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Definition And Scope Of Sociology

( Originally Published 1915 )

Sociology Defined. Definitions of sociology are many. While it would be hardly correct to say that there are as many as there are sociologists, it is safe to say that they are as numerous as the various points of view of the respective groups of sociologists.

Generally, sociologists, instead of giving a formal definition of sociology, have entered into an extended discussion of its nature. Some, however, have used a colorless definition like " Sociology is the science of society," or " the scientific study of society," or " the science of social phenomena." Others, using more words, add but little, as for example, " Sociology is the name applied to a somewhat inchoate mass of materials which embodies our knowledge about society." Other definitions somewhat more definite, yet unsatisfactory in many ways, are, " the science of social process " and " the science of social relation." Better than these are, " Sociology is the study of men considered as affecting and as affected by association," or, " the study of human association, including whatever conduces to it or modifies it." Of the formal definitions that have been given by scientific men, none is more comprehensive than that of Professor Giddings, which follows : " Sociology is an attempt to account for the origin, growth, structure, and activities of society by the operation of physical, vital, and psychical causes working together in a process of evolution." While it is difficult to give a brief comprehensive definition of sociology that will prove entirely satisfactory through all of the changes of a developing science, Professor Giddings's definition is of great service to one who wishes a clear understanding and a precise view of the nature and purposes of the science. An adequate knowledge of the true nature and import of sociology, however, may be better obtained by a careful consideration of the underlying principles of the science, than by an attempt to follow any carefully formulated definition. Sociology treats of the phenomena of society arising from the association of mankind. It includes a body of classified knowledge relating to society and a number of principles and laws. It investigates causes and effects, discovers social forces, and formulates laws of control, or rules of action.

Sociology Treats of the Origin of Society. It is possible to have a science of society without going back to its origin, yet there are certain advantages in studying, as far as we may, society in its primitive state. This is the rule in all scientific investigations, that complex forms are traced to simpler ones in order to discover laws and principles. Society to-day is so complex that the laws applying to it are high generalizations not easily discovered, while the simple movements of society in its earlier forms reveal the cause and effect of social action.

Just as the botanist includes in the description of a plant the nature of its development from the seed and traces the law of growth from the beginning, so the sociologist follows the growth of society from its primitive conditions. Biology's great advances began with Darwin's Origin of Species, a work characterized by the use of what has come to be known as the " genetic method," that is, the study of biological origins. So, sociology is given a sound basis by the study of the primitive social institutions and processes. Many present-day social institutions and processes cannot be understood without a knowledge of those ancient ones from which they have developed. Therefore sociology begins with a study of social origins.

Sociology Treats of the Growth of Society. Beginning with a simple association, society has expanded or developed into a highly complex organization. Its growth is recognized by the addition of new forms and new functions and increased energy; by the greater systemization of its parts and the greater precision of its recurring actions. To show the gradual unfolding of society, or as it is usually termed, " the building of society," how it developed from primitive forms to the forms found in highly civilized societies, is one of the tasks of sociology. By some this process has been called " social evolution." In the beginning of social life society was homogeneous. It had not become highly differentiated into groups with specialized functions and complex institutions. As time went on groups of individuals became interdependent. The parts of the whole mass became segregated and a specific function or service was given to each part. These parts gradually became more closely related and interdependent. From a state of simplicity, society grew more complex ; it became heterogeneous. At first a mass or horde of people driven about by the influence of circumstances, following each other through imitation or led by their own in-definite desires, gradually took up new activities which were per-formed by separate individuals. This multiplication of services and duties in time brought about a high state of social complexity.

Social Activities. But while historic development is of much value as a groundwork of sociology, giving the student a broad conception of society as well as instructing him in the elemental points of social order, nevertheless, the real work of the science is with the forms and activities of a completed society. By a completed society we understand one that has all the ordinary activities and organization necessary to make an independent social body. What men- are doing in concert or in groups concerns the student more than how they began to work together, so that the social activities present the formal basis of the science. The operations of the various departments of government, the work of educational institutions, of the church, of social and philanthropic groups, as well as the organized industrial groups, must come under the close scrutiny of the student.

