''Sociology'' studies the social rules and processes that bind, and separate, people not only as individuals, but as members of associations, groups, and institutions.
A typical textbook definition of sociology calls it the study of the social lives of humans, groups and societies. Sociology is interested in our behavior as social beings; thus the sociological field of interest ranges from the analysis of short contacts between anonymous individuals on the street to the study of Globalisation.
Sociology as a discipline emerged in the 19th century as an academic response to the challenge of Modernity: as the world is becoming smaller and more integrated, people's experience of the world is increasingly atomized and dispersed. Sociologists hoped not only to understand what held social groups together, but also to develop an ''antidote'' to social disintegration.
Today sociologists research macro-structures that organize society, such as race or ethnicity, class and gender, and institutions such as the family; social processes that represent deviation from, or the breakdown of, these structures, including crime and divorce; and micro-processes such as interpersonal interactions.
Sociologists often rely on quantitative methods of social research to describe large patterns in social relationships, and in order to develop models that can help predict social change and how people will respond to social change. Other branches of sociology believe that qualitative methods -- such as focused interviews, group discussions and ethnographic methods -- allow for a better understanding of social processes.
The term was coined by Auguste Comte, who hoped to unify all studies of humankind--including history, psychology and economics. His own sociological scheme was typical of the 18th century; he believed all human life had passed through the same distinct historical stages and that, if one could grasp this progress, one could prescribe the remedies for social ills.
In the end, Sociology did not replace the other social sciences, but came to be another of them, with its own particular emphases in terms of subject matter and methods. Today, Sociology studies humankind's organizations and social institutions, largely by a comparative method. It has concentrated particularly on the organization of complex industrial societies.
*Interactionism or Social Action theory and Symbolic-Interactionism
*Human Ecology (sometimes included into sociology proper)
*Sociology of Religion
*Sociology of Science and Technology
*Sociology of Markets
*Sociology of Industrial Relations
Famous sociologists include Auguste Comte, Emile Durkheim, Ferdinand Toennies (Ferdinand TÃ¶nnies) - Georg Simmel, Max Weber, Albion Woodbury Small, Charles Horton Cooley, Pitirim Sorokin, Robert E. Park, Karl Mannheim, Talcott Parsons, Robert K. Merton, Peter Blau, Reinhard Bendix, Norbert Elias, John Rex, David Lockwood, Erving Goffman, Harold Garfinkel, and Anthony Giddens. Karl Marx would not have called himself a sociologist, but his thought has had an immense impact on sociological theory.
__Comparison to other Social Sciences__
In the early 20th century, sociologists and psychologists who conducted research in non-industrial societies contributed to the development of Anthropology. It should be noted, however, that anthropologists also conducted research in industrial societies. Today sociology and anthropology are better contrasted according to different theoretical concerns and methods rather than objects of study.
A distinction should be made between these and forensic studies within these disciplines, particularly where anatomy is involved. These latter studies might be better named as Forensic Psychology.
Social theory is a distinction applied to the work considered outside of the mainstream of sociology. Among sociologists who model their work on the successful sciences of physics or chemistry, social theory may be applied to all work produced outside of the Scientific Method, in contradistinction to a ''sociological'' theory which has been ''correctly'' tested. However, a natural science model has never completely predominated sociology, nor has their ever been much consensus, even among the adherents of that model, as to what would constitutes valid evidence or even the proper unit of analysis. Consequently, the distinction between sociology and social theory has has always been more reflective of classifier than the theory described as belonging to one or the other. Many theorists prefer to describe themselves as social theorists because they are critical of the sociological community or were not trained as sociologists.
Marxist Theory, Critical Theory, Post-Colonialism, Feminist Theory, Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, Postmodernism, and other theories probably unmentioned have all at times been considered outside the mainstream of sociology and been referred to as social theory. However, as all these theories have been adopted to some extent by mainstream sociology, distinctions are made less often.