Sunday, July 18, 2010

Theory; Meaning, Structure and Functions

            A theory can be simply briefly described as proved opinion. This description we arrive at by inferring from the knowledge-making procedures adopted in both scientific and social scientific research.
            Both in scientific and social science research anything that eventually becomes a theory starts first as an opinion, or conjecture, guess, or revelation, or an idea or dream-induced thought or hearsay. Once chancing upon this, which we all do, some may set out to verify or prove the same in real wider word-natural or social.
            The methods adopted to prove this may determine whether someone is a scientist or a philosopher. Research is all about verifying an opinion. If one adopts set of procedures followed in science, namely experimentation, then such theory is scientific. But if any one sets out to prove the veracity of same possible opinion / guess etc. through a mere reasoning, then such theory becomes logical. Though every scientific theory should be logical, not all logical propositions are scientific.
            The scientific theory adopts the inductive logic to arrive at grand theorizations. Inductive logic is a process of inferring something general from the instances that are particular.
            Generally, a theory is also a well-defined and logically coherent set of concepts. Thus a theory cannot have vague words, thought it can have abstractions which may be called concepts. It is however important to remember that every theory is also a grand abstraction. The logically coherent concepts constitute a good theory. The concepts are nothing but shortcuts to a long statement denoting a process, an event, an experience or a happening, a trait, feeling, etc.
            The important characteristic of a concept is its ability to nearly communicate the same meaning to the members of a research community in particular and possibly to a wider society in general. For example the concept of gravity, force, weight, mass, etc. tend to unambiguously convey the same meaning to any physicist. Similarly when we say society, community, literacy, personality, consumer, market, it is understood in more or less the same way by every social scientists. Therefore concepts are not one individual’s personal product. Even concepts need to be validated and refined through a process of rigorous peer evaluation and criticism.

The Uses and Functions of Theories

Explanation: Theory made up of by concepts, have several use in the scientific research community. Primarily a theory is an explanatory tool. A theory helps us to explain social or natural phenomena in no uncertain terms. These explanations aspire to be universal both in time and space. We all attempt to explain things happening around us. But when such explanations are offered scientifically through process of rigourous experimentation and peer validation, then they became theories.

Prediction: Theories since they are time-neutral in the sense that they apply to events that happened in the past, happen in the present and likely to happen in the future, they become a means of prediction. With the help of a theory a natural event such as rain, storm or solar eclipse or soil conditions etc. can be predicted. In the social word too development planners are often guided by social economic theories to anticipate the positive or negative effects of a social or economic process.

Source of Research: Theories become the inspiration for new research agendas to either confirm or refute the theories. Although theories themselves are products of previous research programmes, a theory may also became the source of further research, in different era or different geographical areas. For example Durkheim’s theory of suicide has inspired many research studies along the same line by many sociologists subsequently.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Sociology: Science or Art?

The debate as to whether sociology is a science or art is old as sociology itself. This debate is still raging, though in recent years the claim that it is art is gaining upper hand.
            This is partly due to two impart reasons. One, sociology as a discipline has become more self-confident enough to move away from the shadow of science. Les us dwell on this point a bit more. In the early days of its inception, sociology grew in the shadow of grand success of science. For a fledging subject like sociology, the only way to gain wider acceptance and patronage was to model itself after natural sciences. It was quite natural to do so then. The age of reason and empiricism demanded a discipline that could become amenable to scientific reasoning. So, sociology willingly yielded to such a demand. But, all this has changed in the last few decades. Now sociology has gathered enough strength and practical wisdom to realize the limitation of its self-image as a scientific discipline.
            The second reason is the strong criticism that science as a whole has received for its allegedly anti-human, anti-nature and anti-woman essence. The debates emanating from sociology of science and philosophy of science on the one hand and serious criticisms leveled against modernity itself (of which science is both a cause and effect) on the other hand, have unmasked the essentially exploitative, repressive and violent nature of science.
            With many critics listing out the criminal track record of the abetting and aiding g role of science in causing undue violence, from atomic explosion, to gas chamber during holocaust, to global warming, science has lost its neutral stance and holy image. But the debate is far from settled.
There are still those who aspire to model sociology in the image of science and advocated the idea of transplanting the methods adopted in natural sciences onto social sciences. They are called positivists since they believed that just as natural world presents itself positively to the scientists for explanation and exploitation, the social too world presents itself positively to sociologists for study. There are others who claim that sociology can at best be an art form, aspiring only to interpret the world in manifold ways (in other words interpretivists as they are known). It looks like the interpretivists have come to occupy pride of place in the recent years. It would be interesting to see their claims and counter claims.

