CHAPTER 1 SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY market that decides which subject I choice may increase or decrease your chances in the job market. The thirdINTRODUCTION and fourth advice complicate the matterLet us begin with some suggestions even more. It is not just our personalthat are often made to young students effort or just the job market that makeslike you. One advice often made is, a difference — our gender and family or“Study hard and you will do well in social background also matter.life.” The second advice as often made Individual efforts matter a great dealis, “ If you do this subject or set of but do not necessarily define outcomes.subjects you will have a better chance As we saw there are other social factorsof getting a good job in the future”. The that play an important role in the finalthird could be, “ As a boy this does not outcome. Here we have only mentionedseem a correct choice of subject” or “As the ‘job market’, the ‘socioeconomica girl, do you think your choice of background’ and ‘gender’. Can yousubjects is a practical one?” The fourth, think of other factors? We could well“Your family needs you to get a job soon ask, “Who decides what is a ‘good job’?”so why choose a profession that will Do all societies have similar notions oftake a very long time” or “You will join what is a “good job?” Is money theyour family business so why do you criteria? Or is it respect or socialwish to do this subject?” recognition or individual satisfaction Let us examine the suggestions. Do that decides the worth of a job? Doyou think the first advice contradicts culture and social norms have any rolethe other three? For the first advice to play?suggests that if you work very hard, you The individual student must studywill do very well and get a good job. hard to do well. But how well h/sheThe onus rests upon the individual. The does is structured by a whole set ofsecond advice suggests that apart from societal factors. The job market isyour individual effort, there is a job defined by the needs of the economy.
2 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGYThe needs of the economy are again Third, this chapter introducesdetermined by the economic and sociology as a systematic study ofpolitical policies pursued by the society, distinct from philosophical andgovernment. The chances of the religious reflections, as well as ourindividual student are affected both by everyday common sense observationthese broader political and economic about society. Fourth, this distinct waymeasures as well as by the social of studying society can be betterbackground of her/his family. This understood if we look back historicallygives us a preliminary sense of how at the intellectual ideas and materialsociology studies human society as an contexts within which sociology wasinterconnected whole. And how society born and later grew. These ideas andand the individual interact with each material developments were mainlyother. The problem of choosing subjects western but with global consequences.in the senior secondary school is a Fifth, we look at this global aspect andsource of personal worry for the the manner in which sociology emergedindividual student. That this is a in India. It is important to rememberbroader public issue, affecting students that just as each of us have aas a collective entity is self evident. One biography, so does a discipline.of the tasks of sociology is to unravel Understanding the history of athe connection between a personal discipline helps understand theproblem and a public issue. This is the discipline. Finally the scope of sociologyfirst theme of this chapter. and its relationship to other disciplines We have already seen that a ‘good is discussed.job’ means different things to differentsocieties. The social esteem that a IIparticular kind of job has or does nothave for an individual depends on the THE SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION:culture of his/her ‘relevant society’. THE P ERSONAL P ROBLEM AND THEWhat do we mean by ‘relevant society’? PUBLIC ISSUEDoes it mean the ‘society’ the individual We began with a set of suggestions thatbelongs to? Which society does the drew our attention to how the individualindividual belong to? Is it the and society are dialectically linked. Thisneighbourhood? Is it the community? is a point that sociologists over severalIs it the caste or tribe? Is it theprofessional circle of the parents? Is it generations have been concerned with.the nation? Second, this chapter C. Wright Mills rests his vision of thetherefore looks at how the individual in sociological imagination precisely inmodern times belongs to more than one the unravelling of how the personal andsociety. And how societies are unequal. public are related.
