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  • Explain why sociology emerged when it did
  • Describe how sociology became a separate academic discipline
Figure (a) shows two ancient Greeks. Figure (b) shows an ancient Chinese man. Figure (c) shows a statue of a man. Figure (d) shows a portrait of a Frenchman.
People have been thinking like sociologists long before sociology became a separate academic discipline: Plato and Aristotle, Confucius, Khaldun, and Voltaire all set the stage for modern sociology. (Photos (a),(b),(d) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; Photo (c) courtesy of Moumou82/Wikimedia Commons)

Since ancient times, people have been fascinated by the relationship between individuals and the societies to which they belong. Many topics studied in modern sociology were also studied by ancient philosophers in their desire to describe an ideal society, including theories of social conflict, economics, social cohesion, and power (Hannoum 2003).

In the thirteenth century, Ma Tuan-Lin, a Chinese historian, first recognized social dynamics as an underlying component of historical development in his seminal encyclopedia, General Study of Literary Remains . The next century saw the emergence of the historian some consider to be the world’s first sociologist: Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406) of Tunisia. He wrote about many topics of interest today, setting a foundation for both modern sociology and economics, including a theory of social conflict, a comparison of nomadic and sedentary life, a description of political economy, and a study connecting a tribe’s social cohesion to its capacity for power (Hannoum 2003).

In the eighteenth century, Age of Enlightenment philosophers developed general principles that could be used to explain social life. Thinkers such as John Locke, Voltaire, Immanuel Kant, and Thomas Hobbes responded to what they saw as social ills by writing on topics that they hoped would lead to social reform. Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797) wrote about women’s conditions in society. Her works were long ignored by the male academic structure, but since the 1970s, Wollstonecraft has been widely considered the first feminist thinker of consequence.

The early nineteenth century saw great changes with the Industrial Revolution, increased mobility, and new kinds of employment. It was also a time of great social and political upheaval with the rise of empires that exposed many people—for the first time—to societies and cultures other than their own. Millions of people moved into cities and many people turned away from their traditional religious beliefs.

Creating a discipline

Auguste comte (1798–1857)

A portrait of August Comte.
Auguste Comte played an important role in the development of sociology as a recognized discipline. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The term sociology was first coined in 1780 by the French essayist Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès (1748–1836) in an unpublished manuscript (Fauré et al. 1999). In 1838, the term was reinvented by Auguste Comte (1798–1857). Comte originally studied to be an engineer, but later became a pupil of social philosopher Claude Henri de Rouvroy Comte de Saint-Simon (1760–1825). They both thought that social scientists could study society using the same scientific methods utilized in natural sciences. Comte also believed in the potential of social scientists to work toward the betterment of society. He held that once scholars identified the laws that governed society, sociologists could address problems such as poor education and poverty (Abercrombie et al. 2000).

Questions & Answers

what is human evolution
sani Reply
importance of sociology to the student nurse
Ayeyi Reply
Define sociolisation, it's process and analyse different agents of sociolisation with relevant examples on each agent
Davies Reply
what are the consequences of schooling in view of norms of independence
Sitali Reply
social endurance
Olumide
what is the importance of durkhiem in sociology
Roselyn Reply
he analysis the role of human interaction and it's operation to explain, conceptualize and infer on social realities and the social representations.
Mary
what are the uses of culture
Folorunso Reply
Define society in relation to sociology
Tuxa Reply
society is a group of people who live same geographical area and has similar culture while sociology is the study society and how they interact.
yuusuf
origin of sociology
Ayshatrah
what is conflict theory, structural functionalism theory
Beene
what do sociologists study
Rachel Reply
The establishment; its economic system, education system, law, governance, society's behavior, society (in general), demographics, beliefs, cultures etc.
Leonard
aociologists study how society and people interact systematically and differencies of the world
yuusuf
they study group behaviour
owais
I have an assignment on sociology to interview people who have vulnerable diseases such as AIDS, Hepatitis, Cancer, Diabetes etc can someone advice me how to approach them because it's very difficult for me to do it
Mary Reply
Treat them with kindness like you would anyone else. No one likes to be treated with kid gloves - it's insulting and makes anyone feel marginalized. Do not approach them with piety (i.e., asking 'Are you okay?' with the slight head tilt). It's insulting and they will likely dismiss you immediately.
andi
treat them like you are a patient like also giving them motivational stories, play games with them
Great
sociological perspective
Davison Reply
When you are sick what should you do?You consult a physician likewise when the society is not functioning well what should the government do?Also consult a sociologist
Joseph Reply
hi where are you live mr joseph
Abdinasir
yes Abdinasir "in somalia"
yuusuf
and you
yuusuf
hy
nura
Hy is a for skin in Swedish.
Joakim
hi
yuusuf
Hi
Joakim
Hello everyone, who is from cameroon here because am tired with the 2 weeks ghost town here especially in North and South West region and I have not even done my sociology assignment I don't know were to start
Mary
hi everyone
Tariq
am new in this field I was given an assignment any one knows how to, need help
Davison
just give a tip of the assignment
Mary
Can you bring the assignment's question on board? if no than how one will know the assignment's question?
Emmanuel
who here for now?
Emmanuel
Is there anyone in here?
Emmanuel
how sociology affects in them adversity in age of globilization
mohamed
I leave in Nigeria
Joseph
hi
saad
Sociology affects people in many ways for instance, urban people's thought, life style, way of living is totally different than people live in rural areas. availability of Internet has impact on people because we spend leisure time with friends if we get time but now It's change due to internet.
saad
It depends on your geographic location, government, and what type of physician you are in need of. Always - regardless of where you reside - make certain that your doctor is aligned with an organization for physicians seeking higher ethical standards.
andi
hi Great from Zimbabwe ....and I'm new in this field
Great
Am a Nigeria
Olumide
hai
Machila
Zambian,am new in the field
Davies
what is the relevance of sociology?
Love Reply
how conflict theory differs from functionalist theory in relation to education
kealeboga Reply
Education is a major social institution that helps transmit information, beliefs, and skills through formal training or teaching. Education plays a hug role across the world.
Timi
discuss how some symbolic interactionist theories view the family in relation to socialisation
kealeboga
how can counteract biases?
Hawa Reply
is so splendid
Aminu
hi
Aminu
how r u
Farhana
help me in my sociology questions
Farhana
yes
ali
hi sociologist society
yasir
what is social phenomena and it's nature
yasir
Hell am Ilham
Ilham
pls i want to understand dis course because my lecturer x not helping me at all he don't explain in details
Ilham
what do sociologists study?
Rachel Reply
define sociology of culture ?
Qamar
define sociology in culture ?
Qamar

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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