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A Brief History of Sociology

I wrote this for my sociology class, some of my friends read it, and really professed interest in it, so I decided to post it.

The field of Sociology got a late start compared to other fields of study, such as chemistry which dates back to medieval times, or some other general sciences like medicine which also date back to medieval times. Many consider Sociology’s starting point to be in the middle of the 1800’s when American society was in the middle of the Industrial Era, and in a great upheaval of change and progress. Sociology scored more recognition during this time with the great successes of the French and American revolutions, which inspired people to think outside the box of tradition, and think in a more scientific or analytical way. The very first person to use the scientific method on the social world was Auguste Comte, he is indeed credited with being the founder of Sociology, his method of practicing was called positivism.

Another man named Herbert Spencer is also credited with helping a great deal in founding Sociology as a specific science, and field of study. Spencer came up with the idea of a Social Darwinism, which was that if left alone people would gravitate to either the bottom or the top of society, because of who was naturally supposed to be in charge was the strongest, and the poorer population were naturally the weakest, he called this principle “survival of the fittest”. Karl Marx made a huge impact on early sociology, he was a social activist who came up with the theory of class conflict, which is where the lower and higher classes will always clash due to their different positions in society, he believed the only way for this struggle to end was the lower class to rise up in revolution and throw of the bondage of the higher classes. Sociology was not a firmly established field of study in North America until the early 1900’s, when many universities such as Harvard and The University of California accepted it, and made it a department. Actually the first university to accept Sociology as a department was the University of Kansas in 1890, closely followed by the University of Chicago in 1892. Initially the department of sociology in Chicago dominated in America as far as sociology was concerned.

The way a sociologist works is very simple he or she applies the scientific method to their own society, primarily at a problem they see in it, they also apply the method at other societies as well. This usually develops into a theory of some sort, whether it is like Emile Durkheim’s social integration or like Max Weber’s protestant ethic. These theories are derived from years and years of research, and several experiments in the form of tests or quizzes. Another way a sociologist works is by reforming society, such as Jane Addams who founded The Hull-House in 1889, this was a center dedicated to helping poor immigrants living in the horrid slums of Chicago. This is a more direct approach to sociology, though no less important than any others. Today we have two categories of how sociology works, one advocated by Talcott Parson is called Basic or Pure Sociology, and this consists of constructing theory and testing hypotheses. The other advocated by C. Wright Mills is called Applied Sociology, which consists of implanting solutions for the numerous problems society faces. There are many grey areas between these two polar opposites as everyone is different, and has unique talents and inspiration.

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