Skip Nav

About Rural Sociology and Sustainable Development

Navigation menu

❶Studies will commonly combine, or 'triangulate' , quantitative and qualitative methods as part of a 'multi-strategy' design. Sociology of literature , Sociology of art , Sociology of film , and Sociology of music.

Information Page

Roots of Rural Sociology in Social Thought


The different traditional focuses of sociology include social stratification , social class , social mobility , religion , secularization , law , sexuality , gender , and deviance. As all spheres of human activity are affected by the interplay between social structure and individual agency , sociology has gradually expanded its focus to other subjects, such as health , medical , economy , military and penal institutions , the Internet , education , social capital , and the role of social activity in the development of scientific knowledge.

The range of social scientific methods has also expanded. Social researchers draw upon a variety of qualitative and quantitative techniques. The linguistic and cultural turns of the midth century led to increasingly interpretative , hermeneutic , and philosophic approaches towards the analysis of society. Conversely, the end of the s and the beginning of the s have seen the rise of new analytically , mathematically , and computationally rigorous techniques, such as agent-based modelling and social network analysis.

Social research informs politicians and policy makers , educators , planners , legislators , administrators , developers , business magnates , managers, social workers , non-governmental organizations , non-profit organizations , and people interested in resolving social issues in general. There is often a great deal of crossover between social research, market research , and other statistical fields. 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 as far back as the time of ancient Greek philosopher Plato , if not before. There is evidence of early sociology in medieval Arab writings. Some sources consider Ibn Khaldun , a 14th-century Arab Islamic scholar from North Africa Tunisia , to have been the first sociologist and father of sociology [12] [13] [14] [15] see Branches of the early Islamic philosophy ; his Muqaddimah was perhaps the first work to advance social-scientific reasoning on social cohesion and social conflict.

The word sociology or "sociologie" is derived from both Latin and Greek origins. 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 sociological positivism , an epistemological approach outlined in The Course in Positive Philosophy — and A General View of Positivism Comte believed a positivist stage would mark the final era, after conjectural theological and metaphysical phases, in the progression of human understanding.

Comte gave a powerful impetus to the development of sociology, an impetus which bore fruit in the later decades of the nineteenth century.

To say this is certainly not to claim that French sociologists such as Durkheim were devoted disciples of the high priest of positivism. But by insisting on the irreducibility of each of his basic sciences to the particular science of sciences which it presupposed in the hierarchy and by emphasizing the nature of sociology as the scientific study of social phenomena Comte put sociology on the map.

To be sure, [its] beginnings can be traced back well beyond Montesquieu , for example, and to Condorcet , not to speak of Saint-Simon , Comte's immediate predecessor. But Comte's clear recognition of sociology as a particular science, with a character of its own, justified Durkheim in regarding him as the father or founder of this science, in spite of the fact that Durkheim did not accept the idea of the three states and criticized Comte's approach to sociology. Both Auguste Comte and Karl Marx — set out to develop scientifically justified systems in the wake of European industrialization and secularization , informed by various key movements in the philosophies of history and science.

Marx rejected Comtean positivism [28] but in attempting to develop a science of society nevertheless came to be recognized as a founder of sociology as the word gained wider meaning. For Isaiah Berlin , Marx may be regarded as the "true father" of modern sociology, "in so far as anyone can claim the title. To have given clear and unified answers in familiar empirical terms to those theoretical questions which most occupied men's minds at the time, and to have deduced from them clear practical directives without creating obviously artificial links between the two, was the principal achievement of Marx's theory.

The sociological treatment of historical and moral problems, which Comte and after him, Spencer and Taine , had discussed and mapped, became a precise and concrete study only when the attack of militant Marxism made its conclusions a burning issue, and so made the search for evidence more zealous and the attention to method more intense.

It is estimated that he sold one million books in his lifetime, far more than any other sociologist at the time. Durkheim's Division of Labour in Society is to a large extent an extended debate with Spencer from whose sociology, many commentators now agree, Durkheim borrowed extensively. While Marxian ideas defined one strand of sociology, Spencer was a critic of socialism as well as strong advocate for a laissez-faire style of government.

His ideas were closely observed by conservative political circles, especially in the United States and England. The first formal Department of Sociology in the world was established by Albion Small - at the invitation of William Rainey Harper - at the University of Chicago in , and the American Journal of Sociology was founded shortly thereafter in by Small as well. While Durkheim rejected much of the detail of Comte's philosophy, he retained and refined its method, maintaining that the social sciences are a logical continuation of the natural ones into the realm of human activity, and insisting that they may retain the same objectivity, rationalism, and approach to causality.

Durkheim's monograph, Suicide is considered a seminal work in statistical analysis by contemporary sociologists. Suicide is a case study of variations in suicide rates among Catholic and Protestant populations, and served to distinguish sociological analysis from psychology or philosophy.

It also marked a major contribution to the theoretical concept of structural functionalism. By carefully examining suicide statistics in different police districts, he attempted to demonstrate that Catholic communities have a lower suicide rate than that of Protestants, something he attributed to social as opposed to individual or psychological causes.

He developed the notion of objective sui generis "social facts" to delineate a unique empirical object for the science of sociology to study. Sociology quickly evolved as an academic response to the perceived challenges of modernity , such as industrialization , urbanization , secularization , and the process of " rationalization ". By the turn of the 20th century, however, many theorists were active in the English-speaking world.

Few early sociologists were confined strictly to the subject, interacting also with economics , jurisprudence , psychology and philosophy , with theories being appropriated in a variety of different fields. Since its inception, sociological epistemology, methods, and frames of inquiry, have significantly expanded and diverged.

