Specificity of sociology and sociological knowledge


Belarus State Economic University



Minsk 200

1. The construct of societal world and societal fact

Very frequently we come across the construct of societal world and believe that societal world is something that can be understood and learnt. But yet the given construct hasn & # 8217 ; t been defined exactly in sociology and it is frequently used as a equivalent word of such constructs as & # 8220 ; societal life & # 8221 ; , & # 8220 ; society & # 8221 ; , & # 8220 ; societal universe & # 8221 ; , & # 8220 ; societal and historic being & # 8221 ; etc. Furthermore, the job is made more complicated due to the fact that judgments & # 8220 ; societal world & # 8221 ; and & # 8220 ; societal universe & # 8221 ; belong to different theoretic paradigms. Theorists are united merely by the circumstance that human societal universe can be learnt.

In sociology there are two ruling theoretic attacks & # 8211 ; individualistic and positive 1s that specifically explain the nature of societal world. The individualistic place positionssocietal world

as a consequence of purposeful or reasonable human behavior. An Austrian sociologist Alfred Schutz, laminitis of phenomenology, defines societal world as & # 8220 ; a entire amount of objects and phenomena of societal universe & # 8221 ; in the manner how societal universe is shaped in mundane consciousness of people populating among other people and connected with them by assorted interactions. Therefore, societal world is an mundane universe, experient and interpreted by people populating in it ; it is a universe of significances which are typical impressions about the objects of this universe.

In contrast to an individualistic attack, a positive attack suggests a point of view harmonizing to whichsocietal world

is something with its ain life holding an external and mandatory character to a individual ( i.e. that his behavior is determined by world ) and happening human consciousness.

The thoughts of the positive place were shaped under the influence of a Gallic sociologist Emile Durkheim who is considered its smartest representative. This attack suggests construing the construct of societal world through the prism of a societal fact. Harmonizing to the paradigm of a societal fact, societal world is represented by two groups of societal facts & # 8211 ; societal constructions and societal establishments, and accent is made on the nature of their interaction. E. Durkheim believed that societal facts are characterized by specific belongingss ; they are samples of ideas, actions and feelings which are capable to be outside adult male and have a compulsory influence which makes adult male get and internalize them.

The construct of a societal fact was criticized by Sigmund Freud and his followings, protagonists of the paradigm of societal behavior. They consider the construct metaphysical as it ignores human behavior which, in their sentiment, is a individual societal world.

Many theoreticians agree that societal world is formed in the procedure of people & # 8217 ; s societal interactions ; it is a consequence of their consciousness and activities in a definite limited territorial and temporal ( historic ) country. Social world may be fixed in people & # 8217 ; s behaviors, in the character of their value orientations, in signifiers of life organizion and in function behavior. A summarized index of societal world is civilization considered as a system of values, societal norms of life, forms of behaviour, linguistic communication, character of communications, imposts and traditions, material civilization etc.

As degrees of interactions may differ, degrees of societal world or societal life may besides differ. A societal universe of adult male, group, society or universe community can be spoken approximately. Very frequently differences between these societal universes may be polar. A cogent evidence is a bed of mendicants bing in an economically comfortable society like in the USA, France or Great Britain, or people with a really low cultural degree in a extremely cultural society.

What is a societal fact? Traditionally, universe is divided into three groups of facts. The first group includes biological facts such as external respiration, nutrition, sleeping, human diversion etc. The 2nd group includes psychological 1s such as emotions of love, hatred or perceptual experience, emotions giving satisfaction, for case while look up toing plants of art. The 3rd group includes societal facts connected with societal relationships and society. The term & # 8220 ; societal fact & # 8221 ; was coined by E. Durkheim to depict human behavior that is non attributed to the human & # 8217 ; s characteristic but to societal facts. He considered societal facts as things that force people to make certain behaviors.

A societal fact

is a socially meaningful event or a entirety of homogenous events typical for a definite domain of the society or definite societal procedures.

