Political Sociology

Ever science the Aristotle, thinkers have been making systematic study of concrete political phenomena. They have been observing how political phenomena influence and get influences by the rest of the social structure and culture. In this regard, Aristotle's 'Politics" may be taken as a work of political sociology. Ferguson, Montesquieu and Tocqueville were all engaged in what today would be called political sociology. The classical sociologists like Weber (in his essay "Politics as Vocation) and Pareto (his work "The Mind and Society') were pioneers in including a political sociology in their work. Further, Karl Marx in Germany, Mosca in Italy and Graham Wallas in England advanced so essentially sociology theories of political elites and of the processes of consensus and dissent. Also Andre Siegfried of pre-1914 France made a details study of this social group and interests in voting behavior. The phrase 'Political Sociology' to describe this tradition only came into general use after 1945.

Ever since the birth of sociology, the analysis of political processes and institutions has been one of its most important concerns. Sociologists argue and many political scientists agree that it is difficult to study political processes expect as special cases of more general psychological and sociological relationships. The term "Political Sociology" has come to be accepted both within sociology and political science as encompassing the overlap between two sciences. However, the political scientist is primarily concerned with the dimension of power and factors affecting its distribution. The sociologist, on other hand, is more concerned with social control, with the way in which the values and norms of a society regulate relations. His emphasis is on social ties, rather than on formal structures and legal definitions.

As Smelser N. J. says, "Political Sociology can be defined as the study of the interrelationship between society and polity, between social structures and political institutions". Political sociology is not solely the study of the social factors condition the political order.

Political sociology employs the methods of sociological research, including those of attitude research to investigate the content of political behavior. It treats political institutions, both formal or constitutional and informal, as parts of the social system. It has concentrated attention on 'elites and their membership, on the expression and regulation of conflict, on formal pressure groups, on the formation of political opinion. Political sociologists have been concerned with political parties as social institutions and with the phenomena of despotic and totalitarian regimes. It is an integral part of sociology which has progressively transformed political science in the direction of a wider attention to empirical reality.

Sociology of Education

Sociology of education is one of the specialised fields of social inquiry. It analyses the institutions and organisations of education. It studies the functional relationship between education and the other great institutional orders of society such as the economy, the polity, religion and kinship. It concentrates on educational system or subsystem or individual school or college.

'Sociology of education' studies 'education' as an agent of transmission of culture. It studies the functional importance of education also. It makes studies of school organisation and the relation between schools and social structure, especially social class, family and neighbourhood. The interaction of these social forces with the internal organisation of school is explored in order to find out the social determines of educability. Studies have shown that social class and its correlates have a systematic effect on educability and educational selection. For example, in Britain, the chances of achieving a university degree are six times better for a middle class than for a working-class child. The social deteminates of academic success remain powerful even in modern educational systems in spite of provision of equal opportunities for all. The theoretical notion of "meritocracy", i.e., rule by the educated and talented persons, has to be understood within this context. Sociological studies of higher education have increased since 1950.

Sociology of education stresses upon the social importance of education. The social importance of education is widely recognised today, especially in modern industrialised societies. In such societies education has become one of the means of acquiring social and technical skills. Education has become to be not only a way of training people to work in different fields but also a qualification for jobs in certain fields. It fits people for increasingly specialised roles.

More than that, education has become an essential need today to register progress in scientific and technological fields. As such, it is a means of promoting economic prosperity. Education, as a means of bringing about social change, is no less significant. It promotes social mobility, that is, movement of people from one social status to another. It influences social stratification. Education is often made of in totalitarian and communist countries as an instrument to propagate some chauvinist and communist ideologies.

The famous writer Newman said that the main practical purpose of university is to produce socially responsible people. President Truman of America, stressing the importance of education, once remarked that with wide experience, practical vision of things, intellectual depth and capacity to take decisions at right time should be given the reins of administration to rule the country. Dr S. Radhakrishnan said that the main objective of education is to give training to students to undertake occupations effectively and to become proper leaders in various social fields in which they happen to work.

Social or Human Ecology

Ecology is a branch of biology and has been largely concerned with the environment of the lower animals and plants. It refers to the influence of the environment upon animal ecology. The sociologists who adopted the approach of these natural scientists in their field as "human ecology" or "social ecology". The botanists also supplied the sociologists with fundamental principles, concepts and terminology.

The study of human ecology is nothing but the logical extension of the ecological point of view. Human ecology is that part of sociology which studies human beings' adjustments to their environments which include not only the physical conditions of their geographic environment but also other organisms such as other fellow human beings, plants and animals. Man, the subject of human ecology is less restricted by his physical environment. With the help of culture that man possesses, he can live almost anywhere on the planet. He can grow and produce different kinds of food, wear clothing's of various types, construct houses, bridges and dams, create tools and implements which have different uses, kill beasts that are dangerous, destroy harmful insects with pesticides and so on.

social ecologists have focused their attention on the community. The ecological factors can more easy and more productively be studied when the community is the unit of observation. Ecology studies community in relation to environment. Culture modifies the influence of natural environment, and as culture changes, communities change.