Social Forms. It is quite impossible, however, to treat of social activities without treating specifically of the structure of society. In all development of social groups the function or the action always precedes the formal organization. The United States Senate, for example, if considered as to its structure, would be treated as an organization composed of a group of individuals chosen in a specific way for a definite purpose. These individuals meeting together complete their own organization by choosing various officers. Thus far we have nothing but the structure of a group in society. If we consider what the senate does, its various duties, services, and privileges, as a representative body, we shall have the sociological function of an organic group of society. If we were to consider in detail each separate act of the senate, we should have its history. In this case we should be outside of the field of sociology.

Organic Conception of Society. The early writers on sociology used many terms borrowed from physics and biology. It was observed that society represented various interrelated parts more or less dependent upon one another. Men saw that the social groups in their activity resembled to a certain extent the activities of the individual. Hence it happened that out of these analogies the new science received its principal terms of expression. As every new branch of knowledge must have an independent terminology, or else be expressed in the terms of other sciences, the writer of a new science Must either coin new words, or put new meaning into old words. In the early history of sociology those sociologists who attempted to put new meaning into old words succeeded better in making a clear exposition of their science than those who attempted to coin a new terminology.'

They saw first that there was an analogy between the organic structure of a biological body and the structure of society. As a result they wrote about the social organism, but the analogies were carried so far by some writers that they assumed identity of structure between the physical and social bodies.2 This led to a revolt against what is known as " biological sociology." In this case, as in many others, the critics were as far away from a judicially balanced statement as were those criticized for their extreme assumptions. There is a social organism, having some analogies to the physical organism, but when we use the word " organism " in its application to society, it has a somewhat different meaning than when applied to a physical body. With that understanding and in the absence of terms of wide acceptance among sociologists, it is sometimes helpful to use physical and biological terms to express the principles of a new science of society.

Comparison of the Biological with the Social Organism. The tree has its roots, trunk, bark, branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit. Each one of these parts is dependent upon the, others for its existence. The activities of this physical organism are closely related. They are made up of groups of physical and chemical actions. The social organism is made up of groups of individuals more or less dependent for their existence upon one another. They perform certain reciprocal services which are essential to their respective existences. The analogy might be carried out much farther to show that the bioplast in the cell of the tree is living an independent individual existence similar to the individual in the social group. It might be shown that one group of bioplasts were building leaves, while another were making roots, and another the bark of the tree. So it might be shown that these correspond to groups of individuals, some working in one department of social life and some in another. But such extended comparisons generally lead to misconceptions. The characteristic work of the social organism is a psychical element which is lacking in the biological cell. The predominance of conscious effort in human society forever destroys the idea of making sociology merely a part of biological science. With this understanding of the phrase there is no harm, therefore, in using the term " social organism." It is not necessary to think of the tree or the human body, or any other organic structure, but to think of a social organism different from all of these. The only requisite is to assume that society is made up of interdependent individuals and groups more or less closely connected with one another. The psychic element in the social body makes it something more than an individual organism it makes it an organization. Moreover, each individual and component group of society has its own life purpose to subserve, while the biological cell seems to live and function only for the organism of which it is a part.

Sociology Treats of the Forces which Tend to Organize and Perpetuate Society. Wherever there is action or motion there must be some force impelling or causing it. Part of the work of sociology, then, certainly is a consideration of the forces which are in operation in human society. What causes mankind to associate in groups ? What forces brought about the establishment of the family and the perpetuation of the family life ? What are the forces that give rise to the religious group and cause people to build churches and carry on religious association? What forces cause people to come together in large cities, to organize in industrial groups, to build a state or a nation, and to develop a government? In short, what are the forces that are working to create and perpetuate the social organization? These are questions that must be answered by the sociologist. One of the primary purposes of sociology is to discover these forces and to trace their operations.'

Sociology Treats of the Laws Controlling Social Activities. The forces referred to are not irregular and intermittent, or there could be no permanent organic development of society. There must be a regular order in their activity and certain laws and rules of action controlling them. If, for instance, it be considered that men are struggling to obtain wealth for the purpose of improving their material condition, we have in this struggle a positive social force. If we search for any regulating law, we shall discover among others that man seeks to obtain the largest possible return for the least sacrifice. Likewise, we shall find that everywhere there are forces impelling society forward, and with a description of these forces must go certain laws, describing how these forces operate. One of the specific services of sociology is to discover these laws and to formulate them.

