Social knowledge is as old ancient as human society. From the beginning of creation, man has been thinking of and will go on thinking about his social life. In order to take part in community activities, it is quite important to solve the oncoming various problems. For this purpose Sociology was born and is continously developing. The history of Sociology as a separate subject is not older than 150 years. Within this subject, society is studied in a scientific manner. Religion was having clear effect on past societies, social relationships, family, marriage, property and social institutions.
Even before the birth of Christ, reflective thinking from the view point of philosophy was started on the various angles of social life in India, China, Arabia, Greece, Rome etc. At that time, Manu, Kautiliya, Confucius, Plato and Aristotle were renowned social philosophers. Though there was an attempt to understand society and social life on the basis of religion and philosophy. But this process of study under religion and philosophy lacked neutrality and subject truthfulness and no importance was given to investigation and research.
Thereafter, social life and its various aspects were studied and the knowledge of the past relationships was gained under the discipline of sociology. To define and analyse social life the various social sciences like History, Political Science, Philosophy, Economics and Natural Sciences were included resulting in the origin of Sociology.
Background of origin of Sociology
In 18th century, Europe social, economical, political and intellectual environment were specially responsible for the origin and development of sociology. The belief in divine power that the creation of society was bessening and the importance was being given to human efforts. In England the power of the king decreased and the power and rights of parliament increased simultaneously.
There was state revolution in France and a new economic organisation based factory products came into being due to which the oppressive powers of certain sections of society decreased. With the increase in urban development many social, economic and political changes took place. And the new order favoured democracy of people instead of kings and rulers, economic system based on industries replaced farming and landed property, migration of people from villages to cities or other countries began and individualised ideas and thinking replaced traditional community relationships as well as pressure power groups.
The French Revolution of 1789 precipitated quick social changes. Due to this revolution the ideas of brotherhood and equality propounded. In France, the earlier royal state was replaced by the republic state and this social chaos after the revolution greatly influenced Auguste Comte and St. Simon. Both these scholars stressed the need of new social science that would not only help in the reformation of social structure but would even define society scientifically.
Around this time natural sciences were developed which affected social science too. It was felt that just like physical world was defined by universal proven theories, the social world could be also defined by using universal proved theories. These beliefs and thoughts played an important role in the development of sociology. According to British sociologist Botomore, the intellectual condition of the 18th century proved helpful in the birth of sociology. The political philosophy, historical philosophy, evolutionary theory, biological theory of evolution and social-political reform movements with the development of social inspection process prepared the background for neutral study of society.
Ferguson who gave philosophical definitions of history expressed views on state, society, family, kinship, population, laws and traditions. He believed that the society is basically an institutionalised system of relationship. His ideas influenced the thinking of Hegel and St. Simon. Hegel in turn furthur influenced Karl Marx and St. Simon influenced Auguste Comte.
Origin of Sociology
In relation to the new social science St. Simon draws attention towards three points
1. According to him due to the scientific discoveries, industrial revolution and political upheavals there was change in social formation. Hence to define restructuring of society a new social science was necessary.
2. In this new science, similar processes as used in natural sciences should be applied.
3. In today’s changed environment, logic based on religion, beliefs, imagination and philosophical definitions had no importance.
Giving physical shape to these points, St. Simon along with the help of Auguste Comte tried to develop a new discipline called social physics. This era according to Botomore was the prehistoric period from the angle of ideas and thinking in the development of Sociology. Around the time 1838-39, Auguste Comte named this social physics as “Sociology”. This was composed of the latin word “Socius” and a greek word “logos” which means science or discipline of society. It is called Sociology in English and Samajshastra in Hindi.
During the development of Sociology in the 19th Century, the contributions of Auguste Comte, Karl Marx and Herbert Spencer is really important. They were aware of the scientific definitions of society and in this direction Comte brought out the “Theory of Scientific Philosophy”. Marx brought out “Scientific Socialism ” theory about the same time. At this time the influence of physical sciences and biological sciences were felt on Sociology. At the same time social evolution, progress and upliftment theories were being tried to be discovered. Three thinkers Comte, Marx and Spencer threw light on social upliftment.
Karl Marx started from the level of initial socialism to the social state of socialism in his analysis “The Social Defination of History” on a theoretical basis. Spencer found out that like biological world, even our society has gone through a process of evolution.
In the later years of the 19th Century German sociologist Toniej and George Simmel and French sociologist Emile Durkheim contributed to the expounding of sociological theories. Toniej started a classification of society through sections and hierarchies and Simmel contributed to the development of “Sociological Structures”. According to which the main subject- matter of sociology is the study of formation and structure of many social activities. The German sociologist Max Weber too contributed immensely to the development of sociological theories. In the early part of 20th Century, study and research work was started in many universities of America.