Factors Contributing to the Emergence of Society

Sociology came to be established as an independent and a separate social science in the middle of the 19th century. Various factors paved the way for its emergence. Ian Robertson in his book "sociology" [pages: 11-12] has mentioned of three factors that hastened the process of the establishment of sociology as a separate science. They are,
  1. Industrial Revolution and Industrialisation.
  2. Inspiration from the Growth of Natural Sciences.
  3. Inspiration provided by the radically diverse societies and cultures of the colonial empires.
These three factors are described separately from each other briefly in next three posts as those named here.

Characteristics of Early Sociology

The science of sociology was taking its shape to emerge as a distinct science in the second half of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century. According to T.B. Bottomore early sociology assumed the following characteristics:
  1. Early sociology was encyclopedic in character. It was "concerned with the whole social life of man and with the whole of human history".
  2. Early sociology, which was under the influence of philosophy of history and the biological theory of evolution, was largely evolutionary in nature.
  3. It was generally regarded as a positive science similar in character to the natural sciences. "Sociology in the 19th century was modelled upon biology". This fact could be ascertained from the widely used conceptions of society as an organisation and from the attempts to formulate general laws of the present day.
  4. Sociology was virtually recognised above all, "a science of the new industrial society". Even through sociology claimed itself to be a general science, it dealt particularly with social problems arising from the political and economic revolutions of the 18 century.
  5. Sociology as "an ideological as well as scientific character". Various conservative and radical ideas entered into its formulation, gave rise to conflicting theories, and provoked controversies which continue to the present day.

Sociology before Auguste Comte?

Sociology has a long past but only a short history. Sociology which is known as the science of society, is one of the youngest as well as one of the oldest of social sciences. It is one of the youngest sciences because only recently jt came to be established as a distinctint branch of knowledge with its own distinct set of concepts and its own methods of inquiry.
Sociology is also one of the oldest of social sciences. Science the dawn of civilisation, society has been a subject for speculation and inquiry along with other phenomena which have agitated the restless and inquisitive mind of man. Even centuries ago men were thinking about society and how it should be organised, and held views on man and his destiny, the rise and fall of peoples and civilisations. Though they were thinking in sociological terms they were called philosophers, historians, thinkers, law-givers or seers. Thus, "Broadly it may be said that sociology has had a fourfold origin: in political philosophy, the philosophy, the philosophy of history, biological theories of evolutionism and the movements for social and political reforms...".
There was social thought during the ancient age: Though sociology came to be established as a separate discipline in the 19th century due to the efforts of the French Philosopher Auguste Comte, it is wrong to suppose that there exited no social thought before him. For thousands of years men have reflected upon societies in which they lived. In the writings of philosophers, thinkers and law-givers of various countries of various epochs we find ideas that are sociological. For instance , in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Manu, Confucies , Cicero and others we find major attemps to deal methodically with the nature of society, law, religion, philosphy etc. Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Politics, Smriti of Manu, Confucius' Analects, Cicero's On Justice are some of the anciant sources of social thought.
During the middle ages and early modern times the teachings of the church dominated the human mind and hence most part of human thinking remained as metaphysical speculation far away from the scientific inquiry. Intellectuals became more active science the 16th century onwards. Their quest for an understanding human society, its nature, socio-political system and its problems now received new impetus. The literary works of some prominent intellectuals of this period clearly reveals this urge to understand and interest man's socio-political system.
Machiavelli's "The Prince", Thomas Hobbes "Leviathan", Rosseau's "Social Contract", Montesquieu's "The Spirit of Laws", Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nation's", Condorcet's "Historical Sketch of the Progress of the Human mind" serve as examples of such literary works. Thinkers like Sir Thomas More in his "Utopia", Thomasso Campenella in his "City of Sun", Sir Francis Bacon in his "New Atlantis", James Harrington in his "Common Wealth of Oceana", H.G. Wells in his "A Modern Utopia" - had made attempts to project a picture of an ideal society free from all shortcomings.
However, it was only in the 19th century that systemic attempts were made by Auguste Comte, Spencer, Durkheim, Weber and others to study society and to establish a science of society called "sociology".


Sociology joined the family of social sciences relatively at a later stage i.e. in the 19th century, for it had no independent existence before.
In fact, sociology began to emerge as an independent and separate discipline only around the middle of the 19th century. It took almost fifty years before the subject began to assume scientific character that it has today. Prior to the middle of the 18th century, the study of society was dominated by social philosophers rather than by social social scientists. These philosophers were less concerned about what society actually like, than what they thought it ought to be like. But in a relatively short period this emphasis was completely reversed. Hence study of society became more scientific than philosophical.


History according to some belongs more to the category of humanities than to the group of social sciences. But for all practical purposes it is also treated as one among the social sciences. History is a systematic record of human past. "It is the story of the experience of mankind". History is a storehouse of records, a treasury of knowledge. It supplies useful information and facts to the social sciences including sociology. Sociology is also useful to history for it provides the social background for the study of history.