Psychic Factors in Social Organization. While many activities tend to create and perpetuate society, none are more prominent than the psychic forces. There are influences of physical nature that compel men to cooperate and combine. There are certain physical characteristics of individuals that cause their association. But the individual characteristics which arise from the psychical nature of the associational process are among the chief causes of the creation of human society. All society represents the " feeling, thinking, and willing together " of people, and these elements are the most constant and permanent found in society. While the study of biology may come to the support of sociology in very many ways, social psychology is more than an analogy it is a distinct branch of the science. After all, the strongest currents that draw society together when followed to their origin are psychical.

Sociology is Both Dynamic and Static. These terms are borrowed from mechanics and in a measure have the same meaning in sociology as in mechanics. However, the meaning of these terms in sociology is modified to suit the requirements of a science dealing with human beings with will power as against a science dealing with inanimate matter. Dynamic sociology refers in general to development or progress while static refers to relationship. We should have the basis of the latter if we were to take an instantaneous view of all society with its various co-relationships in regard to structure or activity. If now we could consider society moving forward and its various relation-ships changing at each successive stage, we should have the dynamic conception. In the static conception the comparison of relationships might be referred to some ideal standard which would lead us to an ethical basis of society. Some writers, carrying over into sociology the terminology of physics, have introduced the terms " social kinetics " and " social statics " as subdivisions of social dynamics.' This terminology, however, as in the use of biological terms in sociology, is helpful only if clearly recognized as borrowed and not as exactly fitting social phenomena unless the terms are redefined. At the most they only serve to call attention to two different ways of looking at social phenomena. For, if we consider society at all, it is always developing or changing. Only for an instant do relationships continue until they are suddenly changed into new relationships by the process of social development. This constant changing of society enables us to establish general laws of social order, but not to determine a permanent status of society. Therefore, social statics would give us a picture of society at consecutive stages of its development, but considered together, this series of snap shots would be a moving picture of social development, that is, of social dynamics.' Therefore it seems better to speak of social dynamics, and then subdivide it into social statics and social kinetics, the former dealing with social movements which are not changing in rate or direction, and the latter with those which change in rate or direction or both.

The Cosmic and the Ethical Processes of Society. Man is a part of the universe, and its laws also bear upon and move him. He is influenced by physical and mechanical as well as by vital forces. Certain writers have attempted to subject him entirely to the operation of natural law, giving him no position of independent activity. They have treated him as a particle of the universe being moved here and there by the various forces of nature and of his own being. This doctrine came as a reaction against the extreme theory of the freedom of the will and as the result of the study of natural evolution. Here, as elsewhere, the middle ground is safer and nearer the truth than either extreme, for while it is recognized that man is controlled by circumstances, his will operates with much power within certain limits.

The struggle for existence in the early history of mankind gives unmistakable evidence of man's common lot with other living organisms. As such, on the one hand, he was dependent for survival upon physical surroundings and, on the other, upon his own effort. At first this struggle was common with the beasts of the field. It was a wolfish struggle for life in which egoism was the predominating characteristic. Then, faintly at the beginning were felt the first stirrings of altruism, which grew stronger, until now altruistic practices constitute a remarkable feature of modern society.

The Shifting of the Struggle from a Physical to a Psychical Basis. Meanwhile, as the altruistic principles became ascend-ant, the competition between individuals of the same species became less severe, and changed from the physical to the intellectual. At first this change was shown by the individual directing his energy to some line of pursuit for the purpose of accumulating wealth instead of trying to insure survival by destroying real or supposed enemies. Each in the attempt to satisfy his desires learned to respect the rights of others. Subsequently, men learned to cooperate with one another in defense and in the pursuit of wealth. Gradually the altruistic principle became more important and each tended to seek the well-being of the group as well as his own safety, believing that his final success depended upon it.

