What Is Sociology and its Main Theories?

Sociology is the science that considers society and groups of people. It aims to explain societal problems and to understand tendencies of social groups. Often, research starts with a problem that becomes visible in society. A sociologists wonders why something is the case and wants to know more about the underlying mechanism. For example, he or she could wonder why the division of roles in modern households is changing or why certain groups are more strongly opposed to immigrants than others. The relationship between the factors can be explained by different theories, which can then be tested.

These research problems can be divided into three main categories. They are the three main theories of sociology and are absolutely fundamental when doing sociological research. So, what are these theories? I will provide a short explanation of all three.

Theories of Sociology:


First, we have cohesion. This considers everything that has to do with the closeness of the relationships that people have in society. Are people more focused on themselves, or is the community of greater importance? We can see a lot of difference when we study cultures. For instance, the Dutch are quite individualistic, while the Italians are more focused on family bonds. This has a lot of consequences in society, which we will get into later on.


Next is inequality. This question entails all different kinds of inequality between different groups. Why do some people have better job opportunities than others? Why do some stay healthy for longer while other people from other groups get sick more often? And, what can we do to fix it? For example, higher educated with better paying jobs live longer than lower educated who are paid less and often have to do hard physical labour.


Lastly, we have rationalisation. This has to do with technological advancements and changes in thinking over time caused by these developments. Here, modernisation is the key factor and sociologists look at how it influences society. Furthermore, they look at the growing influence of technology and how this is different for varying countries and groups in society. For instance, how does social media change our relationships and our thinking? They also look at how technological developments can influence our perception on religion. What causes people to abandon religion, and how does this eventually change society?

In conclusion

So, this is the fundament of sociology, this is where sociological research starts. Now, when you see an item on the news or you read about societal problems in the paper you can categorize them. This will make it easier to understand a problem and it is a start when looking for a solution.

However, one may wonder if three overarching theories of sociology is enough. Do these themes really encompass all of sociology or could we think of more? I am curious to hear what you think down in the comments! Could you come up with an example of a problem that does not fit one of these three? And what would the proper main question be in that case?

Also check out this article on conflict theory and this one on rational choice theory.

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