Is Sociology science?

As far as certain social phenomena are empirically observable it is scientific. For example suicide is a social phenomenon that is empirically observable. We can investigate the causes for the occurrence of suicide. Poverty, depression, etc., are observable and can be quantified. Such reliable data can produce meaningful results that can lead us to understand a social phenomenon. Therefore, scientific methods can be employed in sociology to explain social phenomena in a plausible way.
Though human beings are the constituents of a society, there are certain social phenomena that stand on its own in a society distinctly different from humans and are observable scientifically. A collection of individuals does not make a society, however, if the collection of individuals follow certain common rules in their daily life, then the collection is not merely a collection of individuals but it constitutes group or society that has a collective life. What is that which makes it a collective life? It could be certain social phenomena such as norms, customs, beliefs, etc., that are different from humans and that have been existing over a period of time. They are unique and exist in different societies in different forms and are observable. It is really interesting to study such phenomena to understand why they are similar or different in time and space. It gives us an insight to understand the social evolution.
Scientific methods are employed wherever it is possible in sociology and with that qualification it is scientific, though substantially different from pure science and math.

What is the difference between OSM and NSM in terms of their ideology?

‘The New Social Movements’ is a theory that attempts to explain the nature of social movements that have come up in various western societies roughly since 1960s, that is, in a post industrial economy. The primary difference between the previous social movements of industrial economy and the new social movements of post- industrial economy is the change of focus on their goals. The new social movements focus on issues related to human rights such as gay rights or pacifism instead of issues on economic and political well-being such as labor movement. The new movements emphasize on social change in identity, lifestyle, and culture rather than on pushing for specific changes in public policy.
Some NSM theorists like F. Parkin (Middle Class Radicalism, 1968) argue that the key actors in these new movements are different as they are more likely to come from the ‘new middle classes’. Unlike pressure groups that have a formal organization and ‘members’, NSMs consists of an informal, loosely organized social network of ‘supporters’. It is important to note the distinction between ‘protest groups’ and NSMs. Protest groups tend to focus on single issue and are often local in terms of their scope and effect. In contrast, NSMs focus on larger issues and wish to bring change on national/international level.
The most noticeable feature of NSMs is that they are primarily social and cultural and only secondarily, if any, political. It is clearly elaborated by Habermas that NSMs are the ‘new politics’, which is about quality of life, individual self-realization, and human rights, whereas the ‘old politics’ focus on economic, political, and military security. A typical example is ‘gay liberation’ that focuses on social and cultural realization and acceptance of homosexuality.
NSMs such as ‘environmental movement’ focuses not on materialistic values but on ecology, health, and human rights.


Indebtedness is one of the serious issue leading to farmers suicides. Discuss reasons and suggest solutions ( 20 marks).

This question may appear in GS as well as in Sociology paper I or paper II. When you write answer for GS question, your approach must be general in nature, because the person who evaluates does not expect you to write in technical terms. The evaluator looks for correct reasons and suggested solution for the issue in general.

On the other hand, a social phenomenon is analyzed using mainly the three sociological perspectives namely, Symbolic Interaction (micro), Functionalism (macro), and Conflict Theory (macro).

Symbolic Interaction uses symbols and face to face interactions in everyday life. Symbols are given certain meaning by the actors. Anything can be symbol as long as it is given certain specific meaning by the actors. For example, written music is a symbol, because the dots and lines used by the musicians are not merely dots and lines used in general but musical notes that form part of the music produced. In everyday life, these symbols are ubiquitous and therefore are to be observed and studied by the sociologist in order to analyze a social phenomenon. Max Weber and George H Mead are the two eminent sociologists who used this perspective to analyze social phenomena.

Functionalism is a macro level perspective that studies relationships between the parts of society and how aspects of society are functional and adaptive. Emile Durkheim and Robert K Merton are the two eminent sociologists who used this perspective in their sociological research and contributions. While Emile Durkheim used mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity, Merton used manifest and latent functions to define and understand social phenomena. However, they did not see active social change and maintained status quo because they believed that social order is automatically and naturally maintained through the adjustments of functional parts of society. For example, functionalists believed that after the financial crisis of 2018 people adjusted their budgets according to the economic situation and brought a new social order.

On the other hand, Conflict Theory suggests active social change and social revolution if necessary in order to bring about a new social order. They believe that society is dynamic and ever changing. While symbolic interaction and functionalism focus on positive aspects, conflict theory focuses on negative aspects. They see competition everywhere for the scarce resources and how the elite control the poor and weak.

One can write an answer using any one or more of these three perspectives. One can find reasons and a solution to the social issue.

A symbolic interactionist will look for symbols such as ‘indebtedness’, ‘suicide’, ‘virtue’, ‘sin’, ‘social commitment’, etc. and what meanings are attached to these symbols in order to understand the social issue. While the elite find a way to live even in huge indebtedness, why does a poor farmer end their life in a relatively small indebtedness? The interactionist studies how different meanings are attached to these symbols by people in different societies. Ultimately, it amounts to the different meanings attached to symbols. A poor farmer may attache high value to social commitment and they cannot tolerate the failure of such commitment and find salvation in death.

A typical functionalist will study the different organs and their functions that maintain the social order. The government or state, banks, insurance companies, irrigation department, water management body, weather forecasters, soil conservation department, public policy, etc are all different organs that are interdependent in their functions for agricultural production. If farmers suicides are a recurring social phenomenon, then there is an issue in the functions of these organs. Structural functionalists will study the nature of the social structure in which the social issue continues to occur.

A Conflict theorist will say that the elite control the means of production and therefore the poor do not have enough space for their livelihood.

Now, you have enough sociological perspectives that can be used to answer your question. You should also find research findings on the topic, if any, to substantiate your suggestions. I have given you a general idea of how to go about in answering this type of questions.


What is Mathew Principle in Sociology?

The concept was introduced by eminent Sociologist Robert k Merton who took it from the biblical gospel of Mathew. Hence the name. This concept is applied in Sociology, Research, Economics, Education, Network, psychology, etc.

For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance, but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away
-Mathew 25:29, RSV.

Simply, the rich becomes richer and poor becomes poorer.

In Economics, it mean the accumulated economic capital.

In Research, the most famous tend to get the awards though the work is done by the research students or assistants. Sometimes a great work of an unknown person is attributed to some famous scientist.

In Education, Mathematical and Reading skills accumulated at early age of school going children tend to become more successful than others.

In Network theory, the more initial nodes you have the more connections you tend to get in future.

What is relative deviance in Sociology?

Deviance is relative to time and space. What is right at one point of time need not be right at another point of time. Social change is the factor that influences our behavior and social behavior also brings about social change. If majority of people imitate a deviant behavior, then it becomes an accepted social norm. Topless among lower caste women was once right in Kerala which is no more right now. This is an example of deviance relative to time. During that time, while topless among lower caste women was right, topless among upper caste women was not appreciated. This is an example of deviance relative to space. It is an example of different culture in different castes. The difference can be in different social groups or different societies.

During war, killing enemies is right for a soldier. The same soldier is not expected to kill a person in a civil society. Deviance in space. You can think of many such behaviors within and outside of our society.