What is Sociology? - an article out of the estate of Theodor Geiger, published in Trappe P. (1962), Theodor Geiger, Arbeiten zur Soziologie, München: Hermann Luchterhand.
Sociology is difficult to define. Various definitions have been proposed, but they often reflect the particular interests of their authors and do not fully capture the scope of the discipline. Sociology has often been defined as the study of society, but this definition is inadequate because nearly every field that studies human beings and human affairs has some connection to social phenomena. It's important to have at least a rough idea of what sociology encompasses, even if it's not possible to draw a precise and definitive boundary around the discipline. The scope of sociology may change over time and it may overlap with other fields of study. It's not always clear which field is responsible for a particular research finding or concept. The boundaries between disciplines are fluid and it's natural for different fields to influence one another.
Sociologism refers to situations where sociology either oversteps its bounds or is inappropriately applied to other fields. Systematic sociologism involves sociology attempting to take a central position in the overall system of cultural knowledge or in the system of knowledge as a whole. Methodological sociologism occurs when sociological concepts and explanatory principles are applied to other fields, such as attempting to explain the history of art solely in terms of social processes. Epistemological sociologism refers to attempts to apply sociological concepts to fields like logic and the theory of knowledge. These forms of sociologism are misguided because they try to reduce complex phenomena to simplistic sociological explanations.
There have been differences in the development of sociology between European and American approaches. In Europe, sociological research was often influenced by philosophical and intellectual traditions, which sometimes hindered the adoption of empirical research methods. In contrast, American sociologists began to measure and quantify social phenomena in the late 19th century, although their approach was sometimes naive and their methods were not always well thought out. Over time, European sociologists have come to appreciate the value of empirical research and American sociology has become more theoretically and methodologically sophisticated.
Sociology is often considered one of the social sciences, along with disciplines like economics, anthropology, and political science. It's difficult to define the social sciences and to determine the precise relationship between sociology and other social scientific disciplines. Social sciences are concerned with human behavior and social phenomena and they often overlap with one another. The concept of social sciences cannot be justified as a scientific system category. It's still used as a convenient label to group together certain disciplines or branches of those disciplines that contribute to understanding social life in certain ways. These may include anthropology, history, economics, political theory, law, population studies, and sociology. This collection can be referred to as social studies or social science. However, there is no unitary science of society or social sciences as a systematic whole.
Traditionally, social sciences have been divided into general and specific categories, although this distinction is of questionable value. Specific social sciences would be those that deal with specific areas of social life, such as economy, population, state, and law. General social sciences would include philosophical sociology, sociology, and possibly social psychology, as they deal with society in general. However, this general can either be understood as universal (in a synthetic encyclopedic sense) or general in an analytical sense. The latter is relevant to sociology, as its synthetic direction has already been rejected. The examples of specific social sciences mentioned above already show how unproductive this division is. Economics would be specific because it deals with a particular aspect of social activity, the provision of goods, while political theory is specific because it deals with a particular form of social organization, the political. There is no common criterion for specialness.
Onthe other hand, sociology itself is sometimes considered a general science because it deals with social processes in general, and sometimes a specific science because it deals with particular aspects of social life, such as religion or social stratification. In conclusion, the concept of social sciences as a whole is problematic and cannot be usefully applied to the classification of scientific disciplines.