Inductive Vs. Deductive Logic/Method
            The positivists strongly argued in favour of deploying inductive method in social sciences (sociology included). Inductive method refers to a process of using selectively chosen particulars to arrive at grand generalization or universalisation. For example to conclude that all crows are black in colour in the world, they will study selected crows in different part of the word and conclude that all crows are black. Or to conclude that water boils at 100 Degree Celsius, they will test samples of water in different places and time and apply conclusions to all the waters in the world. This is the most accepted method in science which unfolds in the form of observation – experiment – inference – application process.
            When applying the same procedures in sociology (or social sciences), it would mean that they would study same select phenomenon and the conclusions arrived at, when everything being uniform, would be generalized for all phenomena of the same nature.
            This is intensely opposed by interpretivists, who claim that social reality is not the same as natural reality, wherein the essential nature of objects do not vary from one place to another (for example H2 + O will always produce water on any part of the planet). But in the social universe any two self-conscious individuals will not always produce the same social formations or pattern of social relationships. Hence if any generalization can be made, it can occur only from the observed generalization to specific particulars. For example, the observation that joint family system tends breakdown in industrial society can be anticipated for specific families in industrial societies though it may became true in all situations. This way of moving from general to particular is called deductive logic. This deductive logic can at best only enable the sociologists to only understand why certain things happen in a particular way in society, but not help him / her to offer conclusive decisive universalistic explanations.
            Thus sociologists should use more deductive processes for understanding, as is followed in philosophy to which sociology is closer than it is to science.

Facts Vs Meanings
            One of the strong contentions of positivists is that social reality, as natural world, can be broken down to units of facts. The facticity of social reality is established by claiming that social reality exists outside of, in spite of and irrespective of individuals living in it.
            This understanding is derived from the scientists’ view of the natural word, wherein things such matter, gas, liquid, etc. exist external to the individuals perceiving them. To make this clearer, let us illustrate: The stone or tree, or a cell in a body and all these natural world objects have existed even before humans began to exist in the world. Therefore the existence of these objects does not demand the presence of humans in the world. If anything, it is due to the existence of these that human existence itself is possible / dependent. This is fine.
            But can the same be said about social reality? Interpretivists differ. The social reality such as family, caste, education, class, classrooms etc. though may seem external to individuals, they themselves cannot exist on their own, without the members reproducing that reality through their acts of living out the rules and regulations.
            For example a classroom as a reality is not the outcome of merely blackboard, benches and chairs being placed in a room. It is rather thanks to the consensual agreement by the individuals occupying that place to confer a meaning of classroom upon that place. In other words, it is the intentionality of individuals that make it a classroom. If the same set of individuals decide to give a different meaning to the place (say the meaning of bed room), then the same classroom may became a place for sleeping and resting. In a similar vein, if those individuals have decided to accord a meaning of classroom to a place then any place even the place under tree can become a classroom. Thus, outside the individuals minds, a social reality has no or weak existence.
            Thus, the best a sociologist can do to study, say education, is not to study buildings and benches, but the intentions and meanings of education residing in the minds of the individuals whose interaction affirms and reproduces education as an institutions.
            Curiously, these meanings cannot be grasped scientifically. Only a person with artistic sensibilities can comprehend meanings existing in the deep recesses of human minds and relations.
            In sum, instead of treating social reality as a sum of well-knit facts, it is demanded by interpretivists to regard social reality as the outcome of interplay of meanings intended by social actors.

Particular / Cotextual Vs Universal
            The luxury that a natural scientist can afford is the unhazardous conviction that phenomena in the material or natural world do not have context specific behaviour. Given certain standard conditions all natural events occur in the same way across time and space. For example given certain uniform conditions the water will always boil at 100o Celsius. The atomic structure, the components of a plant cell will remain the same, wherever one studies them.
            But such luxury is not available for sociologists, for they know very well that in social universe, events occur in a particular fashion contingent upon a variety of factors and intentions brought in by contexts and social actors respectively. For example in an MA classroom in GRI one cannot expect same set of social events in the year 2010, and the next year 2011, though in both years there may be same number of students, with same gender break-up, with same age, same syllabus, etc. Thus the conclusions arrived at by the teachers about the behavioural responses, interactional patterns, cannot be simply applied for the subsequent batches of students, though certain statistical details such as age, height, weight, etc. may be the same.
            Though it is possible to anticipate certain trends and tendencies, social science cannot afford to universalize the conclusions of one situation on to different periods or for different societies. The understandings American sociologists have about families in USA, cannot be generalized on to families in India. The appreciation of these differences required artistic bent of mind, rather than scientific rigour.

Pluralism Vs Singularism
            The foundational notions of science cannot bear to be divergent. For example the guiding vision of universe and the notion of space, the understanding about atomic structure, the principles governing digital technologies etc have to be unified in such a way that they became the bedrock upon which other inventions can be made. The scientific community agrees fundamentally on the foundational principles. They are what Thomas Kuhn calls paradigms that determine and guide the contours of scientific research. The singular vision is held true across every country and every era, until perhaps displaced by another paradigm in scientific community. We cannot imagine a time in which two parallel paradigms reigns supreme in science.
            But in the case of social sciences, it is pluralism of paradigms that is the order. There are as many foundational notions about, say, society, social actors, nation, social structure, etc., as there are theorists. What is very interesting is that these vision can co-exist simultaneously, guiding social research in manifold ways. At any given point in time, there may be diametrically opposite visions of society, which may find its followers, institutional patronage and global votaries.

