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Faculty of Applied Social Sciences

ABXS1103

Introduction to Social Sciences

Copyright Open University Malaysia (OUM)

ABXS1103
INTRODUCTION TO
SOCIAL SCIENCES
Dr Zahid Emby
Dr Sarjit Singh

Copyright Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Project Directors:

Prof Dato Dr Mansor Fadzil


Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Yusof Ahmad
Open University Malaysia

Module Writers:

Dr Zahid Emby
Dr Sarjit Singh
Universiti Putra Malaysia

Moderated by:

Prof Dr Mohamed Yusoff Ismail


Open University Malaysia

Translated by:

Munirah Mohd Yusof


Open University Malaysia

Developed by:

Centre for Instructional Design and Technology


Open University Malaysia

First Edition, October 2009


Second Edition, December 2011
Third Edition, December 2012 (rs)
Copyright Open University Malaysia (OUM), December 2012, ABXS1103
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any means without
the written permission of the President, Open University Malaysia (OUM).

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Table of Contents
Course Guide

ixxiii

Topic 1

What is Social Science?


1.1 Diversity of Fields
1.2 The Meaning and Nature of Knowledge
1.3 Obtaining Knowledge
1.4 Sources of Knowledge
1.5 Basis of Social Science
1.5.1 The Philosophy of Social Science
1.5.2 Main Characteristics of Social Science
1.5.3 Bases for the Development of Scientific Method
Summary
Key Terms
References

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2
3
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Topic 2

The Origin of Social Science in the West


2.1 The Origin of Social Science in the West
2.1.1 The Middle Ages, The Medieval Period (4761453 AD)
2.1.2 The Renaissance Period (14501650)
2.1.3 The Age of Enlightenment (16501800)
Summary
Key Terms
References

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Topic 3

Classical Social Thinking


3.1 19th Century Classical Social Issues
3.1.1 Economy
3.1.2 Politics
3.1.3 Family and Kinship
3.1.4 Values and Beliefs
3.1.5 Religion (The Church)
3.2 The Flow of Classical Social Thought
3.2.1 Romanticism
3.2.2 Positivism
3.2.3 Historical Materialism
Summary
Key Terms
Reference

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Topic 4

Contemporary Social Science Thinking in the West


4.1 The Traits and Traditions of Social Science Today
4.2 Modern Social Science Scholars in the West
4.2.1 Functionalist Thinkers
4.2.2 Conflict Perspective Scholars
4.2.3 Interactionist Perspective Scholars
Summary
Key Terms
References

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Topic 5

Islamic Social Science Thinking


5.1 Forms of Thinking in Islamic Social Science
5.2 History of Islamic Social Science Thinking
5.2.1 The Classic Era
5.2.2 The Middle Era
5.2.3 The Modern Era
Summary
Key Terms
References

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Topic 6

The Focus in Social Science Studies


6.1 Social Life and the Connection Between Man and Society
6.2 Welfare of Man and Society
6.3 Social Ethics and the Philosophy of Humanity
Summary
Key Terms
References

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Topic 7

Basic Concepts in Social Science


7.1 Social Institutions
7.2 Social Structures
7.3 Social Organisations
7.4 Culture
7.4.1 Cultural Integration
7.4.2 Cultural Variation
7.5 Social Values
7.5.1 Specific Values
7.5.2 General Values
7.5.3 A Conflict of Values
7.6 Social Interaction
Summary
Key Terms
References

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Topic 8

Methodology of Social Science


8.1 The Philosophy of Social Science Research
8.1.1 Meaning of Scientific Research
8.2 Research Methods and Data Collection in Social Science
8.2.1 Procedures of Social Science Research
8.2.2 Approaches to Social Science Research
8.3 Qualitative Approach
8.3.1 The Ethnographic Method
8.3.2 Issues when Conducting Fieldwork
8.3.3 Case Study
8.4 Quantitative Approach
8.4.1 Experimental Methods
Summary
Key Terms
References

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Topic 9

Disciplines of Social Sciences


9.1 Main Disciplines in Social Science
9.2 Similarities and Differences Between the Disciplines
9.3 Methods and Aims of the Disciplines
Summary
Key Terms
References

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Topic 10

The Development of Social Science in Malaysia


10.1 Early History of Social Science in Malaysia
10.1.1 The Development of Social Science in Malaysia
10.2 The Contribution of Local Scholars in the
Dissemination and Development of Social Science
10.2.1 The Role, Orientation and Contribution of
Local Social Science Scholars
10.3 The Relevence of Social Science in the Context of
Nation State Development
Summary
Key Terms
References

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vi TABLE OF CONTENTS

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COURSE GUIDE

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COURSE GUIDE DESCRIPTION


You must read this Course Guide carefully from the beginning to the end. It tells
you briefly what the course is about and how you can work your way through
the course material. It also suggests the amount of time you are likely to spend in
order to complete the course successfully. Please keep on referring to the Course
Guide as you go through the course material as it will help you to clarify
important study components or points that you might miss or overlook.

INTRODUCTION
ABXS1103 Introduction to Social Sciences is one of the courses offered by Faculty
of Applied Social Sciences at Open University Malaysia (OUM). This course is
worth 3 credit hours and should be covered over 8 to 15 weeks.

COURSE AUDIENCE
This course is offered to all students taking Bachelor programmes at the Faculty of
Applied Social Sciences. This module introduces students to the traits of social
science, its prominent figures, development in the West and how social sciences
became a systematic and scientific field of knowledge. The main fields in social
science and how they interconnect will also be discussed. Students will also be
exposed to the relevance of social science in forming a social life which
implements-noble values and ethics.
As an open and distance learner, you should be able to learn independently and
optimise the learning modes and environment available to you. Before you begin
this course, please ensure that you have the right course material, and
understand the course requirements, as well as how the course is conducted.

STUDY SCHEDULE
It is a standard OUM practice that learners accumulate 40 study hours for every
credit hour. As such, for a three-credit hour course, you are expected to spend
120 study hours. Table 1 gives an estimation of how the 120 study hours could be
accumulated.

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x COURSE GUIDE

Table 1: Estimation of Time Accumulation of Study Hours


Study Activities

Study
Hours

Briefly go through the course content and participate in initial


discussions

Study the module

60

Attend 3 to 5 tutorial sessions

10

Online participation

12

Revision

15

Assignment(s), Test(s) and Examination(s)

20

TOTAL STUDY HOURS

120

LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this course, you should be able to:
1.

Explain the philosophy of social science and the origins of thought in the
field of social science;

2.

Explain the development of social sciences from the 18th century to the
present;

3.

Explain on the various disciplines in social science and how they are
related; and

4.

Discuss the relevant of social sciences in contemporary and global


problems.

COURSE SYNOPSIS
This course is divided into 10 topics. The synopsis for each topic is presented
below:
Topic 1 begins the discussion on knowledge and its sources, obtaining
information normally and scientifically as well as the nature of social knowledge.
Topic 2 discusses the history of rational thinking in the west and the level of
social thought in the west from the middle ages to the age of enlightenment.

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xi

Topic 3 describes classical social issues of the 19th century: romanticism,


positivisme and historical materialism.
Topic 4 discusses the nature and tradition of social science in the West today as
well as modern opinions of Western prominent figures.
Topic 5 identifies Islamic social science scholars and the forms of Islamic social
science.
Topic 6 covers subject matter of social sciences: social life, the relationship
between man and society, the well-being of man and society, as well as describe
social ethics and the philosophy of humanity.
Topic 7 identifies basic concepts of social science in a social institution, social
organisation, social structure, culture and social values, and social interaction.
Topic 8 identifies the educational philosophy of social science, describe methods
of research and data collection in this field, the qualitative and quantitative
approaches and describes techniques of data analysis in social science.
Topic 9 describes the disciplines in social science and their similarities and
differences, methods and aims as well as discusses the main disciplines of social
science such as history, political science, economy, anthroplogy, sociology,
psychology, linguistics, geography and communications.
Topic 10 discusses the history and development of social sciences development
in Malaysia.

TEXT ARRANGEMENT GUIDE


Before you go through this module, it is important that you note the text
arrangement. Understanding the text arrangement will help you to organise your
study of this course in a more objective and effective way. Generally, the text
arrangement for each topic is as follows:
Learning Outcomes: This section refers to what you should achieve after you
have completely covered a topic. As you go through each topic, you should
frequently refer to these learning outcomes. By doing this, you can continuously
gauge your understanding of the topic.
Self-Check: This component of the module is inserted at strategic locations
throughout the module. It may be inserted after one sub-section or a few subCopyright Open University Malaysia (OUM)

xii COURSE GUIDE

sections. It usually comes in the form of a question. When you come across this
component, try to reflect on what you have already learnt thus far. By attempting
to answer the question, you should be able to gauge how well you have
understood the sub-section(s). Most of the time, the answers to the questions can
be found directly from the module itself.
Activity: Like Self-Check, the Activity component is also placed at various
locations or junctures throughout the module. This component may require you
to solve questions, explore short case studies, or conduct an observation or
research. It may even require you to evaluate a given scenario. When you come
across an Activity, you should try to reflect on what you have gathered from the
module and apply it to real situations. You should, at the same time, engage
yourself in higher order thinking where you might be required to analyse,
synthesise and evaluate instead of only having to recall and define.
Summary: You will find this component at the end of each topic. This component
helps you to recap the whole topic. By going through the summary, you should
be able to gauge your knowledge retention level. Should you find points in the
summary that you do not fully understand, it would be a good idea for you to
revisit the details in the module.
Key Terms: This component can be found at the end of each topic. You should go
through this component to remind yourself of important terms or jargon used
throughout the module. Should you find terms here that you are not able to
explain, you should look for the terms in the module.
References: The References section is where a list of relevant and useful
textbooks, journals, articles, electronic contents or sources can be found. The list
can appear in a few locations such as in the Course Guide (at the References
section), at the end of every topic or at the back of the module. You are
encouraged to read or refer to the suggested sources to obtain the additional
information needed and to enhance your overall understanding of the course.

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE
There are no specific pre-requisits for this course.

ASSESSMENT METHOD
Please refer to myINSPIRE.

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xiii

REFERENCES
Babbie, E. (2001). The practice of social research. Belmont: Wadsworth.
Hunt, E. F., & Colander, D. C. (1996). Social science: An introduction to the study
of society. Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon.
Sekolah Pembangunan Sosial Universiti Utara Malaysia. (1998). (School of Social
Development UUM). Pengenalan kepada sains sosial. Kuala Lumpur: Utusan
Publications.

TAN SRI DR ABDULLAH SANUSI (TSDAS) DIGITAL


LIBRARY
The TSDAS Digital Library has a wide range of print and online resources for the
use of its learners. This comprehensive digital library, which is accessible
through the OUM portal, provides access to more than 30 online databases
comprising e-journals, e-theses, e-books and more. Examples of databases
available are EBSCOhost, ProQuest, SpringerLink, Books24x7, InfoSci Books,
Emerald Management Plus and Ebrary Electronic Books. As an OUM learner,
you are encouraged to make full use of the resources available through this
library.

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xiv COURSE GUIDE

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Topic

What is Social
Science?

LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1.

Explain the diversity of fields;

2.

Define what is knowledge;

3.

Describe how knowledge is scientifically obtained and accumulated;

4.

Explain the source of knowledge; and

5.

Discuss the basis of social science and its characteristics.

INTRODUCTION
The term social science according to A New Dictionary of Sociology (Mitchell,
1979) is generally used to refer to any form of study relating to man and society.
Usually, the term stresses on the use of scientific methods in observing the
complex and complicated relationships between human beings. This means that
all observations on the relationship between humanity and society must be
conducted in a scientific manner, based on well-established methods.
In Britain, social science was originally associated with social work which
included academic courses aimed at training social workers. This, however, gave
a narrow picture on the actual scope of social science. Meanwhile, in the United
States, the term social science was used in a wider context, by including fields
such as economics, psychology and sociology.

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TOPIC 1

WHAT IS SOCIAL SCIENCE?

ACTIVITY 1.1
We have read the definition of social science in the introduction. Now,
in your own words, explain the meaning of social science.

1.1

DIVERSITY OF FIELDS

At one time, academic disciplines such as economics (the study of how people
use their limited resources in an attempt to satisfy unlimited wants), politics (the
practice or profession of conducting political affairs) and history (usually in the
form of chronological record of events often including an explanation of or
commentary on those events) were considered as separate entities but not
anymore. Nowadays, they are viewed as complementing one another. In fact,
disciplines that study the relationship between human beings and any complex
organisation involving man and society have been put under the category of
social sciences which include fields that previously were divided into the arts
and humanities.
The development of social science became more sophisticated when new
branches were introduced in addition to the conventional ones, such as history,
politics and economics. For instance, at the end of the 19th and 20th centuries, the
field of social science saw the emergence of other more specific fields such as
anthropology (the science that deals with the origins, physical and cultural
development, biological characteristics, and social customs and beliefs of
humankind), sociology (the study of human social behaviour, especially the
study of the origins, organisation, institutions and development of human
society) and psychology (the science that deals with mental processes and
behaviour).
No matter what arguments are presented on the variety of social science
disciplines, many would agree with these three issues. First of all, the main focus
of social science is in relation to human beings in the framework of their social
lives, i.e. as social beings and members of society. Secondly, social science studies
the social institutions and organisations that define the actions of human beings
as members of society. That means, as a member of society, mans actions are not
as free as he would like them to be. Instead, such actions are controlled and
limited by various rules set by society through social institutions and
organisations.

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WHAT IS SOCIAL SCIENCE?

The above view was summarised by Hunt and Colander (2005) who state that
social science is the scientific study of social, cultural, psychological, economic
and political forces that guide individuals in their actions. What these two
writers stress upon is the essence of social science in observing the actions of
human beings as members of society, acting in a group or individually.
Thirdly, such observations have what is said to be a scientific method, which
must be accurate and systematic. According to Hunt and Colander (2005),
scientific knowledge is knowledge which has been systematically gathered and
categorised according to scholarly methods.
From these explanations, it is obvious that there are various branches or schools
of thought in social science. Even though all of them use human beings as their
object of study, each branch emphasises different issues. For instance, in
economics, human beings are generally looked at in the context of their spending
power in the market. Whereas in geography, men are viewed in the context of
space and environment. Political scientists study people from the perspective of
power and decision-making.
Nevertheless, the main focus of all social science disciplines is still human beings
and society. What differentiate these many disciplines are the different
perspectives and approaches they adopt. These varying perspectives make each
discipline unique with its own characteristics.

1.2

THE MEANING AND NATURE OF


KNOWLEDGE

What is knowledge?
Knowledge is the wealth of information in a particular society obtained
through experience, observation and also credible sources such as cultural
and historical accounts.