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY 3 Activity 1 Read the text from Mills carefully. Then examine the visual and report below. Do you notice how the visual is of a poor and homeless couple? The sociological imagination helps to understand and explain homelessness as a public issue. Can you identify what could be the causes for homelessness? Different groups in your class can collect information on possible causes for example, employment possibilities, rural to urban migration, etc. Discuss these. Do you notice how the state considers homelessness as a public issue that requires concrete measures to be taken, for instance, the Indira Awas Yojana? The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society. That is its task and promise… Perhaps the most fruitful distinction with which the sociological imagination works is between ‘the personal troubles of the milieu’ and ‘the public issues of social structure’... Troubles occur within the character of the individual and within the range of his immediate relations with others; they have to do with his self and with those limited areas of social life of which he is directly and personally aware... Issues have to do with matters that transcend these local environments of the individual and the range of his inner life. The facts of contemporary history are also facts about the success and the failure of individual men and women. When a society is industrialised, a peasant becomes a worker; a feudal lord is liquidated or becomes a businessman. When classes rise or fall, a man is employed or unemployed; when the rate of investment goes up or down, a man takes new heart or goes broke. When wars happen, an insurance salesman becomes a rocket launcher; a store clerk, a radar man; a wife lives alone; a child grows up without a father. Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both... (Mills 1959). The Indira Awas Yojana, operationalised from 1999- 2000 is a major scheme by the government’s Ministry of Rural Development (MORD) and Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) to construct houses free of cost for the poor and the homeless. Can you think of other issues that show the connection between personal problems and public issues? A homeless couple
4 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY This question of what to focus in III society is indeed central to sociology.PLURALITIES AND INEQUALITIES We can take Satyajit Ray’s commentsAMONG SOCIETIES further and wonder whether hisIn the contemporary world we belong, depiction of the village is romantic.in a sense, to more than one ‘society’. It would be interesting to contrast thisWhen amidst foreigners reference to with a sociologist’s account of the Dalit‘our society’ may mean ‘Indian society’, in the village below.but when amongst fellow Indians wemay use the term ‘our society’ to denote The first time I saw him, he wasa linguistic or ethnic community, a sitting on the dusty road inreligious or caste or tribal society. front of one of the small thatch- This diversity makes deciding roofed tea shops in the villagewhich ‘society’ we are talking about with his glass and saucerdifficult. But perhaps this difficulty placed conspicuously beside him—of mapping society is one not confined a silent signal to the shopkeeperto sociologists alone as the comment that an Untouchable wanted to buybelow will show. some tea. Muli was a gaunt forty- While reflecting on what to focus year-old with betel-blackened teethon in his films, the great Indian film who wore his long hair swept backmaker Satyajit Ray wondered: (Freeman 1978). What should you put in your films? What can you leave out? Would you A quote from Amartya Sen perhaps leave the city behind and go to the illustrates well how inequality is central village where cows graze in the to differences among societies. endless fields and the shepherd Some Indians are rich; most are plays the flute? You can make a not. Some are very well educated; film here that would be pure and others are illiterate. Some lead fresh and have the delicate rhythm easy lives of luxury; others toil hard of a boatman’s song. for little reward. Some are politically Or would you rather go back in powerful: others cannot influence time-way back to the Epics, anything. Some have great where the gods and demons took opportunities for advancement in sides in the great battle where life: others lack them altogether. brothers killed brothers… Some are treated with respect by Or would you rather stay where you are, right in the present, in the police; others are treated like the heart of this monstrous, dirt. These are different kinds of teeming, bewildering city, and try inequality, and each of them to orchestrate its dizzying contrasts requires serious attention (Sen of sight and sound and milieu? 2005: 210-11).
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY 5 Discuss the visuals What kind of pluralities and inequalities do they show?
6 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY Activity 2 The Economic Survey of the Government of India suggests that access to sanitation facilities is just 28 per cent. Find out about other indicators of social inequality, for instance education, health, employment etc. IV everyday life and also about others’ lives, about our own ‘society’ and alsoINTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY about others’ ‘society’. These are ourYou have already been acquainted with everyday notions, our common sensethe sociological imagination and the in terms of which we live our lives.central concern of sociology to study However the observations and ideassociety as an interconnected whole. that sociology as a discipline makesOur discussion on the individual’s about ‘society’ is different from both thatchoices and the job market showed of philosophical reflections andhow the economic, political, familial, common sense.cultural, educational institutions are Observations of philosophical andinterconnected. And how the individual religious thinkers are often aboutis both constrained by it and yet can what is moral or immoral in humanchange it to an extent. The next few behaviour, about the desirable way ofchapters will elaborate on different living and about a good society.institutions as well as on culture. It will Sociology too concerns itself with normsalso focus on some key terms and and values. But its focus is not onconcepts in sociology that will enable norms and values as they ought to be,you to understand society. For as goals that people should pursue. Itssociology is the study of human social concern is with the way they functionlife, groups and societies. Its subject in actual societies. (In Chapter 3, youmatter is our own behaviour as social will see how sociology of religion isbeings. different from a theological study). Sociology is not the first subject to Empirical study of societies is ando so. People have always observed and important part of what sociologists do.reflected upon societies and groups in This however does not mean thatwhich they live. This is evident in the sociology is not concerned with values.writings of philosophers, religious It only means that when a sociologistteachers, and legislators of all studies a society, the sociologist iscivilisations and epochs. This human willing to observe and collect findings,trait to think about our lives and about even if they are not to her/his personalsociety is by no means confined to liking.philosophers and social thinkers. All of Peter Berger makes an unusual butus do have ideas about our own effective comparison to make the point.
