is the study of society.
It is a social science
a term with which it is sometimes synonymous
uses various methods of empirical investigation
and critical analysis
to develop and refine a body of knowledge
about human social activity, often with the goal of applying such knowledge to the pursuit of social welfare. Subject
matter ranges from the micro level of agency and interaction to the macro level of systems and social structures.
Sociology is both topically and methodologically a very broad discipline. Its traditional focuses have included social
stratification, social class, social mobility, religion, law, and deviance. As all spheres of human activity are sculpted
by social structure and individual agency, sociology has gradually expanded its focus to further subjects, such as
medicine, military and penal institutions, the Internet, and even the role of social activity in the development of
The range of social scientific methods has also broadly expanded. Social researchers draw upon a variety of
qualitative and quantitative techniques. The linguistic and cultural turns of the mid-twentieth century led to
increasingly interpretative, hermeneutic, and philosophic approaches to the analysis of society. Conversely, recent
decades have seen the rise of new analytically, mathematically and computationally rigorous techniques, such as
agent-based modelling and social network analysis.
Sociological reasoning predates the foundation of the discipline. Social
analysis has origins in the common stock of Western knowledge and
philosophy, and has been carried out from at least as early as the time of
Plato. The origin of the survey can be traced back at least early as the
Domesday Book in 1086,
whilst ancient philosophers such as Confucius
wrote on the importance of social roles. There is evidence of early sociology
in medieval Islam. Some regard the first sociologist to be Ibn Khaldun; a 14th
century Arab Islamic scholar from North Africa, whose
first work to advance social-scientific theories of social cohesion and social
) is derived from the Latin:
, "the study of", and Greek λόγος,
"knowledge". It was first coined in 1780 by the French essayist
Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès (1748
1836) in an unpublished manuscript.
Sociology was later defined independently by the French philosopher of
science, Auguste Comte (1798
1857), in 1838.
Comte had earlier used the term "social physics", but that had
subsequently been appropriated by others, most notably the Belgian statistician Adolphe Quetelet. Comte
endeavoured to unify history, psychology and economics through the scientific understanding of the social realm.
Writing shortly after the malaise of the French Revolution, he proposed that social ills could be remedied through