Generally, human beings have a natural inclination to study something


extensively and in detail. They conduct observations for long and continuous
periods of time until the information gathered becomes a rich source of
knowledge that can then be used as guidelines for making decisions, evaluate
events that are happening and forecasting events that will occur in the future.
The important question is whether or not social science can be deemed a form of
science. There are varying opinions on this issue. Those who believe strongly in
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TOPIC 1

WHAT IS SOCIAL SCIENCE?

pure science, which is based on the principle of positivism, are of the opinion that
it is not so, as the methods of proving in social science are not as rigid and strict
compared to those conducted in a laboratory.
However, there are those who advocate that social science is no less impressive,
with equally strict and controlled methods. The only difference is that its
laboratory is the society itself, while living human beings are its object of study.
Since we are dealing with living people who are clever at making responses, the
process of control, particularly experiments involving human beings, can be
challenging. Hence, the measure of control and perfection will not be the same as
experimenting with laboratory mice.
Even if there may be differences between social science and pure science, the
view that social science is less important than pure science is incorrect. Just like
pure science, social science is also a discipline which relies on two main points
i.e. logic and observation. Hence, knowledge in social science is also based on
knowledge, meaning that it must make sense as well as be backed by findings
based on observations.
One of Europes earliest thinkers was Aristotle (384-322 BC) (see Figure 1.1). It
was he who introduced the propositions relating to methods of studying the
nature of things. He introduced the inductive and deductive methods. To explain
these methods, we can take regular human action as an example. This regular
pattern is the basis of our inductive understanding and assumption, whereby we
are sure that the pattern will occur continuously in ordinary situations. We can
then make predictions based on this understanding. On the other hand, actions
that are based on past knowledge are known as deductive, where we are able to
make assumptions or guess an issue based on existing information or knowledge.

Figure 1.1: Aristotle

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TOPIC 1

WHAT IS SOCIAL SCIENCE?

Aristotles method is also used to study human beings and their actions in
society. Human actions also have regular patterns which are normal responses
which happen according to a situation, such as guessing that something will
definitely occur. We can then relate the event according to causality rules and
causal relations.
Human Beings as Social Animals
Man can be said to be social animals due to several characteristics
which separate them from other creatures. Human beings are blessed
with a mind which enables them to think rationally, not just about
ordinary things but also those which are symbolic and abstract.
Secondly, all of mans actions are determined by various social rules
and cultural norms. As social beings, they do not have absolute
freedom to do as they wish because each action is controlled by social
rules and prohibitions known as values and norms.
On the other hand, in the animal kingdom, the principle of life is the
survival of the fittest. Animals act according to the laws of the jungle.
Here only the strongest beasts will get the best habitat, food and mating
partners.

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WHAT IS SOCIAL SCIENCE?

This is different in a human society. Even though there is some measure of


freedom, it is not absolute but relative in nature. Human beings are always
tied to social and cultural rules set by society. Any form of dissent will
result in social sanctions.
As social beings, men live in groups or clans. It is this trait that becomes the
basis for the formation of a society. Social intercourses among group
members are decided by social and cultural rules, i.e. social values and
norms which determine our actions when interacting with other members of
the same society. For instance, what role should we assume when faced with
someone who is old enough to be our father? What type of language should
we use when speaking to someone who is of a higher status and rank?
How to act in these siuations is something that needs to be learned from a
young age. Each society has various social institutions and organisations
which are aimed at instilling such values and norms, from parents, family
members, peers, schools or institutions of higher learning, working
organisations and even motivational camps and military-styled camps. This
process is known as socialisation. It aims to mould someone into a social
being who is able to understand and carry out his responsibilities in a society.

Knowledge is:
(a)

A valuable collection about human beings, their cultures, ways of thinking


as well as understanding of social and natural environments

(b)

An accumulation of human experiences, handed down through centuries


and recorded in various forms including writings, folk tales, fairytales,
myths, symbols and artefacts

This trove of knowledge is the result of lengthy and repeated observations to the point
that it can no longer be questioned and in fact becomes a credible source of reference.
Social science covers an extremely wide range of knowledge accumulated by human
beings. Hence, categorisation of such knowledge should be done according to the
various disciplines or fields and interpreted in a systematic manner.

SELF-CHECK 1.1
From your understanding, define what is information gathering and
human knowledge.
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TOPIC 1

1.3

WHAT IS SOCIAL SCIENCE?

OBTAINING KNOWLEDGE

The knowledge gathered usually takes a long time to be considered solid and
credible. The gathering of information and knowledge relating to human beings
is a natural process as human beings have the mental capacity to reason.
Reasoning means the following:
(a)

The ability to look at something in a logical context using the mind;

(b)

The ability to reason differentiates man from animals, even though some
animals are also able to think and reason at a limited level; and

(c)

The ability to reason is also what drives man towards achieving progress.

We all know of mans ability to use reasoning in order to facilitate their life.
Various man-made inventions and creations were intended to make their daily life
easier, from how to produce food, build homes, move from place to place and
communicate amongst themselves. Besides these, human beings use their
creativity to express their feelings and emotions, as well as to appreciate all things
artistic, aesthetic and symbolic. Thus, among the accumulated treasures of human
civilization are a wealth of artwork in the form of literature, sculptures and statues,
carvings, buildings and other structures considered to be amazing masterpieces.
The process of producing knowledge involves two important stages as shown in
Table 1.1.
Table 1.1: The Process of Producing Knowledge
(a) Understanding

When man first comes face to face with an event or phenomenon,


the first thing he would do is to try to understand the phenomenon
as well as what caused it. Man will also look at whether the
phenomena occurred naturally or are the result of prior events.
His opinion or perception towards the new phenomenon will
surely be influenced by preconceptions. If the phenomenon had
occurred before, then it would not require new responses.
However, if this is a new phenomenon then man will take steps
to face it, whether by referring to past experiences or thinking
up new approaches. Another important point is whether the
phenomenon is logical or not from their point of view.

(b) Predicting

Human beings are also capable of making predictions. Using


past experiences, human beings attempt to guess what may
happen next as a continuation from a particular phenomenon.
This prediction must also be logical or make sense.

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TOPIC 1

1.4

WHAT IS SOCIAL SCIENCE?

SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGE

There are three sources of knowledge. The sources are listed in Table 1.2.
Table 1.2: Source of Knowledge
(a) Authoritative
or Credible
Sources

These include leaders or elders of groups with more detailed


knowledge compared to others. Most of us gain knowledge
from those who know more than we do, such as teachers,
religious leaders, parents and social leaders. Authority also
refers to certain parties who have rights to limited information
and control its spread. This group is said to have privileges in
controlling societys development. They could control others by
manipulating the knowledge for specific purposes.

(b) Tradition

This involves age-old practices. Tradition is not limited to mere


actions but also includes rules, taboos and old wives tales.
Tradition is set down orally, as well as in myths and legends.
These forms have their own special traits which make them
feared and obeyed.

(c) Observations
Based on
Common
Sense

Common sense is simple thought, which is the result of


observation on changes in nature and phenomena which happen
around us. What we experience becomes a form of knowledge
that stays within us that is then sometimes spread to others thus
becoming general knowledge.

ACTIVITY 1.2
Discuss the sources of knowledge in depth.

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TOPIC 1

1.5

WHAT IS SOCIAL SCIENCE?

BASIS OF SOCIAL SCIENCE

As a scholarly field, social science, much like pure science, is built on logical
foundations in describing a social phenomenon. The basis of social science can be
divided into two as illustrated in Figure 1.2.

Figure 1.2: Basis of social science

First of all, any statement in social science must be acceptable to human thought,
as well as be logical and reasonable. Secondly, the statement must be consistent
with what can be seen in real life. This means that every statement made by a
social scientist must be based on truth and be acceptable to the human mind. This
can be done if the statement is backed by solid evidence and verified through
observations. Hence, all statements made in social science are based on strong
evidence and foundation, proven not only through extensive observation, but
also that which has been gathered over a long period of time.

1.5.1

The Philosophy of Social Science

If pure science attempts to seek answers to natural phenomena such as physics


(the science that deals with matter, energy, motion and force), chemistry (the
science of the composition, structure, properties and reactions of matter,
especially of atomic and molecular systems) and biology (the science of life and
of living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution
and distribution), then the philosophy of social science attempts to understand
questions relating to man and society. What do we know about the nature of
society and human beings, and what is the relationship between them? These are
the questions that serve as the basis of knowledge in social science. Social science
also tries to describe how the relationship between man and society creates
different social and cultural phenomena. This difference does not only exist
between different societies, but also in different places and eras.

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10 TOPIC 1 WHAT IS SOCIAL SCIENCE?

1.5.2

Main Characteristics of Social Science

There are three main characteristics of social science as shown in Table 1.3.
Table 1.3: Main Characteristics of Social Science
(a)

Social science is of an empirical nature i.e. its experimental objects are things
which we can experience for ourselves. In fact, we are part of that environment.

(b)

Secondly, there are various theories that can describe the social phenomena
according to their own disciplines. As we are constantly faced with living human
beings, their actions are not always uniform as there are various environmental
factors that influence reactions to a particular problem. In fact, there are social
phenomena which are thought to be a problem in one society yet are accepted
norms in another society just because of differences in norms and values. Hence,
different actions also require different approach in terms of theory.

(c)

Third, knowledge in social science is accumulated throughout the years. This


means that knowledge of human beings and their actions is not something
new, but the level of analysis conducted on such actions become even more
complex when the lives of human beings become more advanced i.e. when
values and norms change and technology becomes more complex.

1.5.3

Bases for the Development of Scientific Methods

There are three bases for the development of scientific methods as shown in Table 1.4.
Table 1.4: Bases for the Development of Scientific Methods
(a)

Firstly, man has a strong streak of curiosity which drives him to find answers to
everything that happens around him. His doubts on a particular issue will
drive him to work hard in finding truly satisfactory answers.

(b)

Second is scepticism which causes a person to find alternative solutions that


could be better, and improve existing things.

(c)

Third is objectivity, whereby a person will search for answers without being
influenced by other factors. For instance, he focuses fully on his doubts without
paying attention to marginal issues which have nothing to do with the object of
his attention.

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WHAT IS SOCIAL SCIENCE?

11

There are various fields or branches of thought in social science. Although


they all converge towards man as an object of study, each branch of social
science emphasises on different aspects.

Each statement made by social scientists is strongly based on truth and could
be accepted by the human mind due to strong evidence.

The field of social science attempts to describe how the relationship between
man and society creates different social and cultural phenomena.

Knowledge is a collection of information in a society, obtained through


experience, observation and other credible sources, from traditional and
historical accounts.

The process of producing knowledge involves two important stages i.e.


understanding and predicting.

There are three sources of knowledge authority, tradition and observation


based on common sense.

Authority

Social beings

Deductive

Social sanctions

Inductive

Social science

Natural science

Tradition

Norms

Values

Hunt, E. F., & Colander, D. C. (2005). Social science: An introduction to the study
of society. Boston: Pearson.
Mitchell, G. D. (1979). A new dictionary of sociology. London: Routledge and
Kegan Paul.
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Topic

The

Origin
of Social
Science in
the West

LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1.

Explain the history of rational thinking in the West;

2.

Explain the level of social thinking in the West from the Middle
Ages to the Age of Enlightenment; and

3.

Interpret the contributions of past great thinkers on human beings


and society.

INTRODUCTION
This topic will help you to understand the history of the rise of Western rational
thinking in the field of social science. You will also learn about several levels of
Western social thinking from the Middle Ages to the Age of Enlightenment.

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2.1

THE ORIGIN OF SOCIAL SCIENCE IN THE WEST 13

THE ORIGIN OF SOCIAL SCIENCE IN THE


WEST

Social science thinking in the West began during the Middle Ages. At that period,
the prevailing discourses centred more on religious (having or showing belief in
and reverence for God or a deity; of concerned with, or teaching religion) issues.
This thinking then developed during the Renaissance whereby mans ability to
think and reason became important for the development of knowledge. Next, in
the Age of Enlightenment, man began to use rationalism to question the
reasonability of epistemology (a branch of philosophy that investigates the
origin, nature, methods and limits of human knowledge) and the development of
knowledge.

2.1.1

The Middle Ages, the Medieval Period


(4761453 AD)

This period was also known as the Dark Ages (see Figure 2.1). The people then
were very much oppressed, especially as they had no freedom of speech. Society
was of a feudal nature, hierarchical and divided into three classes or groups (see
Figure 2.2):

Figure 2.1: Dark Ages


Source: http://s3.hubimg.com

(a)

The aristocrats;

(b)

The clergy (controlled by the Catholic Church); and

(c)

The serfs (farmers or slaves).


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Figure 2.2: Hierarchical classes

All political power was held by the aristocrats and clergy.


The tradition of knowledge during the Middle Ages was created by religionists
and was teleological (the study of design or purpose in natural phenomena) in
nature (circular explanations whereby the reason for a social phenomenon affects
other phenomena). It was also linked to the belief that God was the source of all
knowledge. Reasoning was said to be inappropriate and was forbidden as it was
deemed blasphemous and deviant. The aim of knowledge during this period was
to protect the interests and maintain the position of the Church, priests and
aristocrats.
The tradition of knowledge created in this era was limited to the development of
knowledge based on explanations by religious scholars. These scholars generally
did not encourage any form of critical thinking. Only knowledge endorsed by
the Church was accepted and discussed. This type of knowledge also created a
fatalistic attitude among the people.

2.1.2

The Renaissance Period (14501650)

The system of feudal governance during the Middle Ages was still alive and well
during this period. During this era too, European kings and queens sent out
adventurers and sailors to explore new lands. It was at this time that the
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Northern and Southern American continents were discovered by European


explorers. Passages to Asia were discovered through the Cape of Good Hope in
southern Africa. It was also during this time that Malacca fell to the Portuguese,
while Java and its surrounding islands (now Indonesia) fell to the Dutch. Several
areas in India also fell to the British at the end of this era. Also known as the Age
of Discovery (see Figure 2.3), this period led to the Age of Enlightenment.

Figure 2.3: Age of Discovery


Source: http://www.fasttrackteaching.com/

It was also during the Age of Enlightenment that European forces collided with
the Islamic Empire which at the time was already fast developing. What initially
began as a commercial conflict later developed into the Crusades, which also had
drastic effects on the development of knowledge in Europe. It was during this
time that epistemology (a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin,
nature, methods and limits of human knowledge) and the tradition of knowledge
of the Dark Ages which had been restricted by the Church began to be
questioned by those who were sceptical of religionists.
Two important events caused European philosophers to question the rationale of
traditions during the teleological era. First, the spread of the influence of rational
Islamic philosophies into Europe and secondly, the rediscovery of rational Greek
philosophy (which began from 4th century BC). Both events were triggered by
the spread of the written works of Islamic scholars which had been brought into
Europe during the expansion of the Islamic empire.
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Rationalism is knowledge of the real world obtained through human reasoning.


According to this thinking, all knowledge can be described logically. Although
rational Islamic and Greek philosophies began to take root in Western Europe at this
time, they only developed and strengthened in the following era i.e. the Age of
Enlightenment. During this era, philosophers, historians, religious critics and
sceptics produced new schools of thought as a foundation towards building a better
tradition of knowledge and new society. This resulted from social problems which
had become rampant due to economic, political and cultural struggles (such as the
Agricultural, Industrial and French Revolutions) which occurred in France,
Germany and England during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Renaissance philosophers such as Rene Descartes, Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried
Leibniz stressed on the importance of considering mans ability to think and reason
in the process of knowledge-building. According to them, the thinking process,
human existence, human condition, nature and role of human consciousness had to
be considered in the process of knowledge development and thus, human
civilisation.
During the Renaissance, the influence of rationalism quickly became more
widespread and brought changes in various fields. These included literature (as can
be seen with Shakespeares works, for instance), architecture (for example, the
design and architecture of St. Peters Church, see Figure 2.4), social and political
systems (changes from the feudal society began to be questioned during this age)
and economy (changes to the system of capitalism, particularly capitalist merchants).
These changes became even more widespread with the success of the voyages of
discovery by European sailors such as Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus,
Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. In the realm of religion, there was opposition
towards Roman Catholicism with the emergence of the Protestant faith, which was
pioneered by figures such as Martin Luther, John Calvin and King Henry VIII.