What is even more intriguing is that while in natural sciences a prevailing scientific paradigm will be displaced by another new paradigm, the vanguished paradigm cannot ever hope to come back to regain its lost preeminence. For example the Copernicus vision of universe was displaced by Newtonian notion, which itself was subsequently replaced by Einstein’s vision. No member in scientific community can ever hope to see the return of Copernican vision.

But in social science it may be the case that some vision of society may lose their prominence at some time only to become popular again. For example, the functionalist model of society, that was prominent in the first part of its may remerge as neo-functionalism later in history. This is what has prompted Tom Bottomore to declare, quite metaphorically that, the scientific theories die a natural death, whereas social theories only slip into coma only to be revived later. This diversity of paradigms and waxing and waning of visions give courage for interpretivists to reiterate the artistic character of social sciences, since only in art many different genres and perspectives can co-exist. This coexistence is even celebrated because it is accepted that they are merely different interpretation of the same phenomenon.

Uniformity and multiplicity of texts
            Following from above, it is notable that because of singular paradigmatic influence, the scientific community follows single text book. The agreement on the ideas in the text book is the precondition for further research. As Nisbet argues, the inspiration and meaning one can draw from a science text book cannot be many. In other words, the reader of a scientific text book cannot bring his/her personal experience and history to bear upon the ideas of such text book and alter the meanings.
            Whatever may be mood states, or cultural experiences, the understanding of the ideas found in science text books will not differ from the readings of another scientist occupying different continent, mood state and society. But in the case of social science the plurality of paradigms offer plurality of text books each vying with each other to offer different interpretations. Even more curiously, the same text book may give different meaning to different readers, and even for the same reader at different times. This is exactly what happens when one engages with a work of art, such as fiction, film, painting or music. This similarity between work and art and social science texts reaffirm the artistic character of sociology. Even classics such as Durkheim’s Suicide may offer different inspiration at different times, gives scope for divergent interpretations, something not possible when one reads ‘Principia Mathematica’ of Newton.

Transitory nature of truth
            In conclusion to this discussion, let me talk about the impossibility of science within science. To put in more easily, if science is born of the desire to find truth, and if science claims to have captured the truth that all can see and experience, then the history of science belies that claim, as different eras of history of science foregrounds different truths about universe etc. These different truths can at best claim themselves to be only interpretations, since the truths are true only until further notice by another paradigm. If truths can be valid only for a particular period of time, then that truth can only be interpretations. It may be the case that the longevity of the interpretations may be longer in the case of science and shorter in the case of social sciences. But it does not that diminish or enhance their status as interpretations.

How sociology is science?
1-Sociology also uses scientific method- Sociology many scientific methods like experimental method, historical methods, comparative method and structural functional methods. With the help of all methods sociology studies abstract as well as concrete facts.
2-Impartial observation of phenomenon-Due to various available scientific methods, sociologist does Impartial observation of phenomenon. For sake of objectivity he takes help of questionnaire, schedule and case study. On the basis of these one can find reality of human behavior.
3- Classification and interpretation of data-The study of sociological research is not limited only to collect data . one has to interpret the data and than classify them according to common features, so that one can do comparative study .For example take the case of divorce. by making few groups we can classify and conclude the real causes of it.
4- Description of "What is" in sociology- there is no place of individual view in social research. For example we don't raise questions like "juvenile delinquency or suicides should committed" ?Sociologist just search what are causes of suicides?
5-Relatioship between cause and consequence-Every social phenomenon has reasons /causes ,why it occurs? Same way consequences are equally important. There is always relation between two .For example we to find out what are causes of corruption ? how corruption is influence to entire society?
6-Generalization- It is the assumption that what is true of a some cases is true in general. On the basis of Generalization, sociological rules are framed. These rules has capacity to predict the future things. For is common rule that 'there is lower status of women in society' .Due to this family disorganization can be predicted.
To see above points one can say sociology has all the qualities called to be science.
Objections Against Scientific nature of Sociology-the following are objection against its nature.
1-Social phenomenon are abstract in nature, therefore scientific observation is not possible in it.
2- Social phenomenons are so complicated and changeable that the conclusion of particular phenomenon can not be applicable to all.
3-it is very difficult to conduct impartial study. In science there is no attachment with oxygen or hydrogen, but when he conduct on human being he feels prejudice and such feelings includes in study.
4- Social phenomenon's can not be measured like phenomenon of natural sciences.
5- Social phenomenon can not be tested in labortry.
6-Pridiction is not possible in Social phenomenon.
The above objections are not acceptable by social scientists. The complicated nature of Social phenomenon can be find out by our thorough knowledge of subject. As far as abstract nature is concerned, even subject matter of natural sciences are abstract .We can not see oxygen ,only we can feel it. If measurement is base of science than even shoe maker makes shoes as per measurement. As far as experiment in lab is concerned, Newton did not conduct his research of gravitation in lab. Even prediction done by natural sciences are not always true. Therefore nature of sociology is also scientific. Robert Biersteadt have solved the problem by giving some statements.
Robert Biersteadt has in his book, 'The Social Order' ,mentioned the following features of nature of sociology;
1-Sociology is social not a natural science.
2- Sociology is categorical or positive and not a normative science.
3- Sociology is pure or theoretical science and not an Applied science.
4- Sociology is an abstract science and not a concrete one.
5- Sociology is a generalizing and not particularizing science.
6- Sociology is both a rational and an empirical science. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010