In the ontological significance, a societal fact is any event or any entirety of events which took topographic point at a definite clip at definite fortunes, no affair whether or non they were watched by research workers or other topics who were non participants of the given events. As societal facts become known merely by enrollment, they are considered true or dependable in instance they are given a grounded description taking into consideration their whole unity and their connexions with indispensable features of a societal state of affairs.

The undermentioned fragments of societal world can be fixed as societal facts:

& # 183 ; behavioral socially meaningful people & # 8217 ; s Acts of the Apostless, i.e. what they do ;

& # 183 ; consequences or merchandises of people & # 8217 ; s activities geting societal significance, i.e. stuff and cultural artefacts ;

& # 183 ; people & # 8217 ; s verbal Acts of the Apostless, i.e. socially important expressed positions, judgements, sentiments ;

& # 183 ; different interactions.

But the point is how to see if a societal fact is dependable. As a regulation, scientific evidences of societal facts depend on the research worker & # 8217 ; s universe mentality, the nonsubjective character of the sociological theory, in the constructs of which societal facts are measured or described, and dependability of the method and technique of enrollment of sociological informations qualifying the manifestation of this or that societal fact.

Let & # 8217 ; s see the undermentioned illustration. A adult male is purchasing a jammed trip to Thailand for a household of four. In Thailand they & # 8217 ; ll pass a two weeks. A psychologist would wish to cognize why the adult male decided on Thailand. An economic expert would wish to see if there could be another manner to pass money. A sociologist would see that it is a household of four and would wish to happen out how the married woman and kids could act upon on the caput of the household & # 8217 ; s determination. Therefore, one and the same fact is explained in a different manner by different scientific disciplines.

Laws and classs of sociology

As sociology is a comparatively immature scientific discipline, its system of Torahs and classs is still being actively formed. For any scientific discipline, holding such a system is a basic inquiry of its position as it is classs and Torahs where the obtained cognition is concentrated in.

A direct object of research of sociology is the societal in the procedure of its development, transmutation, use, direction at different degrees of a societal system. So the first largely broad class is the construct of & # 8220 ; the societal & # 8221 ; . Other of import constructs include & # 8220 ; societal interactions & # 8221 ; , & # 8220 ; societal establishments & # 8221 ; , & # 8220 ; societal groups & # 8221 ; etc. In sociology there are a batch of classs that reflect qualitative province of societal procedures such as Bolshevism, groupism, societal homogeneousness, societal differences and involvements etc. But the meat of any scientific discipline is its Torahs. A jurisprudence is known to be contemplation of important, stable and necessary ties taking topographic point both inside of a procedure, system or phenomenon and between them. As a regulation, Torahs are expressed in classs. So each subdivision of scientific discipline has its linguistic communication. When specializers speak their professional linguistic communication, other people can barely or non understand them. A celebrated gag explains that scientific discipline happens when known things or phenomena are spoken about in the linguistic communication impossible to understand.

A celebrated Russian sociologist G.V. Osipov definesa societal jurisprudence

as comparatively stable and consistently reproduced relationships between peoples, states, categories, socio-demographic and professional groups, between the society and societal organisation, society and labour collective, society and household, society and personality etc.

Sociology should be noted to cover with societal Torahs that take topographic point in all domains of human activities and differ from each other by the signifier of their influence, the country of widening etc. For case, some Torahs embrace merely little groups or categories, others & # 8211 ; the society as a whole.

Like all scientific Torahs, societal Torahs possess the undermentioned features:

& # 183 ; a jurisprudence acts merely under certain conditions ;

& # 183 ; under certain conditions a jurisprudence is displayed without any exclusions ;

& # 183 ; conditions, under which a societal jurisprudence Acts of the Apostless, are realized non in full step but partly and about.

For case, a statement like & # 8220 ; A constructive societal struggle in the organisation is ever solved after acquiring rid of the causes of its outgrowth unless external factors influence or/and redistribution of resorts within the organisation take topographic point & # 8221 ; describes the action of a societal jurisprudence because its conditions are clearly defined. It means that in the organisation it & # 8217 ; s impossible to wholly avoid influence of external factors or impede material resources and information from redistributing within the organisation. On the other manus, it may go on that external factors don & # 8217 ; t influence so the jurisprudence is realized partly.