Figure 2.4: St. Peters Church


Source: http://www.gqg59.dial.pipex.com/
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THE ORIGIN OF SOCIAL SCIENCE IN THE WEST 17

The Age of Enlightenment (16501800)

During the Age of Enlightenment, there was a revolution in the Western way of
thinking. Several factors encouraged these changes:
(a)

The spread of rationalism and a new epistemology that assumed


everything in the real world could be studied and researched systematically
and objectively, similar to natural science

(b)

The rise of a movement that emphasised on science as the basis of


knowledge, instead of the prevailing trend at that time favouring religious
knowledge

(c)

The realisation of the importance of logic or human reasoning in the


process of searching for knowledge

Efforts to spread and give importance to rationalism actually took quite some
time, beginning with the Greek Ages (4 BC to 19 AD). This process was closely
related to the changes in economy, politics and cultural events in France,
Germany and England. These changes caused many social upheavals. It drove
philosophers, historians, cultural critics and religious sceptics to present a new
flow of thought as the basis for building a better tradition of knowledge and the
formation of a new society.
During the Age of Enlightenment, only rational philosophy was the dominant
mode of thought. Several major factors caused changes during this era,
including:
(a)

Expansion of mercantilism (the theory and system of political economy


prevailing in Europe after the decline of feudalism, based on national
policies of accumulating bullion, establishing colonies and a merchant
marine, and developing industry and mining to attain a favourable balance
of trade);

(b)

The development of physical science such as physics, mathematics,


astronomy and geology; and

(c)

Religious reformation i.e. the establishment of the Protestant movement led


by Martin Luther.

The Age of Enlightenment also had other effects on European society such as the
following:
(a)

Erosion of the power and domination of the Catholic Church on society;

(b)

Freedom of the minds of Europeans from the control of the Church;

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(c)

Peoples faith in pure science and scientific methods to obtain knowledge


(the Age of Isaac Newton);

(d)

Creation of an intellectual environment which encouraged critical and


scientific investigations on the physical and social world;

(e)

Sparking of intellectual movements which worked hard to place


importance on science and rationalism.

Other than these, the main characteristic of the intellectual movement of the Age
of Enlightenment was the emergence of personalities such as political reformists,
cultural critics, religious sceptics, historians and social thinkers as could be seen
in Scotland, England, France, Germany and Italy. Among them were Mary
Wollstonecraft, Henri de Saint-Simon, Adam Smith, Jean Condorcet, Jacques
Rousseau, Thomas Hobbes and Montesquieu.
French social thinkers such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieue, Condorcet and
Johannes Kepler were considered extremists for challenging Catholic dogma,
superstitions, myths, aristocratic privileges and the feudal system which
hampered the development of the mind and freedom of thought.
Most philosophers who emerged in this era presented critical questions about the
existing social system. They suggested that changes be made through political
actions, by holding campaigns for freedom of speech. It was these ideas that
formed the basis of the French Revolution (1789 to 1799).
Although the philosophers of this era held different principles and political
interests, they were all involved in finding the truth based on rational principles.
This group also believed that each aspect of mans life could be studied
systematically and critically.
They also held that the objectives of science were to enable man to conduct selfexaminations, decide societys direction as well as handle and solve social,
economic and political issues. Scientific knowledge was of a practical value and
could be used to build a better society.
Next, we will look into several political thinkers or philosophers. They discussed
common problems related to economics, sociology and psychology. Their
thinking could be called abstract but they were extremely concerned with issues
resulting from economic, political and social changes. Their ideas were used to
justify political movements. For example, Montesquieu and Rousseau inspired
the French Revolution.

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Figure 2.5: Thomas Hobbes (15881679)

Hobbes (Figure 2.5) was an Englishman. His great work The Leviathan (1651)
discussed the structure of society and the form of legal government. The book
was among the earliest to discuss the theory of social contract.
He wrote on the best form of governance and assumed that man was innately
evil and lived in anarchy. For Hobbes, mans nature is to constantly be at war
(the war of all against all). This situation could only be avoided with the creation
of a strong and absolute central government through a form of social contract.
Peace could only be achieved when man allowed the suppression of personal
freedom.

Figure 2.6: John Locke (16321704)

John Locke (Figure 2.6) was an Englishman. His two main works were An
Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) and Two Treatises of
Government (1690). He is thought to be the founder of political science.
He believed anarchy was not good. Instead, he stressed that individual rights
were more important than the rights of the monarch or ruler. As for legitimacy,
anyone could rule if political power was in the interest of the public.
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Locke championed mans natural rights as well as freedom of thought and


speech.

Figure 2.7: Montesquieu (16891755)

Montesquieu (Figure 2.7) was French and thought to be the founder of the theory
and methods of sociology. His famous works were Thoughts on the Causes of
Greatness of the Romans and their Decadence (1734) and The Spirit of the Law
(1748).
In his first book, he stated that the rise and fall of an empire depended on moral
and physical factors, and were not purely coincidental.
His second book was a detailed observation on society which included forms
of government, culture, the influence of ecology on the social structure,
populations, business/commerce, religion and law. His opinions on the
environment and the law at the time were rather advanced as these issues were
only given attention at the end of the 20th century.

2.8: Jean Jacques Rousseau (17121778)

Rousseau (Figure 2.8) was a Swiss from Geneva.


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THE ORIGIN OF SOCIAL SCIENCE IN THE WEST 21

His works were A Discourse on the Moral Effects of the Arts and Sciences (1754)
and The Social Contract (1762).
In The Social Contract, he gave opinions related to his political philosophy. For
him, humans had to hand over their rights and personal freedom to a sovereign
body which decided the form of laws that would protect them as members of
society with the same basic rights. All members of society would obey general
laws that were agreed upon collectively.
There were several important implications from the views of the Age of
Enlightenment. The first was the awareness of the process of human reasoning as
an important intellectual power in generating new knowledge. Secondly,
scientists and social scientists had an important responsibility to help in the effort
to create a society as new intellectuals or public intellectuals. Third, they all
advocated the importance of space in the educational system in order to teach
sociology which encompassed various fields under the discipline of social
science.
The Age of Enlightenment made several important contributions to the
development of social science in the West. First, it provided intensive and
extensive observations on the history of humankind, societies/societal traits,
human traits and the characteristics of the natural world. Secondly, it expanded
the Western educational system by introducing secular knowledge. Thirdly, it
encouraged the establishment of learned societies to begin discourses of current
social issues.

Social science as a field of knowledge was not yet known during the three
periods discussed above. However, there were thinkers who were daring
enough to speak on certain aspects of social life.

They also debated the best ways to understand important issues related to
man by rejecting early opinions which had been influenced by the Church
and religionists.

This group of thinkers suggested systematic methods for studying society


according to principles of natural science. There are three important
guidelines in studying society: first, systematic reasoning and observation;
secondly, understanding causal relations; and third, finding laws which
formed the basis of and controlled human behaviour, social order and living
in a society.
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Age of enlightenment

Renaissance

Intellectual movement

Social orderliness

Middle ages

Social science

Rationalism

Fink, H., (1992). Falsafah sosial. (Rustam A. Sani, Trans.) Kuala Lumpur: Dewan
Bahasa dan Pustaka. (Original work published 1981)
Ismail Yusoff. (2001). Pengenalan sains sosial. Sintok: Penerbit Universiti Utara
Malaysia.
Anderson, P., (1974). Lineages of the absolutist state. London: New Left Books.

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Topic

Classical
Social
Thinking

LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1.

Discuss the social issues of 19th century Europe;

2.

Differentiate between romanticism and positivism in the West; and

3.

Explain Western social thinking on historical materialism.

INTRODUCTION
This topic is a continuation of the previous topics. In this topic, we will discuss
the development of knowledge, particularly social science and its origins in the
West. It describes classical Western social issues in the 19th century and the main
streams of social thinking at the time i.e. romanticism, positivism and historical
materialism. The three schools of thought have either directly or indirectly
influenced the development of Western social science, particularly sociology,
anthropology, political science and economy. As social science in Malaysia is
derived directly from the West, the understanding of Western development of
knowledge, particularly social science, is needed in order to understand its
development in this country as described in Topic 10. This topic begins by
explaining classical social issues in the West which include economics, politics,
family and kinship, values and systems of belief. These issues are then related to
romanticism, positivism and historical materialism.

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TOPIC 3

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ACTIVITY 3.1
Before you continue reading, state what you understand about classical
social issues during the 19th century and the social streams of thought
that existed then. Compare your opinions with the explanations given
in the following sub-sections.

3.1

19TH CENTURY CLASSICAL SOCIAL ISSUES

The 19th century West, particularly Europe, went through various rapid social
changes in the social, economic and political aspects of society at the time. Effects
of the Agricultural (the science, art or occupation concerned with cultivating land,
raising crops, and feeding, breeding, and raising livestock), Industrial and French
Revolutions in earlier centuries began to be widely felt in the 19th century. The
Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions which began in the 18th and 19th centuries
changed many European economies, from agricultural and mercantile capitalism
(an economic system based on a free market, open competition, profit motive and
private ownership of the means of production) to industrial economies. Factories
quickly replaced cottage industries. A majority of the population concentrated in
the cities, no longer in the rural areas. Eventually, an industrial capitalist society
was formed in Europe. The development of industrial economy and agricultural
capitalisation triggered a major urban-rural migration during the 19th century
which quickened the process of urbanisation. Urbanism became the lifestyle of a
majority of Europes societies. This meant there were other changes in basic social
institutions (politics, family and kinship, religion and education) in Western
societies. Ideas resulting from the French Revolution (1789) also contributed
widely to the changes in the Western social systems of the time.

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Figure 3.1: French revolution


Source: http://rosenblumtv.files.wordpress.com/

3.1.1

Economy

Britains population doubled between 1750 and 1850. However, there was a rapid
decline in the number of those who worked in the agricultural sector as improved
agricultural techniques increased productivity without the need for many workers.
The industry was fast developing which in turn provided job opportunities for a
large number of people. When steam power replaced water power, production
moved from cottages in the countryside to factories in the city.
Cities grew in number and physical size due to the increase in the population.
During the mid-19th century, urbanisation (the social process whereby cities grow
and societies become more urban) became more obvious, first in Britain and then
throughout Europe. Urbanisation also brought changes to the structure of
employment in Western society. Traditional job opportunities in agriculture and
the cottage industry began to decline rapidly, surpassed by new job opportunities
in the cities.
The majority of workers in such factories were women and children, who did
semi-skilled work. The men were involved more in skilled work such as machinetooling and coal mining (Cuff, Sharrock & Francis, 1992). The development of cities
and industries created various new social diseases. Problems related to income and
working conditions of factories, housing, poverty, illnesses, crimes and others
became the focus not only of Western thinkers such as Herbert Spencer, Karl Marx,
Max Weber and Emile Durkheim but also writers such as Charles Dickens and
George Orwell.
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ACTIVITY 3.2
Why must we understand 19th century Western economic issues in
order to understand the development of social science? What is the
relationship between the development of Western societys economic
development in the 19th century and social science?

3.1.2

Politics

Rapid growth of industrial capital in the 19th century transformed capital owners
into the nouveux riche and gave them the opportunity to hold political power.
After they took control from the traditional power-holders (aristocratic
landowners and rich capitalists), these industrial capitalists managed to influence
the government not to approve policies and laws on prices, taxes, employment,
imports and exports as well as new industries that interfered with their interests.
Sharrock and Francis (1992) gave several examples of their achievements in the
formation of the countrys policies and laws:

the dismantling of traditional controls concerned with fair prices and the
employment of apprentices; the 1832 extension of the franchise to include
only well-off property-holders; the persistent checking, harassment and
stunting of the trade union movement through Parliament and the courts
and the use of the agreed forces; the unwillingness to yield ground on the
employment of women and young children, and on working conditions (in
particular the length of the working day); the successful shifting of the
increasing costs of government onto the shoulders of the poor by using
mainly indirect taxes levied on basic commodities, rather than direct taxes
related to incomes

The dominance of industrial capitalists in politics and government, and the


governments acceptance of their laissez-faire (an economic doctrine that opposes
governmental regulation of or interference in commerce beyond the minimum
necessary for a free-enterprise system to operate according to its own economic
laws) doctrine, forced the majority group (workers and those who had no
property or capital) to accept the values and norms of the minority group. Hence,
the strained relationship between these two clusters continued to become an
issue in Western social thinking.
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ACTIVITY 3.3
Why must we understand Western political issues of the 19th century in
order to understand the development of social science? What is the
relationship between the development of the industrial capitalists of
19th century Western society and social science?

3.1.3

Family and Kinship

The urbanisation that hit Western society in the 19th century left a major impact
on family ties and kinship. When people began migrating to the city and became
involved in urban economy, the family no longer remained as a production unit,
but instead became purely a consumption unit. This was because family
members were no longer involved in the production process (agriculture or
cottage industry). They received income by selling labour to capital industrialists
and used their salary to buy provisions for their families. In addition, adult
women and children (both males and females) also worked at these factories to
ensure enough income in order to fulfil their families needs. This led to
instability within the family institution. Cuff, Sharrock and Francis (1992) stated
the following:

With a working day of about sixteen hours, with the women and children in
a family working in one factory and the adult males working (or looking for
work) elsewhere, the home came to be no more than a dormitory for six
days in the week. And as the home tended to be jerry-built, overcrowded
and ill-lit, with atrocious sanitation and other amenities, most workers in
their sparse leisure time tried to seek entertainment and diversion
elsewhere.

Without the economic support of their family and their own farm produce, the
family economy became unstable. In order to ensure a more stable family
economy, family members had to give full attention to generating income.
Consequently, family relationships were neglected and strong family structures
could not be achieved among many urban families of the time.

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ACTIVITY 3.4
Why must we understand the structure of family and kinship in the
West during the 19th century to understand the development of social
science? What is the relationship between the development of urban
family and kinship in the West during the 19th century to social
science?

3.1.4

Values and Beliefs

The 19th century also saw the emergence of new values. Values previously
related to ancient beliefs and village traditions were replaced with new values
and beliefs among the urban population. Rationality and rational actions, as well
as individualism, began to appear as the basis of social actions. Cuff, Sharrock
and Francis (1992) described the value of rationality as follows:

A good reason for engaging in social action like, for example, obeying the
political authorities, or cultivating the fields in a certain manner, or
bringing up the children in a certain way, could no longer be accepted,
taken for granted and justified on the grounds of tradition, that is, it had
always been done like this. Instead, rationality involved a search for
reasons and criteria to demonstrate that of all the alternative ways of
doing anything, the best way or means had been chosen. Thus, the
relative stability of traditional thinking was replaced by rational thinking
the perpetual quest for best means to achieve a given end of goal
thereby tending to open up social life to more scrutiny and questioning
than hitherto. Traditional practices could no longer serve as a bulwark
against the rapid changes.