The Ecological Approach: The ecological approach to the study of communities had been used, so far, mainly by American sociologists. Park and Burgess were the pioneers in the study of human ecology. They and their student Mackenzie formulated its basic principles. They made it a field of study within sociology. Later this approach was very usefully employed by sociologists other than those of the "Chicago School".

Sociologists who study communities from the ecological point of view consider a village town or city sociological rather than a legal or an administrative unit. It needs not confine itself to the boundaries set by law. "A community, from the ecological point of view, includes a focal area plus the surrounding territory. Its size is determined by the extent of its economic and social influence". This ecological conception is used by the sociologists in their study of the community. Even economists, social workers, businessmen, and social planning agencies make use of this approach.

Sociology of Law

'Sociology of Law' looks at law and legal systems as a part of society and also as social institutions related to other institutions and changing with them. It regards law as one means of social control. Hence law is often made to be related to a moral order, to a body off customs and ideas about society. From this point of view, sociology of law is itself related to jurisprudence. Still it is not like jurisprudence. Sociology of law requires an understanding of the system of law no doubt. But it is still wider in scope. It seeks "perceive the relationship of systems of law to other social sub systems like economy, the nature and distribution of authority, and the structure of family and kinship relationships". In Britain, some social anthropologists have examined the systems of law and courts in relatively simple societies and tried to determine their relationships to other aspects of social system.

The study of "Sociology of Law" is well known in Europe but not in America and Britain. In fact, sociologists have hardly turned their attention towards sociology of law in modern societies. Previously, Durkheim (through his classification of law into retributive and restitutive) and Max Weber (through his "Law in Economy and Society" - Translated work) had made some initial studies in the field. Austrian scholar E. Ehrlich published one of the most outstanding works on sociology of law in 1913 which was translated into English under the title "Fundamental Principles of the Sociology of Law" in 1936. Another famous work is that of Georges Gurvitch's 'Sociology of Law' 1942. Due to the work of some jurists in America considerable interest is now being shown to sociology of law. Due to this growing interest only a number of sociologists and lawyers have made a joint venture to produce an interesting work entitled "Sociology and the Law; New meanings for an old Profession" 1962.

Sociology of Knowledge

'Sociology of Knowledge' is one of the recently emerged branches of sociology. This branch pre-supposes the idea "that our knowledge is in some measure a social product." Thinkers had recognized long back the importance of economic, religious, political and other interests in shaping human beliefs and ideas. Of late, the view that even human society and its vert structure can influence knowledge, gained sufficient recognition. The history of Greece and Rome in particular has strongly supported this view. In his book "New Science" (1725) Vico tried to show how heroic literature constituted the thought mode of a specific kind of society.

The promlem of the relationship between society and knowledge has been raised by Marxnism, and it has offered a solution to it also. "According to Marx and Engels, all knowledge has been distorted, directed and conditioned by interests conscious and unconscious, of conflicting exploited and exploiting classes". In the light of contemporary sociological information, this view is found to be untenable as a total sociology of knowledge.

Durkheim tried to approach this problem in his own way. In "Elementary Forms of the Religious Life" 1912 and "Sociology and Philosophy" 1952 (essays translated) he argued that our perception and experience are derived from and constitute a part of social structure. This view may be alright for simpler societies and not for complex ones. Even Comte's three stages of social evolution had been regarded as stages of forms of thought of which the last stage, that is, the positivist stage is alone objective.

The foundations of the sociology of knowledge will have to be found in Karl Manheim's "Ideology and Utopia" 1936 and "Essays on Sociology of Knowledge", 1952. Manheim tried to face "The problem of sociology of knowledge with great philosophical learning and methodological ingenuity". A number of sociologists are attracted by the subject of knowledge but the problems it raises are unsolved.

The Human Zoo by Desmond Morris

The Human Zoo is a book written by the British zoologist Desmond Morris, published in 1969. It is a follow-up to his earlier book The Naked Ape; both books examine how the biological nature of the human species has shaped the character of the cultures of the contemporary world.

The Human Zoo examines the nature of civilized society, especially in the cities. Morris compares the human inhabitants of a city to the animal inhabitants of a zoo, which have their survival needs provided for, but at the cost of living in an unnatural environment. Humans in their cities, and animals in their zoos, both have food and shelter provided for them, and have considerable free time on their hands. But they have to live in an unnatural environment, are both likely to have problems in developing healthy social relationships, both are liable to suffer from isolation and boredom, and both live in a limited amount of physical space. The book explains how the inhabitants of cities and zoos have invented ways to deal with these problems, and the consequences that follow when they fail at dealing with them.

From this point of view, Morris examines why civilized society is the way it is. He offers explanations of the best and the worst features of civilized society. He examines the magnificent achievements of civilized society, the sublime explorations that make up science and the humanities. And he also examines the horrible behaviors of this same society like war, slavery, and rape. This book, and Morris's earlier book The Naked Ape, are two of the early works in the field of sociobiology.