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY 7 In any political or military conflict evidence that allow others to check on it is of advantage to capture the or to repeat to develop his/her findings information used by the intelligence further. There has been considerable organs of the opposing side. But this debate within sociology about the is so only because good intelligence differences between natural science and consists of information free of bias. human science, between quantitative If a spy does his/her reporting in and qualitative research. We need not terms of the ideology and ambitions enter this here. But what is relevant of his/her superiors, his/her here is that sociology in its observation reports are useless not only to the and analysis has to follow certain rules enemy, if the latter should capture that can be checked upon by others. In the next section, we compare them, but also to the spy’s own sociological knowledge to common side... The sociologist is a spy in very sense knowledge which will once again much the same way. His/her job is emphasise the role of methods, to report as accurately as h/she procedures and rules in the manner in can about a certain terrain (Berger which sociology conducts its 1963:16-17). observation of society. Chapter 5 of this Does this mean that the sociologist book will provide you with a sense ofhas no social responsibility to ask what sociologists do and how they goabout the goals of his/her study or the about studying society. An elaborationwork to which the sociological findings of the differences between sociologywill be applied. H/she has such a and common sense knowledge willresponsibility, just like any other help towards a clearer idea of thecitizen of society. But this asking is not sociological approach and method.sociological asking. This is like thebiologist whose biological knowledge Vcan be employed to heal or kill. This SOCIOLOGY AND COMMONdoes not mean the biologist is free of SENSE KNOWLEDGEresponsibility as to which use s/he We have seen how sociologicalserves. But this is not a biological knowledge is different from theologicalquestion. and philosophical observations. Sociology has from its beginnings Likewise sociology is different fromunderstood itself as a science. Unlike common sense observations. Thecommonsensical observations or common sense explanations arephilosophical reflections or theological generally based on what may be calledcommentaries, sociology is bound by ‘naturalistic’ and/or individualisticscientific canons of procedure. It means explanation. A naturalistic explanationthat the statements that the sociologist for behaviour rests on the assumptionarrives at must be arrived at through that one can really identify ‘natural’the observations of certain rules of reasons for behaviour.
8 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY ledge have been made, generally Activity 3 incrementally and only rarely by a dramatic breakthrough. An example of poverty has been given below and we also touched Sociology has a body of concepts, upon it in our discussion on the methods and data, no matter how homeless. Think of other issues and loosely coordinated. This cannot be how they could be explained in a substituted by common sense. naturalistic and sociological way. Common sense is unreflective since it does not question its own origins. Or Sociology thus breaks away from in other words it does not ask itself:both common sense observations and “Why do I hold this view?” Theideas as well as from philosophical sociologist must be ready to ask of anythought. It does not always or even of our beliefs, about ourselves — nogenerally lead to spectacular results. matter how cherished — “is this reallyBut meaningful and unsuspected so?” Both the systematic and question-connections can be reached only by ing approach of sociology is derivedsifting through masses of connections. from a broader tradition of scientificGreat advances in sociological know- investigation. This emphasis on Explanation of Naturalistic SociologicalPoverty People are poor because they are Contemporary poverty is caused afraid of work, come from by the structure of inequality in ‘problem families’, are unable to class society and is experienced budget properly, suffer from low by those who suffer from chronic intelligence and shiftlessness. irregularity of work and low wages (Jayaram 1987:3). Unsuspected Connections? In many societies, including in many parts of India, the line of descent and inheritance passes from father to son. This is understood as a patrilineal system. Keeping in mind that women tend not to get property rights, the Government of India in the aftermath of the Kargil War decided that financial compensation for the death of Indian soldiers should go to their widows so that they were provided for. The government had certainly not anticipated the unintended consequence of this decision. It led to many forced marriages of the widows with their brother- in-law (husband’s brother or dewar). In some cases the brother-in-law (then husband) was a young child and the sister-in-law (then wife) a young woman. This was to ensure that the compensation remained with the deceased man’s patrilineal family. Can you think of other such unintended consequences of a social action or a state measure?
