Origins of Sociology

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The study of societies and how they have changed in terms of political ideologies, spirituality, ethics, and economic development is the focus of the discipline of sociology. In order to create a cohesive social existence, it necessitates the connection of human bodies. According to Stinchcombe (1984), the industrial revolution in England and the Enlightenment in France were two significant shifts that occurred around the end of the eighteenth century. These revolutions caused social changes that changed how people lived. Stinchcombe (1984) claimed that many people have relocated to urban areas in search of employment and a higher quality of life. There was poverty, overcrowding, and anonymity in the new places. Therefore, there was the intermingling of cultures. Swingewood (1970) reiterates that the people were forced to formulate new ideas about governance and democracy. Furthermore, the scientific method was viewed as a way that can be used to study human behavior. Auguste Comte was the first person to apply the scientific approach, then known as positivism and hence crafted the term sociology in the attempt to comprehend social change and social order (Stinchcombe, 1984).

Sociological Perspective

A perspective is a viewpoint or approach, and thus a sociological perspective is a viewpoint towards comprehending human behavior; ability to relate personal experiences to the relationships within the society. It is the lens through which a person decides to view the sphere of the world (Stinchcombe, 1984).

Sociological Theories and Crime

Sociologists use various perspectives to analyze the social behavior and explain crime and deviance. They apply varied these perspectives to define what entails crime and deviance and attempt to understand how people view the effects of crime and deviance in the society.

Symbolic Interactionism

From the viewpoint of this theory, a society results from day to day interactions between people. This theory posits that humans assign symbols and understand issues as a result of interacting with each other. However, the meanings we give to situations are always subjective. We act bearing in mind what we believe is true instead of what is known to be true. For instance, health experts warn that cigarette smoking is detrimental to the health of an individual. Nevertheless, people continue smoking as some attach meaning to smoking as being ‘cool’ and try to impress their peers. They choose to smoke as a result of subjectively viewing smoking more desirable in the face of their friends than on the medical evidence of harmful effects of smoking (Davis, 1980). This perspective may be used to explain why those who live in regions with higher rates of crime are more likely to commit acts of crime. Since people interact with those who commit crimes, they may learn to view committing a crime as a desirable behavior.

Data analysis form Americas largest cities indicate that even though there is a rise in rates of crime in some cities, the average rate has fallen. For instance, incidents of murder increased between 2014 and 2016. The growth occurred in few cities as opposed to the nation as a whole. A study of 2017 crime rates projects the average crime rate, murder incidences, and violence incidence will decrease (Adelman et al., 2017). Symbolic interactionism may be used to explain this phenomenon. Despite the effects of the recession, the economy of America is still strong. Many programs for youth have been developed to keep them engaged. Thus those youths susceptible to crime interact with those involved and are now viewing crime as less desirable. Furthermore, the rates of incarceration have increased over time. In effect, people attach negative meaning towards imprisonment thereby being discouraged from committing a crime.

The Functionalist Perspective

Under this theory, the society is an integral entity with interrelated parts that need to function together to achieve a society at equilibrium. Functionalism emphasizes the relationships between various facets of society and how they affect and influence each other. (“ Theories of Crime,” n.d). Collins,(1994) points out that Durkheim was the chief contributor towards the crafting of this theory. He reasoned that crime is necessary for society. Crime and its associated punishment are a basis for a positive social function as it clarifies what is and what is not a deviant behavior. Durkheim postulated that a nation without any crime would be too much repressive and will be dysfunctional whereas too much crime would be harmful to the society. To explain why crime rates are reducing in America under this theory, for better functioning of society, a certain amount of crime is necessary. Therefore the changing rates of crime are is in such a manner as a better functioning society is achieved.

Conflict Perspective

Whereas the functionalist theory has the view that the various parts of the society work together, conflict theory views the parts as being antagonistic to each other, competing for power and available resources. This theory put forth by Karl Marx proposes that the society consists of two distinct groups, the elite, and the worker class (Davis, 1980). The conflict theory implies that crime comes up as a result of the differences between the two groups which is an indicator of social inequality. In reference to this theory, the diminishing rates of crime in the USA would be as a result of decreasing social inequality in the country.

All sociological theories have one common characteristic; they center on the individual. For a crime to occur some favorable conditions should prevail. Nevertheless, the views put forth by different theories are divergent. The divergent views justify the statement that different sociological theories can have various explanations for the same phenomenon.


Adelman, R., Reid, L. W., Markle, G., Weiss, S., & Jaret, C. (2017). Urban crime rates and the

changing face of immigration: Evidence across four decades. Journal of ethnicity in criminal justice, 15(1), 52-77.

Collins, R. (1994). Four sociological traditions. Oxford University Press, USA.

Davis, N. J. (1980). Sociological constructions of deviance: Perspectives and issues in the field. WCB/McGraw-Hill.

Stinchcombe, A. L. (1984). The origins of sociology as a discipline. Acta Sociologica, 27(1), 51- 61.

Theories of Crime and Deviance. (n.d.). Retrieved November 09, 2017, from

Swingewood, A. (1970). Origins of sociology: the case of the Scottish Enlightenment. The British Journal of Sociology, 21(2), 164-180.

March 23, 2023


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