Durkheim, Marx, and the German theorist Max Weber — are typically cited as the three principal architects of sociology. Curricula also may include Charlotte Perkins Gilman , Marianne Weber and Friedrich Engels as founders of the feminist tradition in sociology. Each key figure is associated with a particular theoretical perspective and orientation. Marx and Engels associated the emergence of modern society above all with the development of capitalism; for Durkheim it was connected in particular with industrialization and the new social division of labor which this brought about; for Weber it had to do with the emergence of a distinctive way of thinking, the rational calculation which he associated with the Protestant Ethic more or less what Marx and Engels speak of in terms of those 'icy waves of egotistical calculation'.

Together the works of these great classical sociologists suggest what Giddens has recently described as 'a multidimensional view of institutions of modernity' and which emphasises not only capitalism and industrialism as key institutions of modernity, but also 'surveillance' meaning 'control of information and social supervision' and 'military power' control of the means of violence in the context of the industrialisation of war.

The overarching methodological principle of positivism is to conduct sociology in broadly the same manner as natural science. An emphasis on empiricism and the scientific method is sought to provide a tested foundation for sociological research based on the assumption that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge, and that such knowledge can only arrive by positive affirmation through scientific methodology. Our main goal is to extend scientific rationalism to human conduct What has been called our positivism is but a consequence of this rationalism.

The term has long since ceased to carry this meaning; there are no fewer than twelve distinct epistemologies that are referred to as positivism. The extent of antipositivist criticism has also diverged, with many rejecting the scientific method and others only seeking to amend it to reflect 20th-century developments in the philosophy of science. However, positivism broadly understood as a scientific approach to the study of society remains dominant in contemporary sociology, especially in the United States.

Durkheimian , Logical, and Instrumental. Durkheim maintained that the social sciences are a logical continuation of the natural ones into the realm of human activity, and insisted that they should retain the same objectivity, rationalism, and approach to causality.

The variety of positivism that remains dominant today is termed instrumental positivism. This approach eschews epistemological and metaphysical concerns such as the nature of social facts in favour of methodological clarity, replicability , reliability and validity. Since it carries no explicit philosophical commitment, its practitioners may not belong to any particular school of thought. Modern sociology of this type is often credited to Paul Lazarsfeld , [34] who pioneered large-scale survey studies and developed statistical techniques for analysing them.

This approach lends itself to what Robert K. Merton called middle-range theory: Reactions against social empiricism began when German philosopher Hegel voiced opposition to both empiricism, which he rejected as uncritical, and determinism, which he viewed as overly mechanistic. Early hermeneuticians such as Wilhelm Dilthey pioneered the distinction between natural and social science ' Geisteswissenschaft '.

Various neo-Kantian philosophers, phenomenologists and human scientists further theorized how the analysis of the social world differs to that of the natural world due to the irreducibly complex aspects of human society, culture , and being. At the turn of the 20th century the first generation of German sociologists formally introduced methodological anti-positivism , proposing that research should concentrate on human cultural norms , values , symbols , and social processes viewed from a resolutely subjective perspective.

Max Weber argued that sociology may be loosely described as a science as it is able to identify causal relationships of human " social action "—especially among " ideal types ", or hypothetical simplifications of complex social phenomena. By 'action' in this definition is meant the human behaviour when and to the extent that the agent or agents see it as subjectively meaningful In neither case is the 'meaning' to be thought of as somehow objectively 'correct' or 'true' by some metaphysical criterion.

This is the difference between the empirical sciences of action, such as sociology and history, and any kind of prior discipline, such as jurisprudence, logic, ethics, or aesthetics whose aim is to extract from their subject-matter 'correct' or 'valid' meaning. Both Weber and Georg Simmel pioneered the " Verstehen " or 'interpretative' method in social science; a systematic process by which an outside observer attempts to relate to a particular cultural group, or indigenous people, on their own terms and from their own point of view.

Relatively isolated from the sociological academy throughout his lifetime, Simmel presented idiosyncratic analyses of modernity more reminiscent of the phenomenological and existential writers than of Comte or Durkheim, paying particular concern to the forms of, and possibilities for, social individuality. The deepest problems of modern life flow from the attempt of the individual to maintain the independence and individuality of his existence against the sovereign powers of society, against the weight of the historical heritage and the external culture and technique of life.

The antagonism represents the most modern form of the conflict which primitive man must carry on with nature for his own bodily existence. Ward , the first president of the American Sociological Association, published Dynamic Sociology—Or Applied social science as based upon statical sociology and the less complex sciences and attacked the laissez-faire sociology of Herbert Spencer and Sumner.

In , the oldest continuing American course in the modern tradition began at the University of Kansas , lectured by Frank W. An introduction to the study of society Sociology in the United States was less historically influenced by Marxism than its European counterpart, and to this day broadly remains more statistical in its approach. Weber established the first department in Germany at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in , having presented an influential new antipositivist sociology.

The Institute for Social Research at the University of Frankfurt later to become the Frankfurt School of critical theory was founded in The contemporary discipline of sociology is theoretically multi-paradigmatic [72] as a result of the contentions of classical social theory. In Randall Collins ' well-cited survey of sociological theory [73] he retroactively labels various theorists as belonging to four theoretical traditions: Functionalism, Conflict, Symbolic Interactionism, and Utilitarianism.

