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is a subject of central significance in the modern world,
bringing a new perspective to all our knowledge. It
is the scientific study of society; by society we mean
all forms of association to be found in all types of
people it is nothing but the scientific study of social
The students who opt for this paper in Prelims and Mains
are from various disciplines. This is one of the papers,
which you can master within 4 months for Prelims and
3½ months for Mains. The central importance of
this paper is due to its study of society. You and Me
are part of this society. That is why it is easy for
us to understand it and analyze it.
How do we say or confirm a subject is scoring and not
scoring. The fact of the matter is No subject can be
labeled as scoring and not scoring. To grade this, we
need to use other parameters and reasons.
are those parameters?
Need a Good teacher
Easy access to study materials along with standard the
Your basic interest in the subject.
Willingness to write as many as tests as possible, with
you have the above-mentioned items then it will be a
subject that is good scoring.
is happening today? Let us analyze the myth and reality.
of the teachers who teach SOCIOLOGY have never done
formal education in the subject. They studied this subject
by reading syllabus-related books and notes. Their perspective
and sociological reasoning are based on simple, common
understanding of the subject. In the process the students
are misled. Those students who attempt the questions,
especially from paper II, look through the prism of
the teacher, which is general in outlook. This is an
important reason why they get less marks in paper II.
Let me emphasize and make it clear that to all the students.
No subject is good -scoring and no subject is bad -
scoring. All subjects are good-scoring provided you
have all the above-mentioned parameters. Sociology as
a discipline today is one of the high scoring subjects
in Mains and easy to clear in Prelims.
is a view that there are different types of sociology:
Academic Sociology and
State services sociology.
is a white lie. I dont understand how it had spread
as a rumour. In the process, the rumour had become as
a fact as the way it was believed that the god Ganesha
As a trained sociologist let me give here my view: sociology
as a subject is everywhere the same in India or at the
international level. The same Delhi School of Economics
syllabus is taught in the London School of Economics,
Oxford University , Harvard University or Madras University
But Paper-II varies from state to state, country-to-country
and society-to-society because it deals on ones own
countries problems and its perspectives. The fact is
that sociologists set questions and sociologists correct
the papers. Then how can sociology vary?
But in fact this rumour had got some basis. The reality
points to the variation of writing skills. Writing answers
for an academic exam, say BA, MA, MPhil or PhD, is different
from writing a UPSC exam. That points to the only major
difference, in the time management with limited words.
In competitive exam those who dont violate those
rules always succeed. The academic exam is to test your
bookish knowledge alone but a competitive exam tests
not your bookish knowledge but something beyond it.
You are supposed to handle the exam in a balanced way.
In mains writing you are supposed to start to the question
and to the point. That is why I developed the AQTQ technique
which has become a superhit to all the students. (You
may refer to this later in this booklet. More discussions
and practices will be carried in class.]
stress the above-mentioned point let me add:. The questions
are set by subject experts and corrected and evaluated
by the subject experts. They are all academic sociologists
and subject specialists. Therefore you cant neglect
the academic aspects also. This you will understand
over period of time while attending classes and writing
tests in the class. Having given this background and
having broken these myths let me go straight to the
is a critical understanding of society. Learning sociology
is to know society and evaluate its working. Studying
sociology cannot be just a routine process of acquiring
knowledge. Learning sociology is in part a process of
obtaining a richer awareness of ourselves and others,
by developing an outlook that C. Wright Mills called
the Sociological Imagination the ability to think
about ourselves, away from the daily routines of our
lives, in order to look at them anew. Men have reflected
upon the societies in which they live.
Sociology is the youngest of the social sciences. Its
major concern is society. Sociology is concerned with
the life and activities of man. It studies the nature
and character of human society and also its origin and
development structure and functions. It analyses the
group life of man and examines the bond of social unity.
The basic insight of sociology is that the groups to
which people belong largely shape Human behavior and
by the social interaction that takes place within those
groups. Sociology like physical sciences seeks to discover,
describe, and explain the order, which characterizes
the social life of man.
It is the business of sociology to investigate the connections
between What society makes of us and what we make of
ourselves? Our activities give shape to the social world
around us and at the same time our activities are structured
by that social world.
has many practical implications for our lives. A Giddens
points out 3 such implications.
