Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What is Social Science

Social Sciences include the study of economics, geography, history, political science, psychology, social studies, and sociology. They are a group of disciplines that deal with humans, both as individuals and as interacting groups. Natural Sciences include the study of astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth sciences and physics as well as areas of overlap. Briefly, social sciences are the study of humans and their interactions, and natural sciences are the study of the universe and how it works. For the first question, I'm afraid I can't help you there. Either you need the class to graduate, you took it because there's someone you really like who's taking the class, or you deeply and truly are passionate about the material. Maybe it just sounds like an interesting class. For the second question, it's true that sociology doesn't produce any magic pills or atomic weapons. Sociology doesn't set out to conquer the natural world, as do the 'hard sciences' (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.). What it can do, however, is save you from yourself. If psychology attempts to describe the personality (i.e. a single individual), then sociology attempts to describe groups of individuals. Consider Hurricane Katrina not just as a meteorological event, but also a social one. Could a more rigorous social theory have predicted the fallout among the lower-economic tiers of New Orleans and diverted government resources more efficiently? If you're better with numbers than you are with feelings, I'd recommend you look up economics and behavioral finance. They're flavors of sociology with more 'real world' (i.e. lucrative) applications.

Sociology is a relatively new academic discipline among other social sciences including economics, political science, anthropology, and psychology. The ideas behind it, however, have a long history and can trace their origins to a mixture of common human knowledge, works of art and philosophy.

Auguste Comte

The first European department of sociology was founded in 1895 at the University of Bordeaux by the French sociologist Émile Durkheim.

Classical" theorists of sociology from the late 19th and early 20th centuries include Ferdinand Tönnies, Émile Durkheim, Vilfredo Pareto, Ludwig Gumplovicz, and Max Weber. Like Comte, these figures did not consider themselves only "sociologists". Their works addressed religion, education, economics, law, psychology, ethics, philosophy, and theology, and their theories have been applied in a variety of academic disciplines. Their influence on sociology was foundational.

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