Utilitarianism , also known as Rational Choice or Social Exchange, although often associated with economics , is an established tradition within sociological theory. It was the dominant theoretical stance in American sociology from around to [78] and is associated with several founders of sociology, primarily Herbert Spencer , Lester F. Ward and William Graham Sumner. Contemporary sociological theory retains traces of each of these traditions and they are by no means mutually exclusive.

A broad historical paradigm in both sociology and anthropology , functionalism addresses the social structure , referred to as social organization in among the classical theorists, as a whole and regarding the necessary function of its constituent elements. A common analogy popularized by Herbert Spencer is to regard norms and institutions as 'organs' that work towards the proper-functioning of the entire 'body' of society.

It is in Radcliffe-Brown's specific usage that the prefix 'structural' emerged. Biology has been taken to provide a guide to conceptualizing the structure and the function of social systems and to analysing processes of evolution via mechanisms of adaptation. Functionalist theories emphasize "cohesive systems" and are often contrasted with "conflict theories", which critique the overarching socio-political system or emphasize the inequality between particular groups.

The following quotes from Durkheim and Marx epitomize the political, as well as theoretical, disparities, between functionalist and conflict thought respectively:. To aim for a civilisation beyond that made possible by the nexus of the surrounding environment will result in unloosing sickness into the very society we live in.

Collective activity cannot be encouraged beyond the point set by the condition of the social organism without undermining health. The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

Symbolic interaction ; often associated with Interactionism , Phenomenological sociology , Dramaturgy , Interpretivism , is a sociological tradition that places emphasis on subjective meanings and the empirical unfolding of social processes, generally accessed through micro-analysis.

Society is nothing more than the shared reality that people construct as they interact with one another. This approach sees people interacting in countless settings using symbolic communications to accomplish the tasks at hand. Therefore, society is a complex, ever-changing mosaic of subjective meanings.

It is also in this tradition that the radical-empirical approach of Ethnomethodology emerges from the work of Harold Garfinkel. Utilitarianism is often referred to as exchange theory or rational choice theory in the context of sociology. This tradition tends to privilege the agency of individual rational actors and assumes that within interactions individuals always seek to maximize their own self-interest. As argued by Josh Whitford , rational actors are assumed to have four basic elements, the individual has 1 "a knowledge of alternatives," 2 "a knowledge of, or beliefs about the consequences of the various alternatives," 3 "an ordering of preferences over outcomes," 4 "A decision rule, to select among the possible alternatives" [88] Exchange theory is specifically attributed to the work of George C.

Homans , Peter Blau and Richard Emerson. March and Herbert A. Simon noted that an individual's rationality is bounded by the context or organizational setting. The utilitarian perspective in sociology was, most notably, revitalized in the late 20th century by the work of former ASA president James Coleman.

Following the decline of theories of sociocultural evolution, in the United States, the interactionism of the Chicago School dominated American sociology. As Anselm Strauss describes, "We didn't think symbolic interaction was a perspective in sociology; we thought it was sociology. Ultimately, "the failure of the Chicago, Columbia, and Wisconsin [sociology] departments to produce a significant number of graduate students interested in and committed to general theory in the years —45 was to the advantage of the Harvard department.

In addition to Parsons' revision of the sociological canon which included Marshall, Pareto, Weber and Durkheim , the lack of theoretical challenges from other departments nurtured the rise of the Parsonian structural-functionalist movement, which reached its crescendo in the s, but by the s was in rapid decline. By the s, most functionalisms in Europe had broadly been replaced by conflict -oriented approaches [92] and to many in the discipline, functionalism was considered "as dead as a dodo.

This third 'generation' of social theory includes phenomenologically inspired approaches, critical theory, ethnomethodology, symbolic interactionism, structuralism, post-structuralism, and theories written in the tradition of hermeneutics and ordinary language philosophy. While some conflict approaches also gained popularity in the United States, the mainstream of the discipline instead shifted to a variety of empirically oriented middle-range theories with no single overarching, or "grand", theoretical orientation.

John Levi Martin refers to this "golden age of methodological unity and theoretical calm" as the Pax Wisconsana , [95] as it reflected the composition of the sociology department at the University of Wisconsin—Madison: The structuralist movement originated primarily from the work of Durkheim as interpreted by two European anthropologists.

In this context, 'structure' refers not to 'social structure' but to the semiotic understanding of human culture as a system of signs. One may delineate four central tenets of structuralism: First, structure is what determines the structure of a whole.

Second, structuralists believe that every system has a structure. Third, structuralists are interested in 'structural' laws that deal with coexistence rather than changes. Finally, structures are the 'real things' beneath the surface or the appearance of meaning.

The second tradition of structuralist thought, contemporaneous with Giddens, emerges from the American school of social network analysis, [99] spearheaded by the Harvard Department of Social Relations led by Harrison White and his students in the s and s. This tradition of structuralist thought argues that, rather than semiotics, social structure is networks of patterned social relations.

And, rather than Levi-Strauss, this school of thought draws on the notions of structure as theorized by Levi-Strauss' contemporary anthropologist, Radcliffe-Brown.

Post-structuralist thought has tended to reject 'humanist' assumptions in the conduct of social theory. The anti-humanist position has been associated with " postmodernism ", a term used in specific contexts to describe an era or phenomena , but occasionally construed as a method.

Overall, there is a strong consensus regarding the central problems of sociological theory, which are largely inherited from the classical theoretical traditions.

The first deals with knowledge , the second with action , and the last with time. Lastly, sociological theory often grapples with the problem of integrating or transcending the divide between micro, meso and macro-scale social phenomena, which is a subset of all three central problems. The problem of subjectivity and objectivity can be divided into a concern over the general possibilities of social actions, and, on the other hand the specific problem of social scientific knowledge.

