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Development and Emergence of Sociology

Sociology is a relatively young discipline. Its emergence as a separate discipline goes back to about 150 years.

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Social thought is as old as society itself, yet the origin of sociology is traced back to 19th century Western Europe. Sometimes Sociology is called the child of the ‘age of revolution’. The revolutionary changes in the preceding three centuries had decisively changed the way people lived thereby paving the way for the emergence of Sociology as we have today. Sociology took birth in such a climate of social upheaval. The roots of the ideas developed by the early sociologists lie in the then social conditions that prevailed in Europe.

The modern era in Europe and the conditions of modernity were brought about by three major processes. They are:

  1. The Enlightenment- dawning of the ‘age of reason’.
  2. The French Revolution-the quest for political sovereignty.
  3. The Industrial Revolution-the system of mass manufacture.        

These revolutions completely transformed not only European society but also the rest of the world as it came into contact with Europe. The revolutions initiated a process of thinking about society particularly the consequences of revolutionary happenings. Industrial Revolution accelerated the process of urbanization. Urbanization, in its turn, created many social problems. French Revolution led to rethinking about the form of government and practice of democracy. Thus changes were all around in economy, polity and social spheres of living. The industrialization, urbanization and capitalism and the attendant consequences began transforming the societies of Europe.

The Enlightenment

It refers to that period in European history (late 17th and 18th centuries) which put human being at the centre of the universe and rational thought as the central feature of the human being. The ability to think rationally and critically transformed the individual human being into both the producer and user of all knowledge. For reason to become the defining feature, it was necessary to displace nature, religion and divine acts from the central position they earlier occupied. Thus the attitudes of mind that we refer today as secular, scientific, progress and humanistic developed.

During this period a belief developed that both nature and society can be studied scientifically.

The French Revolution

The French Revolution which erupted in 1789 marked a turning point in the history of human struggle for freedom and equality. It changed the political structure of European society. It put an end to the age of feudalism and ushered in a new order of society. It replaced the age of feudalism by heralding the arrival of democracy.

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