The Historical Aspect of Sociology

When you enroll in a sociology degree program, you will typically take at least one history of sociology course during your educational career. Studying the history of sociology can give you a fresh perspective on a discipline that is still important to many Western cultures today, and will also give you a chance to learn about significant sociologists and influential thought leaders throughout history. Many core course requirements of sociology degree programs include a history of sociology course, and many students find these to be a great introductory course for all types of degree programs. Whether you plan to become a sociologist after graduation or just want to learn more about this scientific discipline, you can take at least one history of sociology course to round out your education.

Learning about the History of Sociology

The roots of the field of sociology can be traced back to the 19th century, but precursors date back to ancient times when philosophers and notable thinkers began making some type of sociological observations about their cultures. There is some proof that ancient Greeks were taking some steps to analyze and make sense of different social phenomenon, and their theories and ideas have sparked many different viewpoints throughout history.

The term "sociology" was first coined by a French essayist as "sociologie" in French. The literal translation of this word is the study of companion, and references the study of people or interactions and behaviors between different people in different settings. Early sociologists pioneered thinking in areas like the social contract, positivism and the social evolution. Some thinkers, such as Auguste Comte who has been credited to be the "Father of Sociology", developed a "religion of humanity" to explain how positivist societies organize themselves and the different types of interactions that take place between them.

When you are learning about the history of sociology, you will most likely cover the following topics and subjects:

  • Influential thinkers in the development of sociology
  • Classical theorists of sociology, including Emile Durkheim, Karl Mannheim and Georg Simmel
  • The foundations of sociology as an academic discipline
  • Positivism and anti-positivism in the 19th century
  • Critical theory, postmodernism and positivist revival during the 20th century
  • Functionalist systems throughout history
  • Social network analysis and the new paradigms in positive traditions

Studying Sociology History

Some students who are more interested in the nature of sociology and early developments may choose to minor in the history of sociology or declare a history major with a minor in sociology. This can be a great complement to any type of sociology degree program and will help you learn about some key events and thought leaders that have influenced the world of sociology over the years.

When you are studying the history of sociology at the advanced degree level, you will learn how sociology emerged after the French Revolution and was accepted as an actual science in later years. You’ll also learn about modern academic sociology principles and how sociologists analyzed and reviewed events such as urbanization, modernity, capitalism and secularization throughout history.