To understand the emergence of sociology in Europe we need to appreciate the relationship between society and ideas. There is always a connection between the social conditions of a period and the ideas, which arise and are dominant in that period.
To give you an example, let us remind you of the National Movement in our country. When India was under the British Raj, she had to suffer all the ills of colonialism. Indians were economically exploited, politically bonded, socially humiliated, culturally bereft. At the same time, the Indian middleclass emerged as a product of the economic policies of colonialism. They had also been exposed to the liberal and radical European social thought. They were therefore disturbed by the exploitation of colonialism and started writing, campaigning and building up a movement to free India. Culture, theatre, songs, literature were pervaded by the spirit of freedom. Premchand’s novel Karma Bhumi, which was serialized on television in the 1980s, depicts the changes of that time. You can thus see that ideas are normally rooted in their social context. It is in this context that we need to see the emergence of sociology as a discipline. Let us begin with a discussion of the Enlightenment period.

1.2.1 The Enlightenment Period
The roots of the ideas developed by the early sociologists are grounded in the social conditions that prevailed in Europe. The emergence of sociology as a scientific discipline can be traced to that period of European history, which saw such tremendous social, political and economic changes as embodied in the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. This period of change in European society is known as the Enlightenment Period as it embodies the spirit of new awakening in the French philosophers of the eighteenth century.
The Enlightenment Period marked a radical change from the traditional thinking of feudal Europe. It introduced the new way of thinking and looking at reality. Individuals started questioning each and every aspect of life and nothing was considered sacrosanct - from the church to the state to the authority of the monarch and so on.
The roots of the ideas, such as the belief that both nature and society can be studied scientifically, that human beings are essentially rational and that a society built on rational principles will make human beings realize their infinite potentials, can be traced in the development of science and commerce in Europe. The new outlook developed as a result of the Commercial Revolution and the Scientific Revolution and crystalised during the French and the Industrial Revolutions gave birth to sociology as a discipline.
To understand the social changes that were taking place in European society, we will first look at the kind of society that existed in traditional Europe, i.e. prior to the Enlightenment period.
1.2.2 Structure and Change in European Society
Old Europe was traditional. Land was central to its economic system. There were owners of land, the feudal lords and the peasants who worked on the lands. The classes were distinct and clearly demarcated. Religion formed the corner stone of society. The religious heads decided what was moral, what was not. Family and kinship were central to the lives of the people. Monarchy was firmly rooted in society. The king was believed to be divinely ordained to rule over his people.
The New Europe ushered in by the two Revolutions, the French and the industrial, challenged each and every central feature of old Europe. Classes were recognised. Old classes were overthrown. New classes arose. Religion was questioned. Religion lost its important position. Family loyalties gave way to ideological commitments. The position of women changed. And finally monarchy was overthrown. Democracy was heralded in.
The central concepts of society, namely, religion, community, power, wealth, etc. were all taking on new bearings and new implications.
The contrast between present and past seemed stark. For the aristocrat, threatened with the loss of life and property the present was terrifying. For the peasant, the present was intoxicating as it offered new opportunities and powers.
Thus, you can see that everybody was affected. Since the significance of the changes that were taking place in Europe cannot be overestimated, it is better that you study about them in greater detail in the next section.
Sociology emerged as a distinct science in nineteenth century Europe. Europe then was passing through a period of immense changes which had set in with the French and the Industrial Revolutions. Indeed, sociology can be considered above all a science of the new industrial society.
But before we go on to describe the salient points of the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution we will explain to you the Commercial Revolution and the Scientific Revolution which took place in Europe between the fourteenth century and the eighteenth century. It was during these two Revolutions in Europe, covered by what is popularly known as the “Renaissance” period, when there took place a revival of art, literature, music, sculpture, science and so on. Rise of a New Class
As hinted at earlier in this section, one of the most distinctive characteristics of this period was the rise of the middle class to economic power.  By the end of the 17th century, the middle class had become an influential group in nearly every western European country. It included merchants, bankers, ship-owners and investors. Their power, at this stage, was mainly economic. But later in the unit, we shall see how they became politically powerful in the 19th century. “Europeanisation” of the world
By this term, we mean the transplanting of European manners and culture in other societies. The activities of traders, missionaries and conquerors saw the Europeanisation of the Americas. Later, with the strengthening of colonialism, this process took root in Asia and Africa as well.
1.3.2 The Scientific Revolution and the Renaissance Period
In this section, we shall examine the changes and developments that took place in a very significant area of human activity - science. Europe produced a “scientific revolution” in the Renaissance period of fourteenth to sixteenth century A.D. The impact of the scientific revolution was crucial not just in changing material life, but also people’s ideas about Nature and Society.
To begin with, let us clarify what we mean by the “history of science”, which is what we will be describing in this section. The history of science does not mean a list of dates and events to be memorized. It is a story of the interconnection between science and society, polity, economy and culture. Social Functions of Sciences
Science does not develop independent of society, rather, it develops in response to human needs e.g. various vaccines were not developed just out of the blue, but out of the necessity to cure diseases.
Apart from influencing the physical or material life of society, science is intimately connected with ideas. The general intellectual atmosphere existing in society influences the development of science. Similarly, new developments in science can change the attitudes and beliefs in other areas as well. It is important to keep this fact in mind. We shall constantly be demonstrating how new scientific ideas influenced scholars to think about society in new ways. The emergence of sociology in Europe owes a great deal to the ideas and discoveries contributed by science. Science in the Medieval Period
As we have described in the earlier section, medieval society was characterised by the feudal system. The Church was the epicenter of power authority and learning. Learning was mostly of the religious variety. Nothing could challenge the ‘dogmas’ or rigid beliefs of the Church. New, daring ideas could not flower in such an atmosphere. Thus the development of science was restricted mainly to improvements in techniques of production. The Renaissance period
The ‘Renaissance’ period saw the beginning of the ‘Scientific Revolution’. It marked an area of description and criticism in the field of science. It was a clear break from the past, a challenge to old authority. Let us briefly observe some of the major developments in art and science of this period.

