The Nature of Studying Society - SOC SCI 5: Society & Culture with

The Nature of Studying Society
Society and Culture with Family Planning
Meaning of Sociology
Latin word “socious” meaning companion or associate and the
Greek word “LOGOS” meaning study.
Combining two words will mean study of associates or
Sociology is the study of society, groups, and social
behavior. (Broom, Bonjean, Broom 1990)
Sociology is the scientific study of human society. This
means that sociologist are interested in describing and
explaining human behavior, especially as it occurs within in
a social context.
Why study Sociology?
To understand the world we live in and the intricate
realties of group interaction and social processes/
To explain and understand human behavior in a society
To determine the existence of groups, their functions,
nature and characteristics
To understand “how” and “why” human beings act the
way they do.
The Emergence of Sociology
August Comte (1789-1857)
French Mathematician and Philosopher who proposed a
separate new science of society
(social physics). In 1839, he changed it to “Sociology”, a word
he invented.
 He divided Sociology into two areas:
Social Static – concerned with the various parts of society
and how these parts of society are held together (now
called social structure)
Social Dynamics – concerned with the analysis of change
within and among the various parts of society (now called
social process)
He is the founder of sociology and is best known for his 6
volume “Positive Philosophy. Based on the philosophy of
“Positivism”, he identified three stages in understanding
Theological Stage – society is an expression of God’s will.
Metaphysical Stage – people are less likely to see society as
the work of supernatural forces and placed more emphasis
on the forces
Scientific Stage – the final stage in understanding. This
approach is called positivism, which he defined as a path
to understanding the world based on science.
The philosophy emphasizes the techniques of observation,
comparison and experimentation in the development of
knowledge regarding the nature of society and human action.
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)
British Philsopher-scientist
Advanced the thesis that evolution accounts for the social
and natural life. He stressed the society is similar to a living
organism with part working together in order to survive.
Guiding principle: Society must adapt to its environment to
effect natural change, which will inevitably bring progress
and perfection.
Societies developed through a process of “struggle” (for
existence) and “fitness” (for survival), which he referred to
as the “survival of the fittest.”
Spencer equated this process of natural selection with
progress because only the fittest members of society would
Karl Marx (1818-1883)
A philosopher, economist and social activist
Stressed that history is a continuous clash between
conflicting ideas and forces. He believe that conflict, especially
class conflict, is necessary in order to produce social change
and better society/
Marx regarded private property and capitalism as the root
causes of poverty.
Two of the most enduring legacies of Karl Marx are the
theories of “Economic Determinism” and the “Dialiectic”
Economic Determinism
Economic relationship
provide the foundation of
which all other social and
political arrangement are
He believe that family
structure, law, and religion
would be developed after
adapting to the economic
The Dialectic
Marx view change as a
products of contradictions and
conflicts between parts of
He predicted that the conflict
between “haves” and the “havenots” or the ruling class and
the working class respectively,
would lead to a new economic
Conflict is the only factor that
can bring change to a society.
Emile Durkheim
A French intellectual who viewed society as a total entity, as
something more than the sum of its parts.
The combination of the parts, according to Durkheim’s major
concern was the balance between regulation and
Based on his classic studies entitled “Suicide”, when society
over-regulates and there is less freedom, “fatalistic suicide
occurs and less regulation, we have “anomic suicide”.
The suicide method became one of the most prevalent
tactics of Palestinian Terrorism in Israel. Who are these
people willing to sacrifice their lives and what drives them
to do such things? We answer these questions, while
relying on the concepts of altruistic and fatalistic suicide
from Durkheim's typology of suicide behavior. Palestinian
suicide terrorists from 1993 until the beginning of 2002,
fit the "altruistic" type as well as some elements from the
"fatalistic" and represent a combination of both types;
thus they can be labeled under a new category of
"fatalistic altruistic" suicide.
This kind of suicide is related to too low of a degree of
regulation. This type of suicide is committed during times
of great stress or change. Without regulation, a person
cannot set reachable goals and in turn people get
extremely frustrated. Life is too much for them to handle
and it becomes meaningless to them. An example of this
is when the market crashes or spikes.
Max Weber (1864-1920)
A German economist, historian and philosopher
To understand the behavior of the individual attributes to that
behavior, we have to understand the meaning of the individual
attributes to that behavior.
Weber’s work was the basis for “Verstehen Sociology,” which
emphasizes the subjective meaning of human actions.
Verstehen- German word meaning “understanding.
Weber was more interested in analyzing the meaning of a
social pattern than in looking for universal laws of human
In sociology, we analyze the importance of social rituals and social bonds.
Symbols and rituals tie us together and reinforce our bonds as we
celebrate or mourn together.
Weddings are a public social ritual, tying together two (or more) families
into a new kinship network. People are now related who were previously
not, and those present at the wedding participate in acknowledging and
celebrating these ties. Close relatives and friends participate in forging the
new family. Old friends and new friends also participate as do co-workers
and neighbors. Thus a diverse group of people, many of whom might never
have met, participate in the event.
We now have double the relatives that we had before! Most of these new
relatives live far away from where we are, the technology of the day helps
reinforce these ties. Our Facebook pages have been quite busy as people
post photos, tag each other, and friend many of the people they met at the
So, while marriage exists historically as an institution that organizes
property and inheritance relationships and regulates sexual behavior, it has
always also served the function of tying kinship networks together.
Marriage seems like one of the most personal choices
individuals can make. As Weber’s concept
of verstehen reminds us, understanding the meaning of
marriage from the perspective of those involved, as well
as the broader legal and social meanings help us
comprehend the broader social importance of marriage
and family.