Sociology and the Other Academic Disciplines

Sociology overlaps with a variety of disciplines that study society, in particular anthropology, political science, economics, and social philosophy. Many comparatively new fields such as communication studies, cultural studies, demographyand literary theory, draw upon methods that originated in sociology. The terms “social science” and “social research” have both gained a degree of autonomy since their origination in classical sociology.

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The distinct field of social psychology emerged from the many intersections of sociological and psychological interests, and is further distinguished in terms of sociological or psychological emphasis. 114] Social anthropology is the branch of anthropology that studies how contemporary living human beings behave in social groups. Practitioners of social anthropology, like sociologists, investigate various facets of social organization. Traditionally, social anthropologists analysed non-industrial and non-Western societies, whereas sociologists focused on industrialized societies in the Western world.

In recent years, however, social anthropology has expanded its focus to modern Western societies, meaning that the two disciplines increasingly converge. 115][116] Sociobiology is the study of how social behavior and organization have been influenced by evolution and other biological process. The field blends sociology with a number of other sciences, such as anthropology, biology, and zoology. Sociobiology has generated controversy within the sociological academy for allegedly giving too much attention to gene expression over socialization and environmental factors in general (see ‘nature versus nurture’). Entomologist E. O. Wilson is credited as having originally developed and described Sociobiology. [117]

Irving Louis Horowitz, in his The Decomposition of Sociology (1994), has argued that the discipline, whilst arriving from a “distinguished lineage and tradition”, is in decline due to deeply ideological theory and a lack of relevance to policy making: “The decomposition of sociology began when this great tradition became subject to ideological thinking, and an inferior tradition surfaced in the wake of totalitarian triumphs. [118] Furthermore: “A problem yet unmentioned is that sociology’s malaise has left all the social sciences vulnerable to pure positivism—to an empiricism lacking any theoretical basis. Talented individuals who might, in an earlier time, have gone into sociology are seeking intellectual stimulation in business, law, the natural sciences, and even creative writing; this drains sociology of much needed potential. [118]

Horowitz cites the lack of a ‘core discipline’ as exacerbating the problem. Randall Collins, the Dorothy Swaine Thomas Professor in Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the Advisory Editors Council of the Social Evolution & History Journal, has voiced similar sentiments: “we have lost all coherence as a discipline, we are breaking up into a conglomerate of specialities, each going on its own way and with none too high regard for each other. [119] In 2007, The Times Higher Education Guide published a list of ‘The most cited authors of books in the Humanities’ (including philosophy and psychology). Seven of the top ten are listed as sociologists: Michel Foucault (1), Pierre Bourdieu (2), Anthony Giddens (5), Erving Goffman (6), Jurgen Habermas (7), Max Weber (8), and Bruno Latour (10). [120]

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