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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

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Aske
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paddri Reply
what are important roles that institution of the family plays in society
George Reply
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Shelton Reply
Auguste Comte
Pooja
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Ismail
Father of Sociology
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august comte
Muhammad
what is culture
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the way of life
Ismail
refers to a groups shared practices,values and beliefs
Erika
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Ismail
the way we conduct ourselves in Society
Brijesh
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Ismail
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Ismail
the study& observation of people places & things
a way of life
Tony
customs , ideas, beliefs of the society
AISHWARYA
what is conflict management
Zeenat Reply
with the reference of international relations
Ismail
what is Conformity and what are reasons for it?
Emmanuel Reply
It's to comply with standard, rules etc. Fitting into society
Kerri
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Ismail
what is Conformity and what are reasons for it?
Emmanuel Reply
what is sociology
COGF Reply
The study of social development and function. How society functions.
Kerri
the study of human being and how their interact
Muhammad
Sociology is the scientific study of society, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture of everyday life. It is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about social order, acceptance, and chang
Icecool
It's Unveil of Miracle of Life
Tendai
study of Unveil
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sociology is the stud of how people live together and how their lives are structured by social institutions ,culture and history how does sociology impact your life?
chnor
the study of the development, structure and function of society
Ayushi
study of human behaviour with their society.positive or negative
Deedag
what do you think c.wright Mills meant when he said that to be a sociologist one had to develop a sociological imagination?
Jamesnhialchan Reply
my special announcement and question to the nation what is conflict management ,when we talk about conflict management but we can always receive challenge of conflict only, we're are de management dey
Young Reply
Explain the importance of beliefs or a note of Beliefs.
Shuvhe Reply
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sociological lmagination
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what is gender studies
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origin and development of sociology
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what's to join
Prisca
What is gender studies
Muhammad
it means either of the two sexes (Male /female)
Prisca
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Muhammad
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Rakshita
gender studies is the study of the roles that men and women play in our society ...how those roles have been shaped..what factors have influenced them ...and their pros and cons etc
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connect
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the study of human behaviour and how interact with each other
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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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