How did the intellectual forces lead to the emergence of sociology? Discuss.

According to the organic analogy of Herbert Spencer, The emergence of sociology is associated with the evolution of man. However, the roots of sociological understanding go back to ancient Greek and Roman literature.

But the systematic study of society emerged in the West. Besides, we do find references of law, the state, and the society in Plato’s Republic (427-347 B.C) and in Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics (348- 322 B.C.).

Similarly, Roman philosopher Cicero’s book De Officiis (on justice) was a treasure of insights in philosophy, law, politics, and sociology. St.Augustine’s De civitate Dei (345-430 A.D) deals with social concepts and questions.

Machiavelli in his famous work “The prince” made an objective discussion on state and statecraft. Another notable author of this period was Sir Thomas Moore (1477-1535) who, in his book “Utopia” published in 1515, dealt with day-to-day social problems.

Scholars like Thomas Campanella (1568-1639) in his “City of the Sun” Sir Francis Bacon in his “New Atlantis” (1561-1628) and James Harrington in his “The commonwealth of Nations” made discussion on what real life ought to be. Similarly, famous Italian writer Vico and French scholar Montesquieu gives stress on the scientific investigation of social phenomenon.

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The origin of sociology is attributed to the numerous developments in the 18th and 19th century especially the Industrial Revolution and the French revolution. These two epoch-making events changed the entire history of human society.

It resulted in metamorphic changes in the realm of economy, polity, culture, and religiosity of mankind. This altered reality attracted the attention of the scholars like Saint Simon, Auguste Comte, and others. They attempted to explain this social transition thereby envisioning their ideas on social reconstruction. Sociology owes its birth to this intellectual endeavor.

Comte is rightly called the founder of sociology because he coined the term and also its theme and methodology. The study of the social institutions was of special significance to him. In his famous work “Positive Philosophy”, Comte pointed out the need for the creation of a distinct science of society which he first called “social physics” and later “sociology” which showed concern for analysis and explanation of social phenomena.

Factors led to the growth and expansion of sociology


Intellectual forces in the development of classical sociological theory

  • Enlightenment: Age OF Reason and beginning of logical thinking
  • The belief in Reason and Science as the basis of Knowledge
  • Social Theory: Reason and Science in the service of Social Criticism
  • Traditional Religious Systems including Christian Catholic Churches in France;

Perfectibility and Emancipation:

  • The Necessity and Inevitability of Progress
  • The counter-enlightenment: the romantic-conservative reaction
  • The Impacts of the French Revolution
  • Ideologies and the rise of classical sociological theory

Classical liberalism

Classical Liberalism had many advocates in different European countries. But the major thinkers include Jeremy Bentham (1723-1790), Adam Smith , and John Stuart Mill (1806-1973), all British thinkers.

The emergence of Sociology in India

We find the emergence of sociology as a discipline is a product of Western intellectual discourse. However, writings about society can be traced back to the ancient Indian mythological, religious, and spiritual texts such as the Veda, Upanishads, Puranas, Smritis, writings of Kautilya and Sukracharya that talk volumes about rites, laws, customs, economy, polity, culture, morality, aesthetics and science.

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All these writings are replete with insights concerning social order and stability, mobility, human interrelationship, and social governance. For instance, Kautilya’s Artha Shastra is a monumental treatise on political economy and Shukracharya’s Niti Shastra offers vast wisdom on morality, social customs, ethics, folkways, and mores.

The intellectual influences affecting the emergence of sociology

The thinkers of the Enlightenment of the eighteenth-century affected much of early sociology. They

consciously applied scientific principles of analysis to the study of human beings and their nature and society.

The eighteenth-century thinkers upheld reason as a measure to judge social institutions and their

suitability for human nature.

They believed that human beings are capable of attaining perfection. By criticizing and changing social institutions they can create for themselves even greater degrees of freedom, which, in turn, would enable them increasingly to actualize the potentially creative powers.

Intellectual influences:

1) The philosophy of history: The basic assumption of this philosophy was that society must have progressed through a series of steps from simple to complex stages.

2) The biological theories of evolution

3) The survey of social conditions: It emerged due to two reasons, one was the growing conviction that the methods of the natural sciences should and could be extended to the study of human affairs; that human phenomenon could be classified and measured. The other was the concern with poverty (‘the social problem’), following the recognition that poverty was not natural but social.

The social survey is one of the principal methods of sociological inquiry. The basic assumption, which underlines this method, is that through the knowledge of the social conditions one can arrive at solutions to solve the social problems prevalent in society.

Characteristics of Early Sociology:

T.B. Bottomore:


Influence of philosophy of history and biological theories of evolution

Conceived to be a positive science

Had ideological as well as scientific character

Dealt with subjects inspired by conditions of labor, the transformation of property, technology, and factory, an industrial city

The subject matter of Early Sociology:

1. Primary units of social life (social action, social interaction, relations) and Different types of groups (family, class, etc.)

2. Basic social institutions (marriage, economy, polity, etc.)

3. Fundamental social processes (cooperation, conflict, deviance, and change)

When the French society was churning over socio-economic and political chaos, it provided a breeding ground for intellectuals forces to develop Sociology as a Discipline

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