Visual art

Art, literature and science all flourished. A scientific approach to Nature and the human body became prevalent. We can see this in the paintings of that period, which explored the smallest details of Nature and the human body.


Dissection the human body became acceptable. Doctors and physiologists directly observed how the human body was constructed. The fields of anatomy, physiology and pathology thus benefited greatly.


A general theory of chemistry was developed. Chemical processes like oxidation, reduction, distillation, amalgamation etc. were studied.
Navigation and astronomy
Vasco da Gama reached the Indian shores in 1498. Columbus discovered America in 1492. Remember, this was the era of expansion of trade and the beginnings of colonialism. A strong interest in astronomy, important for successful navigation also grew. The Copernican Revolution

The first major break from the entire system of ancient thought came with the work of the Dutchman, Nicholas Copernicus.
It was generally believed that the earth was fixed or stationary and the sun and other heavenly bodies moved around it. (This is known as a ‘geocentric’ theory.)
Copernicus however thought otherwise. With the help of detailed explanations, he demonstrated that the earth moved around a fixed sun. (This is a ‘heliocentric’ theory.)  The work of Copernicus is considered revolutionary because it drastically altered patterns of thought about the universe. Human being was not at the center of the universe, but a small part of a vast system.
In a nutshell, science in the Renaissance period was marked by a new attitude towards man and nature. Natural objects became the subject of close observation and experiment.
The Copernican revolution shattered the very foundations on which the old world rested.
Let us now outline some major scientific developments of the post-Renaissance era.

1.3.3 Important Post-Renaissance Developments
Here we describe the developments in different fields that led to new methods and perspectives in scientific research. Experimental Method in Physics and Mathematics
The work of physicists and mathematicians like Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) and subsequently, Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) revolutionised science. It brought to the forefront the experimental method. Old ideas were challenged and alternatives were suggested. If these alternative ideas could be proved and repeatedly verified and checked out, they were accepted. If not, new solutions were sought.
Scientific methods thus came to be regarded as the most accurate, the most objective. You will later see how the use of the ‘scientific method’ to study society was recommended by pioneer sociologists. Biology and Evolution
As has been mentioned earlier, dissection of the human body helped people gain a better understanding of its working: Circulation of blood was discovered by William Harvey (1578-1657). This led to a lot of rethinking. The human organism came to be viewed in terms of interrelated parts and interconnected systems. This had its impact on social thought of Comte, Spencer, Durkheim, to name a few.
Let us now come to one of the most interesting contributions in biology, which created a furor in the society of that time. The British naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882) published the Origin of Species in 1859. It was based on the observations made whilst traveling for five years all over the world. Darwin put forward the theory that various living organisms compete for the limited resources the earth has to offer. Thus “survival of the fittest” is the natural law. Some species evolve or develop certain traits, which make their survival possible, other species die out.

Darwin studied ‘human evolution’, tracing it in his work, Descent of Man (1863). He traced the origins of the human species to some ape-like ancestors, which, over the centuries, evolved into modern human beings. This book created an uproar. It was believed that ‘God’ made humans “in his own image” and conservatives were not willing to accept that they were descended from the monkey.
Darwin’s evolutionary theory did, however, gain wide acceptance. It was applied to the social world by ‘evolutionary’ thinkers, notably Herbert Spencer. Not just organisms, but societies were seen as constantly ‘evolving’ or developing from a lower to a higher stage.
The forces of change set in by the Commercial Revolution and the Scientific Revolution would have now become clear to you by now. We will next describe the salient aspects of the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, which have together provided the social conditions which led to the emergence of sociology as a discipline. Since these two revolutions are of considerable significance let us discuss them in the next two sections

The French Revolution, which erupted in 1789 marked a turning point in the history of human struggle for freedom and equality. It put an end to the age of feudalism and ushered in a new order of society. An outline of this revolution will explain to you the kind of turmoil that occurred in Europe. This revolution brought about far reaching changes in not only French society but in societies throughout Europe. Even countries in other continents such as, India, were influenced by the ideas generated during this revolution. Ideas like liberty, fraternity and equality, which now form a part of the preamble to the Constitution of India, owe their origin to the French Revolution. Let us first examine some of the major aspects of this revolution.

