Sociology: Meaning, nature and scope



Meaning of sociology


Sociology is the youngest of the social science. Its major concern is society, and hence to is popularly known as the “Science of Society”.

Etymological, the term sociological is the combination of two words. One Latine words- ‘Societus’ and other Greek words-logos’, in which ‘Societus’ means society and logos’ means study or Science. In this way etymological meaning of Sociology is the Study of the Society or Science of the Society.




Different Scholars have defined Sociology in different ways. Though the content of definition is  the same, definitions very from person to person.


  1. “Sociology is a science of Society.” –L.F Ward
  2. “Sociology is about Social relationship, the net of relationship, we call Society”-MacIver and Page
  3. “Sociology is the Study of human interaction and interrelation, their conditions and consequence”-M.Ginsberg
  4. “Sociology is the scientific study of the structure of social life”-Young and Mack
    • Sociology is the study of human behavior in groups.
    • Sociology is the study of social action.
    • Sociology is the study of social groups or social system
    • Sociology is the study of forms of social relationship.



Sociologist tries to find out the evolution of society while studying Society. Similarly, to find out and discover nature and interdependence of Social structure, development of  social institution, their functions, customs, value of mobilizing of social relation, human made groups  and history of community, family, caste, government, economic, group, religious group etc and phenomena of social change are the functions of sociologists.


Development of Sociology as Social Science


  • Sociology born in Western Europe.
  • But it developed in far east & far West.
  • In East, it grew in Russia as Marxist Sociology.
  • Marxist Sociology believes in Revolution.
  • In far west, it grew in USA as Academic sociology.
  • Academic Sociology believes in reform.
  • Academic sociology developed in 3 centers of USA.
  • Those 3 centers were Harvard, Chicago and Columbia University. So Academic Sociology is also called as American Sociology.


Development of Academic Sociology


  • Hanari Saint-Simon (France) was great scholar of Sociology.
  • He had his Students named Auguste Comte,Enfantain & Bazard.
  • After the death of Henri Saint-Simon, Auguste Comte started giving lectures in one street of France, Enfantin  & Bazard started giving lectures in another street of  France.
  • Enfantin & Bazard propagated the idea of sociology in the name of Saint-Simonism.
  • Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer and Jurgan Habermas ate guided by Saint-Simonism .
  • Saint Simonism produced a tradition whose theme has been a criticism of nodern Society in the name of man’s human potentialities and their fulfillment.
  • Auguste Comte propagated the idea of Conventional Academic sociology.
  • The idea was passed from Comte to Emile Durkheim.
  • Conventional Academic Sociology became central source for Talcott Parson to develop his own theoretical Synthesis.



Sub-Division of Sociology


Sub-division of Sociology is also known as branch of Sociology.

Some of the branches of Sociology are given below:-


  1. Historical Sociology
    • It is study of cultural- historical facts of Society.
    • Sociology usually accepts 50 year’s old facts as historical facts. e.g.; Muluki Ain, 1910 B.S – punishment based on caste. New Muluki Ain, 2020 B.S – Abolition of Caste Discrimination.
  2. Sociology of Knowledge
    • It is study of knowledge as social product.
    • It believes an idea that human society and its very structure can influence knowledge.

e.g.; National Anthem generates love for country in the heart of people.

Maoist’s people’s song had encouraged Nepalese youth to take part in       People’s War.






  1. Sociology of Law
    • It recognizes law as part of society.
    • It studies impact of law in society e.g.; Impact of Muluki Ain, 1910 B.S. in past Nepalese Society.

Impact of Muluki Ain,2020 B.S. in existing Society.


  1. Social or Human Ecology
    • It Studies impact of environment upon social life. e.g.; variation of culture, language, dress up, food habit Mountain, Hill & Tarai of Nepal effect of climate change.


  1. Sociology of Education
    • It studies education as and agent of transmission of culture.
    • It stress upon the social importance of education and meritocracy i.e., rule by the educated and talented persons. Job placement on the basis of shill & educational qualification not by Nepotism or favoritism.
  1. Political Sociology
    • It studies relationship between social structures and political institutions, such as government and other organ of state.
    • eg; People’s aspiration towards freedom determines the government of state as democratic or autocratic.
  2. Economic Sociology
    • It is concerned with economic activities.
    • Social Structures determines economic activities e.g.; Rural economy, urban economic, etc.
  3. Sociology of Religion
    • It analysis the religious behavior of human beings from a sociological point of view.
    • Religious belief determines people’s dress up, food habit, etc.
  4. Industrial Sociology
    • It studies impact of industrialization is Social life.
    • The main cause of urbanization is industrialization.
    • Rural economy converted over nightly to urban economy because of industrialization.
    • It studies industrial relation, i.e. relationship between employer, capital and labor. (industrialist)











Relationship of Sociology with other Social Science


  1. With Political Science
    • Sociology studies with social relationship, political science studies political relationship. e.g.; relationship between government & opposition in parliament.
    • Sociology studies social structure e.g.; family, community, society and its interrelationship  and political science studies political structures, such as state, political parties, constitute, political Ideology , ruler etc.
    • Sociology studies social rules, norms & values. Political science studies political rules like rules relating to formation of government, election. Vote, protest , political events and its influence


  1. With History
  • Sociology studies social relationship at present.
  • History studies social relationship in the past.
  • Sociology studies social facts.
  • History studies historical facts.
  • Historical Sociology studies impact of historical facts in social relationship.
  • History is informative & descriptive in nature and it keeps record / human experience, link between future & present.
  • History is the past sociology and sociology is the present history.