Awareness of cultural differences
Sociology allows us to see the social world from view
points other than our own. If we properly understand
how others live, we also acquire a better understanding
of what their problems are. Unless we have this understanding
practical policies are not possible. E.g. Policy decisions
regarding social discrimination.
Assessing the effects of Policies
Sociological research provides practical help in assessing
the results of policy initiatives. A programme of practical
reform may simply fail to achieve the desired result
or may produce unintended consequences.
Sociology can provide us with self-enlightenment and
increased self-understanding. The more we know about
why we act as we do and about the overall workings of
our society, the more likely we are able to influence
our own futures. Self-enlightened groups can often benefit
from sociological research and respond in an effective
way to government policies or form policy initiatives
of their own. Self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous
or social movements such as the Environmental Movement
are examples of social groups that have directly sought
to bring about practical reforms.
Davis stresses the following uses of sociology
study of society contributes much to the formulation
of social policies. Social policies in a complicated
society require a certain amount of knowledge about
the society in question. Without such knowledge social
policies cannot be effectively implemented. Eg. Population
survey studies, survey on the causes of extreme poverty
study of society has a clearly instrumental value. i.e.
once certain goals are agreed upon, it helps to determine
the most efficient means for reaching these goals. Eg.
Birth control policy requires an analysis of the Population
dynamics, reproductive customs etc. These depend on
Maximum usefulness of sociology is obtained when knowledge
about society is extended to the general population
(a) While the general population may be easily misled
through the media and the educational system, we have
to consider some social problems dispassionately and
objectively to recognize and reject irrational opinions
and policies. E.g. Diminution of race prejudice and
discrimination. [b]. Sociology widens our sympathies
and imaginations, increases our understanding of the
other human beings outside the narrow circle of our
own time, locality and social situation. In this way,
unity within diversity is achieved. From this point
of view the study of Sociology is of immense importance
in India .
is an intellectual value for sociology. The study of
sociology helps the individual to understand human society,
how social systems work, how peoples behavior
is modified by their circumstances. It enables an individual
to adjust to new situations.
comparative study of different societies has a moral
value. An understanding of other peoples behavior
and actions enables us to look at them as other human
beings similar to us.
study of sociology has educational value also. When
we learn how people in different societies have arranged
their lives we may develop a healthy skepticism, or
develop the habit of asking intelligent questions about,
own society. The study of sociology must make us aware
of the sources of bias and prejudice in ourselves.
offers a distinct and highly illuminating perspective
of human behaviour. Learning sociology means taking
a step back from our own personal interpretations of
the world, and to look at the social influence which
shapes our lives. Sociology does not deny or diminish
the reality of individual experience. Rather we obtain
a richer awareness of our own individual characteristics
and those of others, by developing sensitivity towards
the wider universe of social activity in which we are
to think sociologically means cultivating the powers
of imagination. Studying sociology can be just a routine
process of acquiring knowledge. A sociologist is someone
who is able to break free from the immediacy of personal
circumstances. Learning sociology is in part a process
of self-exploration. No one can study sociology without
having to confront challenges to some of their own deeply
thinking is a vital help to self-understanding, which
in turn can be focused on an improved understanding
of the social world. Studying sociology should be a
liberating experience; sociology enlarges our sympathies
and imagination, opens up new perspectives on the sources
of our own behaviour and deepens the sense of cultural
settings different from our own. In so far as sociological
work challenges dogma, teaches appreciation of cultural
variety and allows us insight into the working of social
institutions, the practice of sociology enhances the
possibilities of human freedom.
The second theme is that of the world in change. Sociology
was born of the transformations which wrenched the industrializing
social order of the West away from the life characteristics
of pre-existing societies. The world, which has thus
been created, is the dominant object of concern of sociological
analysis. Sociology has the prime responsibility for
charting out the transformations which have taken place
in the past, and for grasping the major lines of development
taking place today.
is why we define sociology as the study of human social
life groups and societies. It is a dazzling and compelling
enterprise, having as its subject matter our own behaviour
as social beings. The scope of sociology is extremely
wide- ranging from the analysis of passing encounters
between individuals in the street to the investigation
of global social processes.
practice of sociology involves gaining knowledge about
ourselves, the societies in which we live, and other
societies distinct from ours in space and time. Sociological
findings both disturb and contribute to our common sense
beliefs about ourselves and others.
to think sociologically means cultivating powers of
the imagination. A sociologist is someone who is able
to break free from the immediacy of personal circumstances.