The Survival of the Best. Through the development of altruistic sentiments and the extension of the cooperative practices of mankind, the old struggle became modified and the survival of the fittest biologically gradually tended to become the survival of the best socially. The adaptability of the individual to his physical environment was followed by adaptability to his fellow men. Those who cooperated survived and those who failed to cooperate perished. One can scarcely estimate the importance of this social fact in the development of the human race. So it came about that those who were most interested in their fellow men became known as the best, or, in other words, the best included not only the physically and mentally strong, but those of the largest cooperative power and adaptability to social life. In this process of cooperative protection the virtuous as well as the vigorous survived. It is really nothing more than an extension of the idea of the survival of the fittest to social environment, that is, to associated human conduct, when once social relation-ships were established and survival became dependent not only upon fitting into the physical environment, but also fitting into a social life in such a way as made cooperation possible. Then the fit was he who could control his impulses in the interests of group cooperation for purposes of survival.'

The Telic Process of Society. As individuals become more unified in sentiment, thought, and action there is developed what is known as social consciousness, whereby society recognizes its own collective power. In its endeavor to use this for the benefit of all its members the society or group exercises its telic capacities. In other words, the attempt to force society through certain channels, to cause it to perform certain acts for the general well-being of the social body is a recognition of the conscious effort of society to change or reform itself. To a large extent society has been created by the effort of each individual to follow his own personal desires as they related to himself and his fellows, regardless of any attempt to build the structure of society. However, through the influence of social consciousness there is a realization of social ideals and social aims, as well as social defects, and there arises an attempt to remove the defects and attain to social well-being.

The Scientific Nature of Sociology. - The foregoing statements represent partially and in brief the complex material with which the science of society must deal. It must consider social facts of all kinds and arrange and classify these facts and deduce therefrom universal principles or laws relating to the growth and activity of human society. The difficulty in bringing such diverse groups of phenomena into logical order and giving a scientific basis to this order is not easily overcome. Sociology is the most difficult of all the social sciences. It deals with material which has existed from the beginnings of human association, but proposes to establish the most general fundamental truths concerning its existence. Sociology today represents the results of studies of different scientists sometimes along parallel lines, in other instances along converging lines and in still others, along trajectories which have crossed. Each science views society from a different standpoint, and sociology will not become a compact, well-defined science until sociologists are able to generalize the truths discovered by those approaching social phenomena from various points of view and to agree more or less closely upon the subject matter and the method of treatment.

The Place of Sociology among the Social Sciences. This point involves the real nature and scope of sociology. It is one that has caused a vast deal of discussion among writers on sociology and one which, to a certain extent, is still unsettled. There is one group of writers who hold that sociology is a synthesis of all the social sciences, that the science is fabricated by running a thread through all the sciences and stringing them together in one mass. Others a little more discriminating hold that it is a synthesis or rather an amalgamation of the results of other social sciences. Herbert Spencer used the term " sociology " as a generic term to include all the other social sciences. From a scientific standpoint such a usage might be of value in showing that all are branches of one great science called " sociology " just as Spencer included the group of all natural sciences relating to life under the term " biology."

But the present writers hold that sociology is one of several coordinating social sciences, the most recent of the group, created for a special purpose and standing on an independent basis, and that while economics, political science, or ethics may deal with specific laws relating to parts of society, sociology deals with the general laws which apply to the whole structure.'

The Differentiation of the Social Sciences. Let us suppose that there are numerous phenomena of human society which continually increase with the development of social order. Society may go on developing from century to century without any scientific attempt to make an orderly arrangement of these phenomena. But gradually in the progress of knowledge scholars begin to realize that there are facts that constantly recur in the social process, for instance, those relating to the moral conduct of the individual. As a result there is developed the science of ethics. The classification of these phenomena and deduction of general laws and principles make this chronologically the first of the social sciences. Again, some observe that there are other groups of facts relating to government, and that there are certain principles involved in the development of social control. These facts are collected, classified, the principles established, and the science of government is brought forth. But there are other social phenomena unclassified and other purposes unsatisfied. The processes of obtaining and distributing wealth as independent activities may not be involved in either ethics or politics. And so a new science called political economy is created. These various sciences continue to expand in their natural order but there still exist, outside their legitimate boundaries, other social phenomena unclassified. and other scientific purposes still unsatisfied. No one yet has shown the universal forces at work in the growth, development, and structure of society as a whole. The laws of social being have not yet been set forth. Political, religious, ethical, and economic life have been presented from specific standpoints, but the general laws of society, the regularities to be found in man's thoughts, feelings, and purposes when engaged in any of his social relationships, whether they be economic, political, ethical, or religious, have not been developed. Here, then, is the opportunity for a new science called sociology. It refuses to be included in any of the other social sciences, and the other social sciences refuse to be grouped under it or to be absorbed or assimilated by it. From scientific and pedagogical considerations it stands alone. It has a definite purpose and a specific body of classified knowledge, as well as a body of laws and principles of its own.

