Definition and History of Sociology


In a nutshell, sociology is the scientific study of society. Sociologists use the tools and methods of science to understand how and why humans behave the way they do when they interact together in groups. Though social groups – or societies – are made up of individual people, sociology is the study of the group rather than of the individual. When it comes to understanding how the individual human mind works, sociologists largely leave that up to psychologists.

Most people who call themselves “sociologists” work in universities and colleges, where they teach sociology and conduct sociological research. They ask a variety of questions about society, sometimes wanting answers just for the sake of curiosity; however, many times their findings are used to inform decisions by policymakers, executives, and other individuals. Many people who study sociology go on to conduct sociological research outside of academia, working for government agencies, think tanks, or private corporations. Accurate, systematic study of society is in one way or another useful to just about everyone.

Studying sociology, whether or not you call yourself a “sociologist,” means taking a particular view of the world: a view that sociologist C. Wright Mills called “the sociological imagination.” You have to be willing to set aside your ideas about how the social world should work so that you can see how it actually works. That doesn’t mean that sociologists don’t have personal values and opinions about the social world; they believe that to change the world, you first need to understand it.


Sociology is considered one of the social sciences – along with economics, psychology, anthropology, geography, and political science (among others). The social sciences were born in the 18th and 19th centuries, as people began applying the scientific method to human life and behavior. The world was changing dramatically and quickly as industrial production replaced agriculture, as democratic republics replaced monarchies, and as city life replaced country life. Realizing how many great insights science had lent regarding the natural world, people decided to try to use the same method to understand the social world.

Among the social sciences, sociology has always been unique in its ambition to understand the entire social world – considering all its aspects in combination rather than in isolation. It’s a daunting task, and one that sociologists are still struggling with today.

The most important early sociologists had clear ideas about how to study and understand society; these ideas still form the basis for much sociological investigation and discussion today. Karl Marx emphasized the importance of physical resources and the material world; he believed that conflict over resources is at the heart of social life. Emile Durkheim emphasized cooperation rather than conflict: He was interested in the shared norms and values that make cooperative social life possible. Max Weber took ideas from both Marx and Durkheim and argued that both conflict and cooperation, both material resources and cultural values are essential to social life.

Over the past century, sociologists have continued to debate …

His Most Famous Painting (The Science of Laziness) – Frank Stella

American painter and print maker, Frank Stella (born May 1936) specializes in the art of ‘Post-painterly Abstraction’ and ‘Minimalism.’ He has been a torchbearer of these innovative modern techniques that refuse to follow the conformist art. ‘Post-painterly Abstraction’ refers to a form of painting, which finds its origins in ‘Abstract Expressionism.’ It uniqueness is attributed to its representation of symmetric geometrical patterns, often set in vibrant color combinations, which could be as few as only two color tones. ‘Minimalism’ is an associate movement of ‘Post-painterly Abstraction,’ which is a form of visual art, where the fundamental features of the work are brought to fore. It belongs to the genre of ‘Modernism’ and carries its underlying methodology of ‘reduction.’ In 1984, Stella came up with his revolutionary work “The Science of Laziness (La scienza della pigrizia),” which is currently put up for display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

This large relief, “The Science of Laziness (La scienza della pigrizia),” is created over a canvas base with varied media. It makes the use of oil paint, enamel paint, which has the property of drying into a tough, yet shiny finish, and alkyd paint. Alkyd is a form of modified polyester, having a property of drying up on a glossy surface, but with greater flexibility in surface than in the case of enamel paint. Stella’s creative use of three types of paint was specifically designed to add grades in the appearance of colors and give the piece a truly eclectic appearance. Other media employed are etched magnesium, aluminum, and fiberglass (extremely thin glass in fibrous form, known for its strength and optical properties).

Etching is a process in which the surface of a metal is cut, using acid or mordant, to create engravings or different shapes. The prominent colors that adorn the background of “The Science of Laziness (La scienza della pigrizia)” are red, blue, green, and brown. On the left edge of the piece, a white semicircular disc is pasted with brush strokes of red and green. A conical, fan-like structure, with striation, is pasted towards the upper side of the disc. The left side of the ensemble features three cylindrical structures, radiating from the center, yet randomly placed one over the other. In line with Stella’s fascination with striped patterns, all three cylinders have the vertical bands of varying width. A flat and elongated abstract piece is glued to the top of the assemblage that covers the entire breadth of the work. It is painted in bluish-white paint, adding a masterstroke to the work.

Frank’s association with unorthodox art gave him the opportunity to experiment with his ripe imagination for creating some of the most arresting works such as “The Science of Laziness (La scienza della pigrizia,” being the best example.…