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY 9scientific procedures can be understood developed. The Indian colonialonly if we go back in time. And experience has to be seen in this light.understand the context or social Indian sociology reflects this tensionsituation within which the sociological which “go far back to the history ofperspective emerged as sociology was British colonialism and thegreatly influenced by the great intellectual and ideological responsedevelopments in modern science. Let us to it…” (Singh 2004:19). Perhapshave a very brief look at what because of this backdrop, Indianintellectual ideas went into the making sociology has been particularlyof sociology. thoughtful and reflexive of its practice (Chaudhuri 2003). You will be VI engaging with Indian sociological thought, its concerns and practice inTHE INTELLECTUAL IDEAS THAT WENT greater detail in the book,INTO THEMAKING OF SOCIOLOGY Understanding Society (NCER T,Influenced by scientific theories of 2006).natural evolution and findings about Darwin’s ideas about organicpre-modern societies made by early evolution were a dominant influence ontravellers, colonial administrators, early sociological thought. Society wassociologists and social anthropologists often compared with living organismssought to categorise societies into and efforts were made to trace itstypes and to distinguish stages in growth through stages comparable tosocial development. These features those of organic life. This way of lookingreappear in the 19th century in works at society as a system of parts, eachof early sociologists, Auguste Comte, part playing a given function influencedKarl Marx and Herbert Spencer. the study of social institutions like theEfforts were therefore made to classify family or the school and structuresdifferent types of societies on that such as stratification. We mention thisbasis, for instance: here because the intellectual ideas that• Types of pre-modern societies such went into the making of sociology have as hunters and gatherers, pastoral a direct bearing on how sociology studies empirical reality. and agrarian, agrarian and non- The Enlightenment, an European industrial civilisations. intellectual movement of the late 17th• Types of modern societies such as and 18th centuries, emphasised reason the industrialised societies. and individualism. There was also great Such an evolutionary vision advancement of scientific knowledgeassumed that the west was and a growing conviction that thenecessarily the most advanced and methods of the natural sciences shouldcivilised. Non- western societies were and could be extended to the study ofoften seen as barbaric and less human affairs. For example poverty, so
10 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGYfar seen as a ‘natural phenomena’, how far reaching the changebegan to be seen as a ‘social problem’ industrialisation brought about was,caused by human ignorance or we take a quick look at what life in pre-exploitation. Poverty therefore could be industrial England was like. Beforestudied and redressed. One way of industrialisation, agriculture andstudying this was through the social textiles were the chief occupations of thesurvey that was based on the belief that British people. Most people lived inhuman phenomena can be classified villages. Like in our own Indian villagesand measured. You will be discussing there were the peasants and landlords,social survey in chapter 5. the blacksmith and leather worker, the Thinkers of the early modern era weaver and the potter, the shepherdwere convinced that progress in and the brewer. Society was small. Itknowledge promised the solution to all was hierarchical, i.e. the status andsocial ills. For example, Auguste Comte, class positions of different people werethe French scholar (1789–1857 ) clearly defined. Like all traditionalconsidered to be the founder of societies it was also characterised bysociology, believed that sociology would close interaction. With industrialisationcontribute to the welfare of humanity. each of these features changed. One of the most fundamental VII aspects of the new order was the degradation of labour, the wrenchingTHE MATERIAL ISSUES THAT WENT of work from the protective contexts of MAKING OF SOCIOLOGYINTO THE guild, village, and family. Both theThe Industrial Revolution was based radical and conservative thinker wasupon a new, dynamic form of economic appalled at the decline of the status ofactivity — capitalism. This system of the common labourer, not to mentioncapitalism became the driving force the skilled craftsman.behind the growth of industrial Urban centres expanded and grew.manufacturing. Capitalism involved It was not that there were no citiesnew attitudes and institutions. earlier. But their character prior toEntrepreneurs engaged in the industrialisation was different. Thesustained, systematic pursuit of profit. industrial cities gave birth to aThe markets acted as the key completely new kind of urban world. Itinstrument of productive life. And was marked by the soot and grime ofgoods, services and labour became factories, by overcrowded slums of thecommodities whose use was new industrial working class, baddetermined by rational calculation. sanitation and general squalor. It was The new economy was completely also marked by new kinds of socialdifferent from what it replaced. England interactions.was the centre of the Industrial The Hindi film song on the nextRevolution. In order to understand page captures both the material as well
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY 11 From working class neighbourhoods to slum localitites