  1. With Economics
  • Sociology studies social relationship. Economics studies economic relationship and activities.
  • Economy says people are wealth gather & wealth disposer.
  • Sociology studies impact of economic structure in social relationship eg; study of relationship between rich & poor, industrialist and labor.
  • Economic studies scarce means and unlimited end of society.
  • Economics studies conversion of resources into goods or serves for social use. That means it studies production & distribution relationship of society.


  1. With Psychology
  • Sociology studies social behavior.
  • Psychology studies human or behavior.
  • Psychology studies the way in which personality and behavior are influenced by the social context e.g.; Impact of religious behaviors in human psychology. Peoples love for non-violence being guided by Buddhism.







  1. Relation between Sociology & Law

Sociology of Law looks at law and legal system 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.


  • Sociology studies society.
  • Law function (operates) in society.
  • Sociology studies relationship between crime and society (criminals).
  • Law controls crime and punishes retribution criminals.
  • Law provides compensation (restitution) to the victim.
  • Sociology studies social institutions such as marriage.
  • Law governs social institutions such as marriage registration.
  • Sociology studies relationship of society or an individual with property.
  • Law governs relationship of society with property eg; ownership or right upon property.


Nature of the Sociology


Sociology, as a branch of knowledge, has its own unique characteristics. It is different from other science in certain respects. An  always of its internal logical characteristics helps one to understand what kind of science it is.

  1. Sociology is an Independent Science.
  2. Sociology is a Social Science and not a physical Science.
  3. Sociology is a categorical and not a Normative Discipline.
  4. Sociology is relatively and Abstract Science and not a concrete Science.
  5. Sociology is pure science and not an Applied Science.
  6. Sociology is a General Science not a special Science.
  7. Sociology is a Generalizing and not a particularizing or Individualizing science.
  8. Sociology is Both a Rational and Empirical Science.




Scope of Sociology


What is the Scope of Sociology? What is the Subject matter that is Studies? There are two main Schools of thought among the Sociologist on this issue.

  • Specialist or Formalistic and 2) Synthetic


The Specialist or Formalistic School


This school of thought is led by the German sociologist George Simmel. The other main advocates of this school are Vierkandt, Max Weber, Von Wiese and Tonnies.

Simmel and others are of the opinion that sociology is pure and independent science. As a pure science it has a limited scope. Sociology should confine itself to the study of certain aspects of human relationship only. Further, it should study only the forms of social relationships but not their human relationship only. But not their contents. Social relationship such as competition, sub-ordination, division of labor etc, are expressed in different fields of social life such as economic, political, religious, moral, artistic, etc. Sociology should disentangle the from of social relationship and study them in abstraction, Sociology as specific social science describers, classifies and analyses the form of social relationships.


Vierkandt says that sociology concern itself with the ultimate form of mental or psychic relationship which links men to one another in society. He maintains that in dealing with culture, sociology should not concern itself with the actual contents of cultural evolution but it should confine itself to only the discovery of the fundamental forces of change and persistence. It should refrain itself form making an historical study of concrete societies.


Max Weber opines that the aim of sociology is to interpret or understand social behavior. But social behavior does not cover the whole field of human relations; He further says that sociology should make an analysis and classification of types of social relationships.

Small insisted that sociology has only a limited field. Von Wiese and Tonnies expressed more or less the same opinion.




The views of the Formalistic school are widely criticized.

  • The formalistic school has unreasonably narrowed the fields of sociology. Sociology should study not only the general forms of social relationships but also their concrete contents.
  • The distinction between the forms of social relations and their contents is not workable. Social forms can not be abstracted form the content al all, since social forms keep on changing when the contents change.
  • Sociology is not the only science that studies the forms of social relationships. Other sciences also do that. The study of international law, for example, includes social relations like conflict, war, opposition, contract etc. Political science, Economics also study social relationships.


Synthetic School


The synthetic school of though conceives of sociology as a synthesis of the social sciences. It wants to make sociology a general social science and not a pure or special science.

The main argument of this school is that all parts of social life are intimately inter-related.

The views of Emile Durkheim: one of the stalwarts of this school of thought, sys that sociology has three main divisions or fields inquiry.

  1. Social Morphology: social morphology studies the territorial basis of the life of people and also the problems of population such as volume and density, local distribution etc
  2. Social physiology: social physiology has different branches such as sociology of religion, of morals, of law, of economic life and of language etc.
  3. General Sociology: general sociology can be regarded as the philosophical part of sociology. It deals with the general character of the social facts. its function is the formulation of general social laws.


Morris Ginsberg

Ginsberg, another advocate of the synthetic school, says that the main task of sociology can be categorized into four branches:

  1. Social Morphology: Social Morphology deals with the quantity and quality of population. It studies the social structure, social groups and institutions.


  1. Social Control: Social Control studies-formal as well as informal-means of social control such as custom, tradition, morals, religion, convention and also law court legislation, etc. It deals with the regulating agencies of society


  1. Social Process: Social Process tries to make a study of different modes of interaction such as cooperation, competition, conflict, accommodation, assimilation, isolation, integration, differentiation, development, arrest and decay.


  1. Social Pathology: Social Pathology studies social mal-adjustment and disturbances. It also includes studies on various social problems like poverty, beggary, unemployment, over-population, prostitution, crime etc.



Prespective of Sociology


  • It is mental view of sociology. To grasp mental picture of sociology, three main theories have been devised They are :-


  1. Functionalist Perspective:- Sociology is study of social whole as body with family, religion, state, education, economy as organs of the body.


  1. Conflict Perspective: – Sociology sees conflict as a median of change and development. It is guided by Karl Marx.


  1. Interactionist Perspective: – It views that society is ultimately created, maintained and changed by social interaction of members.