In the former, the subjective is often equated though not necessarily with the individual, and the individual's intentions and interpretations of the objective. The objective is often considered any public or external action or outcome, on up to society writ large.

A primary question for social theorists is how knowledge reproduces along the chain of subjective-objective-subjective, that is to say: While, historically, qualitative methods have attempted to tease out subjective interpretations, quantitative survey methods also attempt to capture individual subjectivities.

Also, some qualitative methods take a radical approach to objective description in situ. The latter concern with scientific knowledge results from the fact that a sociologist is part of the very object they seek to explain. Bourdieu puts this problem rather succinctly: How can the sociologist effect in practice this radical doubting which is indispensable for bracketing all the presuppositions inherent in the fact that she is a social being, that she is therefore socialised and led to feel "like a fish in water" within that social world whose structures she has internalised?

How can she prevent the social world itself from carrying out the construction of the object, in a sense, through her, through these unself-conscious operations or operations unaware of themselves of which she is the apparent subject.

Structure and agency, sometimes referred to as determinism versus voluntarism, [] form an enduring ontological debate in social theory: Discussions over the primacy of either structure and agency relate to the core of sociological epistemology "What is the social world made of? Synchrony and diachrony, or statics and dynamics, within social theory are terms that refer to a distinction emerging out of the work of Levi-Strauss who inherited it from the linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure.

Diachrony, on the other hand, attempts to analyse dynamic sequences. Following Saussure, synchrony would refer to social phenomena as a static concept like a language , while diachrony would refer to unfolding processes like actual speech.

In Anthony Giddens' introduction to Central Problems in Social Theory , he states that, "in order to show the interdependence of action and structure In terms of sociology, historical sociology is often better positioned to analyse social life as diachronic, while survey research takes a snapshot of social life and is thus better equipped to understand social life as synchronized.

Some argue that the synchrony of social structure is a methodological perspective rather than an ontological claim. Many people divide sociological research methods into two broad categories, although many others see research methods as a continuum: Many sociologists are divided into camps of support for particular research techniques.

These disputes relate to the epistemological debates at the historical core of social theory. While very different in many aspects, both qualitative and quantitative approaches involve a systematic interaction between theory and data. Most textbooks on the methodology of social research are written from the quantitative perspective, [] and the very term "methodology" is often used synonymously with " statistics. The work produced by quantitative researchers is also deemed more 'trustworthy' and 'unbiased' by the greater public, [] though this judgment continues to be challenged by antipositivists.

The choice of method often depends largely on what the researcher intends to investigate. For example, a researcher concerned with drawing a statistical generalization across an entire population may administer a survey questionnaire to a representative sample population.

By contrast, a researcher who seeks full contextual understanding of an individual's social actions may choose ethnographic participant observation or open-ended interviews. Studies will commonly combine, or 'triangulate' , quantitative and qualitative methods as part of a 'multi-strategy' design. For instance, a quantitative study may be performed to gain statistical patterns or a target sample, and then combined with a qualitative interview to determine the play of agency.

Quantitative methods are often used to ask questions about a population that is very large, making a census or a complete enumeration of all the members in that population infeasible.

A 'sample' then forms a manageable subset of a population. In quantitative research, statistics are used to draw inferences from this sample regarding the population as a whole. The process of selecting a sample is referred to as 'sampling'. While it is usually best to sample randomly , concern with differences between specific subpopulations sometimes calls for stratified sampling. Conversely, the impossibility of random sampling sometimes necessitates nonprobability sampling , such as convenience sampling or snowball sampling.

Sociologists increasingly draw upon computationally intensive methods to analyse and model social phenomena. Although the subject matter and methodologies in social science differ from those in natural science or computer science , several of the approaches used in contemporary social simulation originated from fields such as physics and artificial intelligence. In relevant literature, computational sociology is often related to the study of social complexity.

Sociologists' approach to culture can be divided into a "sociology of culture" and "cultural sociology"—the terms are similar, though not entirely interchangeable. Conversely, cultural sociology sees all social phenomena as inherently cultural. For Simmel , culture referred to "the cultivation of individuals through the agency of external forms which have been objectified in the course of history".

Cultural sociology often involves the hermeneutic analysis of words, artefacts and symbols, or ethnographic interviews. However, some sociologists employ historical-comparative or quantitative techniques in the analysis of culture, Weber and Bourdieu for instance.

The subfield is sometimes allied with critical theory in the vein of Theodor W. Adorno , Walter Benjamin , and other members of the Frankfurt School. Loosely distinct from the sociology of culture is the field of cultural studies. Birmingham School theorists such as Richard Hoggart and Stuart Hall questioned the division between "producers" and "consumers" evident in earlier theory, emphasizing the reciprocity in the production of texts.

Cultural Studies aims to examine its subject matter in terms of cultural practices and their relation to power. For example, a study of a subculture such as white working class youth in London would consider the social practices of the group as they relate to the dominant class. The " cultural turn " of the s ultimately placed culture much higher on the sociological agenda. Sociology of literature, film, and art is a subset of the sociology of culture. This field studies the social production of artistic objects and its social implications.

Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field None of the founding fathers of sociology produced a detailed study of art, but they did develop ideas that were subsequently applied to literature by others.

Durkheim's view of sociology as the study of externally defined social facts was redirected towards literature by Robert Escarpit. Bourdieu's own work is clearly indebted to Marx, Weber and Durkheim.

