Practice Question – Write short note on : Comparison between Sociology and Economics.  [UPSC 2009]

Approach – Introduction, Define Sociology and Economics, Outline both similarities and dissimilarities between both the subjects, Mention any contemporary convergence between two subjects in Conclusion. 



Economics is defined as the branch of knowledge that deals with all the economic aspects of human lives how goods and services are produced and manufactured, distributed and consumed. Sociology on the other hand basically deals with the social lives of human beings cultural, legal, and political aspects of human lives and the social interaction and relationship involved within it. Economic sociology is the application of sociological concepts and methods to analysis of the production, distribution, exchange and consumption of goods and services.



According to A.C. Pigou, “Economics studies that part of social welfare which can be brought directly or indirectly into relationship with the measuring rod of money.” Here, instead of taking individualistic needs and concerns, he is concerned with the society as a whole which is the basis of the subject of Sociology. Here, he opines that social relations are formed due to the presence of wealth which is the domain of Economics.

John Stuart Mill (1844) defines the subject of economics in a social context as:- “The science which traces the laws of such of the phenomena of society as arise from the combined operations of mankind for the production of wealth, in so far as those phenomena are not modified by the pursuit of any other object.” Clearly, the concept of societal effect on the economic activities is reflected in the above definition and the laws of nature prevalent in the society which form the basis for the production of economic output.

According to Alfred Marshall, who was a neo-classical economist: “Economics is the study of mankind in the ordinary business of life; it examines that part of individual and social action which is most closely connected with the use and attainment of material requisites of well-being.” This shows that Economics is concerned with the study of man and deals with their activities in the social setup i.e. study the activities of human being in the social setup. It is the study of man in one hand and social organization of economic activities on the other hand.

Max Weber defines sociology as “The science which attempts the interpretative understanding of social action in order thereby to arrive at a casual explanation of its cause and effects.” It deals with cause and effect principle which is commonly found in Economics and the various policies related to it. There are many causes that lead to different societal effects. For examples, The French Revolution was due to the atrocities and injustices faced by ordinary people leading to poor economic welfare and also due to sprouting up of the notion in
the minds of the people about the notion of blaming humans for everything injurious they suffered and not finding out probable reason for the same. Thus, the given revolution was a result of economic and behavioral i.e. sociological aspect and both are interconnected to each other leading to a common effect i.e. revolution.



  1. Both Sociology and Economics are branches of social science that deals with the study of overall human development.
  2. Sociology and Economics both use scientific methods for studying their respective areas of interest.
  3. Economics and Sociology are dependent on each other for their study. Economics, as it is mainly concerned with man’s economic aspects, is also directly correlated to society’s social activities. Similarly, sociology is concerned with the study of social beings; economic factors highly impact it.
  4. Economics is considered a branch of social science, and as a discipline, it is considered a branch of sociology.



1) Sociology primarily studies about society and social relationships whereas economics studies about wealth and choice.
2) Sociology emerged as a science of society very recently whereas economics is comparatively an older science.
3) Sociology is considered as an abstract science whereas economics is considered as a concrete science in the domain of social sciences.
4) Sociology generally deals with all aspects of social science whereas economics deals specific aspects of social science.
5) Sociology has a very wide scope whereas economics scope is very limited.
6) Sociology is concerned with the social activities of individuals whereas economics is concerned with their economic activities.
7) Society is studied as a unit of study in Sociology whereas individual is taken as a unit of study in economics.
8) Both Sociology and economics differ from each other in respect of the methods and techniques they use for their study.



Economic sociology is the application of sociological concepts and methods to analysis of the production, distribution, exchange and consumption of goods and services. Economic sociology is particularly attentive to the relationships between economic activity, the rest of society, and changes in the institutions that contextualize and condition economic activity. Although traditional economic analysis takes the atomistic individual as its starting point, economic sociology generally begins with groups, or whole societies, which it views as existing independently of and partially constituting the individual. When economic sociologists do focus on individuals, it is generally to examine the ways in which their interests, beliefs, and motivations to act are mutually constituted through the interactions between them. This focus on economic action as social—that is, as oriented toward other people—allows economic sociologists to consider power, culture, organizations, and institutions as being central to an economy.

The birth of economic sociology in the writings of Karl Marx. Smelser, N, J and Swedberg, R says that the first use of the term economic sociology seems to have been in 1879, when it appears in a work by British economist W. Stanley Jevons. The term was taken over by the sociologists and appears, for example, in the works of Durkheim and Weber during the years 1890–1920. It is also during these decades that classical economic sociology is born, as exemplified by such works as The Division of Labor in Society (1893) by Durkheim, The Philosophy of Money (1900) by Simmel, and Economy and Society (produced 1908-20) by Weber.

In the recent times, especially after 1980’s, economic sociology experienced a remarkable revival. Few sociologists, who were doing rigorous research on the relationship between market and society, contributed a flurry of articles on the networks of market and society, which eventually lead to the revival of economic sociology into an important subfield of sociology. The main contributor of 1980’s was Mark Granovetter, who emphasized on the embeddedness of economic action in concrete social relations. In the article Economic Institutions as Social
constructions, Granovetter argues that institutions are actually congealed social networks, and, because economic action mostly takes place in these networks, social scientists must consider interpersonal relationships while studying economy. Karl Polanyi is another renowned contributor to economic sociology, argued that the birth of the free market was an institutional transformation necessarily promoted by the state. This got a general acceptance in the domain of economic sociology.



Economics is all about the economic life of human beings whereas sociology studies society as a whole with the inclusion of economic life of man as a part of this wide branch of new social science such as the belief system of a particular society, the cultures and traditions, political and legal matters concerned and many other knowledge dealing with the social aspect. Despite this differences, both sociology and Economics as branches of social science is interdependent on each other. In fact, it is due to these differences that make both the two inter-dependent helping society develop and prosper.  The relationship between the two disciplines the two is such that one is considered the branch of the other discipline. This is because economic society is greatly affected by the social aspect of society and society too is greatly impacted by the economic factors.




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