Sociology as an Academic Discipline Essay

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Outcome 1 The emergence of sociology as an independent discipline was a response to the massive social, political and economic upheavals heralded by the Industrial Revolution which began in Britain in the early eighteenth century. The discoveries of scientists, most notably Sir Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727) marked not only the beginning of a rapid growth in innovation leading to huge advances in technology, but also marked a paradigm shift in intellectual circles. The shift from religious doctrine and superstition to explain natural and social phenomena, to the more rational and mathematical theories advocated by science were instrumental in changing the way the world was viewed. Thinkers such as Adam Smith (1723-1790) and David Hume (1711-1776), aware of the radical changes in the social structure brought about by the Industrial Revolution and growing urbanisation, became increasingly disturbed by the poverty and squalor of the poor working classes and began to look for solutions to the widening inequalities between the rich and poor, and the “social ills” this created. In Europe, the French Revolution (1789) and its aftermath, were to have a profound impact on the political structures across Europe. Freedom and democracy became the cry of the common man and social upheaval on a massive scale caused thinkers of the time to examine the underlying mechanisms of the increasing social unrest in order to find effective solutions to these problems. Influenced by the works of his teacher Henri Saint-Simon (1760-1825), French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798-1857) was the first to apply the scientific methods of the natural sciences to the study of society. In doing so Comte hoped to find a solution to the malaise of social problems he observed in post revolutionary France. Comte, seeking to improve the society he saw, coined the term “sociology” in 1838, with the aim

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