Criminologists analyse the nature, causes, and control of criminal activity, drawing upon methods across sociology, psychology , and the behavioural sciences. The sociology of deviance focuses on actions or behaviours that violate norms , including both formally enacted rules e. It is the remit of sociologists to study why these norms exist; how they change over time; and how they are enforced.

The concept of social disorganization is when the broader social systems leads to violations of norms. For instance, Robert K. Merton produced a typology of deviance , which includes both individual and system level causal explanations of deviance.

The study of law played a significant role in the formation of classical sociology. Durkheim famously described law as the "visible symbol" of social solidarity. Sociology of law is a diverse field of study that examines the interaction of law with other aspects of society, such as the development of legal institutions and the effect of laws on social change and vice versa.

For example, an influential recent work in the field relies on statistical analyses to argue that the increase in incarceration in the US over the last 30 years is due to changes in law and policing and not to an increase in crime; and that this increase significantly contributes to maintaining racial stratification.

The sociology of communications and information technologies includes "the social aspects of computing, the Internet, new media, computer networks, and other communication and information technologies". The Internet is of interest to sociologists in various ways; most practically as a tool for research and as a discussion platform.

Online communities may be studied statistically through network analysis or interpreted qualitatively through virtual ethnography. Moreover, organizational change is catalysed through new media , thereby influencing social change at-large, perhaps forming the framework for a transformation from an industrial to an informational society.

As with cultural studies , media study is a distinct discipline that owes to the convergence of sociology and other social sciences and humanities, in particular, literary criticism and critical theory. Though the production process or the critique of aesthetic forms is not in the remit of sociologists, analyses of socializing factors, such as ideological effects and audience reception , stem from sociological theory and method.

Thus the 'sociology of the media' is not a subdiscipline per se , but the media is a common and often-indispensable topic. The term "economic sociology" was first used by William Stanley Jevons in , later to be coined in the works of Durkheim, Weber and Simmel between and The relationship between capitalism and modernity is a salient issue, perhaps best demonstrated in Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and Simmel's The Philosophy of Money The contemporary period of economic sociology, also known as new economic sociology , was consolidated by the work of Mark Granovetter titled "Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem of Embeddedness".

This work elaborated the concept of embeddedness , which states that economic relations between individuals or firms take place within existing social relations and are thus structured by these relations as well as the greater social structures of which those relations are a part. Social network analysis has been the primary methodology for studying this phenomenon. Granovetter's theory of the strength of weak ties and Ronald Burt 's concept of structural holes are two best known theoretical contributions of this field.

The sociology of work, or industrial sociology, examines "the direction and implications of trends in technological change, globalization , labour markets, work organization, managerial practices and employment relations to the extent to which these trends are intimately related to changing patterns of inequality in modern societies and to the changing experiences of individuals and families the ways in which workers challenge, resist and make their own contributions to the patterning of work and shaping of work institutions.

The sociology of education is the study of how educational institutions determine social structures, experiences, and other outcomes. It is particularly concerned with the schooling systems of modern industrial societies. The study also found that socially disadvantaged black students profited from schooling in racially mixed classrooms, and thus served as a catalyst for desegregation busing in American public schools.

Environmental sociology is the study of human interactions with the natural environment, typically emphasizing human dimensions of environmental problems, social impacts of those problems, and efforts to resolve them. As with other sub-fields of sociology, scholarship in environmental sociology may be at one or multiple levels of analysis, from global e. Attention is paid also to the processes by which environmental problems become defined and known to humans.

As argued by notable environmental sociologist John Bellamy Foster , the predecessor to modern environmental sociology is Marx's analysis of the metabolic rift , which influenced contemporary thought on sustainability. Environmental sociology is often interdisciplinary and overlaps with the sociology of risk , rural sociology and the sociology of disaster. Human ecology deals with interdisciplinary study of the relationship between humans and their natural, social, and built environments.

In addition to Environmental sociology, this field overlaps with architectural sociology , urban sociology , and to some extent visual sociology. In turn, visual sociology—which is concerned with all visual dimensions of social life—overlaps with media studies in that it uses photography, film and other technologies of media. Social pre-wiring deals with the study of fetal social behavior and social interactions in a multi-fetal environment. Specifically, social pre-wiring refers to the ontogeny of social interaction.

Also informally referred to as, "wired to be social. Research in the theory concludes that newborns are born into the world with a unique genetic wiring to be social. Circumstantial evidence supporting the social pre-wiring hypothesis can be revealed when examining newborns' behavior.

Newborns, not even hours after birth, have been found to display a preparedness for social interaction. This preparedness is expressed in ways such as their imitation of facial gestures. This observed behavior cannot be contributed to any current form of socialization or social construction. Rather, newborns most likely inherit to some extent social behavior and identity through genetics.

Principal evidence of this theory is uncovered by examining Twin pregnancies. The main argument is, if there are social behaviors that are inherited and developed before birth, then one should expect twin foetuses to engage in some form of social interaction before they are born. Thus, ten foetuses were analyzed over a period of time using ultrasound techniques. Using kinematic analysis, the results of the experiment were that the twin foetuses would interact with each other for longer periods and more often as the pregnancies went on.

Researchers were able to conclude that the performance of movements between the co-twins were not accidental but specifically aimed. The social pre-wiring hypothesis was proved correct, "The central advance of this study is the demonstration that ' social actions ' are already performed in the second trimester of gestation.

Starting from the 14th week of gestation twin foetuses plan and execute movements specifically aimed at the co-twin. These findings force us to predate the emergence of social behavior: Family, gender and sexuality form a broad area of inquiry studied in many sub-fields of sociology.

