1. The emergence of social knowledge.

2. Object, subject and structure of sociology.

3. Sociology in the system of social sciences.

4. Main categories and methods of sociology.

5. Functions of sociology.

Basic concepts: science and practice, classification of sciences, object and subject of science, social, fundamental (theoretical) and applied sociology, middle-level theories, empirical sociology, methods and approaches of sociology, categories, functions of sociology.


Starting the study of sociology as a scientific and educational discipline, it is appropriate to recall that science in general is knowledge generalized, systematized and reliably confirmed by facts. Any science arises from the needs of practice, therefore, initially those sciences appear that ensure the physical survival of a person, study the material world (living and inanimate nature). But before the emergence of science, there are stages of accumulation and re-verification of reliable information up to a certain leap: MATHEMATICS = Euclidean “Beginnings” + Lobachevsky’s mathematics + Einstein’s theory; PHYSICS = laws discovered by Archimedes + Newtonian mechanics + nuclear + quantum, etc.; BIOLOGY u003d observations of primitive man + classification of wildlife + discovery of the cell + evolutionary theory + genetics, etc. Depending on the area of research interests, a great many different, but often interconnected sciences can be divided into four large groups: natural, studying the natural world (physics, chemistry, biology); technical, studying the world of “second nature” created by man (electronics, cybernetics, radio, biotechnology); humanitarian, studying the human world (psychology, logic, linguistics, etc.); social sciences that study the world around man, the world of society (economics, sociology, political science, jurisprudence).

For the first time, the term “sociology” was introduced into scientific use by the French scientist Auguste Comte (1798-1857), combining the Latin societas – society and the Greek logos – teaching. Direct translation means “the doctrine of society.” This definition is correct in form, but insufficient in content, since society studies history, jurisprudence, economics, philosophy, social psychology, demography and other sciences. To understand what unites all these sciences, and most importantly, what is the specificity of sociology, it is necessary to determine the object and subject of study of each of them.


The object of science is a part of the objective reality, to which the scientific interest of the scientist is directed. For example, the scientific interest of an astronomer is directed to the study of celestial bodies, space, a zoologist – to the study of fauna, and a botanist – flora, etc. Such sciences as political science, sociology, political economy, history, philosophy and all other social, humanitarian and economic sciences study another part of objective reality – society. This means that they all have one object of study. But each of them has developed its own conceptual apparatus, with the help of which it describes the elements of reality that interest it. The object of sociological knowledge is the totality of social properties, connections and relations. Social – the properties and characteristics of social relations that arise in the process of joint activities of people and are manifested in their relations to each other, to their position in society, to the phenomena and processes of social life. The object of sociology (as a science) is society as a whole, social ties, interactions, relationships and the way they are organized. In other words, the object of sociology is civil society.

The subject of science is the result of theoretical abstraction, a certain aspect, a cut of an objectively existing element of reality, which allows the researcher to highlight those aspects and patterns of development and functioning of the object under study that are specific to a given science. For example, history in a society studies the events and social changes that have taken place in a particular society in their chronological order; the economy in society studies the ways of managing the economy, the production of material goods, their exchange; political science – power and power relations; jurisprudence – law and legal relations, etc. The subject of science, unlike the object, exists in the mind of the researcher, i.e. depends on consciousness itself and is a part of it and the result of research activity. Defining the subject matter of sociology has been a complex process, and today there is no generally accepted definition. Thus, its founder O.Kont believed that sociology is the science of the fundamental laws of the development of society, the highest reality, subject only to natural laws; E. Durkheim considered social facts to be the subject of sociology, and M. Weber considered social actions. Russian sociologists believe that the subject of sociology can be considered the consciousness and behavior of people in a specific socio-economic environment (Zh. Toshchenko), social communities (V. Yadov), social relations (G. Osipov), social structures and processes in them ( S. Frolov).

Thus, the subject of study of sociology is:

– laws of joint life of people;

– principles characteristic of any civil society;

– structures of various forms of human communities;

– processes of their interaction;

– the forces that hold and destroy these communities, regardless of the specific forms of their manifestation.

There is no other science that explains the laws of human society as a whole! True, social life as an integrity is comprehended by philosophy, but it is precisely comprehended, reflected, and not studied by scientific methods. In medicine, a competent doctor, before diagnosing a specific disease of a patient, must familiarize himself with the anamnesis, examine the body as a whole. Unfortunately, in social science this procedure is often ignored, and sometimes impossible, because society as a whole, social life is the most complex object of knowledge, information about which is always incomplete and not always reliable. We are trying to understand life by generalizing only some of its essential features, but it is at the same time diverse and changeable, “… therefore, any mental cognition of infinite reality by the finite human spirit is based on the tacit premise that in each given case only the finite part can be the subject of scientific knowledge. reality, that only it should be considered “essential”, i.e. “worthy of knowledge”. (M. Weber. Selected works. Vol. 1, p. 369. M., 1990.)

The dispute about the subject has not ended, but the following definition is currently the most accepted: “Sociology is the science of society as a whole and the formation, development and functioning of social communities, social organizations and social processes, as well as social relations as mechanisms of interaction between diverse social communities, between the individual and society. (V. Yadov. SOCIS, 1990, No. 2.)

Structure. Like most sciences, sociology has developed in two main directions – fundamental (theoretical) and applied. Theoretical sociology deals with the analysis of the main categories, laws, universal patterns of individual behavior and social organization. Sociology must be as independent as possible, it cannot be biased by any political or other predilections, since it must be based on accurate, concrete data collected within the framework of empirical sociology. Information is collected using methods, techniques, techniques of sociological research, such as surveys, interviews, observations, document analysis, experiments.

Of particular value in pragmatic use is the theoretical generalization of empirical data, which in sociology is called “theories of the middle level”. This scientific term was introduced by R. Merton and was defined by him as theories that are in the intermediate space between particular working hypotheses and attempts to create a unified theory. Thus, a three-level structure of sociology has developed. Middle-range theories effectively explore:

-social institutions (for example, the sociology of the family, the sociology of medicine, the sociology of politics, the sociology of science, art, education, etc.)

-social communities (for example, the sociology of classes, the theory of stratification, the sociology of professional groups, ethnosociology, the sociology of the city and the countryside, etc.)

– sociology of processes (for example, conflictology, sociology of urbanization of society, sociology of globalization, sociology of deviant behavior, sociology of political extremism, etc.)

An indisputable advantage of middle-level sociology is the close interaction between theoretical sociology and real life.

Applied and empirical sociology ensure the use of theoretical developments to solve practical problems. It also provides for the study of specific groups and processes, the collection and processing of specific social information.

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