The emphasis on rationality and individualism (a social theory advocating the


liberty, rights, or independent action of the individual) was further strengthened
by ideas conceived during the French Revolution which focused on change,
where tradition had to be replaced with the new ways in order to fulfil the
peoples wants and interests, and that man can recreate society and should in fact
do so. Therefore in the 19th century, the preservation of tradition for the sake of
tradition no longer became the basis of social actions. In short, if an action was

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irrational and did not guarantee the protection of individualism, it should be set
aside. Such an approach was unheard of during the pre-capitalist era, where
members of society believed that all actions should be deeply rooted in tradition.

ACTIVITY 3.5
Why must we understand 19th century Western values and beliefs to
understand the development of social science? What is the relationship
between changes in societys values and beliefs in the 19th century with
social science?

3.1.5

Religion (The Church)

The Church began to have less importance in Western spirituality and politics of
the 19th century with the emergence of the capitalist society. The clergy, much
like the aristocrats (ruling class or nobility), had to bow to the power of the
capitalists or bourgeoisie. This began as early as the 17th century when capitalist
traders began to rise in influence.
The decline in the power of the clergy continued into the 19th century when the
ideas of rationality and individualism together with capitalist power destroyed
the power of the Church not only within the government but also in Western
societys lifestyles as some parties felt that religion was irrational whereas others
felt it to be a question of individual preference.
Therefore, the Church or organised religion was no longer relevant. Thinkers of
the 19th century such as Marx, Spencer and Charles Darwin also contributed to
the erosion of the influence of the Church in government and society.

ACTIVITY 3.6
Why must we understand 19th century Western religious and Churchrelated issues to understand the development of social science? What is
the relationship between the erosion of religious and Church power
within the government and society with social science?

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3.2 THE FLOW OF CLASSICAL SOCIAL THOUGHT


Romanticism, positivism and historical materialism are the three main streams of
Western classical social thinking. These three streams resulted from the efforts of
various Western scholars of the era who analysed and explained the main social
issues of the time and suggested strategies in order to face them and solve
ensuing problems.
Romanticism, explained in Section 3.2.1, states that man was noble and that the
good side of man would solve all problems fairly and justly without oppression.
The positivist school of thought stresses on the scientific method in analysing
social issues. Social phenomena were seen as items and needed objective
analysis without being influenced by research values. Such scientific research
resulted in objective suggestions that could be used to settle the problems
studied. Meanwhile, historical materialism stresses on the importance of history
and the combination of idealisms (the world can be changed by changing ways of
thinking) and materialism (the world of material or physical objects can form
ideas and thoughts) in analysing social issues or phenomena.

3.2.1

Romanticism

What is romanticism?
Romanticism is generally used to refer to the works of painters, poets,
writers, musicians and political, philosophical and social thinkers in Europe
in the mid-18th century to the mid-19th century.

It was also used to refer to the artistic, intellectual and social trends of the time.
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement which began in
mid-18th century Western Europe which developed further during the Industrial
Revolution. It was also a form of rebellion towards social and political norms
of the aristocrats in the Age of Enlightenment and as a reaction towards scientific
rationalisation of nature.

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Figure 3.2: Age of Enlightenment


Source: http://www.penwith.co.uk/

This movement emphasised emotions as a source of aesthetic experience,


particularly the untamed nature and its picturesque qualities. It lifted the arts
and traditional customs to a higher level which was said to be nobler. It
suggested a natural epistemology towards human activities where language and
culture were dictated by nature. Social scientists particularly anthropologists
(people who specialise in anthropology or study of the human race) and
sociologists (people who study the origin, development, organisation and
functioning of human society; the science of the fundamental laws of social
relations, institutions, etc.) who were influenced by the ideas of these movements
at the time envisioned this close relationship between man and their culture with
nature in their writings.
Early anthropologists such as James Frazer (Golden Bough) and Edward Burnett
Tylor (Primitive Culture) described this relationship in their writings on the
noble savage. This trend continued in the writings of anthropologists up to the
end of the 19th century and early 20th century, such as Bronislaw Malinowski
(18841942) who emphasised the close relationship between culture and nature
in a primitive society.

SELF-CHECK 3.1
What was the main focus of Romanticism? Why must we understand
the influence of ideas sparked by Romanticism in order to understand
the development of social science?

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3.2.2

CLASSICAL SOCIAL THINKING

Positivism

What is meant by positivism?


Positivism is a doctrine in scientific philosophy that emphasises true
knowledge as something obtained only through sensory experiences i.e.
something that can be observed and measured.

Only facts that can be proven through the senses can be accepted as genuine
knowledge. The physical scientific method was thought to be the only true
method to influence knowledge. The father of modern sociology, Auguste Comte
(17981857) was also the founder of the positivist school of thought. Comte
(Figure 3.3) stressed that social science too needed to use the methods of physical
science to obtain knowledge on the social lives of human beings and social
science. Sociology in particular must follow the model of physical science in
studying human society.

Figure 3.3: Auguste Comte

Emile Durkheim (18581917), shown in Figure 3.4, was a sociologist from the
same school of thought. He conducted studies at the end of the 19th century and
in early 20th century. His book, Suicide, was felt to be a good example on
scientific sociology and influenced the development of sociology in the United
States in the 1930s and early years following the World War II. However, in
todays sociology, positivism has received widespread criticism from other
schools of thought such as the Frankfurt School (Abercrombie & Turner, 1984;
Theodorson, 1969).
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Figure 3.4: Emile Durkheim

However, scientific sociology, which began with positivism, still influences the
current practice of sociology.

ACTIVITY 3.7
What is the main focus of positivism? How far has the doctrine of
positivism influenced the development and practice of social science
during the 20th century and today?

3.2.3

Historical Materialism

Historical materialism as introduced by Karl Marx, (18181883) as shown in


Figure 3.5 was based on the idea of materialism. In sociology, materialism refers
to the theories which state that economic relationship is the main cause of social
phenomena. It is differentiated from idealism which states that ideas, not
economic relations, are the ultimate cause of social relationships. Hence,
historical materialism is an interpretation by historical materialists that social,
cultural and political phenomena are decided by the production mode of
material things. This means that the main cause in the historical process is
economics, not ideas. The base superstructure distinction summarises this,
whereby man, in producing his needs, creates certain relationships i.e. those
which are economic structures (base), superseded by the culture of law and
politics (superstructure). The way man comes up with his needs (base or
economic) will decide his social and cultural lifestyle as well as his political
system (Fatimah Daud, 1992; Abercrombie & Turner, 1984). The historical
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CLASSICAL SOCIAL THINKING

materialism method formed the basis of the development of the Neo-Marxist and
Marxist sociology and conflict theories prevalent in social sciences today (and
sociology in particular).

Figure 3.5: Karl Marx

ACTIVITY 3.8
What is the main focus of historical materialism? How has it
contributed to the development of social science?

Classical social issues in the West (particularly Europe) during the 19th
century include issues of economy, politics, family and kinship, values and
beliefs, as well as religion.

These social issues influenced the development of social science in the West
during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Western social thinkers, in order to analyse and handle such social issues,
formed three streams of social thought Romanticism, positivism and
historical materialism which are known as classical social thinking.

Romanticism stressed on the nobility of peoples art and culture (customs)


and the close relationship between the formation of the peoples art and
culture to nature.
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35

Positivism as presented by Auguste Comte stressed that true knowledge


could only be obtained through sensory experiences.

Historical materialism which was introduced by Karl Max during the mid19th century emphasises that social, cultural and political phenomena were
the result of the production mode of material objects and that the main cause
of the historical process was economy, not ideas.

Economic issues

Religious issues

Family and kinship

Romanticism

Historical materialism

Social issues

Political issues

Values and beliefs

Positivism

Abercrombie, N. H. S., & Turner, B. S. (1984). Dictionary of sociology.


Hammondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd.
Cuff, E. C., Sharrock, W. W., & Francis, D. W. (1992). Perspectives in sociology.
London: Routledge.
Fatimah Daud. (1992). Pengenalan teori-teori sosiologi. Kuala Lumpur: Penerbit
Fajar Bakti Sdn. Bhd.
Schaefer, R. T. (2006). Sociology. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc.
Theodorson, G. A., & Theodorson, A. G. (1969). A modern dictionary of
sociology. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd.

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Topic Contemporary

Social Science
Thinking in
the West

LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1.

Explain the characteristics of contemporary Western social science;

2.

Explain the tradition of Western social science; and

3.

Explain the thinking of modern Western social science scholars.

INTRODUCTION
Contemporary Western social science thinking refers to the opinions introduced
and developed by scholars of the early 20th century to the present, particularly
sociologists, anthropologists and political scientists. Even though economists and
psychologists are usually regarded by sociologists, anthropologists and political
scientists as social thinkers, the economists and psychologists themselves place
their respective disciplines in their own categories (economy and psychology).
Hence, despite the two fields having some relationship with social science,
neither of them are completely under the category of social science. Social science
thinking is normally the domain of scholars of sociology, anthropology and
political science whose thinking takes the form of several perspectives namely
the functionalist perspective, conflict and interactionist. An observation of these
perspectives will show that they are based on the classic thinking of social figures
such as Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber and Karl
Marx as well as thinkers from the first half of the 20th century such as George
Herbert Mead, Charles Horton Cooley and Robert Merton (Schaefer, 1989).
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ACTIVITY 4.1
Contemporary Western social science thinking was influenced by the
opinions of classical social thinkers such as Comte, Spencer, Marx,
Durkheim, Weber and Mead. Explain the relationship between classical
social thinking and the functionalist, conflict and interactionist
perspectives.

4.1

THE TRAITS AND TRADITIONS OF SOCIAL


SCIENCE TODAY

Science refers to knowledge obtained through systematic observation, whereas


social relates to the relationships between human beings, and the outcomes of
such relationships. Social science therefore, refers to the use of objective research
methods in gathering accurate knowledge or information on mans social
behaviour and how they interact and change. The observations are accurately
recorded and the data collected, over a long period of time. Also, within the
realm of social sciences are the disciplines of sociology, anthropology, economics,
history, psychology and political science.
All these disciplines of social sciences share the same focus, i.e. to study the social
behaviour of human beings, although each discipline has different orientations.
Anthropologists focus more on the social and cultural behaviour of pre-industrialist
societies as well as the origins of man, society and culture. Economics studies
the way humans produce and exchange products and services, as well as other
sources. Historians concentrate on past events as well as their significance on
those of us living in the present. Political scientists examine the functions
and administrations of government, the use of power and authority as well
as relationships between countries. Psychologists do research on individual
personality and behaviour. Sociologists study the influence of society towards
human attitudes and behaviours, and how human beings interact and thus form
societies, or in other words how society influences mans actions and vice versa,
i.e. how the interaction between individuals influence the development of society
(Schaefer, 2006).
Contemporary Western social science thinking (particularly
anthropology, political science and history) can be divided into two:
(a)

sociology,

One that focuses on the study of macro level social behaviour (for instance
macro sociology and macro economics).
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(b)

Thinking that focuses on studying micro level social behaviour (for instance
micro sociology and micro economics).

CONTEMPORARY SOCIAL SCIENCE THINKING IN THE WEST

Macro-level studies focus on large or global social phenomena, while micro-level


studies emphasise on smaller phenomena, or those which are found in small
groups. In other words, social reality can be seen at two levels, i.e. actions and
social interactions, and the level of social structure or social system. The early
20th century cross-cultural study on suicide by Emile Durkheim is an example of
macro research (or structure/social systems). Meanwhile, the study of intimate
relationships and the self/looking glass theory (face-to-face) in small groups by
Charles Horton Cooley and George Herbert Mead (also in the early 20th century)
are examples of micro research (or social actions and interactions). Talcott
Parsons research and analysis in the mid-20th century attempted to combine
these two levels of social reality (Cohen, 1970).
The tradition of studying social behaviour on a macro level is not a 20th century
phenomenon. It is rooted in the traditions of Western social thinking from
Ancient Greece such as Platos writings (The Republic). It re-emerged in the 18th
and 19th centuries in Adam Smiths Wealth of Nations, Auguste Comtes
Positive Philosophy, Thomas Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population
as well as Karl Marxs Das Capital. In the 20th century, it was evident in the
works of Emile Durkheim and Max Weber (early 20th century) and Bronislaw
Malinowski, A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, Robert K. Merton and Claude LeviStrauss
in the following decades.
The tradition of studying micro-level social science, however, emerged in the
20th century. This can be seen, for instance, in the writings of George Herbert
Mead, Charles Horton Cooley, Erving Goffman and Harold Garfinkel. Also, in
the 20th century, social thinkers attempted to create a third tradition, i.e. a
combination of different levels of social interaction (micro) and the social
structures and systems (macro). Simmel and Pareto tried to combine these two
levels in their analyses, while Marx (although unintentionally) succeeded better
at combining these two theories than Simmel and Pareto (Cohen, 1970).
However, these three traditions share the same characteristics as they all attempt
to explain why social phenomena have certain traits that are always related to
social phenomena; try to extract ideas for process analysing and complex social
events; and attempt to form models to explain how social structures and systems
operate (Cohen, 1970).

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ACTIVITY 4.2
In your opinion, what are the strengths and weaknesses of social
behaviour analysis using the macro or micro level or a combination of
both? Refer to certain social phenomena (such as poverty, ethnic
relations, rural-urban migration, etc) in explaining your opinion.

4.2

MODERN SOCIAL SCIENCE SCHOLARS IN


THE WEST

Modern social science scholars in the West are those from the 20th century who
studied and wrote about Western social behaviour as well as other societies.
However, such figures as Durkheim and Weber whose writings, produced in the
early 20th century, influenced the minds of social scientists of that time, are not
included in this group as their opinions were rooted in social phenomena and
issues of the 19th century. Although their opinions are similar with social
scientists of the 20th century, they are more accurately thought to be classical
social thinkers (along with Marx), as the bridge that links early social thinkers
such as Saint-Simon, Montesquieu, Comte and Harriet Martineau, with
contemporary thinkers. Emphasis is given on thinkers from the disciplines of
sociology and anthropology because when studying the influence of society
towards mans attitudes and behaviour and how humans interact and form
societies, they also touch on human social behaviour in relation to politics,
economics, psychology and history. The thinking of these scholars are
categorised according to three theoretical perspectives:
(a)

Functionalist;

(b)

Conflict; and

(c)

Interactionist.

ACTIVITY 4.3
Explain how Durkheim, Weber and Marx set the foundation for early
and contemporary social thinking.

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4.2.1

CONTEMPORARY SOCIAL SCIENCE THINKING IN THE WEST

Functionalist Thinkers

This perspective looks at society as a living organism (it is not much different
from the Islamic concept of ummah). One hadith (a tradition based on reports
of the sayings and activities of Prophet Muhammad and his companions) likens
the ummah to the human body where pain suffered by one part of the body
will affect the rest. This perspective also states that if an aspect of social life no
longer contributes to the stability or continuity of life in a society, the society
becomes dysfunctional. Function, too, according to Merton, can be divided into
the manifest functions (intended functions which can be seen) and latent
functions (those which are hidden or unintended) (Schaefer, 2006). For instance,
manifest functions during a funeral are to prepare the soul of the dead for
its journey to after death (the transition period after a persons death and
resurrection) and the afterlife, while its latent functions are how the ceremony
gives moral and psychological support to the deceased's family.
Exponents of this perspective include Robert Merton, Bronislaw Malinowski,
A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, Talcott Parsons and structuralists such as Claude LeviStrauss. However, only the ideas of Merton and Malinowski will be mentioned in
here.
(a)

Robert Merton (19102003)


Robert Mertons greatest contribution to social science, particularly in the
field of sociology, was his success in combining theories and research as
well as micro and macro approaches in studying society. His theory of
deviance was often referred to in explaining deviant behaviour. He adapted
Durkheims ideas on anomies to come up with his own theory the anomic
theory of deviance. This theory states that members of society adapt
themselves to cultural expectations and social norms in various ways.