Characteristic Mark of Sociology. Much of the confusion concerning this science has arisen from books whose writers fail to acknowledge that science has a subjective as well as an objective boundary. It is the aim of a science, the course of reasoning and the end to be sought as much as the phenomena with which it deals that give it its distinctive mark as a science. For instance, botany and chemistry may be dealing with the same material in a certain sense, but with entirely different aims. However, added to this is the fact that in the scientific sense the " material " with which each deals is quite distinct. The chemist is dealing chiefly, though not wholly, with inorganic matter and is interested primarily in molecules and atoms of different kinds and their relations to each other. The botanist, on the other hand, is interested in molecules and atoms only incidentally. He is studying organic matter primarily and is concerned with cells and the forms into which they build them-selves. Both are studying matter, but quite different aspects thereof, and in widely varied relations. So with sociology, ethics, economics, politics, and history ; while they all deal with the same thing in a broad sense, viz., human society, each is interested in a different aspect of social relationships. In the history of the natural sciences biology was the latest to develop. It is a general science, in the sense that it deals with facts and principles which underlie all the special sciences concerned with various forms of life, such as botany, zoology, anthropology, etc. While biology rests on all these special biological sciences in the sense that they provide facts and principles upon which larger generalizations can be made, yet its field is not precisely that of any of these special sciences. It deals with fundamentals common to them all. So with sociology. While economics, politics, history, anthropology, and all the rest deal with particular aspects of human association, sociology is the science which investigates the regularities of human association in all its varied aspects. The special social sciences take as presuppositions the general aspects which are the objects of sociology. Take, for instance, the trust and consider all the facts and phenomena of society that arise out of it. If we consider it from an economic standpoint, we shall be determining how the trust increases the development of wealth, its effect on wages or on general distribution of products, and many other economic questions. It is evident that we are working within the province of economics. If we consider the moral conduct of the individual interested in the trust, and its general effects on the morals of the community, we shall be studying ethics. If, however, we consider what legislation may be brought to control or regulate the trust, we shall be in the realm of political science. If, finally, we consider trust-phenomena in relation to their effects on the homes and migrations of people, the dispersion and concentration of social groups, in fact, the general effect on the social standard, we shall be in the realm of sociology. So we shall find, so far as the material field of operation is concerned, that all sciences cross each other more or less, and we must not forget that in reality there is but one science, the science of the universe, and that the division of this science into groups and individual branches is merely a matter of convenience and pedagogical relationships. Let, for instance in Figure I, which is merely illustrative, not exhaustive, the rectangle A, B, C, D represent all possible social phenomena, that of E, F, G, H all the phenomena of the science of ethics, M, N, 0, P that of economics, X, Y, Z, W that of political science, S, V, T, L that of history, and I, J, R, K that of sociology, and they will have a tendency to overlap each other somewhat similarly to the arrangement rep-resented in that figure. But the sciences themselves do not over-lap for the reasons stated above.

Groups of Social Sciences. The following schedule will represent a simple classification of the social sciences from a pedagogical standpoint. Only the principal subheads are given under each main group :

I. Ethics.

Principles of Ethics.
History of Ethics.
Social Ethics.

II. Economics.

Economic Theory and Institutions.
Economic Politics.
Industrial History.
Labor Legislation.
Banking and Monetary Theory.
Taxation and Finance.

III. Politics.

Political Theory.
Diplomacy and International Law.
National Administration.
Municipal Administration.
Constitutional Law.
Colonial Administration.

IV. History.

Political History.
History of Institutions.
Social History.
Historical Geography.

V. Sociology.

Descriptive Sociology.
Social Origins.
Social Evolution.
Social Pathology.
Socialization and Social Control.
Social Psychology.
History of Sociology.

