Sociologist and others differ what should be the scope of sociology. August Comte makes us believe that sociology should try to study social phenomena on scientific lines. He has thus laid stress on scientific approach. Emile Durkheim has tried to separate sociology from other social science subjects and also tried to give an independent status to this subject. In his own way Pareto has tried to give it scientific orientation. According to him in sociology there should be no place for inferences. He is sure that there is basic unity among various social phenomena. He is of the view that sociology is much of science and social problems should and can be scientifically studied. Max Weber has however said that sociology should merely be interpretative understanding of social actions and nothing beyond that.
Former or Specialist School of Thought
There are two main schools of thought about the scope of sociology. Formal school of thought believes that scope of sociology should not be generalized but confined to the study of some specific aspects of society. The exponents of this school wish to keep the subject pure and independent. According to them it should deal with social relationships, social activities and processes of socialization.
Max Weber, who is the chief exponent of this school of thought, has said that sociology should deal with interpretations of social behaviors only.
Vier Kandt, , who is another exponent of this school of thought, is of the view that sociology should confine itself to the study of formal and not the actual behavior of the people in the society.
Simmel has given an abstract concept of sociology, in which stress has been laid on social relationship and social inter- actions. For him, every society is the mix of this two. Social relations are nothing but social interactions between two individuals. He has said that society is not collections of individuals but it is essentially a psychic inter-action between the individuals. It is sum total of social relations between the individuals living in it.
According to Simmel sociology should not be made a general science devoted to the study of social relations in general. It should be confined to the study of specific social relations because now these are being studied in the context of social production and social heritage.
Vone Wiese is another exponent of this school of thought. He believes that subject matter of sociology is different from other social sciences. He does not agree with the idea that sociology is combination of social sciences but it is a subject which combines different social science subjects. For him sociology as a special science has more importance than general sociology. It should separate its subject matter from other social sciences.
Synthetic School of Thought
The school of thought believes that sociology should study society as a whole and not confine itself to the study of only limited social problems. Auguste comte believes that the scope of sociology should be considerably widened. According to him the study of one aspect of society can lead to misleading results because all aspects of society, like parts of human body, are inter-linked. Hobb-House and Sorokin also contribute to this view point. They too believe that Sociology should study society as a whole. The supporters of this school of thought agree that in our modern times no social science subject can remain isolated altogether ignoring other subjects of study. The scope of sociology, they argue should be general and not narrow. Durkheim has gone to the extent of saying that “Sociology is science of collective representation.”
Sorokin is the main exponent of this school of thought.
He is not satisfied with the traditional views about sociology and thus wants to give it a new approach. According to him sociology is a systematic science and it has manifold inter-actions. It is concerned with general facts of social life. He is keen to give systematic interpretation of society.