Sociology is the academic study of social behavior, its origins, development, organization, and institutions. It is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about social order, social disorder and social change.
The post-Darwinian natural sciences presented explanations of life on Earth with the theory of evolution and the origin of the species. Finally, it was anticipated that the social sciences would extend this ´enlightenment project´ into explanations of the collective activities and relationships of human beings. In fact, Auguste Comte, who gave the name to sociology, confidently expected that it would provide the highest level of scientific explanation in establishing laws of human society itself.
The ´classical sociologists´ of the nineteenth century were European and mainly from France and Germany but the great expansion of the discipline took place in the USA during the mid-twentieth century. Whereas the contribution from Europe was mainly theoretical, North Americans were determined to exploit its practical potential through investment in empirical research projects connected with the continuing development of their society and its enormous economic potential.
Sociology was first taught in Britain at the beginning of the 20th century but the expansion here took place much more recently and was at first greatly influenced by US sociology. During the 1960s, especially, it became a major social science subject, taught in universities and colleges, and with the development of the sociology ´A´ level during the 1970s it became a major subject in schools too. Now, as well as being an academic subject in its own right, sociology forms part of many other programmes such as business studies, medical training, geography and environmental science and the newer sports and health sciences