Figure 4.1: Robert Merton


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(b)

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41

Bronislaw Malinowski (18841942)


Malinowski was an anthropologist who introduced the use of participant
observation in collecting social data. He used this technique when
conducting studies in the Trobriand Islands after the World War I. He lived
among the island community for several years, joining in their sociocultural activities while observing and collecting data on every aspect of
their social behaviour and culture. He then produced several books on the
Trobriand community such as Argonauts of the Western Pacific, Coral
Garden and Their Magic and Sex and Repression in a Savage Society. He
contributed to the functionalist theory through his book A Scientific Theory
of Culture.

Figure 4.2: Bronislaw Malinowski

ACTIVITY 4.4
What are the similarities between ideas by Merton, Malinowski and
other functionalist perspective figures which unite them under the
functionalist perspective theory?

4.2.2

Conflict Perspective Scholars

This is a continuation from Marxs writings on class conflict. Its followers look at
conflict not only as a class phenomenon but also as part of daily life. Unlike the
functionalist perspective where social thinkers look from the aspect of stability and
unity in a society, conflict perspective thinkers view the social world as being in a
state of a long drawn out conflict. For those who support this perspective, social
behaviour is most meaningful if seen in the form of conflict and tension between
rival groups. However, this conflict is not necessarily violent. Non-physical
competition such as election campaigns or contesting for posts in a political party,
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competing for jobs or holding debates between certain groups on the national
budget are also forms of conflict. The social unrest seen in the West during the
1960s due to the civil rights and women's rights movements, political scandals, the
Vietnam War and others made this perspective more popular in efforts to analyse
social behaviour from the viewpoints of politics, economics as well as social
structure and system. Those who advocate this conflict perspective view came
from the Frankfurt School such as Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Herbert
Marcuse and Jurgen Habermas besides other thinkers such as Ralph Dahrendorf,
William Kornhauser and Lewis Coser. They were also known as neo-Marxists.
(Schaefer, 2006).
(a)

Ralph Dahrendorf (1929)


Dahrendorf analysed class conflict by focusing on the relationship between
employers (owners of capital) and employees (the workforce which are
non-capital owners). The relationship between the two groups can be seen
in the context of labour negotiations. Conflict occurs when negotiations fail
between representatives of both sides.

Figure 4.3: Ralph Dahrendorf

(b)

Lewis Coser
Coser combined the ideas of function with conflict. Using Georg Simmels
ideas, he stated in his book The Functions of Social Conflict that conflict can
function in a social system, and was something of a functional nature in a
particular society. Conflict can also strengthen unity between conflicting
groups as each realises that lack of unity will result in conflict. Like
Dahrendorf, Coser also studied industrial relationship, i.e. the political and
economical relationships between employer and employee in the industry.
However, his writings focused on the function of conflict between the two
parties. There will be no winners here, as both parties will stand their
ground and protect their own interests (Fatimah Daud, 1992).
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43

Figure 4.4: Lewis Coser

ACTIVITY 4.5
1.

What are the similarities between ideas introduced by


Dahrendorf, Coser and other conflict perspective scholars which
put them together under conflict theory perspective?

2.

As a social researcher you are assigned to study the problem of


illegal bikers among Malaysian youths. How would you interpret
this problem if you used the Dahrendorf approach as opposed to
the Coser or Marcuse approaches?

4.2.3

Interactionist Perspective Scholars

Interactionist perspective social thinkers look at society as a whole or an entity.


Interactionists focus on small-scale social interactions as found in small groups
such as relationships among a group of friends or work colleagues, interactions
within a family or among people at public places such as parks, bus stops or
shopping complexes. Interactionism is a framework of social research which
observes living people in a world which has a meaningful object, that could
consist of material objects, social actions, other people and symbols. As symbols
which have shared social meaning within members of a society are considered
important in human communication, this perspective is also known as the
symbolic interactionist perspective. It differs from the functionalist and conflict
perspectives which emerged in Europe. The interactionist perspective grew and
developed in America. Among its known figures are Charles Horton Cooley,
George Herbert Mead and Erving Goffman. (Schaefer, 2006).

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(a)

Charles Horton Cooley (18641929)


Cooley was an economist who later became a professor of sociology at the
University of Michigan, United States, attaining fame as a sociologist in the
early 20th century. His research and analysis focused on small units in
society such as families, gangs and groups of friends who have intimate
relationships. He focused his observations on these units because he believed
that they were the ones which formed ideals, beliefs and values in a society.

CONTEMPORARY SOCIAL SCIENCE THINKING IN THE WEST

Figure 4.5: Charles Horton Cooley

(b)

George Herbert Mead (18631931)


Mead was an American social thinker who founded the interactionist
perspective. Like Cooley, he focused his research on human interaction in
small groups. Mead focused on the forms of non-verbal communication
such as smiling and facial expressions as well as other signals, and how the
actions of these individuals influence certain clusters or societies. His focus,
in other words, was looking at the relationship between individuals and a
group or society.

Figure 4.6: George Herbert Mead


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(c)

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45

Erving Goffman (19221982)


Goffman popularised the interactionist approach known as the
dramaturgical approach. Here, members of society are seen as stage actors.
Those who support this approach compare the daily lives of human beings
with a theatre set or stage. Just like actors playing out certain characters, we
too display certain parts of our personalities in different situations. At the
workplace, for instance, we put on a serious image, while at parties, we
take on a more relaxed and cheerful personality (Schaefer, 2006). This is not
much different from Shakespeares viewpoint. He once wrote, All the
worlds a stage. And all the men and women merely players.

Figure 4.7: Erving Goffman

ACTIVITY 4.6
1.

As a social researcher, how would you study the values, beliefs


and norms of a particular society using the interactionist
perspective? What are the similarities and differences between the
interactionist approaches of Cooley, Mead and Goffman?

2.

What is the nature and tradition of Western social science thinking


today? As a sociologist who uses the functionalist perspective,
what is your interpretation of prostitution? Compare this
interpretation with those based on the conflict and interactionist
theories.

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Western contemporary social science thinking began to develop in the early


20th century.

Western contemporary social science thinking appears to be based on


classical social thinking in the West as expounded by Durkheim, Weber and
Marx, which emerged during the 19th century based on early thinkers like
Saint-Simon, Montesquieu, Comte and Martineau.

Western contemporary social science thinking is divided into three main


perspectives, i.e. functionalist, conflict and interactionist.

The functionalist perspective stresses on the functions of social structure and


system as well as cultural elements in ensuring the stability of society and
was pioneered by the likes of Merton, Malinowski and Talcott Parsons.

The conflict perspective or neo-Marxist emphasised on continuous conflict


relationships between members of society as a normal situation in a
particular society and was pioneered by scholars such as Dahrendorf, Coser,
Marcuse and Habermas.

The interactionist perspective pioneered by Cooley, Mead, Goffman and


Harold Garfinkel stresses on the need to observe the self and intimate
interaction in small groups in order to understand the larger group.

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Beliefs

Montesquieu

Comte

Neo-marxist

Conflict

Parsons

Coser

Political science

Dahrendorf

Psychology

Durkheim

Saint-Simon

Economics

Social behaviour

Functionalist/functionalism

Social interaction

Functions

Social science

History

Sociology

Interactionist/interactionism

Symbolic interactionist

Malinowski

Values

Marcuse Martineau

Weber

47

Merton

Abercrombie, N., Hill, S., & Turner, S. (1984). Dictionary of sociology.


Hammondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd.
Cohen, P. S. (1970). Modern social theory. London: Heinemann Educational
Books Ltd.
Fatimah Daud. (1992). Pengenalan teori-teori sosiologi. Kuala Lumpur: Penerbit
Fajar Bakti Sdn Bhd.
Schaefer, R. T. (2006). Sociology. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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Topic

Islamic
Social
Science
Thinking

LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1.

Describe the forms of Islamic social science thinking;

2.

Explain the nature of Islamic social science thinkers; and

3.

Describe prominent figures in Islamic social science.

INTRODUCTION
Knowledge in Islamic civilisation (see Figure 5.1) was not divided into specific
disciplines. Islamic thought during the time of the caliphs was not broken up into
specific areas. Some scholars of the time wrote on various aspects from natural
science to aspects of living in a society as well as history and religion. Knowledge
during that era was not compartmentalised to secular and religious, or natural
science, social science or humanity. However, social thinkers such as Ibn
Khaldun and travellers such as Ibn Battuta wrote on social, cultural and historical
aspects in Islamic society which formed the basis of current Islamic social science
and humanity.

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49

Figure 5.1: Islamic Civilisation


Source: http://hikmah32.files.wordpress.com/

5.1

FORMS OF THINKING IN ISLAMIC SOCIAL


SCIENCE

Islamic social science, particularly sociology and history, was founded by the
great Islamic scholar and thinker, Ibn Khaldun (Abdul Al-Rahman Ibn
Muhammad Ibn Khaldun). He was also a famous figure in the fields of
economics and politics. In his book, Muqaddimah or An Introduction to
Historical Knowledge, he introduced the field of knowledge which are now
known as anthropology (the science that deals with the origins, physical and
cultural development, biological characteristics, and social customs and beliefs of
humankind) and sociology (the study of human social behaviour, especially the
study of the origins, organisation, institutions and development of human
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society). That knowledge was then further propagated by the precursor of


Western social science who borrowed and used Ibn Khalduns analysis of
civilisation and culture but excluded the religious components in their own
analyses.
In his approach, Ibn Khaldun stated the religious factor as an important code of
life that could save a civilisation from collapse. This religious factor was rejected
by Western social thinkers who stressed on value-free, empirical, rational and
secular analyses (Ismail Yusoff, 2001). With the fall of Islamic influence, social
sciences, like economics, politics, history and sociology, developed quickly in the
West in the form of secular, liberal and atheistic forms. The social knowledge
pioneered by Ibn Khaldun and Islamic social thinkers became lost in the
onslaught of Western civilisation. In truth, Western philosophy from Socrates to
Freud who delved into modern Western knowledge had chosen to sever
themselves from God and focus their analyses in relation to the limited scope of
man and nature. Hence, Western knowledge particularly in sociology and
humanity, ignored the relationship between man and god (Ismail Yusoff, 2001).
This secular form of social sciences was then adopted by Islamic countries
colonised by the West. Western colonial officers, academicians and social
researchers played important roles in this. However, in the 1960s, Islamic
scholars came to realise that the form of social sciences propagated by the West
was discordant and at times, contrary to Islamic society and culture. This form of
thinking had to be rejected. Hence, the dimensions of morality and spirituality in
modern society had to be re-inculcated into the teaching of social science. The
same sentiments were stated by Mohd Kamal Hassan:

If we continue to expand knowledge on bases which are contrary to


Islamic faith and law, in its current scattered form, and built from two
sources of knowledge alone, which are empiricism and rationalism, then
we will not be able to remove ourselves from the crises of modern living.
(Ismail Yusoff, 2001)

ACTIVITY 5.1
If you are an Islamic social thinker and you could travel back in time to
the days of the Khulafa ar-Rashidun, how would you analyse the social
behaviour and culture of the Islamic society then?

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5.2

51

HISTORY OF ISLAMIC SOCIAL SCIENCE


THINKING

Kassim Ahmad (1984) divided Islamic social thinking into three stages or eras,
namely classic, middle and modern. He also suggested that the classic era began
with the formation of an Islamic state in Medina until the fall of the City of
Baghdad and Daulah Abbasiyah (1258 CE). The middle era was marked by the
establishment of the Turkish Ottoman Empire (1360 CE) until the downfall of the
Islamic caliphate (1924 CE). The modern era began with the arrival of European
civilisations (mid-19th century).
In short, he said that these eras have the following traits:
(a)

The classic era, particularly in its early stages, was famous for its pure
Islamic nature and their great success in the fields of administration,
military, social services and various fields of knowledge philosophy,
theology, law, science, medicine and history;

(b)

The middle era clearly saw a deviation from purely Islamic spirit and
teachings, the influence of negative, non-Islamic beliefs and practices and
the fall of Islamic political power;

(c)

The modern era began with the revival of Muslims rejecting European
occupation of their societies and reinstates the pure Islamic spirit in creating
new Islamic societies and civilisations.

These eras envision the stages of change in thinking among Islamic social
scientists from the classic to modern eras. The following briefly describes the
changes that can be seen during these periods.

5.2.1

The Classic Era

Basic Islamic philosophies and social theories at the start of the classic era (times of
the Prophet Muhammad and Khulafa ar-Rashidun) were based on al-Quran and
Sunnah, besides ijmak and ijtihad. Later, the Sunnah of the Khulafa ar-Rashidun
and teachings by religious figures such as Imam Abu Hanifah and Abu Yusuf also
became an important source of Islamic philosophy and social theory. Hence, the
social theory of the first Islamic Republic or what was known as classic Islamic
theories were based on three main sources, i.e. the Constitution of Medina, the
Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad and Khulafa ar-Rashidun. It placed society and
its rulers under divine laws which were fully sovereign. The cause and source of
such sovereignty was in the hands of Allah s.w.t as epitomised in the divine
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revelations of the Quran, which explained that God is sovereign and His laws must
be followed. Besides this, several philosophies in the Constitution of Medina and
speeches of the first Islamic Caliph also strengthened this opinion. For instance, the
first Caliph, Abu Bakar (r.a.) stated that:

I have been appointed the Amir of your caravan though I am not better
than you are. If I work properly, help me and if I do not work well,
correct me.... As long as I obey Allah and His messenger, you should
obey me, and if I do not obey Allah and His messenger, then obedience to
me is not incumbent upon you.
(Kassim Ahmad, 1984)
This became the basic concept of Islamic laws and social theories. It also became
the basic guideline in later Islamic rulership. However, there were several
differences in the practice of these basic concepts due to differing interpretations.
Islamic social thinking as formulated by Islamic theorists of the classic era such
as al-Mawardi (9911058 CE), Abu Yusuf (ca. 729798 CE), Al-Ghazzali
(10581111 CE) and others, did not cover all the practices of Prophet Muhammad
and Khulafa ar-Rashidun. The Constitution of Medina, for instance, was never
discussed. They focused on the caliphate theory (the need for caliphs, how to
elect them, characteristics that a caliph should possess, his functions and
responsibilities, the peoples rights and others) and not towards a social contract
as found in the Constitution of Medina and its relevance to Islamic society during
their time (several hundred years after the time of the Khulafa ar-Rashidun).
Islamic social thought at this time focused on debates relating to issues of
rulership.
Prominent social thinkers of this age were professional political theorists such as
Abu Yusuf, al-Mawardi and Al-Ghazzali. They studied and analysed the
practices of Islamic rule and the formation of an Islamic country, from the
establishment of Islam in Medina until their time, when they studied and wrote
on Islamic social science.
Al-Mawardi was the first Islamic social thinker who formulated the social theory
(political) systematically (even though the political concepts and ideas existed in
earlier Islamic societies i.e. in the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet as well as the
Khulafa ar-Rashidun and teachings of Islamic scholars). He observed and wrote
on the caliphate system of governance and described the methods of electing a
caliph and other related issues.