AND COMMON SENSE
the empirical grounding in careful observation and description
of facts, sociology as a discipline is characterized
by its rigorous search for interconnections among different
domains of society and its systematic use of comparisons.
These preoccupations make sociology anti-utopian in
its claims and anti-fatalistic in its orientations,
and distinguish its generalized knowledge from localized
in contemporary India is a loosely defined field of
intellectual activity. There are pervasive disagreements
about its aims, its scope, its approaches, its methods,
its concepts and its very subject matter. Many would
say that is it at best a subject, and not quite, or
not yet, a discipline. There are professors of sociology
who not only disapprove of the subject as it exists
today but are doubtful about the very possibility of
its existence; and there are laymen, with only a passing
acquaintance with its vocabulary, who speak confidently
about its aims, objectivities, methods and procedures.
seems by contrast to be grist to everybodys mill.
Part of the ambiguity and uncertainty characteristic
of the subject arises from the fact that it touches
the everyday experience of the ordinary person at so
many points; and it often appears so close to common
sense that there is an inevitable tendency to use the
one in place of the other. This is not to suggest that
the subject can have no place outside of academic institutions.
Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer, two of the most influential
sociologists of the 19th century had little to do with
universities, and Max Weber who came after them did
much of his work outside the university.
the same time, sociology has been a recognized academic
discipline in India for more than 70 years, and there
has been a virtual explosion of the subject in universities
and research institutes since independence. It may be
useful to look at the work being done in these centers
of study and research before enquiring into the relationship
of the subject to the wider intellectual currents in
wish to argue that for all its unresolved, and in some
cases irresolvable differences, sociology is distinct
from common sense. It has a body of concepts, methods
and theories, however loosely held together, for which
common sense of even the most acute and well-informed
kind cannot be a substitute.
one thing, sociological knowledge aims to be general
if not universal, whereas common sense is particular
and localized. Educated, middle class Tamilians like
other educated or uneducated people anywhere, tacitly
assume that their common sense is common sense as such.
An important contribution of sociology has been to show
that common sense is in fact highly variable, subject
to the constraints of time and place as well as other,
more specifically social constraints.
say that sociology in distinct from common sense is
not to suggest that it should seek deliberately to be
arcane or esoteric. N.K. Bose used to say that there
are two kinds of scientists, those who make complex
things simple and those who make simple things complex,
and that his preference was for the former. We must
surely deplore the mystification of the simple through
the display of technical virtuosity; but we must also
recognize that common sense is not always successful,
by its own unaided effort, in making complex things
me make one thing clear: when I say that sociology should
be pushed as a serious intellectual discipline, I do
not mean at all that it should seek to trump common
sense by adopting an inflated style. I am only too conscious
of the fact that sociological writing tends to be cluttered
with the needless use of heavy academic slang.
Thus, sociology has to steer an uneasy course between
two equally unfruitful alternatives; submergence in
the common sense of the scholars own environment, and
absorption into a narrow and self-satisfied technical
virtuosity unconnected with the substance of social
enquiry. I would like to emphasize that nothing will
be gained by abandoning either common sense or the cultivation
of technical skills. Just as common sense is full of
snares and pitfalls for the unwary sociologist, so too
technical virtuosity becomes a distraction when pursued
as an end in itself.
sociology, the situation is often different, with greater
room for ambiguity and disagreement. Students who can
write fluently use their common sense and a superficial
acquaintance with names and opinions to cobble together
reasonably persuasive answers.
who may have struggled with the subject but are handicapped
by poverty of expression produce answers that is weak,
confused and meandering. The examiner is often unsure
whether he is giving credit for a well-written essay
or for a good knowledge of the subject. Exactly the
same problem arise in evaluating scripts for journal
articles or books; many a trivial article gets published
because it is written in good prose, where one with
a more substantial argument, but badly presented, gets
students the use of common sense (and fluency in language)
is most in evidence in papers dealing with India. After
all, every Indian student knows something about caste,
class, joint family and Hinduism, and if he has some
mental agility, he can write a plausible essay on any
of these topics without being too far wrong.
such a student soon finds himself out of his depth when
he has to deal with such topic as kinship in Africa
or religion in Indonesia, or social mobility in France.