VI. Anthropology.

General Anthropology.

VII. Comparative Religion.

This list of social sciences might be extended considerably, but for pedagogic reasons this classification is sufficient to show the relative position of each. It would seem absurd to attempt to combine all these into one and to make a synthesis of the group or to build up a science on the results of the group. This would be to assume that everything that related to social life should be classified within one science. It would be like attempting to classify everything that relates to inorganic bodies in one science and classifying everything that relates to life in another. Nor will it answer to substitute in the place of the heading " Social Sciences " the term " Sociology," for this would necessarily eliminate number V from the category and leave a great gap in the scientific arrangement of social knowledge.

The Pedagogic Limits of Sociology. For pedagogic reasons, if for no other, sociology should have a definite boundary. It should not attempt to displace or absorb either political economy, ethics, political science, or any other well-established social science. It should not attempt to be merely a generic term including them all in a group, nor indeed is it a science built up of the parts of the several social sciences. Much less is it a classification or coordination of the results of the independent social sciences. It is an independent science having a separate existence and its own methods of investigation. Nevertheless it does obtain data from economics, politics, and other social sciences. So, too, does it obtain material from biology and psychology, and yet no one would think of including these within the scope of sociology.

Sociology therefore occupies a very important place in the group of social sciences. As already stated, it occupies much the same position with reference to the social sciences that biology holds to the natural sciences dealing with organic phenomena. As Ward has well said, because of its general nature, " Sociology is a sort of a head to which the other social sciences are attached as a body and limbs." Therefore, its relation to other social sciences in the university curriculum must be very close.

The Relation of Sociology to Psychology and to Biology. Biology studies the completed individual unit and seldom goes beyond this. Its object is to show the origin and development of life in all of its various forms, and in its study it pursues the history of the individual from the first protoplasmic germ to the completed organism. On the other hand, psychology deals with the mental powers and habits of the individual. Its whole aim is to discover normal and abnormal action of the mind. These two sciences dealing alone with the individual have completed the range of their scientific investigation when they have discovered and classified all the phenomena concerning the individual ; the one, those manifested by him as a living being, the other, those manifested by him as a being who thinks, feels, and wills. It is true that biology incidentally touches upon some phases of social life influenced by biological conditions, and also that psychology branches out occasionally into social psychology for the purpose of interpreting individual characteristics. But in neither case is there any aim or purpose to present systematically the phenomena of social life. On the other hand, sociology has to do with the association of the bio-psychical units. It does not inquire into the growth of the individual man, either as to his origin, structure, or evolution, but deals with the phenomena arising from his association with his fellows.

The Relation of Sociology to Political Economy. Prior to the development of modern sociology, even before Spencer had written his monumental work and Ward had published his Dynamic Sociology, there was a tendency for political economy to expand from the old narrow bounds as laid down by Adam Smith, Ricardo, and others. This tendency grew with the expansion of industrial life until economics was reaching out to grasp a large group of phenomena which might be treated either from the economic or the purely social standpoint. The historical school of political economy brought into economic life many of the details of human society which are rather the effects of competitive economic processes on social well-being, than fundamental principles of economics. Indeed, some went so far as to weave into their economic writings much of ethics and politics, and also some characteristics of social life other than the purely economic. But as sociology developed rapidly and covered its own particular field, economics withdrew to its own natural boundaries. Political economy deals with the social phenomena that arise from the production and distribution of wealth. In a general way it may be said that wealth is its central problem, and only the social phenomena that are closely grouped about it may be considered as economic. It is true that economic relations are social relations, but the processes of economics are different from those of sociology. Yet sociology may use for its purpose certain conclusions of political economy, just as it may use the laws and principles discovered in any other scientific field which have social bearings, as data for broader generalizations.

The chief differences between sociology and political economy, then, are to be found in the fact that political economy works in a specific, while sociology works in a general social field. Political economy has to do with the wealth phase of social life, both as it existed in the past and as it exists to-day, while sociology searches for the general laws controlling the entire structure and activity of society. Thus, their boundaries are dearly defined, their purposes are widely different, and their material fields of operation are separate except for certain overlappings, where they deal with the same social phenomena, but always look at them from a different angle.