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53

The Middle Era

Beginning with the Daulah Umawiyah and Abasiyyah, the governance of Islam
began to change from the one that was based on the al-Quran and the Hadith or
Sunnah, as practiced during the time of the Prophet and Khulafa ar-Rashidun, to
that of the monarchy system.
The real spirit of Islam began to be eroded and replaced with one that gave
importance to materialistic pursuit. The basis of power for the Caliphs at that
time lay in their military strength and materialistic interest, no longer on the
consensus of the people and the quest for justice. This resulted in the emergence
of the mulk state, or a secular political economy.
Islamic social thinking had also changed. During the earlier classic era, Islamic
social theories were based on the teachings of the al-Quran and the Sunnah of the
Prophet Muhammad and Khulafa ar-Rashidun. However after that period, the
approach was more towards a materialistic concern. Social thinking at that
particular time began to give justification to the existence and the style of
governance of the Caliphate. The earlier versions of the Islamic social theories
from the classic era were amended by thinkers like al-Mawardi and al-Ghazzali
to suit the new form of governance.
During the Abassiyah Caliphate, thinkers such as Ibn Jamaa and Jalal-al-Din
al-Darwani continued and expanded the tradition of thinking based on the
Caliphates style of governance.
Thinkers such as Ibn Jamaa (12411331 CE), one of the greatest minds during
this era stated, in his political pamphlet Tahrir al-Ahkam fi Tadbir ahl al-Islam,
that A Caliph is the shadow of Allah on earth. This statement justified the
Caliphs ruling in a way far removed from the classic era.
It was not surprising that he made a rather shocking statement by stating
that a brutal regime was better than anarchy. Sixty years of dictatorship/
authoritarianism is better than an hour of civil war. This meant that the Shariah
principles (which stated that a Caliph should be overthrown if he acted against
Shariah laws, and that the people did not have to obey leaders who deviated
from Shariah) were totally set aside. Instead, principles adhered to were that the
people must obey authority, irrespective of whether the ruler came to power
legally or through violence, and whether or not he followed the Shariah was not
important (Kassim Ahmad, 1984).

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During this time, a famous social scientist, Ibn Khaldun (13311406 CE) emerged.
He was a great Islamic social thinker, seen by some as the father of sociology.
Western sociologist, Sorokin, felt that Ibn Khaldun was the father of rural
sociology due to his mastery of scientific thinking. His written work,
Muqaddimah, reflected his vast knowledge as well as critical and objective
attitude. He had collected and formulated the knowledge which at the time
existed in Arabic, into the first historical philosophy in the world. These included
political theories which summarised the political ideas of Plato and Aristotle, and
generation of ideas from Islamic philosophers and lawyers. (Kassim Ahmad,
1984). According to Ilya Ba-Yunus and Farid Khalid (1985), Ibn Khalduns
greatest contribution was on how to analyse raw data collected by ethnographers
of the time in a deductive manner. In other words, Ibn Khaldun showed ways to
interpret information collected from the field into a form that could be more
easily understood by the general public.
Ibn Khalduns approach was rather different compared to other researchers of,
particularly Western sociology and anthropology. He observed the societies he
visited and inhabited, and combined these with secondary data that he observed
and later synthesised, forming a grand theory (Ibid, 1984).
One of his most interesting opinions relate to human nature and the nature of
society. His explanation showed that man as an individual cannot live alone,
without needing society:

According to him, man is weak, initially ignorant and basically selfcentred. On the other hand, Allah gave man the power of reasoning and
abstract thinking. Starting with this premise, he explains society in terms of
necessity rather than it being natural or automatic. He looks at human
society as being a deliberate human invention that compensates for human
weaknesses and enhances mans chance of survival. This, according to him,
describes a paradox. On one hand, man is motivated by his selfcentredness to go his own way and do as he pleases. On the other hand, his
chances of survival are minimal unless he controls these desires and
cooperates with others. According to Ibn Khaldun, because of this
paradoxical situation, human society always harbours the possibility of
conflict. This possibility of conflict makes social solidarity a variable.
Where life is more risky and the means of livelihood meagre, there is a
higher degree of social solidarity, as in the case with desert tribes. On the
other hand, where life is more secure and the means of living more
luxurious, social solidarity heads towards decay, as is generally the case
with the inhabitants of cities.
(Ilyas Ba Yunus and Farid Khalid, 1985).
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According to Ibn Khaldun, humans have several natural weaknesses. However,


Allah gave them the ability to think in an abstract manner. A society is formed
because of this need to overcome that weakness. Also, without society, man
cannot exist or last for long. However, this need creates a paradox or
contradiction between mans natural greed and need for freedom, with society
which forces humans to work together with others. This situation can cause
internal and external conflict. The shape and form of this conflict differs
according to the place and situation. Next, the form of conflict which exists
influences the level of social solidarity in a particular society. For instance, in
uncertain times and with uncertain means of making a living, social solidarity is
high, as can be seen in clannish desert societies. On the other hand, with more
certain means of making a living and a richer lifestyle, then the social solidarity
level reduces as can be seen among most city-dwellers. In his analysis, Ibn
Khaldun saw society as an absolute need in mans lives. However, conflict occurs
due to mans selfish nature due to their reluctance to adhere to demands of
society. In his analysis, Ibn Khaldun obviously was one of the early founders of
the global theories of conflict and social changes.

ACTIVITY 5.2
How far do the ideas of Ibn Khaldun, the great thinker of his time, be
thought to be secular and advanced at the time ?

5.2.3

The Modern Era

Modern Islamic social thinking began after the fall of the Ottoman empire and
the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1924. It was closely related to the
rise of modern Islam which began in the 18th century and can be divided into
three stages (Kassim Ahmad, 1984):
(a)

The first stage was the religious and social stage from the 18th century to
the mid-19th century where movements such as the Wahabiyah in Arabia,
Sanusiyah of Northern Africa and Shah Waliyullah in India criticised
superstition and heresay, denounced taqlid and advocated ijtihad;

(b)

The second stage involved political actions from the mid-19th to mid-20th
centuries where Jamaluddin al-Afghani, Sheikh Muhammad Abduh,
Sayyid Ahmad Khan and others set the bases for anti-colonial struggle in
order to achieve independence of Muslims;

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(c)

The third and final stage is still being experienced currently, i.e.
redevelopment whereby the three main schools of thought collide in
attempts to control Islamic society schools of thought which we call
modern and modernist Islamic traditions.

The first stage of modern Islamic movements (early 18th century to mid-19th
century) advocated the ijtihad (the doors of which had been considered closed
since the 12th century) and adopted the principle of Islamic rationalism
(opposing taqlid) besides urging the ummah to return to the teachings of
al-Quran and Hadith as the original source and basis of Islam (Ibid, 1984: pg.84).
These ideas were continued in the second (mid-19th to mid-20th century) and
third stages (mid-20th century to present). The fourth quarter of the third stage in
modern Islamic movements overlapped with modern Islamic social thinking. The
ideas pioneered and expanded in the modern Islamic movements influenced
Islamic social thinking today. Islamic social scientists such as Basharat Ali and
Ali Shariati embraced these ideas and integrated them in their analyses and
writings on society.
Basharat Ali, received his education in Germany under the tutelage of Karl
Mannheim in the sociology of knowledge. However, he attempted to reject the
secular and variegated character of Western sociology. Ali tried to answer two
basic questions. He sought answers to the question "what is man and why
society?" by looking at the essence of al-Quran and the life of the Prophet
Muhammad. He used Sorokins terminology in his analyses but rejected the
concept of culture as understood by the West, using instead the Islamic concept
of culture. According to him, Islamic teachings were what prevented and
controlled conflict. In fact, without Islam, society would continue to justify the
existence of conflict and even encourage it to continue. Without Islam, society
begins to justify and even promote, rather than keep under control human
conflict. (IIyas Ba-Yunus & Farid Khalid, 1985).
Ali Shariati (19331977) was a French-trained Iranian social scientist who
saw sociology as a scientific discipline. To him, pure sociology functioned in
understanding and acknowledging Islam as a school of thought. To this end, he
made several valuable contributions by giving sociological meaning to Islamic
concepts such as tawhid, shirik and al-nas. He also contributed to valuable
discourse relating to the nature of man and the ummah.
He also explained the basic factors that could cause society to either change and
expand or fall and collapse quickly in relations to an ideal principle of relationship.
If we wish to form an ideal social order, we need to first know about the ideal
principles in human relationships, and adopt these principles to create the required

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environment. According to him, a rule on the ideal social arrangement in Islam is


already stated in the Quran and the practices of the Prophet. We only need to use
those rules in order to move in a particular direction.

the laws of the ideal Islamic order are available to us through the Quran
and Sunnah of the Prophet. The only element we need is the man who is
committed to apply these rules in order to motivate people in this direction
(Ibid, 1985).
The rise of modern Islam has resulted in Islamic social thought returning to
al-Quran and Sunnah as sources of social knowledge and the basis for analysing
social behaviour and human culture.

ACTIVITY 5.3
1.

How far can the ideas of Ali Shariati, an Iranian social scientist of
the 1960s and 1970s, said to contribute to the Islamic Revolution in
Iran, be seen in Irans current system of governance?

2.

Compare modern and classic Islamic social thinking. What are


their similarities and differences? Islamic social thinking during
the middle era was said to have been influenced by secular ideas.
How significant were secular ideas in Islamic societies of that
time?

Islamic social thinking can be divided into three eras i.e. the classic, middle
and modern.

Classic Islamic social thinking which began with the formation of an Islamic
state in Medina until the fall of the Daulah Abassiyah was based on the
al-Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad and Khulafa ar-Rashidun.
Among the prominent social thinkers of the time were al-Mawardi and alGhazzali.

Islamic social thinking of the middle era which began with the emergence of
Daulah Uthmaniah until its fall in the first quarter of the 20th century was
more influenced by secular ideas. Among the thinkers of this era was Ibn
Khaldun.
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Modern Islamic social thought which began with the fall of the Ottoman
empire until now, was influenced by ideas which came about as a result of
the rise of modern Islam which rejected Western social thinking and returned
to the teachings of the al-Quran and Prophets Sunnah as basic sources of
social science and sociology. Among the famous social scientists of this era
were Basharat Ali and Ali Shariati.

Abu Yusuf

Daulah Umawiyah

Al-Ghazzali

Daulah Uthmaniyah

Ali Shariati

Ibn Khaldun

Al-Mawardi

Islamic social thinking

Al-Quran

Khulafa ar-Rashidin

Basharat Ali

Middle era

Classic era

Modern era

Daulah Abassiyah

Sunnah

Al Faruqi, I. R., & Naseef, A. O. (1989). Sains sosial dan sains tulen. Kuala
Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.
Ilyas Ba-Yunus & Farid Khalid. (1985). Islamic sociology: An introduction.
Portland, N.Y.: The State University of New York.
Ismail Yusof. (2001). Pengantar sains sosial. Sintok: Penerbitan UUM.
Kassim Ahmad. (1984). Teori sosial Islam moden. Kuala Lumpur: Fajar Bakti
Sdn Bhd.
Saleh Faghizadeh. (2004). Sosiologi. Kuala Lumpur: Institut Terjemahan Negara
Malaysia Bhd.

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Topic The Focus in

Social Science
Studies

LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1.

Describe the different aspects of social living and how they relate to
man and society;

2.

Explain the importance of human welfare in society in spurring the


development of a nation; and

3.

Explain ethics and philosophy in social science discourse.

INTRODUCTION
This topic details several important themes in social science. The focus of
discussion will be on the different aspects of social life and how they relate to
man and society. Emphasis is given on this because social science discourse
centres on human life and man's place in society. This topic also touches on ethics
and philosophy and their role in social and national development.

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6.1

SOCIAL LIFE AND THE CONNECTION


BETWEEN MAN AND SOCIETY

Philosophers and social theorists always stress on three main principles in


preserving social integrity. These are cooperation, mutual respect and freedom
from matters that hinder progress. They also emphasise that living in a society is
a form of partnership: the closer the partnership, the stronger and more dynamic
is the society.
Since the dawn of history, man has always been keen to explore and set up
settlements while interacting with others to fulfil their needs. They have
established cultures and ways of life, besides practising shared values among
themselves in a society.
Development generally, assures mans greater comfort and prosperity.
Development leads to a better civilisation and the creation of knowledge. As part
of the development process, each individual needs to prioritise when making
choices or changes. As part of the environment, man will have to preserve and
protect the environment as an important ecological resource and divine gift.

6.2

WELFARE OF MAN AND SOCIETY

The welfare (the good fortune, health, happiness, prosperity, etc., of a person,
group or organisation) of people is an aspect that is given priority in developed
and developing countries as they strive to improve the quality of life in their
respective societies. Wealth (owning a great quantity of money, valuable
possessions, property, or other assets) does not indicate an improvement in
mans welfare because it can also lead to a high rate of depression among
members of the society (Rohany & Fatimah, 2006).
Emphasis is given to human welfare as it involves various aspects of living in a
society. Each individual plays various roles in his or her life. At home, the person
can be a mother, father, husband, wife, child or grandparent. While outside the
home, he or she can be an employee, neighbour and member of society. Despite
the different roles, they are all interrelated, meaning that a problem faced by one
individual will inevitably affect the others.
According to Abdul Rahman Embong (2003), human beings are willing to work
together in protecting their honour and well-being. So, too, will they fight those
who abuse and destroy it. Eradicating poverty and improving the quality of life,
providing work opportunities, health facilities, education and the like, are among
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the main agendas of development. For example, the New Economic Policy
(19711990), the National Development Policy (19912000) and Vision 2020 in
Malaysia, were formulated to create a more equitable and progressive society.
The reality of social life is that people who are poor and weak feel inferior and
are obliged to respect and bow to others. Meanwhile the rich and those in
positions of power often have a sense of entitlement. Hence, they feel that others
must respect them. Issues of dignity and honour can create conflict and
restlessness within the society. If these issues are not properly handled, they can
affect the countrys social integrity.
Guaranteeing basic human rights for everyone is vital to preserve human dignity
and self-esteem. This is in line with the concept of partnership, and at the same
time, it gives mankind the freedom to realise their potential and work towards
improving their well-being.
The concept of development based on the principle of honour, dignity and wellbeing does not only involve the provision of basic needs like food and drink,
clothing, employment, accommodation, health and education. Even if these three
components namely job opportunities and income, the availability of health
facilities, and opportunities for education are upheld in the United Nations
Charter, they cannot fully protect the well-being, honour and dignity of a society.
The more a society develops, the more important it is to expand the dimensions
of freedom and overcome restrictions to liberty. Mankind is entitled to other
rights including sufficient space, freedom of speech and the right to make life
choices. This is especially relevant in the political sphere that promotes
democracy, freedom and other human rights; the capacity to develop culture and
intellect; spiritual development; and in taking civilisation to a higher level (Abdul
Rahman Embong, 2003).
Development is now a universal phenomenon particularly in developing
countries like Malaysia. Sustainable development is the agenda for humanity in
the 21st century. The question of development and prosperity will continue to
reverberate in philosophy, theory, policy and development strategies worldwide.
How this development will impact man and society will be evident over time.
Human resources are crucial to a countrys development as it is the deciding
factor in ensuring the continued growth of a nation. When the workforce faces
problems or conflicts, it will have an impact on the countrys economy. With this
in mind, efforts should be carried out in order to understand issues relating to
the well-being of the people.

