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Manual Sociology of Work: An Encyclopedia

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To a degree these strategies represent schools within sociology, but the lines are by no means firmly drawn. Human ecologists and demographers are concerned with problems that involve the investigation of social aggregates. They are particularly interested in the morphological or structural characteristics of these aggregates, such as age, sex, race, education, and income. Another school, often characterized as formal sociology, is associated particularly with the work of Georg Simmel and of phenomenologists such as Alfred Vierkandt; more recently, it has included some investigators of small groups.

The emphasis in formal sociology is on studying societal forms, particularly forms of interaction or association, such as dyadic relationships. The primary goal of this type of sociology is description of human groups and processes in social relationships. A third school is characterized as historical-interpretative sociology; its emphasis is as macroscopic as that of formal sociology is microscopic.

Attempts are made to describe the general features of the history of man, to delineate the different spheres of the historical world, and to understand ideas as the expression of historical periods or events. However, most writing in contemporary sociology focuses on relational properties among persons as social actors an emphasis characteristic of much work in social psychology or on the relationship among properties of institutions and organizations in societies or social systems an emphasis that practically defines the field of social organization.

The relationship of sociology to the other social or behavioral sciences is much debated. Is sociology, as Comte would have had it, the queen of the social sciences—a general social science of societies?

Sociology of Work: An Encyclopedia - SAGE Publications - Literati by Credo

Or is it a more specialized social science , one that systematizes problems that can be defined as sociological, as distinct from economic, psychological, or cultural? The most systematic modern attempt to resolve this question is found in the writings of Parsons ; ; ; Within this framework, political science is viewed as a synthetic rather than a special social science, constructed as it is around a restricted set of variables concerned with political power rather than around a scientifically distinctive analytical scheme.

Parsons, furthermore, has defined the theory of the social system as but one of three analytical sciences of action, the other two being the theory of personality and the theory of culture. Sociologists work on problems that are related to the subject matter of other disciplines, both humanistic and scientific.

For the most part, however, these problems fall within fields that are part of sociology, and they are dealt with from a sociological perspective. Thus, although problems of knowledge are indeed treated by the sociology of knowledge, and although the sociology of knowledge is in an important sense a branch of epistemology, it has not developed as an interstitial field between sociology and philosophy.


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The same may be said of such fields as historical sociology and sociolinguistics, as they have so far been developed within sociology. Historically, some disciplines did emerge as interstitial to their parent disciplines.

Social Sciences

The most notable cases in the history of sociology are human ecology or human geography, as it is called in some countries , demography, and social psychology. Social psychology , a subfield of both psychology and sociology, is concerned primarily with personalities and motivational processes as they relate to the institutional organization of societies.


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  6. Demography and human ecology are somewhat different, perhaps not qualifying fully as interstitial disciplines. Human ecology broadly conceived as an aspect of ecosystem theory is interstitial to the environmental and social sciences. The development of a theory of the ecosystem, however, is in a rudimentary state; for that reason much of the work in human ecology is carried on within the separate environmental and social sciences rather than in any border discipline.

    Work in demography is carried on largely by sociologists and economists, though more recently biomedical scientists have joined them in a synthetic field that is becoming known as population studies. There is no altogether rational division of sociology into fields of inquiry that are both derived from a general sociological theory and susceptible to relatively independent investigation and formulation as separate bodies of knowledge. Lacking a commonly accepted sociological theory that would permit such rational division of sociology, sociologists have developed fields of interest around the major units of sociological inquiry described above and around certain social problems, such as juvenile delinquency , that have come to constitute fields through being viewed in a sociological perspective.

    Ward see especially Ward , volume 1. With the emergence of sociology as an academic discipline, there was a tendency, particularly in American sociology, to classify it in a more detailed fashion into subject-matter fields as a means of organizing the curriculum. They subdivided sociology into the fields of general sociology, religious sociology, juridical and moral sociology, criminal sociology and moral statistics, economic sociology, social morphology, and a miscellaneous group including aesthetic sociology, technology, language, and war.

    In the Zeitschrift, for instance, one finds mass and individual psychology, medicine and hygiene, social history and social jurisprudence, and social philosophy and social ethics. The Rivista included politics, social psychology, and demography, while the Vierteljahrschrift included psychology and the science of language, aesthetics, and education. Quite clearly, by sociologists had identified most of what were to become the major fields of scholarly interest in sociology during the next five decades.

    These fields of sociology were not given anywhere near equal attention in every country, nor did sociologists in any country give more than token attention to some of these fields until quite recently. Interesting and important contrasts developed among the countries in the attention given to various fields. Some fields that developed quite early in the European countries were given only token attention in the United States until World War II , after which they developed quite rapidly.

    Among the more important of these were political sociology, the sociology of law, and the sociology of religion. Among the fields that still receive only occasional attention in American sociology, as contrasted with the attention given them in some European countries, are the sociology of the creative and per-forming arts, of sport, and of language.