Psychology is the science of human behavior. This science, more than any other social science, focuses on the individual. Psychology shares one major field of interest with sociology, namely social psychology. Social psychology is the science of the behavior of the individual in society. It studies the way in which personality and behavior are influenced by the social context.


Anthropology is a science of man and his works. Sociology and anthropology are "twin sisters". Both are mutually helpful and supportive. Anthropology has two main branches: (i) Physical anthropology and (ii) cultural anthropology. Physical anthropology deals with human evolution and studies the physical characteristics of man. Cultural anthropology deals with the cultural evolution. It studies the ways of life of different communities, particularly, the primitive ones.
Anthropology differs from sociology in that it usually focuses on the simple, small-scale, primitive societies. Anthropology studies the society as "whole". Sociology concentrates more on group processes within larger modern complex societies.

Political Science

Political Science is the science of state and government. Traditionally it has focused on two main arias. Political philosophy and actual forms of government. Political science has close links with sociology. In the recent years political science has been very strongly influenced by one of the branches of sociology, known as "political Sociology". Political sociology analyses political behavior and studies the social interaction involved in the process of government. The interests of political scientists and political sociologists have been gradually converging and in many instances they now overlap.


Economics studies the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. Wealth constitutes the central problem of economics. It studies man as a wealth-getter and wealth-disposer. Economics is in many ways the most advanced of the social sciences. Its subject-matter is often more easily measured than that of the order disciplines. But the economy is also a part of society; goods and services do not produce, distribute and consume themselves. The economic processes depend upon Society. The social aspects of economic life are the subject matter of "sociology of economics", one of the major branches of society.

Different SocialSciences: A Glimpse

As it has already been said earlier social sciences refer to a related group of disciplines that study various aspects of human behavior. The main social sciences are - sociology, economics, political science. anthropology and psychology. History is also included in this category. Human behavior, of course, does not come in such neat compartments. In reality the boundaries between the social sciences are very vague and constantly shifting. Each one of these sciences has different historical origins and each science is trying to preserve its distinctness. in spite of specialisation found among the social sciences, they are interrelated and interdepended. Nobody could possibly be an expert in all of them. Because, social scientists are aware that their sciences overlap. This awareness has been responsible for the development of what is known as an "interdisciplinary approach". This approach stresses the idea that each science is necessarily related to, and sometimes dependent on the other. This approach gives them a free hand to "invade" each other's territory whenever it seems useful to do so.

Development of Different Social Sciences

Among the disciplines that formed the social sciences, two contrary, but powerful tendencies at first dominated them, (i) The first was the drive towards unification, that is towards a single, master social science. Some thinkers felt that it was better to have a single science of society [that would take its place in the hierarchy of sciences] than to have a plurality of social sciences. In the 1820s itself Auguste Comte wrote calling for a new science, the one to study man as a social animal. Comte, Spencer, Marx, Bentham and many others to join them, saw the study of society as a unified enterprise. Science society is an indivisible thing, the society must be a unified one. This was their basic belief.
(ii) The second tendency was towards specialisation of individual social sciences. It was this opposite tendency of specialisation or differentiation that won out. In spite of the dreams of Comte, Spencer, Marx and others, there were to be found at the end of the 19th century not one, but several distinct, competitive social sciences. Development off colleges and universities throughout Europe and America very strongly supported this process. These formal educational institutions in fact, started the "age of specialisation". This began first in Germany and later on spread to England, America, France and other countries. The philosophy of specialisation became so fascinating that no major field of study could escape the lure of specialisation.


The third of the intellectual influences is that of evolution.* It affected everyone of the social sciences each of which was concerned with the idea of "development". It was believed that the idea of evolution would help people to understand the development in social structures or societies as it had helped the biologists to understand the development in the structure of animals.
The impact of the Charles Darwin,s "Origin of Species", published in 1859, was of course great and further enhanced the appeal of the evolutionary view of things. It should be noted that even before the publication of Darwin's work , Comte, Spencer and Marx had already given shape to the idea of evolution in their literary works. "The important point, in any event, is that the idea or the philosophy of evolution was in the air throughout the century, as profoundly contributory of establishment of sociology as a systematic discipline in the 1830s as to such fields as geology, astronomy, and biology. Evolution was as permeative an idea as the Trinity had been in medieval Europe"


Humanitarianism, through a very distinguishable current of thought, it was closely related to the idea of "science of society". Humanitarianism is an ideology committed to the cause of human welfare or social welfare. The ultimate purpose of social science was also thought by almost everyone to be the welfare society. Humanitarianism entered the sphere of "social consciousness" and made the people to realise the need for doing something for the improvement of poor and needy.
Due to the influence of humanitarianism, several social service organisations, orphanages, poor houses, child protective laws came in. Great concern was shown towards the poor in the artistic, literacy, religious and political communities. Hospitals and sanitarian sprang up in many cities. Marketing provisions for drinking water facilities, educational opportunities, economic assistance etc. for the benefit of the needy, became a part of the local administrative bodies. The need more "social philosophising" was called for: a genuine application of the science of human understanding was needed. It is clear from above, that humanitarianism and social science were reciprocally related in their purposes. All that helped the cause of the one could be seen as helpful to the other.
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