12 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGYas the experiential aspects of city life.From the film C.I.D. 1956 Activity 4 Aye dil hai mushkil jeena yahan Note how quicly Britain, the seat of Zara hat ke, zara bach ke, yeh the Industrial Revolution became hai Bombay meri jaan an urban from a predominantly Kahin building kahin traame, rural society. Was this process kahin motor kahin mill identical in India? Milta hai yahan sab kuchh ik milta nahin dil 1810: 20 per cent of the population Insaan ka nahin kahin naam-o- lived in towns and cities. nishaan 1910: 80 per cent of the population Kahin satta, kahin patta kahin chori lived in towns and cities. kahin res Significantly the impact of the Kahin daaka, kahin phaaka kahin same process was different in India, thokar kahin thes Urban centres did grow. But with Bekaaro ke hain kai kaam yahan the entry of British manufactured Beghar ko aawara yahan kehte has goods, more people moved into has Khud kaate gale sabke kahe isko agriculture. business Ik cheez ke hain kai naam yahan Geeta:(Bura duniya woh hai kehta The mass of Indian handicraftsmen aisa bhola tu na ban ruined as a result of the influx Jo hai karta woh hai bharta hai of manufactured machine-made yahan ka yeh chalan goods of British industries were not absorbed in any extensivelyPARAPHRASE: Dear heart, life is hard developed indigenous industries.here, you must watch where you’re The ruined mass of thesegoing if you want to save yourself, this handicraftsmen, in the main, took to agriculture for subsistenceis Bombay my dear! You’ll find (Desai 1975:70).buildings, you’ll find trams, you’ll findmotors, you’ll find mills, you’ll find The factory and its mechanicaleverything here except a human heart, division of labour were often seen asthere’s no trace of humanity here. So a deliberate attempt to destroy themuch of what is done here is peasant, the artisan, as well as familymeaningless, it’s either power, or it’s and local community. The factory wasmoney, or it’s theft, or it’s cheating. The perceived as an archetype of anrich mock the homeless as vagabonds, economic regimentation hithertobut when they cut each other’s throats known only in barracks and prisons.themselves, it’s called business! The For some like Marx the factory wassame action is given various names in oppressive. Yet potentially liberating.this place. Here workers learnt both collective
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY 13functioning as well as concerted VIIIefforts for better conditions. WHY SHOULD WE STUDY THE Another indicator of the emergenceof modern societies was the new BEGINNING AND GROWTH OF SOCIOLOGY IN EUROPE?significance of clock-time as a basis ofsocial organisation. A crucial aspect of Most of the issues and concerns ofthis was the way in which, in the 18th sociology also date back to a time whenand 19th centuries, the tempo of European society was undergoingagricultural and manufacturing tumultuous changes in the 18th andlabour increasingly came to be set by 19th centuries with the advent ofthe clock and calendar in a way very capitalism and industrialisation. Manydifferent from pre-modern forms of of the issues that were raised then, forwork. Prior to the development of example, urbanisation or factoryindustrial capitalism, work-rhythms production, are pertinent to all modernwere set by factors such as the period societies, even though their specificof daylight, the break between tasks features may vary. Indeed, Indianand the constraints of deadlines or society with its colonial past and incredible diversity is distinct. Theother social duties. Factory production sociology of India reflects this.implied the synchronisation oflabour — it began punctually, had a If this be so, why focus on Europe of that time? Why is it relevant to startsteady pace and took place for set there? The answer is relatively simple.hours and on particular days of the For our past, as Indians is closelyweek. In addition, the clock injected a linked to the history of Britishnew urgency to work. For both capitalism and colonialism. Capitalismemployer and employee ‘time is now in the west entailed a world-widemoney: it is not passed but spent.’ expansion. The passages in the box on next page represent but two strands in the manner that western capitalism Activity 5 impacted the world. Find out how work is organised in a R.K. Laxman’s travelogue of Mauritius traditional village, a factory and a brings home the presence of this call centre. colonial and global past. Here Africans and Chinese, Biharis and Dutch, Persians and Tamils, Activity 6 Arabs, French and English all rub Find out how industrial capitalism merrily with one another... A Tamil, changed Indian lives in villages and for instance, bears a deceptively cities. south Indian face and a name to go with it to boot; Radha Krishna
14 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY Capitalism and its global but uneven transformation of societies Between the 17th and 19th centuries an estimated 24 million Africans were enslaved. 11 million of them survived the journey to the Americas in one of a number of great movements of population that feature in modern history. They were plucked from their existing homes and cultures, transported around the world in appalling conditions, and put to work in the service of capitalism. Enslavement is a graphic example of how people were caught up in the development of modernity against their will. The institution of slavery declined in the 1800s. But for us in India it was in the 1800s that indentured labour was taken in ships by the British for running their cotton and sugar plantations in distant lands such as Surinam in South America or in the West Indies or the Fiji Islands. V.S. Naipaul the great English writer who won the Nobel prize is a descendant of one of these thousands who were taken to lands they had never seen and who died without being able to return. Govindan is indeed from Madras. I India, the great workshop of cotton speak to him in Tamil. He surprises manufacture for the world, since me by responding in a frightfully immemorial times, now became mangled English with a heavy French innundated with English twists and accent. Mr Govindan has no cotton stuffs. After its own produce knowledge of Tamil and his tongue had been excluded from England, has ceased curling to produce Tamil or only admitted on the most cruel sounds centuries ago (Laxman 2003) ! terms, British manufactures were poured into it at a small and merely IX nominal duty, to the ruin of the native cotton fabrics once soTHE GROWTH OF SOCIOLOGY IN INDIA celebrated (Marx 1853 cited inColonialism was an essential part of Desai 1975).modern capitalism and industrialisation.The writings of Western sociologists on Sociology in India also had to deal withcapitalism and other aspects of modern western writings and ideas aboutsociety are therefore relevant for Indian society that were not alwaysunderstanding social change in India. correct. These ideas were expressedYet as we saw with reference to both in the accounts of colonial officialsurbanisation, colonialism implied that as well western scholars. For many ofthe impact of industrialisation in India them Indian society was a contrast towas not necessarily the same as in the western society. We take just onewest. Karl Marx’s comments on the example here, the way the Indianimpact of the East India Company bring village was understood and portrayedout the contrast. as unchanging.
