Sociology: Overview

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Scholars of sociology, commonly defined as the scientific study of social relations, social institutions, and societies, conceive the objectives, uses, styles, and methods of their discipline in various ways. One type of sociologist grants it primarily an informative function, that of producing data and analyses to aid decision makers. A second type sees it as serving a critical function, that of identifying the various defects of societies. Finally, a third type sees sociology as a means of explaining social phenomena. These three orientations characterize contemporary as well as classical sociology. Sociologists also endorse a range of methodological and theoretical positions. While some oppose a positivist to an antipositivist approach, others oppose a holistic to an individualistic stance, a rational to an irrational theory of behavior, or a utilitarian to a nonutilitarian view of rationality. Max Weber's sociology is of particular value, for it offers a paradigm capable of transcending these alternatives. One may effectively refute the skepticism that has developed toward sociology and its variety of approaches by focusing on its genuine achievements and demonstrating how actual research has overcome theoretical oppositions in various cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences: Second Edition
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9780080970875
ISBN (Print)9780080970868
StatePublished - Mar 26 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


  • Auguste Comte
  • Chicago school
  • Critical sociology
  • Emile Durkheim
  • Enlightenment
  • Karl Marx
  • Labeling theory
  • Max Weber
  • Methodological individualism
  • Middle range theory
  • Positivism
  • Rational choice
  • Social system
  • Sociology
  • Suicide


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