A family is a group of people who are related by kinship ties: The family unit is one of the most important social institutions found in some form in nearly all known societies.

It is the basic unit of social organization and plays a key role in socializing children into the culture of their society. The sociology of the family examines the family, as an institution and unit of socialization , with special concern for the comparatively modern historical emergence of the nuclear family and its distinct gender roles. The notion of " childhood " is also significant. As one of the more basic institutions to which one may apply sociological perspectives, the sociology of the family is a common component on introductory academic curricula.

Feminist sociology , on the other hand, is a normative sub-field that observes and critiques the cultural categories of gender and sexuality, particularly with respect to power and inequality. The primary concern of feminist theory is the patriarchy and the systematic oppression of women apparent in many societies, both at the level of small-scale interaction and in terms of the broader social structure. Feminist sociology also analyses how gender interlocks with race and class to produce and perpetuate social inequalities.

For example, one recent study has shown that resume evaluators penalize women for motherhood while giving a boost to men for fatherhood. The sociology of health and illness focuses on the social effects of, and public attitudes toward, illnesses , diseases, mental health and disabilities.

This sub-field also overlaps with gerontology and the study of the ageing process. Medical sociology, by contrast, focuses on the inner-workings of medical organizations and clinical institutions.

In Britain, sociology was introduced into the medical curriculum following the Goodenough Report The sociology of the body and embodiment [] takes a broad perspective on the idea of "the body" and includes "a wide range of embodied dynamics including human and non-human bodies, morphology, human reproduction, anatomy, body fluids, biotechnology, genetics. This often intersects with health and illness, but also theories of bodies as political, social, cultural, economic and ideological productions.

A subfield of the sociology of health and illness that overlaps with cultural sociology is the study of death, dying and bereavement, [] sometimes referred to broadly as the sociology of death. This topic is exemplifed by the work of Douglas Davies and Michael C. The sociology of knowledge is the study of the relationship between human thought and the social context within which it arises, and of the effects prevailing ideas have on societies.

The term first came into widespread use in the s, when a number of German-speaking theorists, most notably Max Scheler , and Karl Mannheim , wrote extensively on it. With the dominance of functionalism through the middle years of the 20th century, the sociology of knowledge tended to remain on the periphery of mainstream sociological thought. It was largely reinvented and applied much more closely to everyday life in the s, particularly by Peter L.

Berger and Thomas Luckmann in The Social Construction of Reality and is still central for methods dealing with qualitative understanding of human society compare socially constructed reality. The "archaeological" and "genealogical" studies of Michel Foucault are of considerable contemporary influence.

The sociology of science involves the study of science as a social activity, especially dealing "with the social conditions and effects of science, and with the social structures and processes of scientific activity. Merton and Bruno Latour. These branches of sociology have contributed to the formation of science and technology studies. Sociology of leisure is the study of how humans organize their free time.

Leisure includes a broad array of activities, such as sport , tourism, and the playing of games. The sociology of leisure is closely tied to the sociology of work, as each explores a different side of the work—leisure relationship. More recent studies in the field move away from the work—leisure relationship and focus on the relation between leisure and culture. This subfield of sociology studies, broadly, the dynamics of war, conflict resolution, peace movements, war refugees, conflict resolution and military institutions.

It is a highly specialized sub-field which examines issues related to service personnel as a distinct group with coerced collective action based on shared interests linked to survival in vocation and combat , with purposes and values that are more defined and narrow than within civil society. Military sociology also concerns civilian -military relations and interactions between other groups or governmental agencies.

Topics include the dominant assumptions held by those in the military, changes in military members' willingness to fight, military unionization, military professionalism, the increased utilization of women, the military industrial-academic complex, the military's dependence on research, and the institutional and organizational structure of military.

Historically, political sociology concerned the relations between political organization and society. A typical research question in this area might be: A major subfield of political sociology developed in relation to such questions, which draws on comparative history to analyse socio-political trends.

The field developed from the work of Max Weber and Moisey Ostrogorsky. Contemporary political sociology includes these areas of research, but it has been opened up to wider questions of power and politics. Such questions are more likely to be studied qualitatively. The study of social movements and their effects has been especially important in relation to these wider definitions of politics and power. Political sociology has also moved beyond methodological nationalism and analysed the role of non-governmental organizations, the diffusion of the nation-state throughout the Earth as a social construct , and the role of stateless entities in the modern world society.

Second, it has served those committed to preserving selected elements of rural society, a practice that often is perceived by agricultural administrators and proponents of technological innovations as creating barriers to progress.

Within the context of these conflicting and vacillating social policy orientations, rural sociology in America has generated a substantial body of research.

Some research topics have emerged principally in response to the social policy of transforming rural society and have followed the paradigm of positivism. Other topics are associated more clearly with the preservationist policy orientation and the paradigm of critical sociology. While the alignment of social policy and scientific paradigms is not perfect, there is a clear pattern of association. Both sets of orientations have existed within rural sociology since its inception, with the modernization-positivism orientation clearly dominating the research enterprise until recently.

One of the primary concerns of the Commission on Country Life was the lack of complete and accurate information about the conditions of life in rural America. Thus, study of the rural population was one of the first research topics to emerge Brunner Initially research was devoted primarily to description of the rural population, not only in an effort to provide more accurate counts of people but also to report on their characteristics in greater detail and to describe demographic processes more accurately.