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY 15 In keeping with contemporary- characteristic feature of the twoVictorian-evolutionary ideas, western subjects in many western countries.writers saw in the Indian village a Perhaps the very diversity of theremnant or survival from what was modern and traditional, of the villagecalled “the infancy of society”. They saw and the metropolitan in India accountsin nineteenth-century India the past of for this.the European society. Yet another evidence of the colonial Xheritage of countries like India is the T HE S COPE OF S OCIOLOGY AND ITSdistinction often made between RE L A T I O N S H I P TO OTHER SO C I A Lsociology and social anthropology. Astandard western textbook definition of SCIENCE DISCIPLINESsociology is “the study of human The scope of sociological study isgroups and societies, giving particular extremely wide. It can focus its analysisemphasis to the analysis of the of interactions between individualsindustrialised world” (Giddens 2001: such as that of a shopkeeper with a699). A standard western definition of customer, between teachers andsocial anthropology would be the study students, between two friends or familyof simple societies of non-western and members. It can likewise focus ontherefore “other” cultures. In India the national issues such as unemploymentstory is quite different. M.N. Srinivas or caste conflict or the effect of statemaps the trajectory: policies on forest rights of the tribal population or rural indebtedness. Or In a country such as India, with its examine global social processes such size and diversity, regional, linguistic, religious, sectarian, ethnic (including as: the impact of new flexible labour caste), and between rural and urban regulations on the working class; or that areas, there are a myriad ‘others’... of the electronic media on the young; In a culture and society such as or the entry of foreign universities on India’s, ‘the other’ can be the education system of the country. encountered literally next door... What defines the discipline of sociology (Srinivas 1966: 205). is therefore not just what it studies (i.e.Furthermore social anthropology in family or trade unions or villages) butIndia moved gradually from a pre- how it studies a chosen field.occupation with the study of ‘primitive Sociology is one of a group ofpeople’ to the study of peasants, ethnic social sciences, which also includesgroups, social classes, aspects and anthropology, economics, politicalfeatures of ancient civilisations, and science and history. The divisionsmodern industrial societies. No rigid among the various social sciences aredivide exists between sociology and not clearcut, and all share a certainsocial anthropology in India, a range of common interests, concepts
16 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY Discuss how you think history, sociology, political science, economics will study fashion/clothes, market places and city streets
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY 17and methods. It is therefore veryimportant to understand that the Activity 7distinctions of the disciplines are to ´ Do you think advertisementssome extent arbitrary and should not actually influence people’sbe seen in a straitjacket fashion. To consumption patterns?differentiate the social sciences wouldbe to exaggerate the differences and ´ Do you think the idea of what defines ‘good life’ is onlygloss over the similarities. Furthermore economically defined?feminist theories have also shown thegreater need of interdisciplinary ´ Do you think ‘spending’ and ‘saving’ habits are culturallyapproach. For instance how would a formed?political scientist or economist studygender roles and their implications forpolitics or the economy without a context of social norms, values, practicessociology of the family or genderdivision of labour. and interests. The corporate sector managers are aware of this. The largeSociology and Economics investment in the advertisement industry is directly linked to the need to reshapeEconomics is the study of production lifestyles and consumption patterns.and distribution of goods and services. Trends within economics such as feministThe classical economic approach dealt economics seek to broaden the focus,almost exclusively with the inter - drawing in gender as a centralrelations of pure economic variables: organising principle of society. Forthe relations of price, demand and instance they would look at how work insupply; money flows; output and input the home is linked to productivity outside.ratios, and the like. The focus of The defined scope of economics hastraditional economics has been on a helped in facilitating its development asnarrow understanding of ‘economic a highly focused, coherent discipline.activity’, namely the allocation of scarcegoods and services within a society. Sociologists often envy the economistsEconomists who are influenced by a for the precision of their terminologypolitical economy approach seek to and the exactness of their measures.understand economic activity in a And the ability to translate the resultsbroader framework of ownership of and of their theoretical work into practicalrelationship to means of production. suggestions having major implicationsThe objective of the dominant trend in for public policy. Yet economists’economic analysis was however to predictive abilities often sufferformulate precise laws of economic precisely because of their neglect ofbehaviour. individual behaviour, cultural norms The sociological approach looks and institutional resistance whichat economic behaviour in a broader sociologists study.
