Development of sociology: Different Stages of Development of Sociology

After the  British sociologist Botomore stated that the intellectual environment of the 18th century evolutionally helped in the origin of sociology and its development. In other words say rise of sociology. During the French Revolution in 1789, the reactive changes in society were hastened. The idea of freedom, brotherhood and equality developed along with it. In 19th century the contributions of Auguste Comte, Karl Marx and Spencer were important in the development of Sociology. So, this was the time when scientific analysis of society was done.

What is sociology and How was it originated

Development of Sociology

Here we will discuss the development of sociology in four stages

First stage of development of sociology

It is mostly accepted that the initial development of sociology took place in Europe. Many Indian thinkers believe that a lot of important facts connected to social life can be found in the Vedas, Upnishads, Puranas, the great epics and Samritis. The prevalent caste system is a clear proof that Indian thinkers were able to create and develop a vast social system even before western scholars had any thought related to this direction. Indian thinkers were influenced to a great deal in their social thinking by religion, economics and politics.

Socially related study in Western Societies started with thinkers in Greece. The writings of Plato and Aristotle were important attempts in this field. Plato in his book ” The Republic” (427-347 B.C.) and Aristotle in “Ethics and Politics” (384 – 322 B.C.) has presented a systematic description of social problems and events. In their books they have also discussed family life, rituals, custom and traditions, the status of women, social collectives etc in great deal.

Athough it is true that their thought process lacks clarity, and there is no division between society and community on one hand and philosophy and science on the other. Religion and magic was given special significance and social events were studied in an unscientific manner. After Plato and Aristotle, Lucretius, Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, St. Augustine etc contributed to the development of sociology. Manu in his writings “Manusmriti” described the Indiansocial system and Kautiliya in “Arthshastra” described the socio-economic system prevailing at that time.

Second stage of development of sociology

The period between the 6th century and 14th century is considered to be the second stage of development of sociology. For a longtime, reliance was placed on religion and philosophy to understand social problems even in this period. But in 13th century, importance of reasoning thus increased to study social events and incidents. The scholars began to consider man as social being. They laid stress on the necessity of good government to conduct society systematically.

In this period society was considered ever changing. Simultaneously  it was stated that there were certain fixed rules, social activities and powers that worked behind these changes. Thus in this period stress was laid on activity resultant relationships to study society.

Development of society based on the law of three stages described by Auguste Comte

Third Stage of Development of Sociology

Third stage of development started in 15th century. During this period scientific methodology was applied to study social events. Different parts of social life – social, economic, political,religion etc were studied independently. They resulted in development of Economics, Psychology, History, Political Science etc. Due to the intellectual thinking of scholars, special background was developed for the development of sociology.

Hobbs, Lock and Rousseau propounded “The Theory of Social Contract” and Sir Thomas Moore tried to understand the day to day social problems in his book “Utopia“. In his book he described the prevailing social systems and problems in England at that time. Montesque in his book “The Spirit of the Laws” clearly shows the effect of geographical environment. Malthus has thrown light on the theory of population and problems of population growth whereas Adam Smith contemplated the economic man. Kondorset discussed the theory of social transformation. James Harrington presented economic system in relation to history.

Though these and many other scholars have contributed greatly but their studies lack specialisation and unity. Moreover many of them were not able to separate economic eventsb from social events in their studies.

Fourth Stage of Development of Sociology

The fourth stage of development of sociology is considered to be started from the time of Auguste Comte (1798 – 1857). This is the real stage of Scientific development of sociology. St. Simon, the teacher of Auguste Comte wanted to create such a science, that just like physical sciences could analyse and study social events in a systematic and chronological manner.

Comte tried to convert the ideas of his teacher to reality and gave the nomenclature of Social Physics to the reality related study. In 1838 – 1839, he changed this name to sociology. That is why he is considered the “Father of Sociology”. He was the first to explain the difference between social philosophy and sociology and stated clearly that like natural events, social events too could be studied in an evident methodology.

In 1849, John Stuart Mills introduced the word Sociology in England. Herbert Spencer contributed in his writings ” Synthetic Philosophy” chapter “Principles of Sociology” tried to give shape to Comte’s ideas. The credit to make Sociology a separate and independent subject goes foremost to French scholar Emile Durkheim (1858 – 1917) . He believed that Sociology was a science of Collective Representations. Comte laid the foundation stone of sociology in France. But Durkheim should be considered as the father of the idea of regarding sociology as a scientific subject.

He was the one who separated Sociology from other social sciences such as philosophy, Psychology, History etc. Italian sociologist Wilfredo Pareto (1848 -1923) contributed greatly to give it a  shape as a systematic science. Hence, many scholars from different countries of the world have contributed in its development. Especially in the 20th Century this subject has greatly developed in United States of America, Germany and France. In England Herbert Spencer, Mills, Charles Boothe, Hobhouse, Westermark, Mannhiem, Ginsberg etc must be mentioned for their contributions to sociology.

From the point of view of development of sociology they did a commendable job. As a result Sociology departments were established in Egypt in 1924 and in Sweden in 1947. At present the study of sociology has been started in almost all developed and developing countries, although a few countries remain exceptional. The utility and popularity of sociology has been increasing day by day in present times.


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