The Relation of Sociology to Political Science. Political science generally purports to be, as its name indicates, the science of government, which would include the classification and study of the methods of local, state, and national governments or, in America especially, the interpretation of government and methods of administration. The theory of politics, the development of the state, and state craft are subjects for its consideration. While political science is seeking to set forth the principles of government, sociology, on the one hand, is seeking for the universal elements of social activity to be found in political development, as in economic development, and, on the other hand, is studying the effects of those principles on society. Here, as elsewhere, sociology uses as data the product of another social science. There may be times when it is difficult to draw a line dividing the field work of the two sciences, al-though the respective aims of these sciences and the social facts studied in each case are clearly distinguished from each other. The history of the development of constitutions and systems of administration, while it records the progress of humanity in a given direction, is not strictly sociological, but it supplies raw material for sociology in that like every other special social science it furnishes a basis for generalization as to the way in which society as a whole originates and develops.

The Relation of Sociology to History. History deals with the details of evidence, while sociology deals with general laws and principles. History would be interested in the narration of the various facts attendant upon the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, but after giving a full and complete description of every movement its service would be finished; on the other hand, sociology cares nothing about all of these details except as they lead to some general truths relating to the origin or progress of society. However, certain treatments of history have approached nearer to the realm of pure sociology. Thus, for instance, recent philosophy of history, represented by Barth's writings in contrast with Hegel's, deals with the social causes and effects of nation building and furnishes general concepts concerning the development of single groups of known societies. A good deal that has been written under the title of sociology is nothing more than the philosophy of history interpreted in social and economic terms and frequently the philosophy of history has so broadened its scope as to be a social philosophy.1 But the philosophy of society proceeds deductively while sociology works inductively. From this statement it must not be inferred that history does not deal with social facts. Among many historical writers this phase of history has been much neglected, but history is broadening its scope and is becoming more serviceable as a means of culture? However, in its broadest aspect it fails to include the whole range of social phenomena. Facts about society do not, in themselves, make a social science.

The Relation of Sociology to Anthropology. Anthropology in its broadest sense is the science of man, physical, intellectual, and social. There is a sociological aspect to some parts of anthropology ; for example, that which refers to sociological characteristics and to the natural habitat of man. But anthropology in its limited view should really only include the natural history of mankind. It does not include such sciences as biology, psychology, sociology, political science, or economics. Its chief purpose is to view man as an animal possessed of mental and physical characteristics, and in his normal habitat in comparison with other animals. Its purpose is some-what different from that of any other social science, but it very nearly approaches sociology in the fields of social origins, social population, and certain fields of social reform, like criminology, and this gives it a position among the social sciences. If it were purely biological, as is one branch of it, somatology, treating of physical structure, of anatomy and physiology, it would be purely a branch of zoology. A large portion of this work must be given up to the description of the social life of primitive people in order to represent man in his true characteristics, individual and social. There are many divisions of the subject of anthropology, such as somatology, or the determination of physical characteristics, anthropometry, which relates to the system of measurement of mankind ; ethnology, which treats of racial characteristics ; and ethnography, which concerns itself with the origin, subdivision, and distribution of races over the earth's surface. But not one or all of these combined could be substituted for sociology. Here, again, is a special social science which supplies data for the general social science, sociology. The data furnished by anthropology are the bricks from which is constructed in part the temple of sociology.

Herbert Spencer, in his Principles of Sociology, and Letourneau in his Sociology, have dealt more with phases of anthropology in many instances than with pure sociology ; they show the ethnic basis of society. Spencer's Principles, as presented in the first two volumes, would represent rather a preliminary survey of the groundwork of sociology so far as it relates to primitive people. Letourneau spends much time on the sociological description of primitive peoples. Both furnish a basic support to sociology, but they leave off about where sociology should begin.

