Definitions of the subject are not difficult to discover and although a precise definition is not always easy to come by, each of the following have sufficient in common for us to draw some sort of overall conclusion about how Sociology can be defined.
|"Sociology may be defined as the study of society; that is of the web of human interactions and relationships".|
|Ginsberg ("The Study of Society" 1939)|
|"Sociology is the objective study of human behaviour in so far as it is affected by the fact that people live in groups".|
|Sugarman ("Sociology", 1968)|
|"The purpose of Sociology is the scientific study of human society through the investigation of peoples social behaviour".|
|Giner ("Sociology", 1972)|
|"Sociology is the study of individuals in a social setting that includes groups, organisations, cultures and societies. Sociologists study the interrelationships between individuals, organisations, cultures and societies".|
|Ritzer ("Sociology", 1979)|
|"Sociology is the study of human social life, groups and societies. It is a dazzling and compelling enterprise, having as its subject matter our own behaviour as social beings. The scope of sociology is extremely wide, ranging from the analysis of passing encounters between individuals in the street up to the investigation of world-wide social processes".|
|Giddens ("Sociology", 1989)|
|"Sociology is the study of individuals in groups in a systematic way, which grew out of the search for understanding associated with the industrial and scientific revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries".|
|Lawson and Garrod ("The
A-Z Sociology Handbook", 1996)
Although I've (deliberately) provided a relatively large number of possible definitions (to help you get some initial flavour of the subject matter of Sociology, you should be able to identify the common themes running through the various definitions that will help us to focus our attention more directly on the question "What is Sociology?"