Sociology emerged as a discipline in the 19th century as an academic response to the challenges of modernization. Sociologists hoped not only to understand what held social group together, but also to develop a solution to the social disintegration that rapidly resulting from modernization. This essay will explain what is meant by sociology, then identify and apply some of its key features and concepts to discuss the challenges of accessing and succeeding at higher education institution in South Africa. Lastly it will also show how both structural factors as well as agency should be considered when addressing these challenges.
“Sociology is about the scientific study of human social interaction and the social forces which shape much of human behaviour” (Steward & Zaaiman, 2014, p.xv). According to them in sociology we look at how people in the world wide situation act upon one another to produce a new effect on the environment using the exerted power of socialism, and this affect or determine their status and conditions as how to behave as human being to situations either bad or good. In short word we can say sociology studies the pattern, trends and form of collective social action and the social processes and structures in society which arise out of the way human being act in the world ( Steward and Zaaiman, 2014).
According to Steward and Zaaiman sociology is a “science study” because it adopts and applies the scientific methods and procedures (Steward and Zaaiman, 2014). Sociology does make use of scientific method in the study of its subject matters. Hence sociology is a science. Though it cannot do experiments with men in a laboratory still man’s social behaviour is subjected to scientific investigation like natural phenomenon. It employs scientific methods as scale of sociometry schedule, case study, interview and questionnaires which is used to quantitatively measure social phenomenon.
However, sociology has variation levels that can range from passing encounter of individual on the street to all parts of the world’s social processes and sometimes. First, micro; where we all focus on an individual relationship. Second, meso; this focus on a group of people or community to be specific. Third, macro; which focus on national and all parts of the world’s social processed (Steward & Zaaiman, 2014). Actually, sociology has to deal with point of very wide varieties of social aspects in society. According to Steward and Zaaiman (2014) the interest of sociology lies on the following theme of social aspects: ageing, childhood, communication, education, conflicts, languages, organisations, etc.
The sociological approach goes beyond everyday common sense. Many people believe they understand the world and the events taking place within it, often justify their understanding by calling it “common sense”. However, they have not actually engaged in the systematic attempt to understand the social world. Sociology, is an attempt to understand the social world by situating social events in their corresponding events (social structure, culture, history) and trying to understand social phenomena by collecting and analysing empirical data (Steward & Zaaiman ,2014). This scientific approach is what differentiates sociological knowledge from common sense.
According to Steward and Zaaiman (2014) to obtain sociological knowledge, sociologists must study their world methodically and systematically. They do this through induction and deduction. With induction, sociologists gather data on the ground and formulate theories about what they find (Steward and Zaaiman, 2014). These theories are then tested by using the scientific method in order to assess the theory validity. In order to test a theory validity, they utilise deduction. Deduction is the act to evaluating their theories in alight of new data (Steward and Zaaiman, 2014). Thus, sociologists’ knowledge is produced through a constant back and forth between empirical observation and theorisation. Steward and Zaaiman (2014) state that in this way, sociology is more demanding than common sense because sociologists tests and modify their understanding of how the world works through scientific analysis.