1.4.1 The Basic Picture of the French society: Division into Feudal Estates
The French society was divided into feudal ‘estates’. The structure of the feudal French society comprised the ‘Three Estates’. Estates are defined as a system of stratification found in feudal European societies whereby one section or estate is distinguished from the other in terms of status, privileges and restrictions accorded to that estate.
a)The First Estate consisted of the clergy, which was stratified into higher clergy, such as the cardinal, the archbishops, the bishops and the abbots. They lived a life of luxury and gave very little attention to religion. In fact, some of them preferred the life of politics to religion. They spent much of their time in wasteful activities like drinking, gambling, etc. In comparison to the higher clergy, the lower parish priests were over worked and poverty-stricken.
b)The Second Estate consisted of the nobility. There were two kinds of nobles, the nobles of the sword and the nobles of the robe.
The nobles of the sword were big landlords. They were the protectors of the people in principle but in reality they led a life of a parasite, living off the hard work of the peasants. They led the life of pomp and show and were nothing more than ‘high born wastrels’; that is, they spent extravagantly and did not work themselves. They can be compared to the erstwhile zamindars in India.
The nobles of the robe were nobles not by birth by title. They were the magistrates and judges. Among these nobles, some were very progressive and liberal as they had moved in their positions from common citizens who belonged to the third estate.

c)The Third Estate comprised the rest of the society and included the peasants, the merchants, the artisans, and others. There was a vast difference between the condition of the peasants and that of the clergy and the nobility. The peasants worked day and night but were overloaded with so many taxes that they lived a hand to mouth existence. They produced the food on which the whole society depended. Yet they could barely survive due to failure of any kind of protection from the government. The King, in order to maintain the good will of the other two estates, the clergy and the nobility, continued to exploit the poor. The poor peasants had no power against him. While the clergy and the nobility kept on pampering and flattering the King.
As compared to the peasants, the condition of the middle classes, also known as the bourgeoisie comparising the merchants, bankers, lawyers, manufacturers, etc. was much better. These classes too belonged to the third estate. But the poverty of the state, which led to a price rise during 1720-1789, instead of adversely affecting them, helped them. They derived profit from this rise and the fact that French trade had improved enormously also helped the commercial classes to a great extent. Thus, this class was rich and secure. But it had no social prestige as compared with the high prestige of the members of the first and the second estates.
In spite of controlling trade, industries, banking etc. the bourgeoisie had no power to influence the court or administration. The other two estates looked them down upon and the King paid very little attention to them. Thus, gaining political power became a necessity for them.
The clergy and the nobility both constituted only two per cent of the population but they owned about 35 per cent of the land. The peasants who formed 80 per cent of the population owned only 30 per cent of the land. The first two estates paid almost no taxes to the government. The peasantry, on the other hand, was burdened with taxes of various kinds. It paid taxes to the Church, the feudal lord, taxed in the form of income tax, poll tax, and land tax to the state. Thus, you can see how much burdened and poverty stricken the peasants had become at this time. They were virtually carrying the burden of the first two estates on their shoulders. On top of it all the prices had generally risen by about 65 per cent during the period, 1720-1789.
1.4.2 The Political Aspects of the French society
Like in all absolute monarchies, the theory of the Divine Right of King was followed in France too. For about 200 years the Kings of the Bourbon dynasty ruled France. Under the rule of the King, the ordinary people had no personal rights. They only served the King and his nobles in various capacities. The King’s word was law and no trials were required to arrest a person on the King’s orders. Laws too were different in different regions giving rise to confusion and arbitrariness. There was no distinction between the income of the state and the income of the King.

1.4.3 The Economic Aspects of the French society
The kings of France, from Louis XIV onwards, fought costly wars, which ruined the country, and when Louis XIV died in 1715, France had become bankrupt. Louis XV instead of recovering from this ruin kept on borrowing money from bankers. His famous sentence, “After me the deluge” describes the kind of financial crisis that France was facing. Louis XVI, a very weak and ineffective king, inherited the ruin of a bankrupt government. His wife, Queen Marie Antoinette, known for her expensive habits, is famous for her reply, which she gave to the poor, hungry people of France who came to her asking for bread. She told the people that, ‘if you don’t have bread, eat cake’.
Now let us examine the intellectual developments in France, which proved to be the igniting force in bringing about the revolution.

