* Relevance of Social Science?

Social science is an academic discipline concerned with society and the relationships among individuals within a society. It includesanthropology, economics, political science, psychology and sociology. In a wider sense, it may often include some fields in thehumanities[1] such as archaeology, history, law, and linguistics. The term may however be used in the specific context of referring to the original science of society,
Sociology is one of the core disciplines of the social sciences, along with political science, economics and anthropology. So one might imagine that it is a coherent, unified, and comprehensive science with a well-defined subject matter and a clear set of methods. But as most practitioners will agree, this is not the case. And that is a good thing, because the social world is not a unified system that can be reduced to a small number of theoretical premises.

Since its founding (or emergence?) in the nineteenth century, sociology has taken on a somewhat meandering set of topics for study: classification of whole societies, analysis of large social factors (race, crime, urbanization), study of the behavior of groups, provision of tools for social policy design, and study of particular institutions, social movements, globalization, and the organization of businesses. In 2007 the American Sociological Association includes 44 sections devoted to particular topics and methods. The methods of inquiry and the models of explanation are equally varied, including quantitative analysis of large data sets, small-N comparisons, micro-sociological investigation, process-tracing, Marxism, functionalism, structuralism, and feminism.

What does this diversity of topic, method, and theory imply about the discipline of sociology today? Is it a unified discipline, or a patch-work melange of many topics and approaches, unified only by the fact that the subjects of investigation have to do with social processes and social...

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