Sociological Issues Denis Lawton
One of the difficulties of talking about sociology is that no one is quite sure what it is. One possible definition of sociology is that it is a study of people in society. But even this apparent simplicity leads to two very different schools of thought, depending on whether you emphasize people or society. The study of 'people in society' emphasizes a view of humanity which predated sociology and was held by English philosophers such as Hobbes in the seventeenth century. They felt that it was essential for individuals to be kept in order by the state, otherwise there would be chaos because individuals are essentially greedy and selfish. For sociologists within this tradition such as Comte and Durkheim the key question was: Why is it that human beings who are essentially greedy and selfish manage to co-operate and live harmoniously in a well-ordered society? This has been the dominant tradition in sociology, including the sociology of education of Durkheim who was much concerned with the breakdown of values after the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution. For Durkheim, the key problem was social order: a major function of education was to inculcate some kind of moral system without which no society could survive.