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Sociology as History and Science

Sociology is defined by Funk and Wagnal's Standard Comprehensive International Dictionary as the science which examines the origin and evolution of human society and social phenomena, the progress of civilization, and the laws controlling human institutions and functions. Sociology is called a science because its theorists use the scientific method to form hypotheses, collect data, and test their assumptions; at the same time, the above meaning also tends to describe the humanistic disciplines of philosophy and history as well. Therefore, sociology could be called the empirical history of social groups.

In his Foundations of Sociology, George A. Lundberg (1939) introduces his study with the caveat that our initial assumptions or hypotheses about societal behavior will determine the framework into which we strive to fit our data. As he explains, "changing conditions and changing experiences may . . . require changes in postulates, reasoning, or both" (Lundberg, 1939, p. 3). Because of the interplay of an apparently infinite number of variables within the human social framework, it is impossible for the sociologist to formulate a theory that is global enough to be scientifically reproducible. Sociological theory is thus in flux, as variable as human behavior itself.

Empirically confirmed hypotheses lend support to the theories from which they are derived, while empirically rejected hypotheses lead to a reevaluation of original assumptions. This ever recycling of the old and new places sociology in an historical context. It is impossible to speak of sociological law without specifying the culture and period to which one refers. C. Wright Mills (1959) urged that we "understand man not as an isolated fragment, not as an intelligible field or system in and of itself . . . people should be understood as historical and social actors . . . intricately selected and intricately formed by the variety of human societies. If the socio...

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Sociology as History and Science. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 01:42, March 22, 2019, from