The question 'what is sociology' is indeed , a question pertaining to the definition of sociology. No student can rightfully be expected to enter on a field of study which is totally undefined or unbounded. At the same time, it is not an easy task to set some fixed limits to a field of study. It is true in the case of sociology. Hence it is difficult to give a brief and a comprehensive definition of sociology.
Sociology has been defined in a number of ways by different sociologists. No single definition has yet been accepted as completely satisfactory. In fact, there are lot of definitions of sociology as there are sociologists. For our purpose of study a few definitions may be cited here.
- Auguste Comete, the founding father of sociology, defines sociology as the science of social phenomena "subject to natural and invariable laws, the discovery of which is the object of investigation".
- Kingsley Davis says that "Sociology is a general science of society".
- Harry M. Johnson opines that "sociology is the science that deals with social groups".
- Emile Durkheim: "Science of social institutions".
- Park regards sociology as "the science of collective behavior".
- Small defines sociology as "the science of social relationships".
- Marshal Jones defines sociology as "the study of man-in-relationship-to-men".
- Ogburn and Nimkoff : "Sociology is the scientific study of social life".
- Franklin Henry Giddings defines sociology as "the science of social phenomena".
- Henry Fairchild: "Sociology is the study of man and his human environment in their relations to each other".
- Max Weber defines sociology as " the science which attempts the interpretative understanding of social action in order thereby to arrive at a casual explanation of its course and effects".
- Alex Inkeles says, "Sociology is the study of systems of social action and of their inter-relations".
- Kimball Young and Raymond W. Mack say, "Sociology is the scientific study of social aspects of human life".
- Morris Ginsberg: of the various definitions of sociology the one given by Morris Ginsberg seems to be more satisfactory and comprehensive. He defines sociology in the following way: "In the broadest sense, sociology is the study of human interactions and inter-relations, their conditions and consequences".