How do you define sociology?

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silk4calde eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Sociology is part of a larger branch of the social sciences that attempts to understand how humans interact in groups (ranging from small families to entire nations). Sociology is the most explicit of these studies, focusing on human relations, institutions, organizations, structures, rules, and cultures.

There is such a wide range of activities encompassing human societies that sociologists can focus on a huge swath of different topics. Criminal sociologists, for example, study the motivations for crime, the factors that increase or decrease it, effective punishments or solutions, and how the government should act. Religious sociologists study religion and faith, how people in churches or temples or mosques interact, how different faiths have different ideals and messages, and how religion can be affected by geography, government, and so on. Gender sociologists look at the spectrum of gender, the traditionally enforced divide between men and women, and the new complexities in contemporary society introduced by the greater visibility and acceptance of gay and transgender identities. This is not an exhaustive list, as there are many other types of sociologists.

Sociologists have an educational background in many aspects of human behavior. As a discipline, sociology is very closely tied to history, political science, and geography. The study of sociology has helped us to better understand humanity as a whole and break down stereotypes and uncertainties to see the world and its people more clearly.

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Jessica Pope eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Sociology is the study of social behavior. It encompasses the study of social groups, social interaction, and social institutions such as religion, government, and family. Sociology examines both how individuals behave within social institutions as well as how social institutions themselves change and transform through time.

Take, for example, the social institution of marriage. Sociology looks at how individuals behave within marriage. What are the motivations, choices, behavioral patterns, etc. of people within the institution of marriage? At another level, sociology asks about marriage itself. Why does marriage occur, what are its different forms, how has marriage changed through time, and why? In this way, sociology seeks to understand both individual and institutional dynamics. It also inquires into the relationship between the individual and the institution. Sociology asks how people shape and change social institutions, and how they themselves are shaped and changed by these institutions.

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