In a few academic retreats there may still be those who disparagingly ask “What is sociology about, anyway?” The question, thus put, is an idle one. Sociology is a field of study. If you want to know what a science is “about” you learn only by studying that science. This book offered to those who are entering on the study of society. It may suffice to state here that sociology is “about” social relationships, the network of relationships we call society. No other science takes that subject for its central concern. As sociologists we are interested then in social relationships not because they are economic or political or religious but because they are at the same time social. If two people meet in the market place, they are not just two “economic men” but two human beings, and they enter into relationships that are not simply economic. The life of man is many- sided. There is an economic aspect, a legal aspect, an aesthetic aspect, a religious aspect, and so forth. but blending Into them all is the social aspect. In all else be does, man relates himself to man. Society is the marvelously intricate and ever-changing pattern of the totality of these relationships. To find and keep the focus of our subject is, then, of first importance. In particular, we should recognize that “in studying” society we are not attempting to study everything that happens “in society” or under social conditions, for that includes all human activity and all human learning. We shall be concerned with culture, but only for the light it throws on social relationships. We shall not, for example, study religion as religion or art as art or invention as invention. Unless we find and keep some focus we lose our way in the welter of phenomena, and this danger is always besetting the student of sociology. The only way to avoid this danger is to keep our interest focused upon social relationships themselves. If we are to deal with social relationships we must discriminate their specific forms, varieties, and patternings. We must observe how they crisscross and how they combine. We must characterize the smaller and the greater systems they build up. We must trace their responsiveness to changing conditions, changing demands or changing needs. It is not enough to be descriptive; we must be analytic as well. If this book goes in more thoroughly for social analysis than do most introductions to sociology it is because we believe such analysis is the first requisite for the intelligent study of society.

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