SOCIOLOGY – THE DISCIPLINE [Short Notes/Key Points to Remember]


Sociology UPSC Mains Syllabus

Chapter 1 : Sociology – The Discipline 

Topic: Modernity and social changes in Europe and emergence of Sociology.


  • The word sociology has both Latin and Greek origins. The word comes from a Latin word ‘socius’ meaning companion and the suffix ‘logy’ meaning the study of has Greek origins.
  • Sociology is about society, its constituent institutions, their relationship and the actors. Sociologist study the patterns in social interactions.
  • Sociology originated from the profound influence of natural sciences.
  • It has its roots in ideology of science modernism and rational thought.
Though Sociological deliberations were made in various treatises like Republic of Plato, De Officis of Cicero and Arthashastra of Kautilya, it was only in the 19th century that such thoughts were systemized in the form of a discipline.
  • Before the enlightenment period, old Europe was traditional and inward looking and this period in Europe was referred to as the Dark Ages.
  • Social evils, ignorance, feudal structures prevailed and there was lack of new ideas and innovations.
  • This period was followed by a distinctively new era of ideas and material developments known as The Renaissance.
  • The Renaissance was a cultural movement which began in Italy in 14th century. It enriched fine arts and literature.
  • Thoughts about human existence provided a fertile ground for the later social logical thoughts as well.
  • Modernity is a relative term which denotes the new practices as compared to the old.
  • Modernity includes questioning of tradition,  prioritisation of individualism over the collectivity, freedom of ideas, equality in all spheres of life,  promotion of scientific and technological progress rationalisation of institutions and ideas.
  • It also denotes a movement from feudalism towards capitalism and the market economy, industrialisation, urbanisation and securitization.
  • Modern political ideas of Rousseau,  Montesquieu and new economic order suggested by Adam Smith, Ricardo and J S Mill became the highlight of the times.
  • New order started to replace the old order and it created considerable social upheaval and disturbance in society. Thus emerged the earliest sociological thoughts in minds of Hegel, Comte and Spencer. 
French Revolution
  • Before the revolution, France was trapped in an archiac socio-economic condition and feudalism.
  • Society was divided into three estates – the nobility,  the clergy and the commoner.
  • It was a highly distorted system. Ideals of democracy, liberty and fraternity given by the intellectual like Rousseau and Montesquieu penetrated the society. 
  • French society was shaken to its core and at this point a need was felt to devise new means to understand the society. This gave birth to the discipline of Sociology.
  • It was a European intellectual movement especially in the 17th and 18th century which emphasized upon a reason and individualism.  Positivist sociology had much to do with enlightenment ideas of rationality and scientific investigation.
  • Darwin’s idea about Organic Evolution influenced the early Sociological thought. 
  • Auguste Comte, considered to be the founder of sociology believed that sociology would contribute to the welfare of humanity and it has to be approached as a scientific discipline.
  • Tocqueville, St Simon, Spencer and Durkheim became the face of sociology.
Industrial Revolution
  • It gave birth to factory system of production.
  • This led to the emergence of middle class.
  • It destroyed feudal estates.
  • Nuclear families emerged.
  • Overcrowded slums, degradation of labour, bad sanitation, new forms of poverty and crime emerged. Sociology took up the study of this new social phenomenon.


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