Factors that Influenced the Emergence of Sociology




Factors that influenced the emergence of Sociology:

1. Commercial Revolution: This revolution refers to a series of events between 1450 CE and 1800 CE. These events signaled a change from the largely subsistence and stagnant economy of Medieval Europe, to a more dynamic and worldwide system. The commercial revolution refers to the expansion of trade and commerce to large scale production, which resulted in the consolidation of the economic and political power of European countries. The shift from land routes to sea routes began. European markets were flooded with new commodities, spices, and textiles from the East. Expansion of Banking Services took place and it was an important feature of the commercial revolution. Paper currency was introduced. This revolutionary change also promoted the rise of the middle classes to economic power, which became very influential. All these changes have resulted in changing social relationships in society. The nature and forms of such changes have become the subject-matter of Sociology.

2. Industrial Revolution: The Industrial Revolution that took place in the 18th century in England, brought about great changes in the social and economic life of the people. First in England, then in other countries of Europe, and later on other continents. The industrial revolution was not a single event. There were many interrelated developments that affected the social setting. During the Industrial Revolution, new tools and techniques were discovered, which could produce goods on a large-scale. During 1760-1830, a series of inventions of tools and techniques, and organisation of production took place. This gave rise to the factory system of production. Thus, a change in the economy from feudal to the capitalist system of production.
A class of capitalists emerged, which controlled the industrial system. Due to this revolution, society moved from age-old handmade goods to the ‘new age’ machine-made goods. The Industrial Revolution affected society to a great extent.

The closure of the guild system, introduction of the factory system, division of labour, and migration from rural to the urban, class system, labour organisation, economic inequality, and the democratic pattern were the outcomes of the industrial revolution.
Large numbers of people migrated to urban areas in order to work in factories. Large industrial bureaucracies arose to provide services to industries and to the emerging capitalist economic system. In this economy, the ideal was a free marketplace where many products of the industrial system could be exchanged.

The industrial revolution, capitalism, and the reaction against them led to an Industrial Revolution enormous upheaval in Western society, which affected sociologists immensely. Auguste Comte, Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx, Max Weber, George Simmel were preoccupied with these changes and the problems they created for society as a whole. The significant themes of this revolution which concerned the early sociologists were:
a ) The conditions of workers
b ) The transformation of property of Urbanisation

3. The French (Political) Revolution: The long series of political revolutions started by the French Revolution in 1789 were the immediate factors in the emergence of Sociology. Most writers during this period were disturbed by the disorder and chaos in society, particularly in French society. They came together to restore order to society. Many of them sought to find a new basis of order in society which was affected by political revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries. Their interest in ‘social order’ was one of the major concerns of ‘classical Sociology,’ especially Auguste Comte and Emile Durkheim. The French Revolution which occurred 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 introduced a new order to society. This revolution brought about far-reaching changes not only in French society but all over Europe. Other countries like India were also influenced by ideas generated during the revolution. Ideas like liberty, fraternity, and equality, which now form a part of the preamble to the Constitution of India, had their origin in the French Revolution.

4. Scientific Revolution: Europe produced a ‘Scientific Revolution’ in the Renaissance period. There was an increased emphasis on science in society as a whole. The technological advancement influenced every sector of life. Science, in general, was acquiring very high prestige and those who were associated with science were considered successful and were honoured.
The impact of the scientific revolution was crucial not just in changing material life, but also on ideas about nature and society. The emergence of Sociology in Europe is owed majorly to the ideas and discoveries contributed by science. Sociologists from the very beginning were preoccupied with science and many wanted to design Sociology on the lines of natural sciences like Physics and Biology. The Enlightenment period saw the beginning of the scientific revolution. Science was considered in the social context and looked at as a tool for satisfying the needs of humanity. New scientific discoveries helped in the eradication of blind beliefs. This period has made a significant contribution to shaping a scientific attitude in Sociology. 

5. Urbanization: Partly as a result of the industrial revolution, large numbers of people were uprooted from rural areas and they migrated to urban settings. This massive shift was caused because of jobs created by the new industrial set up in urban areas. However, this migration and expansion of cities resulted in endless problems such as overcrowding, pollution, traffic, lack of health care, growth of slums, etc.

The nature of urban life and its problems attracted the attention of many early sociologists, especially Max Weber and George Simmel. The first major school of American Sociology, ‘The Chicago School’ assigned its emergence to the problems created by urbanization.


The Guild System: The Guild system refers to a particular type of productive system which was at its peak in the 13th century in Europe.

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