Hence, I am ill at ease with the patriotic zeal of those
scholars who seek to confine the teaching of sociology
to materials relating largely to India. No student can
learn how to construct proper sociological arguments
unless he is taught to handle empirical material relating
to every type of society, his own society as well as
the last 40 years there has been a slow but steady displacement
of interest away from the general concepts, methods
and theories of sociology towards an enhanced concentration
of attention on the current problems of society and
politics in India . Thirty years ago, sociologists liked
generally to speak on general topics; like theories
of evolution, types of lineage systems, relations between
status and power, and so on. Now they mostly wish to
hear about reservation, caste politics, communalism
should now disclose the real reason for my anxiety.
It is not only the civil servants, the bank managers
and the engineers who present their common sense as
sociology. Many professional sociologists do the same
although they naturally try to give their common sense
an air of authority by dressing it up in their own kind
has always and everywhere maintained some concern for
current affairs, but that concern does not necessarily
drive out other, more academic interests in topics that
are remote from the obsessions of newspaper editors
and columnists. NK Bose maintained a lifelong interest
in the distribution of material traits. G.S. Ghurye
wrote on dual organizations, on gotra and charana, on
Indian costumes and on ancient cities; Irawati Karve
wrote a book on kinship organisations in India . But
such topics have a marginal place in the many regional
and national seminars and conferences organized by sociologists
today. They have largely been driven out by what are
believed to be more socially relevant subjects.
is no doubt that the preoccupation among Indian sociologists,
regularly expressed at seminars and conferences, is
with the appropriateness of the existing body of sociological
knowledge to the understanding of Indian society and
culture. These discussions are not so much about methods
and techniques of investigations as about the presuppositions
of sociological knowledge and about the nature of understanding
tend to be presented in highly abstract and speculative
terms, and rarely lead to any concrete or workable propositions.
Alternative approaches to the study of Indian society
can hardly produce results unless they are linked to
the disciplined practice of a craft; no new approach
has emerged in science and scholarship from the mere
desire to have a new approach.
at the beginning of the 21st century, it is impossible
to practice sociology as a serious academic discipline
without drawing on the vast reservoir of sociological
concepts, methods and theories created by scholars over
the last hundred years.
has been mainly, though not solely, the work of Western
scholars, and like any accumulated body of knowledge,
it contains much that is mistaken, distorted and obsolete.
Therefore, in the pursuit of this work, practicing sociologists,
whether in the West or in India , have to maintain an
alert and critical attitude. But that is far from saying
that he can set it all aside in the hope that a completely
new framework can be created.
builders of modern sociology, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber
and others, took the whole human society in its diverse
and changing forms as their subject of study, even when
their primary attention was devoted to their own society.
To be sure, their observations on other societies were
limited, one-sided and often misleading. But they believed,
one and all, that the disciplined application of sociological
methods would contribute much to the understanding;
could be deepened and broadened by systematic comparisons
between their societies and other societies. They were
all convinced that common sense was not enough to reach
the understanding they sought, and that they had to
fashion new tools of enquiry and analysis to attain
sociologist who did most to lay bare the illusion of
understanding created by common sense was Emile Durkheim.
He argued tirelessly that the systematic investigation
of a subject was not possible unless the investigator
freed himself from his preconceptions of it. These preconceptions,
shaped by a limited experience, are what generally pass
for common sense in a given society; they are not only
often wrong, but act as impediments to the examination
of the available and relevant facts.
I have tried to stress so far is that sociology is a
disciplined and specialized activity in which the role
of originality should not be exaggerated.
is a craft that needs patience and care, and long apprenticeship.
