Sociology is broadly defined as the study of human society. Society is vast and complex phenomenon and therefore it is generally debatable that which part of society should be studied by sociology. There is a great degree of difference of opinion regarding the definitions, scope and subject matter of sociology.
According to Durkheim sociology has broadly three principal divisions which he terms as social morphology, social physiology and general sociology. Social morphology covers the geographical settings, the density of population and other preliminary data which is likely to influence the social aspects. Social physiology is concerned with such dynamics processes as religion, morals, law, economic and political aspects, each of which may be the subject matter of a special discipline. General sociology is an attempt to discover the general social laws which may be derived from the specialized social processes. This is considered by Durkheim as the philosophical part of sociology.
Max Weber combines two schools of thought – ie historical and systematic and he adds something more. His analysis with regard to relations between economics and religion enables him to use both historical as well as systematic method. The sociologies of law, economics and religion are the special sociologies which are part of both systematic and historical methods of study.
According to Sorokin, Sociology can be divided into two branches- General Sociology and special sociology. General sociology studies the properties and uniformities common to all social and cultural phenomena in their structural and dynamic aspects. The inter-relationships between the socio-cultural and biological phenomena. In the structural aspect sociology studies various types of groups and institutions as well as their inter-relations to one another. In the dynamic aspect sociology studies various social processes like social contact, interaction, socialization, conflict, domination, subordination etc. Special sociologies study a specific socio-cultural phenomenon which is selected for detailed study. According to Sorokin, some of the most developed sociologies are Sociology of population, rural sociology, sociology of law, sociology of religion, sociology of knowledge, sociology of fine arts and many others.
Ginsberg has listed the problems of sociology under four aspects- social morphology, social control, social processes and social pathology. Social morphology includes investigation of the quantity and quality of population, the study of social structure or the description and classification of the principal types of social groups and institutions. Social control includes the study of law, morals, religion, conventions, fashions and other sustaining and regulating agencies. Social processes refer to the study of various modes of interactions between individuals or groups including cooperation and conflict, social differentiation and integration, development and decay. Social pathology refers to the study of social maladjustments and disturbances.
Raymond Aron has mentioned six schools in sociology. These are historical, formal, society and community, phenomenological, universalistic and general.
Sorokin has referred to the main currents of recent sociological thoughts in the following four branches of sociology-cosmo-sociology, bio-sociology, general sociology and special sociologies.
Sociology of Religion studies the church as a social institution inquiring into its origin, development and forms as well as into changes in its structure and function.
Sociology of Education studies the objectives of the school as a social institution, its curriculum and extracurricular activities and its relationship to the community and its other institutions.
Political sociology studies the social implications of various types of political movements and ideologies and the origin, development and functions of the government and the state.
Sociology of law concerns itself with formalized social control or with the processes whereby members of a group achieve uniformity in their behavior through the rules and regulations imposed upon them by society. It inquires into the factors that bring about the formation of regulatory systems as well as into the reasons for their adequacies and inadequacies as a means of control.
Social psychology seeks to understand human motivation and behavior as they are determined by society and its values. It studies the socialization process of the individual how he becomes a member of society- it also studies the public, crowd, the mob and various other social groupings and movements. Analysis of mass persuasion or propaganda and of public opinion has been one of its major interests.
Social psychiatry deals with the relationships between social and personal disorganization, its general hypothesis being that society through its excessive and conflicting demands upon the individual is to a large extent responsible for personal maladjustments such as various types of mental disorder and antisocial behavior. In its applied aspects it is concerned with remedying this situation.
Social disorganization deals with the problems of maladjustment and malfunctioning, including problems of crime and delinquency, poverty and dependency, population movements, physical and mental disease and vice. Of these sub-divisions crime and delinquency have received perhaps the greatest attention and have developed into the distinct fields of criminology.
Group relations is concerned with studying the problems arising out of the co-existence in a community of diverse racial and ethics groups. New areas and sub-areas of sociology are continuously evolving over the period of time.