side also, these social sites have been used by sexual predators to stalk innocent young male and female members of society. Social networking has also served as a hideout for criminal gangs as they may not be tracked by law enforcers like is the case with the use of mobile phones. In the long run, social networking seems to be the future effective way of bringing together like-minded individuals for a particular course.
Alexander, Jeffrey. The Micro-macro Link. California: University of California press, 1987.
Andersen, Margaret and Francis, Howard. 2007. Sociology: understanding a diverse society, New York: Cengage Learning.
Bid, Dibyenduranarayan. Sociology for Physiotherapists. New Delhi: Jaypee Brothers Publishers, 2006.
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Montgomery, Barbara., Keegan, Lynn and Guzzetta, Cathie. Holistic nursing: A handbook for practice. Massachusetts: MJones & Bartlett Learning, 2005.
Tischler, Henry. Introduction to sociology. New York: Cengage Learning. 2010.