Its concepts and methods are not things that any intelligent
persons can construct on this own in order to satisfy
a passing intellectual urge. Having drawn attention
to the empirical grounding of the discipline in the
careful observation and description of facts, I would
now like to make a few remarks on two of the fundamental
preoccupations of sociology, its rigorous search for
interconnections among the different domains society
and its systematic use of comparisons.
is not about economic life, or life; it is not about
class, or about caste, or about community; it is not
about the ideal of equality or the practice of inequality.
It is about the interconnections among all these and
other aspects of social life. This constitutes what
some have been pleased to call the functionalist bias
of sociology. While freely admitting to that bias in
my own work, I must point out that it is not in any
way set on the presupposition that the interrelations
in society are harmonious rather than disharmonious,
or stable rather than unstable. It is for this reason
that I speak simply of the search for interconnection
and not of a holistic approach for the latter
incorporates ideas about a total social structure with
which I am out of sympathy. Sociology in the last few
decades has been invaded by a kind of mindless Marxism
for whose adherents the world functionalist has
acted like a red rag to the bull. On the other hand,
it is through a long chain of sociological arguments
that a very fruitful distinction has emerged between
social integration and system integration.
sense is not only localized, being bound by time, place,
class, community, gender, and so on, it is also unreflective
since it does not question its own origins and presuppositions,
or at least does not do so deliberately and methodically.
an intellectual discipline sociology cannot be a creature
of common sense. But that does not mean that it should
turn its back on it. Our sociology is influenced by
common sense which is a part of our social environment.
To what extent is that common sense in its turn influenced
by sociology? Sociology will count for little as an
intellectual discipline if its insulation from common
sense means that it merely reproduces itself and sociologists
write only to each other. Its success will be judged
in the long run by its ability to act upon common sense
and contribute something to its renewal and enrichment.
sense is based on the limited range of experience of
particular persons in particular places and times. Where
it relates to such matters as family, marriage, kinship,
work and worship, people are inclined to believe that
their way of doing things is the right way or the reasonable
way, other ways of acting in these regards striking
them as being not just wrong but contrary to common
is because they observe or experience other ways of
acting and thinking only in bits and pieces, and not
in their entire context. Seeing alien and unfamiliar
practices in their proper context often makes those
practices appear quite sensible. Familiarity with a
wide range of practices occasionally makes ones own
ingrained ways of acting and thinking appear peculiar
if not quixotic.
old Chinese poem says,
I carefully consider the curious habits of gods, I am
compelled to conclude that man is the superior animal.
When I consider the curious habits of man, I confess
. . . I am puzzled.
sociology is a great help in acquiring and maintaining
a sense of proportion. Sociology not only deals with
facts from the entire range of human societies, it seeks
to place those facts on the same plane of observation
educated layman can hardly be expected to master all
the facts with which the sociologist deals. He follows
at best the method of apt illustration. And there is
no consistent rule of procedure for the selection and
arrangement of facts. On the other hand, sociological
practice develops a characteristic style of argument
that does tend to filter through to wider and wider
circles in the course of time over the long run. The
sociological mode of reasoning has had some effect on
thinking about education, about politics, about class,
and about inequality.
sociological reasoning acts upon common sense, it tends
to moderate both the utopian and the fatalistic elements
in it. Sociology is also anti-fatalistic in its orientation.
It does not accept the particular constraints, taken
for granted by common sense as eternal or immutable.
It provides a clearer awareness than common sense of
the range of alternative arrangements that have been
or may be devised for the attainment of broadly the
same ends. No social arrangement, however attractive
in appearance, is without some cost. Social costs and
benefits are far more difficult to weigh and measure
than the purely economic ones. A finely-tuned judgment
is essential for this, and that can be formed only through
the disciplined and methodical examination of the varieties
of actual social arrangements, created, adopted and
replaced by successive generations.
leads to the question of value neutrality or, better,
the distinction between value judgments and judgments
of reality in sociology, as against common sense. There
is now a considerable body of literature, some of it
abstract and technical, on this question, although this
is not to say that all disagreements on it have been
or can be settled among sociologists. By and large there
is agreement among them that questions of fact are distinct
from judgments of value, and the two ought to the differentiated
as clearly as possible by all the technical means available.
The disagreement is about the extent to which the distinction
can be consistently maintained in practice, and about
the best means to be adopted in achieving or approaching