Sociology studies the social rules and processes that bind -- and separate -- people not only as individuals, but as members of associations, groups, and institutions.
Sociology emerged in the 19th century as an academic response to one of the greatest paradoxes of modernity: as the world is becoming smaller and more integrated, people's experience of the world is increasingly atomized and dispersed. Sociologists hoped not only to understand what held social groups together, but also to develop an "antidote" to social disintegration.
Today sociologists research macro-structures that organize society, such as race or ethnicity, class and gender, and institutions such as the family; social processes that represent deviation from, or the breakdown of, these structures, including crime and divorce; and micro-processes such as interpersonal interactions. Sociologists often rely on quantitative methods to describe large patterns in social relationships, and in order to develop models that can help predict social change and how people will respond to social change. Other branches of sociology believe that qualitative methods -- such as focussed interviews, group discussions and ethnographic methods -- allow for a better understanding of social processes.
social science disciplines including economics, political science, anthropology, psychology
The term was coined by Auguste Comte, who hoped to unify all studies of humankind--including history, psychology and economics. His own sociological scheme was typical of the 18th century; he believed all human life had passed through the same distinct historical stages and that, if one could grasp this progress, one could prescribe the remedies for social ills.
In the end, Sociology did not replace the other social sciences, but came to be another of them, with its own particular emphases in terms of subject matter and methods. Today, Sociology studies humankind's organizations and social institutions, largely by a comparative method. It has concentrated particularly on the organization of complex industrial societies.
In the early 20th century, sociologists and psychologists who conducted research in non-industrial societies contributed to the development of anthropology. It should be noted, however, that anthropologists also conducted research in industrial societies. Today sociology and anthropology are better contrasted according to different theoretical concerns and methods rather than objects of study.
A distinction should be made between these and forensic studies within these disciplines, particularly where anatomy is involved. These latter studies might be better named as Forensic psychology.
See also: criminology, disabilities, education, gender & sexuality, Marxism, mass media, media studies, Milgram experiment, revolution, social engineering, sociologist, political economy, race & ethnicity,social change, social control, social movements, tautology, teleology, theory, sociological imagination, socioeconomic systems, racism, social order, social structure, social issue