Social Torahs can be divided into two chief groups: those of working, or forming, and those of development. Of primary importance are Torahs depicting unity of the organisation and development of the whole society and civilisation. They are calledall-sociological


Torahs. For case, dependance of any societal phenomenon on correlativity of the footing and superstructure, jurisprudence of clip economic system etc.

A specific character of a expansive jurisprudence & # 8217 ; s operation is determined by a definite societal and economic construction ( formation ) because any societal phenomenon depends on the degree of the society & # 8217 ; s development, manner of production of stuff and religious wealth. Different formations with common expansive Torahs differ from each other by the specificity of these Torahs & # 8217 ; working. For case, an economic or political crisis in the society may develop against places of political leaders, parties and sometimes against the will of the bulk of the population. A typical illustration is the devastation of the USSR against a place occupied by the bulk of the state & # 8217 ; s population.

Besides there are some Torahs typical for the household, labour organisation, personality in a societal group etc. It is them that form the carcase of specialised theories.

3. Structure of sociological cognition

Modern sociological cognition is of a complex inner construction. As any other scientific disciplines, historically sociology developed in two basic waies & # 8211 ; cardinal and applied. But sociologists, representatives of different paradigms, used different standards and constructs for specifying one and the same event and phenomenon that resulted in confusing. So today, sociological cognition is structured as follows.

The first construction is macro- and micro-sociology. The point is that for the first decennaries of its being sociology developed in Europe a

s macro-sociology pretense to uncover planetary Torahs of the society, and this purpose is reflected in its name. But shortly micro-sociology appeared to halt philosophising about the society in general and acquire down to larning human behavior in different societal conditions, motives of human workss, mechanisms of interpersonal interactions etc.

Since so the development of sociology has gone along two parallel waies that were of small correlativity with each other. Macro-sociologists operated with the constructs & # 8220 ; society & # 8221 ; , & # 8220 ; societal system & # 8221 ; , & # 8220 ; societal establishment & # 8221 ; , & # 8220 ; civilisation & # 8221 ; , & # 8220 ; civilization & # 8221 ; etc. It means they used abstract classs. Micro-sociologists preferred discoursing stimulation of human behavior and people & # 8217 ; s reactions, factors finding their certain workss, aberrant behavior etc.


is sociology look intoing large-scale societal systems and historically long procedures taking topographic point in the society. Another country of its involvement is inclinations of the society & # 8217 ; s development in general. As macro-sociology is frequently referred to as a cardinal scientific discipline, most of its attending is paid to societal establishments such as the household, faith, instruction etc. and to political and economic systems of societal order It besides surveies interrelatednesss between different parts of the society and kineticss of their changing.


is sociology analyzing small-scale societal constructions, groups and direct interpersonal relationships. The object of micro-sociological research is a human as a member of the group, association or community.

So a standard for distinction between macro- and micro-sociology is fundamentally their contents: macro-sociology is destined to analyze Torahs, factors and positions of development of the society and its largest parts ( civilisations ) while micro-sociology surveies relationships between groups and persons. So a standard for distinction between macro- and micro-sociology is fundamentally their contents: macro-sociology is destined to analyze Torahs, factors and positions of development of the society and its largest parts ( civilisations ) while micro-sociology surveies relationships between groups and persons.

The 2nd construction is cardinal theoretic and applied empirical sociologies.Cardinal

theoretic sociology

gives replies to inquiries what is investigated ( i.e. it defines the object and topic of research ) and how to look into ( i.e. chief methods of sociology are meant ) . Cardinal sociology is to acquire new cognition on societal development. That & # 8217 ; s why it concerns with societal and philosophic comprehension of most general jobs of the society & # 8217 ; s development and operation and a personality & # 8217 ; s topographic point in it. That & # 8217 ; s why its constructs are characterized by a high degree of abstraction. Cardinal sociology does non look into such definite units as a societal group or societal procedure, and this point presents its most typical characteristic. It is the cardinal degree where sociology realizes its interrelatednesss with other scientific disciplines such as doctrine, history, psychological science etc.

