Updated: Dec 8, 2020
Muhammad Saeed, Bayero University-Kano
Humans cannot survive in isolation. This was evident in the creation of Eve alongside other species by God into paradise to compliment the existence of Adam. As Durkheim put it ‘ we seek in others what we lack in ourselves.' However, this relationship is not always harmonious as evident in historical events where conflict, war and other social crises have ravaged human peaceful coexistence across different ages. By so doing, sociology has come as the only discipline to solve problems that tend to hinder human peaceful coexistence.
The science of humanity has introduced the scientific remedy to studying society, social relationship and their dynamism over time. Comte believed that the same procedure used in the physical and natural sciences (astronomy, physics, chemistry and biology), if employed in social investigation would generate accurate and precise social science with less or no stress and anxiety, hence a science of humanity.
Sociology through scientific approach is the only discipline that studies man in its holistic form. Unlike political science which only emphasizes the distribution of power; economics which emphasizes the distribution of wealth, sociology relates to anything that concerns man. Sociology like other sciences uses theory, laws, hypotheses and paradigms in the explanation of human society and social relationship.
The importance of the discipline of sociology
Sociology studies how people relate to one another, how they build smaller or greater systems and how they respond to changes and changing needs or demands. Therefore, the study of sociology is important and essential. Because of its bearing upon many of the problems of the present world, it has assumed such a great importance that it is considered to be the best approach to all the social sciences. As Giddings has rightly pointed out, 'Sociology tells us how to become what we want to be.'
Firstly, to allow us to comprehend the importance of sociology, it is imperative we give some working definitions of the discipline itself. Sociology as defined by Auguste Comte is the scientific study of society. That is, to enable our society worth living, we need a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the society itself and this can only be achieved through scientific methods, the same procedure through which progress was reached in the physical and natural sciences.
Another important definition is that of Mack Young where he defines sociology as the scientific study of social aspects of human life. This includes interpersonal relationships like marriage and family.
With the light of these two cardinal definitions, I will outline some importance of Sociology as follows:
1. Sociology studies society in a scientific way: Before the emergence of sociology, there was no systematic and scientific attempt to explore human society with all its complexities. Sociology has made it possible to study society in a scientific manner. This scientific knowledge about human society has been the platform through which many social problems were solved and also it is important in order to achieve progress in all spheres of human endeavor: social, technology, medicine etc.
2. Sociology increases the power of social action: The science of humanity assists individuals in understanding themselves and their capacities, potentials and limitations. It enables them to adjust themselves to the ever changing environment. Knowledge of society, social groups, social institutions, associations, their functions etc. helps us to lead an effective social life.
3. Sociology studies the role of institutions in the development of the individuals. It is through sociology that scientific study of the social institutions and their relations to one another is being made. The family, the education system, the economic system, religious system, and the state, these are institutions through which society functions. Sociology studies these institutions and their roles in the development of the individual and suggests suitable measures for strengthening them with a view to enable them to serve the individual better.
4. Sociology is important because its study is indispensable for understanding and planning of society. Society is a very complex entity with a multitude of intricacies. It is impossible to understand and solve its numerous problems at once without the support of sociological predictions. It is rightly said that we cannot understand and mend society without any knowledge of its mechanism and construction. Without the investigation carried out by sociology, no real effective social planning would be possible. It helps us to determine the most efficient means for reaching the goals agreed upon. A certain amount of knowledge about society is necessary before any social policies can be carried out.
5. It was believed that, physical and natural sciences has created lots of problems, more than they could possibly solve. This is evident in many scientific inventory which has done more harm than good. For example, the gun was invented as weaponized protection for man, but hundreds of thousands of people die every year in gun battle. Also, science has made it possible for the movement towards bioterrorism which is ravaging our present day society. However, sociology as the science of humanity is doing everything in its reach to make life worth living.
Sociology was born out of chaos. From birth, it was proven to be a discipline focused at solving human social problems. Sociological knowledge was applied to restore the French society when it was falling apart during the 17th century due to the outcome of its political revolution. Not only that, the British society was also restored from sociological knowledge when the Industrial Revolution brought numerous changes in the lifestyles they used to live there by bringing a series of social challenges to the society. America was also not left out in the blessing of sociological knowledge. Nigeria from Independence to date has been struggling to adopt sociological knowledge to better their society as president Buhari categorically said in one of his inauguration speeches to use the knowledge of sociologist to better the welfare of its citizens.