1.4.4 Intellectual Developments in France
France, like some other European countries during the eighteenth century, had entered the age of reason and rationalism. Some of the major philosophers, whose ideas influenced the French people, were rationalists who believed that all true things could be proved by reason. Some of these thinkers were, Montesquieu (1689-1755), Locke (1632-1704), Voltaire (1694-1778), and Rousseau (1712-1778).
Montesquieu in his book, The Spirit of the Law, held that there should not be concentration of authority, such as executive, legislative, and juridical, at one place. He believed in the theory of the separation of powers and the liberty of the individual.
Locke, an Englishman, advocated that every individual has certain rights, which cannot be taken by any authority. These rights were (i) right to live,
(ii) right to property, and (iii) the right to personal freedom. He also believed that any ruler who took away these rights from his people should be removed from the seat of power and replaced by another ruler who is able to protect these rights.
Voltaire, a French philosopher, advocated religious toleration and freedom of speech. He also stood for the rights of individuals, for freedom of speech and expression.
Rousseau wrote in his book, The Social Contract, that the people of a country have the right to choose their sovereign. He believed that people can develop their personalities best only under a government which is of their own choice.
The major ideas of these and several other intellectuals struck the imagination of the French people. Also some of them who had served in the French army, which was sent to assist the Americans in their War of Independence from British imperialism, came back with the ideas of equality of individuals and their right to choose their own government. The French middle class was deeply affected by these ideas of liberty and equality.
So far you have leant about the basic picture of the French society just before the Revolution. Now we will describe some of the major of the major events that took place during the Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution began around 1760 A.D. in England. It brought about great changes in the social and economic life of the people first in England, then in the other countries of Europe and later in other continents. In Europe, especially England, the discovery of new territories, explorations, growth of trade and commerce and the consequent growth of towns brought about an increase in demand for goods. Earlier goods (i.e. consumer items like cloth, etc.) were produced at domestic levels. This means that there existed a domestic system of production. With increased demand, goods were to be produced on a large-scale.

1.5.1 New Invention

During Industrial Revolution, new tools and techniques were invented, which could produce goods on a large-scale. During 1760-1830 A.D., a series of inventions in tools and techniques and organization of production took place and it gave rise to the factory system of production. Thus, a change in economy from feudal to capitalist system of production developed. Subsequently, there emerged a class of capitalists, which controlled the new system of production. Due to this revolution society moved from the old age of hand-made goods to the new age of machine-made goods. This shift heralded the emergence of Industrial Revolution.
One of the significant mechanical inventions, which led to a quicker and better method of production in various industries, was the Spinning Jenny, invented in 1767 by James Hargreaves, an English weaver. It was a simple machine rectangular in shape. It had a series of spindles, which cold be turned by a single wheel. In 1769, Arkwright, an English barber, invented another tool, which was named after the name of its inventor and called Arkwright’s Water Fame. This Water Frame was so large that it could not be kept in one’s home and a special building was required to set it up. Thus on account of this it is said that he was responsible for introducing the factory system. Another invention called “the Mule” was by Samuel Crompton in 1779 in England. There were several other inventions, which all contributed to the industrial growth of European society.
1.5.2 Impact of the Industrial Revolution on Society
With the change in the economy of society several social changes followed. As capitalism became more and more complex, the developments of banks, insurance companies, and finance corporations took place. New class of industrial workers, managers, capitalists emerged.
The peasants in the new industrial society found themselves with thousands of other people like themselves, winding cotton in a textile mill. Instead of the famous countryside they found themselves in unhygienic living conditions. With the increase in production, population started increasing. Rise of population led to the increased rate of urbanisation. The industrial cities grew rapidly. In the industrial cities socio-economic disparities were very wide. The factory workers were involved in repetitive and boring work, the result of which they could not enjoy. In Marxist terms the worker became alienated from the product of his/ her labour. City life in the industrial society became an altogether a different way of life.

These changes moved both conservative and radical thinkers. The conservatives feared that such conditions would lead to chaos and disorder. The radicals like Engels felt that the factory workers would initiate social transformation.

Though the judgement of values differed, social thinkers of the time were agreed upon the epoch-making impact of the Industrial Revolution. They also agreed upon the importance of the new working class. The history of the period from 1811 to 1850 further indicates that this class increasingly agitated for their rights.

