Sociology can be defined as the study of societies, ethics, economic development, religion, cultures and laws. It consists of the organisation of collections of human bodies into forms of social life. Sociology emerged in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as a result of a number of social forces which are industrial revolution, urbanisation, religion, French revolution, feminism to name but a few and social forces are any human created ways of doing things that influence, pressure or force people to behave, interact with others and think in specific ways. Social forces are considered remote and impersonal because mostly people have no hand in creating them, nor do they know those who did. In this essay the researcher will focus on discussing the impact of social forces that lead to the development of sociology.
Industrial revolution contributed to the development of sociology in that it had a great impact according to Schaefer (2010). Industrial revolution was a period of transformation whereby economic modes of production changed from feudalism to capitalism. Industrial transformation gave in the establishment of factories and industries resulting in the creation of employment and social change as urbanization in the urban areas whereby people went to towns and cities to get employed in urban factories. According to Kornblum (2008) people moved from rural to urban areas in search of employment that had been brought by the capitalist system. This resulted in so many problems such as poverty and healthy issues were major problems, the cities and towns became overpopulated. While all this was happening the ruling classes were living a luxurious and lavishing lives and the lower classes worked for them for long hours in their urban factories and giving them low wages. The industrial societies gave alternative models of society such as socialists and communist societies, these societal changes brought by the industrial revolution were one of the factors which lead to the rise of sociology.
The French revolution was caused by the government’s financial state. France at this point was being ruled by the nobility and the clergy, while the labour classes were being taxed to try and fund the wars and pay off the increasing national debt, this along with the backward agricultural methods which had started to cause constant food shortages. These food shortages caused the popular or poor classes to enter the revolution and that entry marked the first violence used in the revolution. The peasants started to burn factories and destroy all the documents of their debts and the ruling class started revolting. However this attracted the attention of theorist they wanted to restore order to society and this also marked the beginning of sociology.
Many early sociologists came from different religious backgrounds according to Ritzer, (2008) and were actively involved in religion activities. They brought to sociology the same religious values they had in their own personal lives. Therefore religion contributed to the development of sociology and the religious values the assigned spread through the world.
There has always been a feminist perspective, wherever women are subordinated and they have been subordinated almost always and everywhere. Feminism is based on the idea that women are superior as well and are equal to men in society. It rose during the liberation era of modern western history. Thus feminism developed sociology because sociology had been a male dominated discipline so feminism developed sociology by transforming the discipline from a male dominated to a balanced discipline of both males and females.
Enlightenment is considered to be the source of critical ideas such as the centrality freedom, democracy and reason as primary values of society. It is the ‘creation of new framework of ideas about man, society and nature which challenged existing conceptions rooted in a traditional world-view, dominated by Christians’ as stated by Hamilton (1992). Religion was used to control the masses but there was a group of men who were standing up and questioning these beliefs and ideas and they were called the ‘Philosophers’. The philosophers aimed to teach people to stop listening and following church’s opinions and decisions and start thinking on their own. However they were other philosophers who rejected enlightenment views because they were conservative and they feared change.
Another factor was socialism which was based on the notion that property should be owned in a society as stated by Ritzer, (2008). Although some socialists favoured socialism as a solution to end industrial problems others like Marx Weber according to Morrison K (1995) did not develop a theory of socialism but he spent a great deal of time criticizing various aspects of capitalist society to the communist society. However socialism had an impact as most sociologists especially the functionalists were old-fashioned and criticized the socialist doctrines.
The growth and superiority of the natural sciences stimulated social scientists also develop a social science that would solve societal problems that had been brought about by the industrial and political or French revolution. The social scientist excitement of creating a science of society resulted in the beginning of sociology which is the study of societies. The technological products of science were spread through every sector of life and science was gaining vast prestige. During this time people who were studying sciences were honoured in the society.
In conclusion the period of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries contributed to the development of sociology. Enlightenment changed the way people think and also the way philosophers looked at the world by giving a scientific and analytic approach to their theories. French revolution granted citizens individual freedom and removed old established orders such as church and gave people new perspective of the world and society in which they live. However the industrial revolution had a greater impact than any other factors outlined in this essay because it brought about change in the society in which people migrated from rural areas for jobs in the urban industries. Industrial revolution can only explain completely the origins and development of sociology.
Ritzer, G (2008) Sociology Theory: New York McGraw Hill
Schaefer, R. (2010) Sociology (twelfth Edition) New York. McGraw
Morris, K (1995) Marx Durkheim Weber: Formations of Modern Social Thought, London Sage Publications.