Nature of Sociological Theories

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Nature of Sociological Theories


In short, sociological theory has the following characteristics:


A theory is a well-defined systematic symbolic terminology and free from the inevitability of fact, theory-making is a creative achievement and involves leaping beyond the limits of evidence. 2 . Theories are expressed in terms of well-defined concepts and logically interrelated propositions. 3. The nature of a theory is systematic or provisional, it is always open to new insights and amendments on the basis of evidence. It is neither necessary nor required to have a final formulation for any sociological theory. 4. It is initially verifiable, that is, it is consistent with the body of known facts and available evidence. 5. It is a systematic formulation that aims at harmonizing the needs of the humanistic tradition and the demands of the scientific tradition. 6. Principles arise out of human conduct, that is, social principles are relative to time.



Its nature is also clearly known from the various definitions of sociological theory. Some of the characteristics that explain its nature are as follows:

(1) Scientific basis – Like other theories, the building blocks of sociological theories are also social facts. That is why they have a scientific basis. These are based on the facts obtained by the scientific method. It is only because of the scientific basis that empirical similarities can be known by sociological theories.


(2) Logical sociological theory is a logical or intellectual system of empirical facts. When different facts are collected from the same subject, then the theory is formed by relating them logically to each other.


(3) Abstract Like other theories, sociological theories are also abstract. The concepts used in these are clear and the prepositions are related to each other.


4) Empirical – Sociological theory is the basis of social research by which hypotheses are tested and observed.

(5) Means of interpretation of reality – The purpose of sociological theories is to understand and explain society, social life and social events. So these are means, not ends.


(6) General Nature – Sociological theories are generalizations about society, social life and behavior and social phenomena which are formed by social facts. That is why they are of normal nature.


(7) Universal – Sociological principles are universal in nature, that is, place and time do not have any special effect on them. For example, Karl Marx’s theory of excess value is said to be a universal theory.


(8) Neutral from the point of view of values ​​- Sociological theories are free from values ​​because they do not describe good or bad. Their aim is only to understand and explain social reality. According to T. B. Bottomor and Robert K. Merton, there is a great lack of principles in sociology and the subject has largely not progressed beyond empirical generalizations. Theories can be constructed by examining these generalizations more extensively.



Based on the above discussion, it can be said that sociological theories are still in their infancy and lack of universality is found in them. The second, fourth and fifth types of generalizations pointed out by Ginsberg are not really theoretical generalizations. Thus T. B. Bottomor has rightly said that sociological theories should be oriented towards making detailed generalizations from established empirical correlations. Such efforts would bring sociology closer to the cumulative theoretical construction that is characteristic of other sciences.

To build any theory, we have to prepare a draft of it. This form is called a model. This model has been termed by Merton as Paradigm. Paradigm is the underlying basis of any theory. Each paradigm includes certain concepts. Paradigms can be tested only indirectly. Useful Explanation of Paradigm Max Weber’s Ideal Design and Tolkien Parsons’ Pattern Variable are also examples of Paradigm or Model. But in this field the American sociologist and Parsons’s disciple and colleague Robert K. Merton’s name is noteworthy. Although Merton has propounded many important sociological theories, the functionalist concept is an important contribution of Robert Merton. Merton has designed a model for functional analysis. Merton believes that the functionalist study of any society in the world can be done on the basis of his paradigm.


(1) Jonathan Turner believes that the spirit of abstraction is found in sociological theories, that is, after studying a particular area, the conclusions obtained from it are applied to the whole society concerned.


(2) According to Turner itself, sociological theories can be proved wrong at the empirical level, only then they are sociological theories. Some theorists believe that when a theory is not found to be correct in empirical testing, then we give a new direction to our research so that a correct theory can be formed.


(3) Sociological theory is built on the basis of concepts. Concepts are abstract and clear.


(4) Sociological theories are able to provide a complete introduction to the related social phenomenon.


(5) Sociological theories explain the causal relationship. For example, “satisfactory housing conditions increase the efficiency of workers.” – is a sociological theory because it is constructed on the basis of findings from the study of a social phenomenon. Here efficiency is in the form of a job whereas the reason for this work is – satisfactory housing condition. Thus theory explains the cause-effect relationship.


(6) Being short duration is the main feature of sociological theories, that is, with the change in country, time and situation, the theory also becomes meaningless.


(7) It is possible to test sociological theories on the basis of available facts and available evidence.


(8) Although the theory is formed on the basis of the obtained facts and the facts are numerical. But the function of numbers is not to speak. On the basis of these numbers a verbal conclusion is drawn which presents the properties of the facts. In this sense sociological theories are qualitative.


(9) Although the sociological theories are scientific, abstract and real, yet some impracticality is also found in them. Sociology is not a natural science. The principles of the natural sciences are essentially practical. Sociological theories are related to human beings. Impulse, sensation, excitement and emotions have an important place in human beings. All these elements are not logical so

It should be recognized that sociological theories can be irrational or even impractical.


(10) It is not necessary that every sociological theory will be useful from the practical point of view. Some theories are also created for the purpose of expanding the subject.



(11) It is possible to predict through principles. For example, mechanization has greatly reduced the use of manpower. On the basis of theory, it can be predicted that the number of industrial workers will be negligible in the coming time.


(12) Not all sociological theories are universal. Therefore, not every theory can be applied to every society. For example, the sociological theory related to western culture cannot be applied to Indian society.


(13) Social research is an important basis for the formation of sociological theory. Conclusions are drawn on the basis of the facts obtained from the research. These conclusions form the basis of the theory. Various scholars have also accepted the interrelationship of theory and research.