Applied empiric sociology

surveies and suggests ways of influence on societal world and societal communities. It is to give construct about existent procedures of societal development, being engaged in prediction, projecting and organizing a societal policy, working out recommendations for societal administration. It is besides to happen out agencies to accomplish socially of import ends, implement propositions of cardinal sociology and methods of societal planning and prediction. So the standard for distinguishing between cardinal and applied sociology is the character of sociological cognition: abstract and practical.

Some research workers thought that development of macro-sociology lead to formation of modern cardinal sociology, so as development of micro-sociology & # 8211 ; to use sociology. The thought has a ration to be but it can & # 8217 ; t be accepted true in full step. Macro- and micro-sociology have two degrees, both cardinal and empiric 1s. Macro-sociologists ( E. Durkheim, M. Weber, F. Toennis, P.A. Sorokin ) were really active in transporting out empiric sociological researches, and micro-sociologists ( representatives of the American sociological school G. Mead, G. Homans, P. Blau ) became laminitiss of most important sociological theories. It merely means that macro- and micro-sociology developed both as cardinal and applied. Some research workers thought that development of macro-sociology lead to formation of modern cardinal sociology, so as development of micro-sociology – to applied sociology. The thought has a ration to be but it can’t be accepted true in full step. Macro- and micro-sociology have two degrees, both cardinal and empiric 1s. Macro-sociologists ( E. Durkheim, M. Weber, F. Toennis, P.A. Sorokin ) were really active in transporting out empiric sociological researches, and micro-sociologists ( representatives of the American sociological school G. Mead, G. Homans, P. Blau ) became laminitiss of most important sociological theories. It merely means that macro- and micro-sociology developed both as cardinal and applied.

The 3rd construction came to existence non long ago. Sociology is a comparatively immature scientific discipline that historically emerged from societal doctrine and psychological science. First sociological theories were cardinal, being based on observations, decisions and generalisations of different sides of societal life. To work out such a theory a research worker needs exact informations of certain societal facts which constitute the society & # 8217 ; s construction and the procedure of altering. These informations are obtained with methods of empiric research ( interviews, observations, experiments etc. ) . Gathered empiric facts are processed and generalized ; after making it, a research worker can do primary theoretic decisions about definite phenomena of societal life. Cardinal theories and empiric researches should be closely connected as pure speculating without cognizing definite facts of societal kingdom becomes infeasible. At the same clip empiric researches which are non supported withfundamental theoretic decisions can non explicate the nature of most societal phenomena.

In the first tierce of the XX century a aggressively increased degree of empiric researches demanded a cosmopolitan theoretic setup to explicate the consequences of research. But the setup of cardinal sociology couldn & # 8217 ; t be applied to analyzing such assorted societal phenomena as the household, aberrant behavior, societal administration etc. In its bend, cardinal sociology was in great demand of empiric information as empiric researches were carried out, as a regulation, to run into narrow-practical, useful demands and it was difficult to do up an entity of them. It resulted in making a jailbreak between cardinal sociology and empiric researches that became an obstruction in the manner of developing sociology and prevented research workers from unifying their attempts.

However, the manner out was found in formation of one more degree of sociological cognition under the name ofin-between scope theories

. The term was introduced by an American sociologist Robert Merton who, in his work & # 8220 ; Social theory and societal construction & # 8221 ; published in 1949, stated a figure of propositions of in-between scope theories & # 8211 ; constructs of manifest and latent map, societal disfunction, referent group etc. Middle scope theories, to R. Merton & # 8217 ; s head, had to unite empiric generalisations and theoretic constructs to compensate T. Parsons & # 8217 ; s cosmopolitan theory.

