Sociological Association of Ireland

In the game of life, we may decide how to play our cards, but it is society that deals us the hand.


(Macionis and Plummer 2005: 9).

What is Sociology?

Sociology is the scientific study of social life. It describes and analyses social behaviour. It seeks to discover how human society has come to be the way it is, and reveal the social forces that shape people’s lives. as forces that influence people and help shape their lives. Society shapes what we do, how we do it, and how we understand what others do. The paths of our lives are not just determined by individual will or even individual effort. Sociologists try to identify the social processes and structures that both enable and constrain individuals to behave in certain ways. While we are all different and while we are independent actors, we are shaped by long-term processes of social change and by social structures such as class, religion, gender, ethnicity and so forth. Society opens some doors and closes others on the basis of our gender, our age, our sexuality, our ethnicity, or our class background.
Sociologists develop theories and concepts to help reveal the structure of social life and they engage in numerous different forms of empirical investigation to test and develop these theories. They are interested in how people communicate and create meaning and understanding, but they are also interested in questions of power and inequality. They use a variety of sources such as historical documents, observations, survey research to help develop reliable information about how society operates.
Sociology is a subject that appeals to those who are ready to go beyond common sense explanations and challenge their assumptions. It asks of us to look at the familiar with fresh eyes, to interrogate accepted understandings of the world and to critically evaluate widely held ideas that might otherwise go unquestioned.
© SAI Administrator 2008-2014