18 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGYPierre Bourdieu wrote in 1998. Sociology and Political Science A true economic science would look As in the case of economics, there is an at all the costs of the economy-not increased interaction of methods and only at the costs that corporations approaches between sociology and are concerned with, but also at political science. Conventional political crimes, suicides, and so on. science was focused primarily on two We need to put forward an elements: political theory and economics of happiness, which government administration. Neither would take note of all the profits, branch involves extensive contact with individual and collective, material political behaviour. The theory part and symbolic, associated with usually focuses on the ideas about activity (such as security), and also government from Plato to Marx while the material and symbolic costs courses on administration generally associated with inactivity or deal with the formal structure of precarious employment (for example consumption of medicines: France government rather than its actual holds the world record for the use operation. of tranquilisers), (cited in Swedberg Sociology is devoted to the study of 2003). all aspects of society, whereas conventional political science restrictedSociology unlike economics usually itself mainly to the study of power asdoes not provide technical solutions. embodied in formal organisation.But it encourages a questioning and Sociology stresses the inter-relation-critical perspective. This helps ships between sets of institutionsquestioning of basic assumptions. And including government, whereasthereby facilitates a discussion of not political science tends to turn attentionjust the technical means towards a towards the processes within thegiven goal, but also about the social government.desirability of a goal itself. Recent However, sociology long sharedtrends have seen a resurgence of similar interests of research witheconomic sociology perhaps because ofboth this wider and critical perspective Activity 8of sociology. Sociology provides clearer or more Find out the kind of studies thatadequate understanding of a social were conducted during the lastsituation than existed before. This can general elections. You will probablybe either on the level of factual find both features of political scienceknowledge, or through gaining an and sociology in them. Discuss howimproved grasp of why something is disciplines interact and mutuallyhappening (in other words, by means influence each other.of theoretical understanding).
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY 19political science. Sociologists like Max history of less glamorous or excitingWeber worked in what can be termed events as changes in land relations oras political sociology. The focus of gender relations within the family havepolitical sociology has been increasingly traditionally been less studied byon the actual study of political historians but formed the core area ofbehaviour. Even in the recent Indian the sociologist’s interest. Todayelections one has seen the extensive however history is far more sociologicalstudy of political patterns of voting. and social history is the stuff of history.Studies have also been conducted in It looks at social patterns, gendermembership of political organisations, relations, mores, customs andprocess of decision-making in important institutions other than theorganisations, sociological reasons for acts of rulers, wars and monarchy.support of political parties, the role ofgender in politics, etc. Sociology and Psychology Psychology is often defined as theSociology and History science of behaviour. It involves itselfHistorians almost as a rule study the primarily with the individual. It ispast, sociologists are more interested in interested in her/his intelligence andthe contemporary or recent past. learning, motivations and memory,Historians earlier were content to nervous system and reaction time,delineate the actual events, to establish hopes and fears. Social psychology,how things actually happened, while in which serves as a bridge betweensociology the focus was to seek to psychology and sociology, maintains aestablish causal relationships. primary interest in the individual but History studies concrete details concerns itself with the way in whichwhile the sociologist is more likely to the individual behaves in social groups,abstract from concrete reality, collectively with other individuals.categorise and generalise. Historians Sociology attempts to understandtoday are equally involved in doing behaviour as it is organised in society,sociological methods and concepts in that is the way in which personality istheir analysis. shaped by different aspects of society. Conventional history has been For instance, economic and politicalabout the history of kings and war. The system, their family and kinship structure, their culture, norms and values. It is interesting to recall that Activity 9 Durkheim who sought to establish a Find out how historians have clear scope and method for sociology written about the history of art, of in his well-known study of suicide left cricket, of clothes and fashion, of out individual intentions of those who architecture and housing styles. commit or try to commit suicide in favour of statistics concerning various