(14) Sometimes it is possible to build a theory even in the absence of facts.


(15) A theory is formed by many concepts. These concepts are logically related to each other.


Formulation of Sociological Theories:


When the efforts to formulate theories in sociology started, it is a matter of debate. The history of sociological theory as a sociological thought (thinking about social aspects) is as ancient as that of its civilization itself.


Coser and Rosenberg say that sociological theories are as old as human civilization itself, because even in very ancient times philosophers systematically presented ideas for the development of civilization and literature.


Plato, Aristotle, Rousseau. The views of scholars like folk etc. are mentioned in the context of principles only. But if we look at history as an institutional subject of the subject of sociology, then the above ideology does not seem appropriate. In this context, Butmore’s views seem to be justified that till today universal principles have not been formed, then it would not be fair to say that the ideas of the early philosophers are theories. There is no merit of principles in these ideas. But these ideas did develop a firm foundation for later theory-making efforts.


According to Theodore Abel, the foundation of sociological theory was laid in the period from 1895 AD to 1920 AD while Durkheim, Simmel, Cooley

And scholars like Weber developed a new approach to the study of social phenomena.





According to Morris Ginsberg, six types of generalizations are mainly found in sociology.


these are

(1) empirical correlations between concrete social events (eg urban life and divorce rates),

(2) Generalizations representing the conditions in which social institutions develop (such as the various causes of the origin of capitalism),

(3) Those generalizations, which assert that changes in specified institutions are regularly related to changes in other institutions (such as the relationship between changes in class structure and other social changes in Marx’s theories),

( 4 ) generalizations ( eg attempts to differentiate stages of economic development ) giving importance to a variety of rhythmic repetitions or stage sequences .

(5) Generalizations describing the main trends in the development of the whole of humanity (such as theories of social development of various scholars) and

(6) Rules stating the implications in the beliefs related to human behavior (such as some rules in economic theory).





From the very beginning, studies by sociologists have focused on the following two main points:

(1) Interest in the study of societies as a whole (synergistic approach) and

(2) Interest in the study of societies struggling for existence (diagnostic approach). From the first point of view, efforts began to understand society as a whole, which includes the whole life of the people living there. And the search for common features of the relationship between organizations and institutions began. This also led to comparative and evolutionary studies in societies.


Due to this interest, the definition of sociology was given by Auguste Comte as ‘social order and progress’ and by Franz Oppenheimer as the study of “social actions”. Therefore, the first attempt to build a sociological theory has been to understand social life and to discover the intellectual order and to formulate general rules related to the origin of society, its continuity and the destination of human society. In the nineteenth century, an attempt was made to understand the society struggling for existence through the second approach and for this An attempt was made to understand the problems affecting group behavior through a clinical approach.


In this, the focus of the investigations were limited to the aspects of the environment affecting social welfare and the main objective of these investigations and studies was to find ways to increase the welfare of the individuals. Due to the development of this approach, systematic study of many sub-fields of sociology (such as family, crime, child crime, urban life etc.) started. The fathers of sociology developed sociology as a classical subject and early scholars like Comte, Ward, Spencer and Small were of the opinion that their sociological study was based on sociological theory. Contribution towards. But the coming generations began to challenge these studies and began to view their generalizations and scientific validation with suspicion. Later, these scholars were of the opinion that only coordinative and diagnostic studies are not enough to construct a new subject, although they give new insights and knowledge, yet this study is not helpful in building a systematic framework of theory. Huh . Therefore a new approach was developed which is called ‘analytical approach’ and which is more useful than the other two approaches to the formulation of theory.


It becomes clear from the above discussion that the development of three approaches can be considered a major event in the formation of sociological theory. These approaches are as follows

(1) Synthetic approach,


(2) Clinical approach and


(3) Analytical approach. Durkheim , Radcliffe-Brown and many other sociologists state that it is readily accepted that the social sciences are generalizing sciences, whose aim is to establish a theoretical system like the natural sciences. to be established;




Although they are still at a low stage of development. But Dilthey and many other scholars, contrary to the first view, argue that the nature of the social sciences is such that they cannot be made rules like the natural sciences. A strong argument for the scientific nature of the social sciences is that they have not produced anything resembling the natural sciences. It is because of the nature of social sciences that sociological theories have not reached their highest level even today and are still at the level of their empirical generalizations. There are many types of obstacles in their construction, in which the nature of social events is the most important.


Following are the major hurdles faced in its construction.

(1) Descriptive Nature The nature of many sociological investigations and studies so far is descriptive, that is, their purpose is not to discover any rule, but only to describe the phenomenon. Sociological theory cannot be built on the basis of these descriptive studies.


(2) Use of unproven facts in the studies related to origin and development – Sociology is a historical subject because in it the origin and development of social events and institutions is studied. For these studies related to origin and development, sociologists have to be based on past facts. It is difficult to check the authenticity of past or historical facts and if suitable evidence and sources are not found, then historical reconstruction i.e. imaginary facts are resorted to. Studies based on such facts can never be helpful in the formation of sociological theory.


(3) Lack of universal theories – Even in the field of sociological classification, no universally accepted and comprehensive theories have been made so far because the concepts have not been used in clear terms, nor do the descriptions and explanations of the concepts reinforce each other. have been associated with.


(4) Formation of explanatory theories. Due to the complexity of difficult sociological phenomena, behavior and concepts, it is a difficult task to discover causal relationships about them and to make explanatory theories.




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