Specialistic or Formalistic School





Specialistic or Formalistic School:


Simmel’s view:

According to Simmel, the distinction between Sociology and other special sciences is that it deals with the same topics as they from a different angle—from the angle of different modes of social relationships.
Social relationships, such as competition, subordination, division of labour etc. are exemplified in different spheres of social life such as economic, the political and even the religious, moral or artistic but the business of Sociology is to disentangle these forms of social relationships and to study them in abstraction. Thus according to Simmel, Sociology is a specific social science which describes, classifies, analyses and delineates the forms of social relationships.


Small’s view:

According to Small, sociology does not undertake to study all the activities of society. Every science has a delimited scope. The scope of sociology is the study of the general forms of social relationships, behaviours and activities, etc.


Vierkandt’s view:

Similarly, Vierkandt, another leading sociologist maintains that Sociology is a special branch of knowledge concerned with the ultimate forms of mental or psychic relationships which link men to one another in society.
According to him, the actual historical societies, for example, the French society of the eighteenth century, or the Chinese family are of interest to a sociologist only as illustration of particular types of relationships.
He further maintains that similarly in dealing with culture sociology should not concern itself with the actual contents of cultural evolution but it should confine itself to only the discovery of the fundamental forces of change and persistence. It should abstain from a historical study of concrete societies.


Max Weber’s view:

Max Weber also makes out a definite field for Sociology. According to him, the aim of Sociology is to interpret or understand social behaviour. But social behaviour does not cover the whole field of human relations. Indeed not all human inter-actions are social.
For instance, a collision between two cyclists is in itself merely a natural phenomenon, but their efforts to avoid each other or the language they use after the event constitute true social behaviour. Sociology is thus, according to him, concerned with the analysis and classification of types of social relationships.


Von Wiese’s view:

According to Von Wiese, the scope of Sociology is the study of forms of social relationships. He has divided these social relationships into many kinds
Thus, according to the formalistic school, sociology studies one specific aspect of social relationships, i.e., their forms in their abstract nature, and not in any concrete situation. A comparison is drawn between the forms of social relationships and a bottle. A bottle may be either of plastic or any other material.
It may contain milk; water etc. but the contents of the bottle do not change the form of bottle. Similarly, the forms of social relationships do not change with the change in the content of social relationships, for example, the study of competition—a form of social relationship will not make any difference whether we study it in the political field or economic field.
Sociology has been compared with Geometry. Just as Geometry studies about the forms of physical things triangular, rectangular, square or circular etc., similarly Sociology studies about the forms of social relationships.
The relation of Sociology to other social sciences is similar to the relation of Geometry with other natural sciences. The formalistic school has limited the scope of Sociology to the abstract study of the forms of social relationships.
Criticism of formalistic school:


Synthetic School:

The synthetic school wants to make sociology a synthesis of the social sciences or a general science, Durkheim, Hob-house and Sorokin subscribe to this view.
Firstly, as a sociologist, he must pursue his studies in his particular part of the social field. But secondly, bearing in mind the interconnections of social relations he should try to interconnect the results arrived at by the different social sciences and, thirdly, he should interpret social life as a whole.


Sorokin’s view:


According to Sorokin, the subject matter of Sociology includes:
(i) The study of relationship between the different aspects of social phenomena;
(ii) The study of relationship between the social and non-social;
(iii) The study of general features of social phenomena.




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