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Why is Sociology Important? The Cornerstone of the Social Sciences

Editorial Note

Thank you to our generous sponsors, Sociologists for Women in Society, Center for Equity Education, Azama Development Foundation, and Sociological Practice & Public Sociology (SPPS) – American Sociological Association (ASA) for helping us make Applied Worldwide’s 2023 “Why is Sociology Important?” student essay competition a success!

This essay on the importance of sociology was published on behalf of Applied Worldwide’s 2023 Global Student Essay Competition. For the 2023 competition, we awarded 16 student essayists across eight countries and one US territory and will be sharing each winning essay in our “Why is Sociology Important?” essay collection.

This sociology essay was written by Hassana Idris, a 4th year student in home economics at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in Nigeria and earned a 3rd place prize in the competition.

Why is Sociology Important? The Cornerstone of the Social Sciences, Hassana Idris

Throughout history, humanity has always lived in societies, but prior to the emergence of sociology, the study of society lacked a scientific foundation. Sociology introduced a systematic approach to understanding social relationships, focusing on their social nature. It investigates how relationships form systems and adapt to change, employing scientific methods like objectivity, observation, and empiricism. Auguste Comte, credited as the discipline’s founder, once referred to sociology as the “religion of humanity.”

Sociology, though relatively young among the social sciences, is a multifaceted and broad field within the humanities. It examines various aspects of human behavior and society, encompassing topics such as family, crime, culture, religion, race, and conflict. In its analysis, sociology employs both macro and micro-level approaches to understand human behavior and society. It applies scientific methodologies, including objectivity, observation, empiricism, and others, to study these subjects comprehensively.

Sociology doesn’t merely assert facts but uses theories to explain social realities, class distinctions, and inequality. This approach promotes consistency, explanations grounded in empirical evidence, verifiability, comprehensiveness, accuracy, simplicity, productivity, acceptability, and credibility. The discipline’s theories are applicable to diverse human societies across time and place.

Sociology offers a wide array of theories, including social conflict theory, functionalism, and symbolic interactionism, each providing unique insights into society. It boasts a rich history of scholars like Auguste Comte, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, and many more.

Sociology’s holistic, empirical, and interconnected approach to societal issues has elevated its significance, making it the preferred approach across the social sciences. As Anthony Giddings noted, sociology guides individuals in understanding themselves, their abilities, talents, and limitations. It helps them adapt to their environment by providing knowledge about society, social groups, institutions, and their functions.

According to Crossman in 2016, sociologists explore the structures of gatherings, organizations, and societies and how individuals interact within these settings. Sociology is an exciting field that elucidates fundamental aspects of personal lives, groups, and the world. At a personal level, sociology investigates the social causes and consequences of phenomena such as romantic love, racial and gender identity, family conflicts, corruption, aging, and religious beliefs. Sociologists study all aspects of social life and societal changes using various theories.

One of the most significant sociological theories, as highlighted by Crossman, is functionalism. It views society as a complex system where parts work together to promote unity and stability. Social structures, such as family, community, and religious practices, shape our lives and provide structure to our daily routines.

In contrast, conflict theory, as articulated by Chafetz in 1997, challenges functionalism. It posits that societies and organizations are structured to benefit a privileged elite, leading to social hierarchies and power imbalances. Major social structures, laws, and traditions are designed to support those in power, perpetuating inequalities.

Society is an intricate phenomenon with countless complexities. Understanding and solving its myriad problems would be impossible without sociology’s support. Sociology’s systematic investigation is essential for effective social planning and finding efficient means to achieve agreed-upon goals. Knowledge about society is a prerequisite for implementing social policies. The contemporary world faces numerous challenges, and sociology’s scientific approach is essential for studying and solving social problems.

Sociology has enriched human culture by providing a scientific understanding of social phenomena. It encourages rational thinking, objectivity, critical analysis, and empathy. By comparing societies and groups beyond one’s own existence, sociology broadens one’s perspective, promoting tolerance and unity while urging individuals to overcome personal biases, ambitions, and class prejudices.

Quote graphic reading "By comparing societies and groups beyond one's own existence, sociology broadens one's perspective, promoting tolerance and unity while urging individuals to overcome personal biases, ambitions, and class prejudices." authored by Hassana Idris, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria

While physical sciences have brought nations closer, social sciences have lagged behind in addressing political divisions and conflicts. Sociology offers insights into the underlying causes of tensions and conflicts, contributing to better citizenship and community problem-solving. It enhances our understanding of society, our place within it, and the pursuit of social adequacy.

Sociology is a profession where technical expertise brings its own rewards. Sociologists trained in research methods contribute to various fields, including business, government, industry, social services, communication, and more. Sociology’s practical applications extend to local, state, national, and international levels. In an increasingly interconnected world, the scientific study of social phenomena is crucial for human and social welfare.

Many consider sociology the cornerstone of the social sciences, making it a key study for addressing present-day challenges. Sociology has a universal appeal due to its relevance to a wide range of critical issues. Just as economics guides us in acquiring material possessions, sociology guides us in becoming the individuals we aspire to be. It’s a popular subject in education, included in fields such as engineering and agriculture. Without sociology, the training and knowledge of individuals aspiring to hold high positions in their country’s administrative setup would be incomplete.

The practical dimension of sociology is vital in addressing social problems, promoting social work, and achieving social harmony. The fundamental issue is people living together happily, and scientific study of society is essential to make the necessary adjustments. Additionally, sociology examines major social institutions and individuals’ relationships with them. Strengthening these institutions requires a scientific understanding of their challenges and contexts. Sociology analyzes the root causes of societal maladies and proposes remedies. To solve the complexities of society, a scientific study of its problems is indispensable.

The family, as a fundamental human organization, faces its own set of challenges. Sociologists and social reformers grapple with issues like the appropriate age for marriage, divorce procedures, and the dynamics of marital relationships. Sociology offers a fresh perspective on various aspects of life, from relationships and work to crime and social mobility. It encompasses a wide range of topics, offering diverse career opportunities in fields like social service, criminal justice, community outreach, ministry, social activism, higher education administration, urban planning, and more.

In summary, sociology distinguishes itself by using theoretical frameworks and empirical research methods to study social life, change, structure, and the causes and consequences of human behavior across diverse social contexts. As a social science, sociology equips individuals for a variety of careers, providing the foundational knowledge needed to comprehend social issues, including inequality and criminology, in various social and work settings. It prepares individuals to navigate the challenges and opportunities encountered in their pursuit of a fulfilling life.

Meet our 2023 Global Student Essay Competition Sponsors!

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Sociologists for Women in Society is a nonprofit professional feminist organization dedicated to:

  1. Encouraging the development of sociological feminist theory and scholarship
  2. Transforming the academy through feminist leadership, career development, and institutional diversity
  3. Promoting social justice through local, national, and international activism
  4. Supporting the publication and dissemination of cutting edge feminist social science
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The Center for Equity Education is a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to providing quality and affordable DEI&A, discrimination, harassment, and sexual harassment prevention and education services.

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Azama Development Foundation is a Non-governmental organization that actively works towards the development of youths and women to be self-reliant and productive. Our mission is to transform the lives of youths and women from all over Africa to be self-reliant and productive actively contributing to national economy, education and development, thereby eradicating poverty, illiteracy and lack of enlightenment in the region.

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Sociological Practice & Public Sociology (SPPS) promotes the use of sociology to inform research, practice, and public policy beyond academia. In short, we focus on Making Sociology Actionable. SPPS focuses on public and applied sociology as a section under the American Sociological Association (ASA).