Various Conceptions of Sociology. While various writers have viewed sociology from many different standpoints, such as economics, philosophy of history, anthropology, biology, and political science, there are other writers who see sociology as a general science, distinct from any of these special sciences, and who seek to find some single unifying principle on which to base it. They differ, however, as to what is the fundamental social fact on which society is built up, and consequently as to the central principle or conception in sociology. For example, M. Tarde in his Laws of Imitation, has laid unusual stress upon a single feature of social action, viz., imitation. This is made to dominate everything else. Later, in his Social Laws, he has attempted to reduce sociology to three fundamental conceptions ; namely, " repetition, opposition, and adaptation." Giddings, in his Principles, viewed sociology from a single fundamental principle, " The consciousness of kind." In his later works, however, Giddings has broadened out his structure of sociology and has reduced " consciousness of kind " to a subordinate place, where, although it is a very important concept, it occupies its true position. Gumplowicz, in his Der Rassenkampf (War of Races), has viewed society from the standpoint of the contact of races, group-struggles being the fundamental fact. Novicow, in his Les Luttes entre societies humaines (Struggle Among Human Societies), has approached this same idea from a different stand-point. And, finally, we have a new conception termed by Ward " unconscious social constraint," which represents a number of writers who try to show that society has been built through the moral or psychic action of individuals in association, and that this represents, indeed, an important characteristic an idea which is essential to all rightly constructed society. This view prevails in special studies of sociologists rather than as the foundation of a completed system. Such works as Ross's Social Control, Spencer's Ceremonial Institutions, and Durkheim's Laws and Methods of Sociology are good examples of this concept of sociology, although each one sees it in a somewhat different light.

The Foundation of Sociology. Notwithstanding the importance of all the above concepts of sociology, the science rep-resents a much broader foundation than any one of them. A complete sociology must take all that is true in each one of these ideas and weave the whole matter into a logically constructed science. Such a work would be a monumental treatise of the subject. It would be beyond the range of possibility of an ordinary textbook to give it an adequate presentation. At present we must be content to direct the mind of the student along the highway of general development, pointing out certain movements of society and the laws that govern them.


ELLWOOD, CHARLES A. Sociology in its Psychological Aspects, Chap. III. GIDDINGS, F. H. The Principles of Sociology, Chap. I I; Inductive Sociology, Chap. II.

SMALL, ALBION W. Methodology of Sociology.

SMALL, ALBION W., and VINCENT, GEORGE E., Introduction to the Study of Society, Bk. I, Chap. III.

WARD, LESTER F. Pure Sociology, Chaps. II and III; "Contemporary Sociology," American Journal of Sociology, Vol. VII, pp. 475-500, 629-658, 749-762. Reprinted as brochure, Chicago, 1902, p. 70. Outlines of Sociology, Chap. I.


1. What are the essentials of a good definition? See Century Dictionary.

2. Judged by these essentials, which is the best definition given in this chapter?

3. Can you cite any other sciences which have benefited by use of "the genetic method "?

4. How do survivals in clothing illustrate the point that it is impossible to understand certain things now in existence without knowing the origins from which they developed? Can you think of any other illustrations?

5. Write out a careful analysis of the social activities and the social structures through which the activities are carried on in your home or other community with which you are acquainted.

6. In what respects are a lodge, a bank, a state, like a tree or an animal? In what are they different?

7. State the general outlines of Spencer's theory of "the social organism." What corresponds to the digestive apparatus of an animal? What to the brain and other higher nervous centers?

8. In what sense can we legitimately speak of social forces in sociology? 9. What is meant by a law in sociology?

10. Name three influences of physical nature which cause men to co-operate and combine.

11. What physical characteristics of individuals cause them to associate together?

Name some physical differences which keep them from associating together.

12. Compare Comte's, Spencer's, and Ward's conceptions of the term "social statics" or static sociology, and of "social dynamics," or dynamic sociology.

13. Explain how a struggle based on destruction of others could result in a being whose guiding principle is love and service of his fellows and whose practice is to "turn the other cheek."

14. Explain how, when such a creature once appeared in the midst of a "Nature red in tooth and claw," he and his kind could possibly survive.

15. Criticize the assertion that sociology is only a hodgepodge of the various social sciences such as politics, economics, history, etc.

16. State clearly the differences between sociology and the following social sciences: economics, politics, ethics.

Outlines Of Sociology:
Social Life In General

Definition And Scope Of Sociology

Purpose And Method Of Sociology

Social Origins

Land And Its People

Social Activities

Social Organization

Organization And Life Of The Family

Disorganization Of The Modern Family

Origin And Development Of The State

Read More Articles About: Outlines Of Sociology

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