Population studies continue to be extremely important in providing the basic descriptive information about the rural population that is needed to guide the development of programs to transform rural society Fuguitt et al. To the extent that rural population studies depart from purely demographic analyses and venture into sociological investigations, they are usually guided by the systemic perspective of human ecology Hawley , In this more sophisticated systems model, population size and density are treated as interdependent with the environment, the level of technology, and the social organization of a locality.

It is presumed that population size and density will expand to the maximum possible within the constraints imposed by the other components of the system, especially the technology of transportation and communication. While the perspective offers promise of merging social and spatial analysis, the results have been only partially successful. Rural population studies cum human ecology have yet to integrate the social and spatial levels of reality.

As more information about rural populations became available, comparisons with urban populations became possible, and there followed a prolific production of research to examine the belief that population size and density set the conditions of social action and social organization. The evidence that there are universal differences in the cultural and social characteristics that may be derived from differences in population size and density has not been convincing Pahl [] Thus, while comparisons are drawn between rural and urban populations, the causality argument associated with the rural-urban continuum has been discarded by most rural sociologists.

Rural sociologists have conducted hundreds of community studies that serve as a major source of information for the design of community development programs Bell and Newby ; Summers , Luloff and Swanson ; Wilkinson By that time the rural-urban continuum, which was the chief frame of reference for many investigators, was falling into disrepute Pahl [] Their studies were being criticized for their impressionistic methodologies and their excessively descriptive nature Colin Bell and Newby Moreover, proponents of the mass-society thesis argued that communities had been eclipsed by the forces of urbanization, bureaucratization, and centralization Stein ; Vidich and Bensman ; Warren Community was alleged to be no longer a meaningful locus of social decision making.

It was presumed that the increased presence of extralocal forces in the community vertical integration had destroyed the horizontal integration of communities and rendered small rural communities powerless in the face of broad and powerful forces of mass society. Although the tradition of holistic community studies has not returned to its former status, evidence clearly supports the argument that increased vertical integration does not necessarily destroy horizontal integration Richards ; Summers Rather, it is more consistent with the empirical data to view local autonomy as a variable, and the impact of changes in vertical integration as varying according to a complex matrix of variables characterizing the external agent and the community.

DuBois began a series of analyses of economic conditions among rural black groups and their relation to agriculture DuBois , , Land tenure and types of farming enterprises were studied to understand the relations of farming and agriculture-based businesses to the conditions of rural living. The methodology of these studies was often that of the community survey, and consequently there was much overlap with population and community studies.

Most of these studies were descriptive in nature, and they generated taxonomies of farming enterprises, which provided further refinements of farm family and farming community characteristics. The resulting social maps of farming communities provided detailed information to guide modernization programs, especially those of the Cooperative Extension Service, with its offices in virtually every rural county in the United States. Although technological innovations have been occurring in agriculture for centuries, technological change was revolutionized with the introduction of hybrid corn Ryan and Gross With this innovation, adoption and diffusion research became a new research field led by rural sociology.

The first research focused on identifying which farmers had the highest rates of adoption of hybrid corn and how the adoption process was diffused to other farmers. Soon the research encompassed other innovations and spread to other countries with the modernization era at the end of World War II Rogers ; Fliegel The basic processes of adoption and diffusion are now reasonably well understood, and training programs based on this knowledge are being implemented worldwide in areas of human behavior that reach well beyond farming practices to include health and nutrition, resource conservation, business management, and many other areas.

By the s there was a strong and growing disillusionment with the societal consequences of positivistic social science and the absence of a structuralist perspective Newby and Buttel It was claimed that theory and research had become uncoupled, with theory being excessively abstract and research exhibiting a mindless empiricism.

Several rural sociologists involved in international development research offered challenges to the Western development orthodoxy by claiming that modernization was serving the interests of the powerful and wealthy rather than improving the social and economic well-being of peasants and poor people Havens ; Havens and Flinn ; Thiesenhusen In North America and Europe similar claims were being expressed in the environmental, civil rights, and other social justice movements of the late s.

The emerging research topics in rural sociology manifest the intellectual ferment of a more critical perspective on existing public policies, especially in relation to established institutions of agricultural and rural research and programs claiming to improve rural communities and institutions.

The emergent critical perspective incorporates a diversity of theoretical views that recognize the active role of the state in public policy and argue that it is subject to the influences within society of powerful interest groups that often are formed along the lines of class, race, ethnicity, or gender.

Thus, the contemporary theoretical debates within rural sociology draw heavily on neo-Marxist and neo-Weberian orientations, with the result that rural sociology and sociology are closer intellectual partners today than at any time in the past fifty years.

Although virtually all facets of rural social organization and processes are subjected to the emergent critical perspective, some areas have received more attention than others. This critical new rural sociology was applied most extensively to understanding the paradox of the growth of large-scale capitalist agriculture accompanied by the persistence of the small-scale family or subfamily farm.

Efforts to understand this duality of agricultural structure has led to sharp debates about the barriers to capitalist transformation of agriculture, the role of small-scale and part-time farms in a functionally integrated capitalist industrial and agricultural system, and the role of the state in promoting capitalist agriculture. These critical perspectives have also been directed to understanding the social significance of the research apparatus of the land grant university system itself, particularly as to whether land-grant agricultural science has essentially served as a state policy that has helped to underwrite the growth of large-scale capitalist agriculture Busch et al.

Shortly thereafter, following on the growing disillusion with adoption-diffusion research, development-related inquiry in rural sociology shifted dramatically.

