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Sociology is still a relatively young science, the name of which goes back to the French Auguste Comte (1798 - 1857). The word sociology is made up of the Latin "socius" (= companion) and the Greek "logos" (= word, speech, meaning ...). As a science, it arose from the need not only to understand society and its phenomena, but also to change it. Growing out of the humanities, it now represents the core area of the social sciences.
Sociology deals with the origin, development and context of society and tries to explain them in terms of general principles. Particular emphasis is placed on the close connection between theory and practice. Since society and its phenomena are understood as created by humans, society and its sub-areas can thus also be designed and geared towards human needs.
According to Max Weber - one of the German founding fathers of sociology - sociology is a science that aims to interpret social action and thereby explain its course and effects. Put simply, sociology is the science that observes, describes, interprets, analyzes and actively helps shape human coexistence.
The starting point is human action and its interactions with social processes and social structures. Everyday interactions between people in the professional as well as in the private sector are just as much a subject of sociology as, on the other hand, group processes, processes in organizations, overall social distribution structures or global processes. In order to contribute to overcoming specific social problems, sociology analyzes and evaluates complex social constellations on all social levels using sociological methods and theories.
In their work, sociologists ask about the meaning and structures of social action, about the associated values and norms; they not only analyze society as a whole, but also its sub-areas such as social systems, institutions, organizations, groups and also social change. Sociologists question the meaning and effects of social facts (e.g. mass euphoria, panic, customs, public opinion, etc.) on social coexistence.
Depending on the starting point of the observation, sociology is divided into a micro- and a macro-sociology. Microsociology is dedicated to the social relationships between people and groups. The focus is on the family, socialization processes and social networks. While microsociology analyzes the relationship between actor and society and starts at the actor level, macrosociology researches commonalities and contradictions in large social structures. The latter deals with the regularities in the development and change of social phenomena, for example the development of the population, industry, a social system or associations, larger organizations, etc. In contrast to groups on the micro level, where action is on individuals Actor refers to the macro-level those structures that have a stable and institutionalized framework and an idea of the organization of the association that is recognized by all participants.
In our complex society, however, a rigid separation into macro and microsociology does not always work. The transition is often fluid and so nowadays there is more and more talk of a macro-micro-sociology.
With regard to the subject areas, a distinction is made between those that claim general validity for sociology - these are assigned to general sociology - and those that deal with sub-areas / systems of society and their structures and processes (special sociologies).
In other words: the basic knowledge of sociologists is covered by general sociology. This is about topics such as socialization, social interaction, groups, roles, social change, mobility, social inequality, power, rule, stratum, class, elite, etc.
In the case of the special sociologies - they are also called “hyphenated sociologies”, there are some that stand for large areas, while others turn out to be special areas that are only researched by a few sociologists.
In contrast to the natural sciences, where “laws” can be proven on the basis of experiments, the social sciences have the big problem of being able to carry out such experiments hardly or only with great restrictions. The object of investigation in sociology is subject and object at the same time, interacts with its complex environment and cannot - as is necessary for an experiment - be viewed in isolation. The same is true for the examiner. For this reason, sociology will always be dependent on observation. The methods used for this can be refined to a large extent, but prognoses - as we know them from the natural sciences - are only associated with a certain probability.
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