Modern sociology emerged in the late 19th century in response to the evolution and complexity of social life and the need to understand the social and cultural problems created by the many socio-economic changes. Sociology has developed epistemologically and methodologically in its pursuit to study social systems, relations, and problems. Sociology and social work are among the most important areas of scientific inquiry relevant to human life and activities in contemporary societies. In the context of human society and social institutions, various phenomena and problems emerge. The understanding of these phenomena and the attempts to solve these problems constitute the core interest of sociology. Practitioners in social research and social work can contribute effectively to the scientific understanding of social problems and to the provision of appropriate solutions to these social problems. While sociology is benefiting from various human sciences, the rigorous analysis and comprehensive understanding of these sciences cannot be achieved without the rigor and the theoretical framework offered by sociology.
In the development of modern sociology, two major and complimentary activities have simultaneously existed:
- An epistemological activity interested in social research in order to discover the causes, mechanisms, principles and phenomena of social change and social problems and to establish objective scientific theories to explain social behavior; and this is the subject matter of sociology.
- A practical and professional activity undertaking tangible social services to the society, social institutions and community members based on sociological principles and theories; and this applied activity is the main concern of social work.
However, sociology, it should be noted, should not be understood as the study of ‘social problems’ in the pathological sense. In fact, its areas of interest extend to the study of viable and sound social institutions, phenomena, situations and functions, with the aim of understanding their characteristics, features, factors, variables and components in order to enhance and improve their performance.
There is also a major area in contemporary sociology which studies the various possible future scenarios resulting from the social consequences of economic and/or political policies and actions. The aim of this area of inquiry is to facilitate making appropriate social decisions, or to anticipate potential problems before they occur.