The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris

Every human on the planet should at one time take a look at the human species from a detached point of view: consider them from the mind of some alien species and then question if you think we’re a bit odd, predictable, or whatever descriptive word you want to use. Desmond Morris’ 1967 classic The Naked Ape does just that. No, he is not pretending to be some alien species, but he is analyzing the human as an animal, from the view of a zoologist, rather than the more common means of a psychologist or sociologist.

The Naked Ape is in fact referring to the human body — one that is “naked” in the sense of less body hair than other apes and also a stripped down (literally) examination of our animal nature. Some of the topics Morris discuses are human sex, child rearing, exploration, fighting, feeding, and comfort. He compares our habits to those of the apes, noting some of the similarities beside some of the differences.

After reading a book by Jane Goodall, in which she talks about chimpanzees' need to groom one another as a means for casual social interaction, Morris compares this behavior to our version of “grooming”, social chitchat. Humans do it when a group gathers, and as they grow more comfortable with one another, the conversational topics might delve into deeper issues, but then the chitchat, or “grooming” emerges once again when the group is parting ways.

Also, when Morris is discussing the patterns of human sexual interaction, he gives readers an entire chapter of the mechanical sexual process without a shred of eroticism. He discusses the idea of the “pair-bond” between two naked apes; how do they achieve such? Why do they engage in such a large amount of pre-copulation activity? If your first response is to answer this in reasons you’ve heard before, Morris takes it deeper as he discusses the biology behind it. Again, pretend you are some alien species and you’ll notice and recognize patterns that you might not have found otherwise.

It is important to also note that because of the year in which the book was written, some of the statistical information will not be accurate to that of today, and also some dated words are used, such as “Negro” to describe the black male. Yet this can’t be really criticism considering this was penned in 1967, and although there might be some minor differences as these, the overall text is timeless. Morris shows how since our origins, not much has changed in our behaviors.

Morris also makes an interesting observation involving young children and what their favorite animals are. When they are very young, Morris points out that children will list large animals as those they admire most (such as lions, tigers, bears, etcetera), yet as children age, their selections change to smaller animals (cats, dogs, rabbits), or in other words, animals they can physically nurture themselves, and claim the role of the “parent”. He also notes the patterns in what humans define as their least favorite animals (such as spiders and snakes) and discusses why this is the case. What is it that causes the Naked Ape, on average, to detest spiders and snakes so much? Read and find out.

I was attracted to this book after reading the interview with Desmond Morris on Cosmoetica. Morris not only addresses the many similarities we share with other apes, but also the not so obvious differences we have. For example, female naked apes are the only animal species we know that can experience an orgasm, as well as having a hymen. He also notes that our primary sexual position is face to face, and that the female breasts serve more to sexually arouse males than for mere infant suckling alone since the breast is not as conducive to infant suckling the way the breasts on other apes are. (Noting that when a human mother breastfeeds, she must be aware that the breast could literally suffocate the child if she’s not paying attention. Just as a contrast, other female ape species’ breasts consist mainly of large nipples pointed outward, making it easy for the infants to feed).

I have only touched on the very little that is contained in this book, which is a delight to read. I encourage everyone to visit and revisit The Naked Ape and remove yourself from your own species for a while. And the next time you are drying off after a shower, all this talk just might lead you to look a little longer at that Naked Ape in that mirror. (It’s ok; just don’t get caught).

Historical Sociology

Historical sociology has emerged as one of the branches of sociology. In a sense, all sociological research is historical for the sociologists normally go into the records pertaining to the events that have happened or have been observed. "The term historical sociology is, however, usually applied to the study of social facts which are more than fifty or so years old".

In actual practice, historical sociology has become a particular kind of comparative study of social groups, their composition, their inter relationships and the social conditions that support or undermine them. If the social anthropologist looks at these things in contemporary simple societies, the historical sociologist examines them in comparison with the records of earlier societies and their cultures.

Some historians such as Rostovzer, G.G. Coulton and Jacob Burkhardt, have written social history. "Social history is history which deals with human relations, social patterns, mores and customs and impotent institutions other than monarchy and army." Social history has become "The history of people with the politics left out". "It has now become the history of men and women in their social relationships and groupings".

Social history has yet to establish itself as a separate discipline only a handful of people are busy with teaching it in British Universities. On the other hand, social history has gained much acceptance by sociologists. They have become aware of the significance of the past in the interpretation of the present. Social history has been acknowledged as 'historical sociology' by sociologists. It is today one of the standard special fields of sociology. Sigmund Diamond, Robert Bellah and Norman Brinbaum may be pointed out as impotent contemporary practitioners of historical sociology.
Sociology is a fast growing discipline. Sociologist are at work to bring into its range of study almost all aspects of man's social life. Sociology has a tendency to break down into an endless list of specialists. Thus it has several specialized areas of inquiry each of which may employ its own approach and techniques. Here is a small attempt to introduce some of the main branches or specialized areas of study.
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