Degrees of sociological cognition

Grand/ all-sociologicaltheories Learning societal constructions Learning societal development, integrating and decomposition procedures


a personality & # 8217 ; s development

Learning theoretical accounts, methods and techniques of sociological reseach

Social establishments

Social communities

Social procedures


scope theories

Sociology of household

Sociology of scientific discipline

Sociology of instruction

Sociology of faith

Sociology of labor

Sociology of humanistic disciplines etc.

Sociology of little groups

Sociology of organisation

Sociology of crowd

Sociology of strata, categories


Feminist sociology etc.

Sociology of struggles

Sociology of town

Sociology of societal motions

Sociology of aberrant behavior

Sociology of mobility and migration etc.

Primary generalisation of empiric informations

Transporting out empiric sociological researches in societal groups and establishments

At present there exist a figure of in-between scope theories that occupy an intermediate topographic point between theories of the expansive or all-sociologicallevel and empiric generalisation of primary sociological information. They are aimed at generalising and structuring empiric informations within definite countries of sociological cognition ( the household, organisation, aberrant behavior, struggle etc. ) using both the thoughts and nomenclature borrowed from cardinal sociological theories and specific constructs, definitions formed merely for the given subdivision of sociological research.

When emerged, in-between scope theories created a figure of incontestable advantages. First, research workers were given a possibility to do up solid theoretic evidences for look intoing definite countries of human activities, non using to the conceptual setup of cardinal theories ; 2nd, in-between scope theories allow to exert close interaction with people & # 8217 ; s existent life as the topic of their research.

Middle scope theories gave birth to instead a narrow specialisation of sociologists who work, for case, merely in the country of the household or direction, gather empiric informations, generalise them and do theoretic decisions within the given country of applied sociological cognition. That & # 8217 ; s why these theories bear an applied, or subdivision character. At the same clip, applied theories enabled to increase effectivity of cardinal researches because sociologists were given an chance to generalise theoretic results in separate sociological subdivisions without changeless using to first-hand empiric informations.

All in-between scope theories can be conditionally divided into three groups: those of societal establishments, societal communities and specialised societal procedures. Theories of the first group investigate complex societal dependances and relationships ; those of the 2nd one consider structural units of the society ( societal groups, categories, communities etc. ) ; those of the 3rd one survey societal procedures and alterations.

In each group the figure of in-between scope theories is invariably increasing every bit far as larning the society is intensifying, and sociology as a scientific discipline is developing. Sociologists, who study applied societal jobs, work out a specific conceptual setup, carry out empiric researches of their issues, generalise the given informations, make theoretic generalisations and unite them into a theory within their ain subdivision.

Therefore, sociology is non some monosemantic or homogenous formation because it includes different degrees of sociological cognition. Although at each of the given degrees the impression of the topic of research, ends and aims are given a definite look to, in all instances sociology is represented as a scientific system. It means that its chief end is to acquire scientific cognition about the society on the whole or about its parts and subsystems.

Extra literature

& # 183 ; Blau P. Exchange and Power in Social Life. ( 3rd edition ) . & # 8211 ; New Brunswick and London: Transaction Publishers, 1992. & # 8211 ; 354 P.

& # 183 ; Bourdeiu P. Logic of Practice. & # 8211 ; Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990. & # 8211 ; 382 P.

& # 183 ; Coser L. The Functions of Social Conflict. & # 8211 ; Glencoe, Ill: Free Press, 1956. & # 8211 ; 188 P.

& # 183 ; DurkheimE.The Division of Labour in Society. & # 8211 ; New York, NY: Free Press ; 1997. & # 8211 ; 272 P.

& # 183 ; DurkheimE.Suicide. & # 8211 ; New York, NY: Free Press ; 1951. & # 8211 ; 345 P.

& # 183 ; Goldthorpe J. H. Class Analysis and the Reorientation of Class Theory. & # 8211 ; British Journal of Sociology
, 1996, # 47.

& # 183 ; Homans G.Elementary Forms of Social Behavior. ( 2nd edition ) & # 8211 ; New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974.

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