1.5.3 Significant Themes of the Industrial Revolution
The significant themes of the Industrial Revolution, which concerned the early sociologists, were as given below.
i)The condition of labour: A new population earning their livelihood by working in the factories arose. In the early years this working class lived in poverty and squalor. They were socially deprived. At the same time they were indispensable in the new industrial system. This made them a powerful social force. Sociologists recognised that the poverty of this class of workers is not natural poverty but social poverty.  Thus the working class became during the nineteenth century the subject of both moral and analytical concern.
ii)The transformation of property: The traditional emphasis on land lost its value while money or capital became important during the Industrial Revolution. The investment in new industrial system came to be recognised. The feudal landlords became less significant while the new capitalists gained power. Many of these new capitalists were the erstwhile landlords.
Property was one of the central issues that were raised in the French Revolution too. Its influence on the social order is considerable. Property is related to economic privileges, social status and political power. A change in the property system involves a change in the fundamental character of society. Sociologists have grappled with the question of property and its impact on social stratification since the days of Marx, Tocqueville, Taine and Weber.
iii)The industrial city, i.e. urbanism: Urbanisation was a necessary corollary of the Industrial Revolution. Industries grew and along with it grew great cluster of populations, the modern towns and cities. Cities were present in ancient period too, such as Rome, Athens, etc. but the new cities, such as Manchester in England, famous for its textile, were different in nature. Ancient cities were known as repositories of civilised graces and virtues while the new cities were known as repositories of misery and inhumanity. It was these aspects of the new cities, which concerned the early sociologists.
iv)Technology and the factory system: Technology and the factory system has been the subject of countless writings in the nineteenth century. Both the conservative and radical thinkers realised that the two systems would alter human life for all times to come.
The impact of technology and factory system led to large-scale migration of people to the cities. Women and children joined the work force in the factories. (See Figure 1.2: Shift from Domestic to Factory Work). Family relations changed. The siren of the factory seemed to rule peoples’ life. The machine rather than man seemed to dominate work. As mentioned earlier the relation between the labourers and the products of their labour changed. They worked for their wages. The product was the child of everybody and of the machine in particular. The owner of the factory owned it. Life and work became depersonalised.

Sociology emerged as a response to the forces of change, which took place during eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Europe. The ideas, which are discussed again and again in early sociological writings, are thus essentially ideas of that period.
The thinkers of the Enlightenment of eighteenth century affected much of the early sociology. The Enlightenment appears as the most appropriate point of departure in the study of the origins of sociological theory, for various reasons including those mentioned below.
Firstly, a scientific approach to the study of society dates back to the tradition of Enlightenment. The eighteenth century thinkers began more consistently than any of their predecessors to study the human conditions in a scientific way using the methods of the natural sciences. They consciously applied scientific principles of analysis to the study of human beings and their nature and society.
Secondly, the eighteenth century thinkers upheld reason as a measure to judge social institutions and their suitability for human nature. Human beings, according to them, are essentially rational and this rationality can lead them to freedom of thought and action.
Thirdly, the eighteenth century thinkers believed that human beings are capable of attaining perfection. By criticising and changing social institutions they can create for themselves even greater degrees of freedom, which, in turn would enable them increasingly to actualise the potentially creative powers.
Sociological thinkers are concerned with the above three assumptions. Apart from them, three other intellectual influences current in the post-Enlightenment period influenced the emergence of sociology in Europe. They can be identified as
i)     the philosophy of history ii) the biological theories of evolution; and
iii) the surveys of social conditions.
These three intellectual influences are the precursors of sociology and are reflected the writings of the early sociologists.
1.6.1 The Philosophy of History
In the early part of the nineteenth century the philosophy of history became an important intellectual influence. The basic assumption of this philosophy was that society must have progressed through a series of steps from a simple to complex stage. We may briefly assess the contributions of the philosophy of history to sociology as having been, on the philosophical side, the notions of development and progress. On the scientific side, it has given the concepts of historical periods and social types. The social thinkers who developed the philosophy of history such as Abbe Saint Pierre, and Giambattista, were concerned with the whole of society and not merely the political, or the economic, or the cultural aspects (Bottomore 1962: 14-15). Later the contributions of Comte, Spencer, Marx and many others reflected the impact of the loss of this intellectual trend in their sociological writings.
1.6.2 The Biological Theories of Evolution
The influence of the philosophy of history was further reinforced by the biological theory of evolution. Sociology moved towards an evolutionary approach, seeking to identify and account for the principal stages in social evolution. It tended to be modeled on biology, as is evident from the widely diffused conception of society as an organism, and from the attempts to formulate general terms of social evolution. Herbert Spencer and Durkheim are good example of this kind of writing.
1.6.2 Surveys of Social Conditions
Social survey forms an important element in modern sociology. It emerged due to two reasons, one was the growing conviction that the methods of the natural sciences should and could be extended to the study of human affairs; that human phenomenon could be classified and measured. The other was the concern with poverty (‘the social problem’), following the recognition that poverty was not natural but social. The social survey is one of the principal methods of sociological inquiry. The basic assumption, which underlines this method, is that through the knowledge of the social conditions one can arrive at solutions to solve the social problems prevalent in society.

1.8 KEY WORDS                                                                                                                             
Capitalist             In an industrial system of production, the class of owners of the means of production (such as, the capital i.e. the money, the property, the tools, etc.) is called the capitalists.
Democracy          A form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people collectively. It is a state of society characterised by recognition of equality of rights and privileges, social and legal equally.
Enlightenment     It refers to that period in European history, which embodies the spirit of the French philosophers of the eighteenth century. During this period a belief developed that both nature and society can be studied scientifically. Human reason and the ideas of progress developed.
Estate                  The system of stratification followed in medieval European society of around 17th-18th century, in which society was divided into different social groups having a different set of laws and social status for each
Feudal                  A system of tenure in agricultural areas whereby a vassal or serf served the landlord to whom the land belonged. In return the landlord allowed the serf to till his land and live on his land
Liberal                 A person who is broad minded and not bound by authority or traditional orthodoxy i.e. old fashioned beliefs