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6.3

SOCIAL ETHICS AND THE PHILOSOPHY OF


HUMANITY

In an effort to create and develop a state system, a society must adopt the
philosophies of a particular ideological system. Therefore, a clear explanation of
the philosophy behind the state system is crucial. Philosophy (the rational
investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge or conduct)
underlines the guiding principle for a particular system. It also forms the world
view of the members of society and develops the systems approach. It will also
influence the acceptance and appreciation of ethical values. As a result, it will
give birth to an ethical society which supports the spirit of the philosophy in
order to achieve its goals.
Using a tree as an analogy, the roots represent the foundation of the philosophy
while its branches depict the moral values embraced by society. The lush green
leaves which sprout throughout the year represent the thriving culture.
Generally, a fertile tree will produce quality fruits or in the case of a society
people of quality.
Ethics is a branch of philosophy that describes the highest ideals and proper
conduct to a better quality of life.
Ethical debates are intended to clear the issues related to human behaviour,
morality/moral habits, define questions of right and wrong, good and bad as
well as dos and donts that man should follow when living in a society. In short,
ethics are imperative in driving human thought, behaviour and actions.
Therefore, ethics need to be the reference point in evaluating right or wrong,
good or bad, positive or negative.
The question of the correlation between ethics and development is also important
to explain life in a society. Development should be focused on protecting human
welfare because any change brought about by development should result in
greater prosperity for everyone. Mans welfare is an important factor in
development and should be the basic consideration in any development plan.
Philosophy is a rational and systematic effort to find answers to questions related
to the universe and human life. It also debates issues of both good and bad social
norms. The philosophy of humanity provides guidelines for man, influencing
their attitude towards life and behaviour.

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Human philosophy invariably advocates balanced development for society. For


instance spiritual and physical development will involve plans for building
human potential based on man's innate nature. Neverthless, the fact remains that
in any development, physical infrastructure is normally given priority while
spiritual development tends to be left out.
Sustainable development and prosperity involve planned development which
takes into consideration all aspects of human life and the environment.
In order to achieve wealth, development must consider human needs which do
not just involve physical needs but also the spiritual, psychological, emotional,
intellectual, moral and ethical.

ACTIVITY 6.1
To what extent do you agree that development plans for a developing
country should focus on mans welfare?

Mans welfare is important in the development of a country.

Social ethics also need to be stressed upon as it motivates people to be


civic-conscious when interacting in a society.

Development

Morals

Ethics

Philosophies

Mans well-being

Values

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Abdul Rahman Embong. (2003). Pembangunan dan kesejahteraan: Agenda


Kemanusiaan abad ke-21. (syarahan perdana). Bangi: Penerbit Universiti
Kebangsaan Malaysia.
Ismail Yusoff. (2001). Pengenalan sains sosial. Sintok: Penerbit Universiti Utara
Malaysia.
Rohany Nasir dan Fatimah Omar. (2006). Kesejahteraan manusia: Perspektif
psikologi. Bangi: Penerbit Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

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Topic

Basic
Concepts in
Social Science

LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1.

Explain the concept of social institutions;

2.

Explain the difference between social organisation and social structure;

3.

Define social culture and social values; and

4.

Describe the concept of social interaction.

INTRODUCTION
This topic describes the basic concepts in social sciences, particularly those used
in sociology and social and cultural anthropology. They include social
institutions, social structures, social organisations, cultures, social values and
social interactions. These concepts are important as they are used to explain
about society and culture in social science research.

ACTIVITY 7.1
Before you continue reading, state your understanding of the terms
and concepts of social science listed in the introduction. Compare
your answer with the explanations given.

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7.1

TOPIC 7

BASIC CONCEPTS IN SOCIAL SCIENCE

SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS

A system of closely related status, roles and norms is created to fulfil important
needs and/or social functions. The roles and norms of the institution will
determine the social behaviour required to fulfil several basic needs from a social
viewpoint. Economy, education, political system, religion (belief system) and
families are the main social institutions in a society.

ACTIVITY 7.2
Why is the social institution an important concept in social science and
in understanding society and culture? Critically discuss this based on
your experience. How far do you agree with the opinion that the
existence of a social institution is important for the stability and
continuity of a society?

7.2

SOCIAL STRUCTURES

Social structure is a social interaction pattern that forms culture. The social
structure can be likened to the skeleton, while culture is the flesh wrapped
around it. It exists in society as a complex network in a lasting social relationship
that unites social clusters into a bigger unit. It is a component of society, which is
arranged in a manner that forms a systematic unity. Its main components are the
systems, norms, status, roles, interactions and clusters. For the social
anthropologist, social structure is an analytical tool to help us understand human
behaviour in their social lives. Changes in the social structure lead to changes in
other parts of the society.

ACTIVITY 7.3
One of the social relationships of rural Malays is based on the derau
system or gotong royong (working together in the spirit of goodwill).
If this system were to cease to exist, what could happen to that society?

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SOCIAL ORGANISATIONS

A social organisation is an arrangement of a societys duties, the process of


arranging an action and the relationship between that action and an accepted social
goal. It is an accurate/specific social activity, which is also considered the most
basic form of cooperation, a coordination of each individuals behaviour towards a
particular social and economic goal (Norazit Selat, 1993). The social organisation
can also be seen as one way that man manages the functioning of a society.

ACTIVITY 7.4
Is the derau system a social organisation? What are the similarities and
differences between a social structure and a social organisation?

7.4

CULTURE

Culture has many definitions. Upon observation, we will notice that it generally
relates to human beings and their actions, yet they refer specifically to the
society. Notable definitions of culture include:
(a)

E. B. Tylor Culture is everything that is complex containing knowledge,


beliefs, arts, morality, laws, traditions and others. They are the abilities and
habits obtained by man as a member of a society.

Figure 7.1: E.B. Tylor

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(b)

TOPIC 7

BASIC CONCEPTS IN SOCIAL SCIENCE

L. Kroeber and C. Kluckhohn Culture is made up of behavioural patterns


in letter and in spirit which are obtained and transmitted through symbols.
Culture is the achievement of a group of humans including artefacts or
artistic goods. The core of culture is made up of the traditional ideas and
values that were decided throughout its history.
(George & Achilles, 1969)

Figure 7.2: Kroeber

7.4.1

Cultural Integration

Cultural integration unites conflicting elements or cultural components in order


to create a harmonious and integrated totality or unit. Values, norms and
cultures in a closely bonded society will help each member to support each other
and strengthen their social integration.

7.4.2

Cultural Variation

Cultural variation can be divided into five types. These include:


(a)

Sub-cultures
Sub-cultures are a segment of society, which share a pattern of norms
(folkways, mores, customs and laws) as well as certain beliefs and values
that are different from several aspects of societys general cultural patterns.
For instance, the culture of rural Malays differs slightly from some of the
Malay practices in general. It could also be the culture of a community,
which rejects the basic norms, values and beliefs of the general culture of
society. This sub-culture is known as counterculture. For example, the
Al-Arqam community, which existed in Malaysia at one time practiced
certain norms and values which were different from the general society.
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(b)

Culture Shock
This is experienced by someone when exposed for the first time to a society
with a different culture. Because the culture of that society, whether
materially or otherwise, is so different from his own, he finds it hard to
interact and adapt in a short period of time. He needs time to enable
socialisation with the society. For instance, a rural Malay who had never
been exposed to Australian culture visits Melbourne for the first time. The
feeling of discomfort he or she feels is a form of cultural shock.

(c)

Ethnocentrism
Ethnocentrism is the feeling in someone that his culture is better than that
of other societies. This feeling then influences his actions in his relationship
with members of other societies. Generally, his actions will be negative in
nature either physically or verbally towards them. In each society or
community, there will always be people who are inclined towards being
ethnocentric.

(d)

The Material Culture


All physical objects (traits of material culture) were invented by man,
including natural objects that are given meanings and functions. These are
used by humans but are not created or modified by them.

(e)

The Non-material Culture


The traits of abstract culture were invented by man such as technical skills,
norms, knowledge, languages and so forth, which are handed down from
generation to generation.

7.5

SOCIAL VALUES

Societys conception on what is thought to be good, longed for or desirable, are


known as positive values. On the other hand, negative values refer to what is
thought to be not good, not longed for or undesirable. Social values also include
what the members of society like or dislike, are important or unimportant and
moral or immoral. There is a direct link/relationship among values, norms and
sanctions. Values can also be divided into specific and general values. The social
reaction towards those who violate positive social values will come in the form of
sanctions.

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7.5.1

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BASIC CONCEPTS IN SOCIAL SCIENCE

Specific Values

This concept refers to certain things appreciated by the majority of a society.


Therefore these things will be sought out by members of that society. For
instance, performing the Haj (the fifth pillar of Islam is pilgrimage to Mecca
during the month of Dhu al-Hijja) in Mecca. Pilgrimage to Mecca during Dhu'l
Hijja, has become the religious objective of all Muslims and is of specific value to
Muslims. Those who have done so will be accorded a higher status in the Malay
Islamic society. Hence, many Muslims will make an effort to perform the Haj, not
only because it is religiously required, but also because it allows for social
benefits such as a higher status and respect.

7.5.2

General Values

This concept refers to general and abstract things that are appreciated by most
people in a society. Among them include health and democracy (government by
the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives). These
two aspects are fundamental values generally appreciated by Malaysians,
regardless of race or religion. Like specific values, it will also influence the
behaviour of the society. Respect towards parents and the importance of gaining
knowledge and higher education are two other values cherished by everyone in
our country.

7.5.3

A Conflict of Values

A conflict of values occurs when a particular value is widely received by society


but not by some. For instance, in the United States, egalitarianism (a doctrine that
holds all people should be treated as equals), which is accepted as a social value
does not go down well with some members of the society who are racist. To this
group, they are unable to accept equality as a value which should be upheld.
Instead, they strongly reject such a value. This stand has caused opposition or a
conflict of values.

ACTIVITY 7.5
Compare social values (positive and negative) in your ethnic group
with that of others. Describe how the social values of your ethnic group
influence your actions.

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SOCIAL INTERACTION

What is social interaction?


Social interaction is a social process which occurs between two or more
individuals and groups.

It involves the exchange of information between individuals. It influences and is


influenced by the actions of others. It also takes into account the behaviour of
others and involves predictions and forecasting that becomes a norm after
awhile. It also involves various communication processes through the use of
languages and symbols, allowing individuals to exchange meaning and ideas
through this instrument of communication. The essence of interaction is the
exchange of meaning. When a social interaction occurs for a certain time and
forms patterns, it is known as a social relationship. Social interaction, social
communication and social relationships are also known as social behaviour.
Society continues to exist because of communication patterns that allow its
members to know what they should do and how to predict the actions of other
members. Predicting what others will do in a particular situation is important for
each social behaviour.

ACTIVITY 7.6
1.

Discuss why the ability to predict the actions of others in a social


situation is important for social behaviour.

2.

Social institutions, structures, organisations, cultures and values


will not exist without social interaction. How far do you agree
with this statement?

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BASIC CONCEPTS IN SOCIAL SCIENCE

Social science is a field of knowledge that studies society and culture by using
several basic concepts.

An institution is a basic concept of social science which explains a status


system, as well as the roles and norms related to and created for fulfilling
important social needs and functions.

Social structure, which is a basic concept of social science acts as an analytical


tool to help us understand mans behaviour in a social lifestyle.

A social organisation is a social activity, an action and the connection


between that action and a generally accepted goal.

Culture is everything complex that contains knowledge, beliefs, arts,


morality, laws, traditions and other abilities and habits gained by man as
members of society.

Social values are the things considered good and desired, or otherwise.

Social interaction is a social process that involves the exchange of meaning


between two or more individuals and groups as well as the exchanges based
on the actions of other individuals.

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Arts

Social aims

Beliefs

Social behaviour

Conflict of values

Social institutions

Counter culture

Social interaction

Cultural variations

Social lifestyle

Culture

Social organisations

Culture shock

Social relationships

Ethnocentrism

Social structure

Functions

Social system

General values

Social values

Knowledge

Specific values

Laws

Status

Norms

Sub-cultures

Roles

Tradition

73

Sanctions

George, A., & Achilles, G. T. (1969). A modern dictionary of sociology. London:


Methuen & Co. Ltd.
Norazit Selat. (1993). Konsep asas antropologi. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan
Pustaka.
Ting Chew Peh. (1997). Konsep asas sosiologi. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan
Pustaka.

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Topic

Methodology
of Social
Science

LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1.

Explain the philosophy of social scientific research;

2.

Explain the methods of social science research; and

3.

Describe the qualitative and quantitative approaches in social


science.

INTRODUCTION
This topic is important for us to understand the philosophy of social science
research. In this topic too, we will learn about several methods of researching in
social science especially the qualitative and quantitative approaches. In
considering social science as a branch of knowledge that is based on scientific
and systematic research, we need to understand the research philosophy which
stresses on two characteristics. The first is the scientific methods used and
second, the research needs to be systematic by following specific steps.

ACTIVITY 8.1
What do you understand about the philosophy of social science
research in general? Compare your view with the subsequent
explanations given.

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THE PHILOSOPHY OF SOCIAL SCIENCE


RESEARCH

Research is a process of gathering information, data and facts for the


advancement of knowledge. Social science is a branch of science which studies
various aspects of human behaviour and society.
According to Rohana Yusof (2001), research is normally carried out to study a
particular problem using scientific approaches based on the data collected. The
information obtained is extremely useful and important. In short, research is a
systematic study which enables researchers to obtain current information to help
in deducing new theories and draw conclusions.
The philosophy (the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being,
knowledge, or conduct) of social science research places importance on the
principle of truth. Hence, social science research must aim to fulfil this. Through
such research, it helps you to understand problems and widen your knowledge
on certain issues. Therefore, it is important to disseminate ideas and information
to members of society on social phenomena based on scientific research reports.
Another reason for you to undertake social science research is to allow you to
improve or disprove on existing study of a particular issue. The results of your
research will become a source of reference as new knowledge. Through research,
there will be continuous discovery of new knowledge, which may make existing
information on a particular issue irrelevant over time.
The knowledge of social science was derived from research done on groups of
people in particular societies. Due to the complexity and broad ranging areas
in social science, it is divided into several branches or units of research which
are smaller and more specific. These divisions are known as disciplines and
they include sociology, anthropology, political science, history, economics,
psychology, among others. These disciplines are based on how man interacts
among themselves in their daily lives. In short, when conducting social science
research that involves those fields (or disciplines), the scientific approach is
extremely crucial.

