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Classical Theories of Society

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The history of sociology dates back to prehistoric times. A whole range of traditions, trends, philosophies, and changes in a society contributed to the rapid evolution of the sociological science. Centuries passed between the rise of the post-agrarian society and the postmodern globalized community, and sociology reflected the most fundamental community shifts. Certainly, societal conditions had to be appropriate for the development of sociology as a discipline. At different times and at various stages of the society’s evolution, the four major trends contributing to the rise of sociology as science were the formation of intellectual development patterns, the systematization of the education and university systems, the evolution and expansion of political science, as well as the emergence of empirical research. The philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, Abelard and Bacon’s vision of reformation, and the New Science philosophy of Enlightenment were equally responsible for the rise and formalization of the sociological science.

Four Societal Trends: Contribution to Sociology

Intellectual development and post-agrarian societies

The roots of the sociology science can be readily traced to the beginnings of humanity, and it is the intellectual development at the earliest stages of the human society that gave rise to the emergence of sociology as a science. Collins mentions the systematization of the intellectual thought through Oriental literacy around 500 B.C. (p.6). Those were the times when the first intellectual schools were emerging, and they provided the rational basis for the subsequent expansion of human knowledge and its transformation into science (Collins, p.6). Free intellectualism helped reduce scientific bias and eventually resulted in the formation of the most promising and even challenging ideas. The intellectual community displayed acute interest in the foundations and prerequisites of organized society, which further translated into its more systematic consideration.

Education and universities

The formation and systematization of the education system greatly contributed to the rise of sociology. The first universities emerged in response to the intellectual development discussed earlier (Collins, p.8). Universities became the basic unit of most, if not all, education systems, providing space and environment that facilitated the transformation of sociology into science. Through universities, intellectuals finally acquired a convenient place for the development of their knowledge and, at the same time, the sense of scientific purpose (Collins, p.11).

Political science

Surprisingly or not, political science has become one of the major trends contributing to the rise of the sociological science. For centuries, politics and sociology were developing hand in hand. At times, it was difficult to distinguish one science from another, but the political conditions of the late 1700s favored the evolution of sociology and other forms of intellectual activity (Collins, p.17). Although not politics but economics is considered as the first systematic social science, politics fostered the rise of national and political consciousness which, in turn, motivated intellectuals and the rest of the human society to learn more about themselves. Changes in political systems and structures and the growing complexity of the political science raised ideological concerns, which eventually compelled intellectuals and scholars to turn to more systematic social research (Collins, p.25).

Empirical research

Finally, empirical research provided an impetus for the quick transformation of social knowledge into science. The 19th century was marked with scholars’ growing reliance on scientific methods, including statistical research (Collins, p.45). At that time, the most notable achievements were based on empirical findings and theoretical underpinnings borrowed from other disciplines, including anthropology and history, but the promise of empirical research was so meaningful that it soon became a fundamental ingredient of sociology and one of the most essential factors contributing to its development.

Four Philosophies Responsible for the Rise of Sociology

The four major philosophic traditions that contributed to the rise of the social science include: the philosophies of Aristotle and Plato, Peter Abelard’s philosophic traditions, the philosophy of New Science and Enlightenment, and the philosophic developments made by Emile Durkheim. Ways in which these philosophic trends impacted the social science are numerous and diverse. Plato and Aristotle proposed their ideas of what an ideal society could look like (Collins, p.7). At that time, the social science lacked an evaluative perspective, since philosophers made propositions without trying to explain why things happened as they did (Collins, p.7). Later in the age of Renaissance, Peter Abelard made a serious shift from theology towards sociology in its contemporary form. The philosophy of New Science gave rise to the emergence of more rational, empirical methods of research, which actually predetermined the subsequent separation of sociology from other disciplines. Finally, Durkheimian philosophies provided enough contents and information to ensure that sociology could develop strongly on its conceptual basis (Collins, p.45). Durkheim’s philosophic tradition presented the most explicit vision of what would make sociology a distinct science; therefore, his contribution to the rise of sociology as a separate discipline cannot be ignored (Collins, p.46).

Conclusion

Sociology is a product of the complex interactions among multiple forces and trends. Among the most important were the rise of the intellectual society, the creation of universities and formalization of the education system, and the evolution of empirical research. The philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, Aberland and Durkheim greatly contributed to the rise of sociology as a science. Without all those changes, sociology might not have become what it is today. Present-day sociology is a separate discipline that has distinct features and principles. Most probably, it will continue to evolve under the influence of the major and minor social, cultural, philosophic, and political shifts. 

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