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    Apart from shaping the development of the sociology of science, American sociologists have done little work in the sociology of knowledge. American developments before The rather late development in American sociology of some of the fields listed above is the result of a variety of factors, two of which stand out as particularly important. First, American universities separate sociology more sharply from some other academic disciplines than do European universities.

    This is particularly notable in the case of law, which in the United States is taught in professional schools quite separate from the faculties of philosophy, the sciences, and the humanities. Indeed, prior to , American sociologists had little contact with professional schools other than those of social work and education. Furthermore, in their drive toward status as scientific disciplines, all of the social sciences in American universities were increasingly divorced from the humanistic disciplines and the arts.

    Even today this is true, so that American sociologists undertake little work on the sociology of the creative or performing arts [see, however, Creativity, article on Social Aspects; Fine Arts, article on The Recruitment and Socialization of Artists].

    Since history, more often than not, is defined as a humanistic discipline, American sociology has been ahistorical. No doubt the fact that many American sociologists took the natural science model of investigation as a desideratum also led to the separation of sociology from both history and the humanities, including philosophy. A second major factor accounting for the failure of American sociology to develop some of the problems of concern to European sociologists has been the deliberate neglect of problems of value—of how values are institutionalized and how they are organized in American or other societies.

    While there were exceptions, such as the studies of immigrant groups by W. Comparative studies of values in belief systems such as the ideological, religious, and legal systems were therefore unlikely to be investigated.

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    To be sure, American sociologists gradually began to investigate problems in some of these fields, but largely through other generic interests in sociology, such as occupations and professions or the social organization of work, rather than through an interest in comparative institutions or systems. Thus, the sociology of law began largely with studies of lawyers; the sociology of medicine, with studies of doctors and the social organization of doctor-patient relationships in hospitals; and the sociology of the arts through studies of musicians and writers.

    American sociology, however, was almost alone in its attempts to develop research methodology as a special field. Although in European countries human geography continued to develop, it grew primarily out-side of sociology [see Geography].

    American sociologists, however, developed human ecology, which has much in common with human geography. The only comparable development in Europe was that of social morphology in France, under Durkheim and his disciple Maurice Halbwachs. Up to American sociology appeared to contain a substantial number of fields of inquiry in addition to sociological theory and methods of re-search. One cluster included community study, with human ecology, rural sociology , and urban sociology as major divisions.

    Another was that of social problems, with race relations, poverty and dependency, and juvenile delinquency being important specialties. Social psychiatry emerged as a special field with a strong interest in mental health; now it arouses considerably less interest and is regarded as a part of social psychology. Demography and the family were the other major areas of interest during the period before Sociology curricula also included courses that covered rather broad interests—the main courses of this kind were social institutions, social organization, and social change; after the subject matter of these courses was integrated with new special fields.

    Fields in modern American sociology. The development of fields of interest in sociology may be viewed as a problem in the sociology of knowledge. While problem finding in sociology undoubtedly is a result of the growth of theory and method, it also is subject to social determinants within the society Merton [] , pp.

    The problems of the immigrant in American society, and more recently of the Negro minority, undoubtedly influenced the development of the field of race and ethnic relations within American sociology more than did the theory of culture contact or intergroup relations. Similarly, the strong interest in ideology within European political sociology and the dominance of Marxist sociology in the east European countries and the Soviet Union are intimately connected with changes in the political systems of those countries.

    The importance of historical conditions and events in determining the fields and problems of sociology undoubtedly has been far greater than any influence from the cumulative development of the science. The resources available in any society for the investigation of given problem areas naturally affect the relative growth of specialties in any science, but these resources are allocated according to the historical significance of the problem areas.

    The number of special areas of inquiry in American sociology has grown so large that a typical program of the American Sociological Association includes papers in some forty areas. But these specialties are usually grouped into a much smaller number of broad fields of inquiry. The emerging organization of the discipline can be described as follows: 1 sociological theory and methodology; 2 social organization, including comparative institutions, comparative social organization, and comparative social structure or, as it is sometimes called, social morphology ; 3 social groups.

    *Sociology: Reference Materials

    Demography, human ecology, and social psychology continue as major interstitial disciplines with strong programs in academic departments of sociology or as joint programs with the departments of other sciences. There remains a strong interest in what now is generally called applied sociology, including social planning and social problems. Specialties within sociology are increasingly likely to derive their core problems from sociological theory Paris ; March There is also less separation between theory and methodology. More and more, sociologists who work either in the interstitial fields or in applied sociology define the problematics of their specialties in terms of generic problems of sociological interest Lazarsfeld et al.

    The work of sociologists today in criminology, for example, no longer covers the entire field. Rather, it focuses on the sociology of crime: problems of interaction between victims and offenders, socialization into delinquent and criminal behavior, sanctions and the formal organization of sanctioning systems, and the differential social risks of and opportunities for crime that are structured into social systems.