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Module Abstract Society

1. Chapter
Introduction

"Sociology is one of several social sciences (together with political science, anthropology, economics, social psychology, etc.). The social sciences diverge from the humanities in that they emphasize the scientific method or other rigorous standards of evidence in the study of humanity.

The scope of sociological analysis is very broad. Put simply, sociology is the systematic study of human social life, paying special attention to modern, industrialized societies. Sociologists identify, explain, and interpret patterns and processes of human social relations. They analyze society and social action by studying groups and social institutions people form, as well as a variety of social, political, business and religious organizations. Moreover, they investigate the social interactions of people and groups, trace the origin and change of social processes, and analyze the impact of group activities on individual members and vice versa. Sociologists ask about the meaning and the structures of social action and about the related values and norms. They analyze both the society as a whole and its sub-systems: social systems, institutions, organizations and groupings.

As a science of social life, sociology is closely intertwined with the historical development and change of ideas, values, needs, interests, forms of power, conflicts and every day problems, i.e. the content, scientific interest and fields of research follow the given social structures and processes. The development of sociology as a discipline, however, does not only depend on the presence of urgent social problems, but also on the given power structures. Sociology developed in the 19th and 20th centuries in (Western) Europe and the United States (Wallerstein, 1996). Western sociology thus gained its categories and concepts from the analysis of Western societies, which were viewed as the maximum of modern societies. Social change has always been at the center of sociological analysis. While there are several theoretical approaches to social change, one theory has been especially influential with regard to Eastern Europe: Modernization Theory."

Kerstin Zimmer: Introduction of Unit 1: The Sociological View on Social Change. © East European Studies Online; 2010.