20 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGYsocial characteristics of these between those who studied and thoseindividuals. who were studied as not remarked upon too often earlier. But times haveSociology and Social Anthropology changed and we have the erstwhile ‘natives’ be they Indians or Sudanese,Anthropology in most countries Nagas or Santhals, who now speakincorporates archaeology, physical and write about their own societies.anthropology, cultural history, manybranches of linguistics and the study The anthropologists of the pastof all aspects of life in “simple documented the details of simplesocieties”. Our concern here is with societies apparently in a neutralsocial anthropology and cultural scientific fashion. In practice they wereanthropology for it is that which is constantly comparing those societiesclose to the study of sociology. with the model of the western modernSociology is deemed to be the study of societies as a benchmark.modern, complex societies while social Other changes have also redefinedanthropology was deemed to be the the nature of sociology and socialstudy of simple societies. anthropology. Modernity as we saw led As we saw earlier, each discipline to a process whereby the smallesthas its own history or biography. village was impacted by globalSocial anthropology developed in the processes. The most obvious examplewest at a time when it meant that is colonialism. The most remote villagewestern- trained social anthropologists of India under British colonialism sawstudied non-European societies often its land laws and administrationthought of as exotic, barbaric and change, its revenue extraction alter, itsuncivilised. This unequal relationship manufacturing industries collapse. Tea pickers in Assam
SOCIOLOGY AND SOCIETY 21 Today the distinction between a Activity 10 simple society and a complex one itself ´ Find out where in India did needs major rethinking. India itself is a ancestors of the community of complex mix of tradition and Santhal workers who have been modernity, of the village and the city, working in the tea plantations in of caste and tribe, of class and Assam come from. community. Villages nestle right in the ´ When was tea cultivation heart of the capital city of Delhi. Call started in Assam? ´ Did the British drink tea before centres serve European and American colonialism? clients from different towns of the country. Indian sociology has been far moreContemporary global processes have eclectic in borrowing from bothfurther accentuated this ‘shrinking of traditions. Indian sociologists oftenthe globe’. The assumption of studying studied Indian societies that were botha simple society was that it was part of and not of one’s own culture. Itbounded. We know this is not so today. could also be dealing with both The traditional study of simple, complex differentiated societies ofnon-literate societies by social urban modern India as well as theanthropology had a pervasive influence study of tribes in a holistic fashion.on the content and the subject matterof the discipline. Social anthropology It had been feared that with thetended to study society (simple decline of simple societies, socialsocieties) in all their aspects, as wholes. anthropology would lose its specificityIn so far as they specialised, it was on and merge with sociology. Howeverthe basis of area as for example the there have been fruitful interchangesAndaman Islands, the Nuers or between the two disciplines and todayMelanesia. Sociologists study complex often methods and techniques aresocieties and would therefore often drawn from both. There have beenfocus on parts of society like the anthropological studies of the state andbureaucracy or religion or caste or a globalisation, which are very differentprocess such as social mobility. from the traditional subject matter Social anthropology was charac- of social anthropology. On theterised by long field work tradition, other hand, sociology too has beenliving in the community studied and using quantitative and qualitativeusing ethnographic research methods. techniques, macro and microSociologists have often relied on survey approaches for studying themethod and quantitative data using complexities of modern societies. Asstatistics and the questionnaire mode. mentioned before we will in a sense carryChapter 5 will give you a more on this discussion in Chapter 5 . For incomprehensive account of these two India, sociology and social anthropologytraditions. have had a very close relationship.
22 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY GLOSSARY Capitalism : A system of economic enterprise based on market exchange. “Capital” refers to any asset, including money, property and machines, which can be used to produce commodities for sale or invested in a market with the hope of achieving a profit. This system rests on the private ownership of assets and the means of production. Dialectic : The existence or action of opposing social forces, for instance, social constraint and individual will. Empirical Investigation : A factual enquiry carried out in any given area of sociological study. Feminist Theories : A sociological perspective which emphasises the centrality of gender in analysing the social world. There are many strands of feminist theory, but they all share in common the desire to explain gender inequalities in society and to work to overcome them. Macrosociology : The study of large-scale groups, organisations or social systems. Microsociology : The study of human behaviour in contexts of face-to-face interaction. Social Constraint : A term referring to the fact that the groups and societies of which we are a part exert a conditioning influence on our behaviour. Values : Ideas held by human individual or groups about what is desirable, proper, good or bad. Differing values represent key aspects of variations in human culture. EXERCISES 1. Why is the study of the origin and growth of sociology important? 2. Discuss the different aspects of the term ‘society’. How is it different from your common sense understanding? 3. Discuss how there is greater give and take among disciplines today. 4. Identify any personal problem that you or your friends or relatives are facing. Attempt a sociological understanding.
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