Much of the impetus behind criticism of the adoption-diffusion approach came from rural social scientists who did Third World research and who became acutely aware of its shortcomings as a vehicle for understanding agricultural change in the developing countries Havens and Flinn ; George ; Lipton ; Flora Although rural sociologists who do sociology of development research tend, not surprisingly, to give particular stress to agricultural development and its environmental implications, increasingly rural sociologists in the United States and other advanced countries do research on development processes that is often indistinguishable from that conducted by scholars who are not identified as rural sociologists.

Also, as noted earlier, in many developing countries rural sociology is virtually synonymous with sociology of development, development studies, peasant studies, village studies, and so on. To a certain extent this emerging research area overlaps the political economy of agriculture with its emphasis on technological change and its effects of distribution of ownership and control of resources, as well as equity in the distribution of benefits of new technologies Field and Burch There is the additional concern with the depletion and pollution of nonrenewable resources Schnaiberg and Gould ; Bell Social and economic impact assessment has emerged as a research activity that often is characterized by its critical perspective Freudenburg A comprehensive theory has not yet emerged that links technological change in natural resource industries to the full range of its ramifications for the environment, its socioeconomic impacts, and its associations with industrial structures.

However, the magnitude of its potential impacts and the associated public concern suggests that this area of research has a viable future Freudenburg Since the s, agriculture and natural-resource-based industries have been declining as sources of employment; the rate of decline accelerated dramatically after World War II.

For a brief period during the s manufacturing was a major source of employment growth in rural areas as industries sought cheaper land, lower taxes, and a nonunion labor force willing to work for lower wages and fewer benefits.

Although this process continues, service industries have emerged as the major source of employment growth Brown et al. These shifting labor demands have been accompanied by high unemployment in rural areas and a growth of temporary and part-time work, with resulting loss of wages and increasing levels of poverty.

Rural labor market analysis has emerged as a new research area in rural sociology as a consequence Summers et al. Much of the research is devoted to describing more precisely the nature and extent of rural unemployment and underemployment. However, the theoretical interpretations generally are sensitive to the linkages of rural labor markets to broader issues of economic restructuring. While labor demand-oriented and human capital explanations persist, there are attempts to understand the functioning of rural labor markets within the context of capitalist market institutions in a manner that is reminiscent of institutional labor economics.

Gender studies are not new to rural sociology; the role of women in farming has been a subject of research for at least a quarter-century Haney and Knowles However, the past decade has witnessed the emergency of theoretical and empirical studies that attempt to explain how the institutions of capitalism, patriarchy, and the domestic ideology influence the work roles of men and women.

The rich descriptive detail of gender-based allocations of labor is being integrated into more comprehensive theoretical interpretations of structural changes in both agricultural and nonagricultural industries Beneria ; Leon and Deere ; Sachs For the past twenty-five years the United States has pursued a variety of programs and policies intended to alleviate poverty Sanderfur and Tienda ; Snipp ; Wilson In spite of these efforts, poverty persists at rates that are higher in rural areas than in urban areas, and the difference is increasing.

Moreover, rural poverty is disproportionately concentrated in minority populations. Within the critical perspective it is argued that past and present institutional barriers limit the access of minority populations to the means of economic well-being. Persons of working age are disproportionately handicapped by deficiencies of human capital and discriminatory practices in the labor market.

Moreover, these failures have produced a generation of elderly persons who are denied access to important public insurance programs such as Social Security because they were excluded from the labor market in years past or were employed in industries that were not covered by such programs. Thus, the state is called into question for its poor performance in developing and implementing adequate public policies, a failure that is alleged to benefit the interests of the wealthy and powerful classes of society Summers As social scientists and historians have begun to reflect on the momentous and often convulsive changes that have occurred during the twentieth century, many have noted that the most far-reaching social change of the century has arguably been the rapid decline of peasantries and of farm life, particularly since World War II Hobsbawm The manner in which rural sociologists have conceptualized the processes and the significance of social-structural changes in agriculture has involved not only debate between the two overarching theoretical positions that have long characterized rural sociology, but also political and ideological positions on agriculture in society at large.

Thus, on one hand, theories in the sociology of agriculture tend to fall within either the modernizationist tradition e. Over and above the differences and debates across theoretical traditions are changing sociopolitical views about agriculture and food.

We noted earlier that, from the beginnings of rural sociology around the turn of the twentieth century, agriculture was one of its most central subject matters.


Main Topics

Privacy Policy

The most cited papers from this title published in the last 3 years. Statistics are updated weekly using participating publisher data sourced exclusively from Crossref.

Privacy FAQs

Addressing issues such as rural development and growth, globalization, labour relations, agrarian dynamics, and social and personal implications of rural and agricultural change, this series provides in-depth and up to date research on the local and global systems affecting rural dynamics.

About Our Ads

Research in rural sociology and development (Res Rural Sociol Dev)Journal description. Thematically organized, this series addresses issues relating to rural social change and its impacts on families and communities, the globalization and restructuring of agriculture and the food industry and the dynamics of development in agrarian societies. The emerging research topics in rural sociology manifest the intellectual ferment of a more critical perspective on existing public policies, especially in relation to established institutions of agricultural and rural research and programs claiming to improve rural communities and institutions.

Cookie Info

The set of journals have been ranked according to their SJR and divided into four equal groups, four quartiles. Q1 (green) comprises the quarter of the journals with the highest values, Q2 (yellow) the second highest values, Q3 (orange) the third highest values and Q4 (red) the lowest values. RVRAL SOCIOLOGY AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT Copp Under our national laissez faire policy of development, we have let the movement of people be the equalizer between areas of varying op.