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Meaning of Scientific Research

A scientific research places importance on facts. It should report the truth, not
conjecture or speculation, neither is it based on myth or ones imagination. The
facts reported must be accurate. For instance, a statement saying that most
students smoke is too general and should be backed by figures. Instead, it should
say that 60 percent of students are smokers. This will make the statement more
objective and impartial.
Meanwhile, the amount of information collected through research is everincreasing. Science (the observation, identification, description, experimental
investigation and theoretical explanation of phenomena) aims to gather new
evidence to replace or enhance existing theories. For instance, previous studies
show that those who smoke cigarettes were more prone to cancer, while the latest
research shows that those who unintentionally inhale smoke (secondary
smokers) may also be exposed to the risk of cancer.

8.2

RESEARCH METHODS AND DATA


COLLECTION IN SOCIAL SCIENCE

Social science research places importance on several methods in collecting


authoritative and accurate data. According to Syed Arabi Idid (1992), systematic
and scientific research methods are needed to ensure the facts obtained are
accurate and credible. Hence, scientific research is crucial in ensuring that the
findings are credible and of quality.

8.2.1

Procedures of Social Science Research

Social science research that is scientific and systematic also places importance on
the compliance with several procedures by the researchers. These include:
(a)

Identifying the field and problem to be studied;

(b)

Conducting literature reviews related to the field of research;

(c)

Forming initial assumptions about the research (research hypothesis);

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(d)

Choosing the methodology of data collection and analysis;

(e)

Collecting data (information) using methods that have been decided upon;

(f)

Analysing and interpreting data or research results;

(g)

Drawing conclusions relating to research results; and

(h)

Disseminating research findings or information to the public (in the form of


writings, seminars and reports).

8.2.2

Approaches to Social Science Research

In the field of social science, there are several research methods that can be used
to research and understand phenomena on various aspects of human interaction.
Generally the two approaches applied in social science research are qualitative
(pertaining to or concerned with quality or qualities) and quantitative (pertaining
to the describing or measuring of quantity). In the subsequent sections, you will
learn about the two approaches in order to understand and apply them in your
research.

8.3

QUALITATIVE APPROACH

There are two important research methods in the qualitative approach, i.e. the
ethnographic method and case study. These two methods are usually used by
social scientists in unveiling social phenomena which occur in the lives of man
and society. You need to learn and understand these two techniques of data
collection so that your research will yield satisfactory and significant results. This
in turn strengthens the focus and contribution of knowledge corpus in the field of
social science.

8.3.1

The Ethnographic Method

The ethnographic method is important in anthropological research to predict


behaviour, thought and culture of a community accurately. Ethnographic
research involves fieldwork that requires the researcher to live among members
of the society (an organised group of persons associated together for religious,
benevolent, cultural, scientific, political, patriotic, or other purposes) he is
studying. It aims to observe more closely their daily routines, rituals, social
behaviour, economic activities and other cultural behaviours. In short, the
researchers need to identify what the community does and delve into their
thoughts.

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There are two methods of data collection in the ethnographic technique/method,


namely, observation and interviews. Observation is generally more popular
among social anthropologists. When conducting observations, researchers will
usually be immersed with the society. Due to this, ethnographic research takes
time, where the researcher will observe and note the things studied, interpret his
observations and draw a report on the community he studied.
Ethnographic research generally focuses on specific and small areas or
communities. This is usually referred to as a case study. There are two techniques
of observation, i.e. participant observation and non-participant observation
(detached observation). In detached observation, the researcher observes the
phenomena without those being studied realising it and at the same time, the
researcher is not involved in the phenomena or activities researched. In
participant observation, the researcher is involved in the activities or lives of the
community that is under study. In such cases, the researcher has normally been
accepted as a member of the community. For instance, research on Orang Asli
community, where the researcher becomes part of the community and lives
among them. When conducting observations, the researcher will note what he
has observed and interpret what he has seen. The researcher is not at all allowed
to change the behaviour of those he is researching.
Bailey (1984) listed several main steps in observation methods as below:
(a)

Decide the aims of the research;

(b)

Decode the group of subjects to be observed;

(c)

Enter the group;

(d)

Obtain cooperation from the subjects researched;

(e)

Conduct research by observing and making external notes which include


the duration, for example, weeks, months or years;

(f)

Overcome crises that are likely to occur, such as confrontations with


subjects who feel the researcher is a spy;

(g)

End the research observation;

(h)

Analyse data; and

(i)

Write reports and present findings.

Interviews are also important in ethnography. Usually, the researcher will carry
out in-depth interviews with the informants studied. A research on an Orang
Asli society, for example, should include the tok batin as the key informant. It
must be noted that the tok batin is the head and most important person in the
Orang Asli community and therefore, the researcher needs to gain prior
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permission to conduct research in his village. Through the tok batin, researchers
can obtain the names of several other Orang Asli informants suggested by the tok
batin for interviews.

8.3.2

Issues Related to Fieldwork

According to Rohana Yusof (2001), there are several issues that need to be given
attention by a researcher when conducting fieldwork. Firstly, the rapport
between researcher and the community he is studying. This is because the
researcher rarely conducts his study alone. At times, the researcher tends to bring
along his spouse, friends or assistant researchers. When conducting studies of a
particular community, the researcher needs to build good relations with people
in the community as his every word and action will constantly be observed. The
researcher needs to be wise not to conduct himself in a manner that would offend
the sensitivities and norms of the community.
Second, is the question of ethics. It should be remembered that anthropologists,
when conducting their research often interfere with or breach the privacy of
individuals or the society they are researching. It is the responsibility of the
researcher to keep the information gathered from individuals (informant
identity) or the society during the course of conducting the research, confidential.
The researcher needs to respect the culture and environment of the community
he is researching. He must be professional and honest (with integrity) in
reporting his research.
Third, the use of modern technology in research such as video cameras, voice
recorders and laptops are important besides notebooks, which are traditionally
used to take down notes. Interestingly, these modern tools, if properly used can
help the researcher to gather information effectively. However, the use of these
tools is subject to consent given by members of the community he is researching,
for example, taking photographs of specific rituals.

8.3.3

Case Study

In case studies, the researcher attempts to explain a particular phenomenon in


depth. It is also known as descriptive research. In this case study, the research
conducted focuses on the variables which cause the phenomena, and try to draw
conclusions from them. A case study needs to be conducted in detail in order to
identify the reasons for the phenomenon and finding solutions to overcome it.

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A case study can be carried out on a social unit such as individuals, families,
societies, schools, associations, organisations, countries, among others. In
short, the case study attempts to understand factors that cause a particular
phenomenon by suggesting several descriptions and then testing the relationship
between that description and reality. The case study aims to solve social
problems. For instance, research on treatment for drug addicts such as using
methadone as a way to rehabilitate hardcore addicts. Also, the researcher needs
to make notes on the health status of drug addicts and continuously interact with
them to measure the effects of methadone on the addicts. The researcher also
needs to lend support and guidance to the addicts so that they are freed of the
drugs.
Hence, drug addicts accepting this alternative treatment will feel appreciated.
The role of the researcher to reduce societys stigma towards drug addicts is also
important. This gives the addicts hope to face the future with determination and
strength.
Case studies are important as the outcomes of such studies will serve as reference
for future study. Hence, the researcher has to study each case that exists carefully
and with integrity.

8.4

QUANTITATIVE APPROACH

In the quantitative approach, there are several methods of research that you need
to learn to fully understand social science research. This understanding is
important to guide us in understanding the process and ethics so that we can
conduct professional research.

8.4.1

Experimental Methods

Experiments are methods of research that decide the influence of a variable


towards other variables. Experimental research is generally conducted under the
control of the researcher either in a laboratory or on the field. Field experiments
are usually conducted in specific settings like prisons, hospitals, schools or
factories.
Experimental research usually involves two groups of people:
(a)

First, the experimental group, i.e. the group that is given independent
variables; and

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(b)

Secondly, the control group, i.e. the group that is not given independent
variables.
After the independent variables are given to the control group, a comparison is
made to measure the influence of the variable on the groups. If there are
differences between the groups, it can be deduced that the variables contributed
to the final outcome. For instance, what is the effect of the free milk programme
on students academic performance in rural primary schools? Generally,
experimental research is used in the field of education, especially in testing
hypotheses.
There are also experimental techniques that use only one experimental group.
Before the free variables are given, the groups fixed variables (variables which
can be influenced) are first measured. The control group is later given free
variables and the outcomes measured. If there is a difference in outcomes before
and after the experiment, it means that the independent variables have an
influence on the fixed variables.
Experiments (a test, trial, or tentative procedure; an act or operation for the
purpose of discovering something unknown or of testing a principle,
supposition, etc.) can also be conducted in the field. For instance, if you wish to
identify which gender is more attentive towards children, you can conduct an
experiment by leaving a young child at the bus station and observe what
happens from afar. This experiment is more popular among psychologists.
Some studies are harder to conduct through experiments particularly those
involving big groups or information that is general in nature. Hence, surveys are
more popular among social scientists particularly sociologists. Surveys are
conducted on the field and not in the laboratory.
In surveys, research is conducted on samples that are representative of the
population. By studying samples (respondents taken from among the
population), it is hoped that the results are representative of the population.
There are certain techniques of choosing samples and they are usually chosen at
random.
A person chosen to be a sample is called a respondent. The survey is aimed at
collecting data to describe the nature or traits of the respondent. To extract these
data or information, questionnaires are generally used. The questionnaires are
designed to collect information from the respondents. These questions are either
answered personally by the respondent by way of filling the questionnaire or
through interviews based on the prepared questions. The interview can be
conducted in person or via the telephone.

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Surveys are also an excellent way to gauge the attitude or orientation in a large
population. Data collected through questionnaires will later be analysed,
generally using computer applications such as SPSS (Statistical Package For
Social Science). Using SPSS, statistical analysis on study variables can be
conducted. Results of this research provide explanation about the sample as well
as the population.

ACTIVITY 8.2
1.

In your opinion, to what extent is the experimental method


suitable to research on the phenomenon of illegal racing
(mat rempit) in Malaysia? How would you collect such data?

2.

To what extent do you agree that the ethnographic method is


more suitable and relevant compared to other methods in
studying the Orang Asli culture in our country?

Social science is a field of knowledge that studies society and culture.

Understanding the main research methods in social science can assist us in


carrying out systematic and scientific research.

Suitability of research methods as well as the enthusiasm of the researcher are


important in exploring research problems in a critical and credible manner.

Each research method used to collect data has its pros and cons. Hence, you
must be wise in choosing the best methods of data collection.

Researchers should identify methods to be used before carrying out a


particular research to ensure accuracy of facts obtained.

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Anthropology

Qualitative

Case study

Quantitative

Economics

Respondents

Ethnography

Scientific

Experiment

Social science

Interviews

Sociology

Methodology

SPSS

Political science

Survey

83

Psychology

Abdul Rahman Embong. (2006). Peranan dan orientasi sains sosial di Malaysia.
Bangi: Penerbit Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
Bailey, K. D. (1984). Kaedah penyelidikan sosial (translation). Kuala Lumpur:
Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (original work published 1978).
Ismail Yusoff. (2001). Pengenalan sains sosial. Sintok: Penerbit Universiti Utara
Malaysia.
Noran Fauziah Yaakub. (1987). Pengantar sosiologi. Petaling Jaya: Penerbit Fajar
Bakti.
Rohana Yusof. (2001). Penyelidikan sains sosial. Sintok: Penerbit Universiti Utara
Malaysia.

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Topic

Disciplines

of
Social Science

LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1.

Describe the different disciplines in social science;

2.

Explain the similarities and differences among the social science


disciplines; and

3.

Describe the methods and goals of the different disciplines in social


science.

INTRODUCTION
This topic describes the various disciplines in the field of social sciences in
general. Science means knowledge obtained through scientific methods. This
means science is a body of knowledge related to existing phenomena which had
been experimented upon, and then proven and accepted as a fact. All knowledge
obtained in that way is arranged carefully so that it creates principles or theories
on particular phenomena that can be accepted as the truth and later used for
research by future generations. Social science is a way of exposing or explaining
human problems as well as interpreting them. The results are then converted into
a verifiable prediction. After verification, it is considered an accurate theory
which can be used for further study. In this topic, we will cover some of the main
social science disciplines and explain their methods and goals.

ACTIVITY 9.1
List down several social science disciplines that you have heard of or
learned. Compare your opinions with explanations related to the main
social science disciplines as discussed in section 9.1.
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MAIN DISCIPLINES IN SOCIAL SCIENCES

Social science is a discipline of knowledge that describes humanity in its social


context or explains social life such as understanding behavioural patterns
generally found in groups of human beings. There are several major disciplines
in social sciences which include:
(a)

History
The discipline of history focuses on events that occurred in the past.
Historians stress on facts when explaining a particular event which has
affected humans, society and the development of a country.

(b)

Political Science
The discipline of political science researches on human behaviour. Political
scientists focus more on power, the political process, where social decisions
are made, political parties, the behaviour of political individuals and
groups as well as the governance of a country. In other words, political
scientists not only study the way humans are ruled but also the way
administrative tools are used to solve problems faced by the general public.

(c)

Economics
The discipline of economics focuses on the production, distribution and
utilisation of resources in a society. From a social perspective, economists
are only interested in societys behaviour which is the result of the efforts of
its members who use facilities to achieve an aim rationally.

(d)

Anthropology
The discipline of anthropology is a study of humans and all aspects of their
lives. It is similar to sociology but anthropologists focus on primitive
society, while sociologists study modern societies, particularly urbandwellers. Methods used by anthropologists are also different from those
adopted by sociologists. For instance, anthropologists try to find unusual
patterns in the culture of the societies studied such as rituals and weddings
peculiar to a society.

(e)

Sociology
Compared to other fields in social science, sociology has the widest scope of
research. It focuses more on the relationship between humans and among
groups; as well as on the institution of society. The main research material
is human society. Sociology studies societys patterns; the processes of
human expansion, development and change; and how these patterns and
processes affect individual and group behaviour.
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(f)

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Psychology
The discipline of psychology is generally defined as the science that studies
mental processes and human behaviour. Psychology is considered a science
as the knowledge in this field is obtained through systematic procedures
such as through controlled observations. The mental process is an activity
that happens in the human mind and cannot be observed. The mental
processes include:
(i)

Thought (memory, thought, perception, reasoning, evaluating, imagebuilding and belief);

(ii)

Emotions (grief, joy, worry);

(iii) Feelings (hate, like); and


(iv) Motive (intention or desire).
Even though the mental process cannot be seen due to its personal nature, it
can be concluded through behaviour, which is every action that can be
seen. Social psychology is the field that studies the influence of the
environment on mental process and behaviour. In short, psychologists
study individual human development.
(g)

Linguistics
The discipline of linguistics observes, describes and explains the nature of
language and its connection to society. Language is a living entity which
lives and expands in line with the development of human civilisation.
Therefore, language needs to constantly be researched, analysed, dissected,
planned and built. This is done through the discipline of linguistics. In
short, it is a scientific research on human languages.

(h)

Geography
The discipline of geography is a study of locations and variations of space
in human and physical phenomena in the world. A geographer focuses on
analysing the variations of space on the distribution, composition and
migration of a population. Past geographers looked only at the distribution
pattern of a population as a rather static phenomenon, connecting them
especially to the physical environment pattern. Modern geographers need
to look at how populations influence geographical patterns.

(i)

Communications
The discipline of communications is becoming increasingly popular and
receiving more attention currently in social science. Communication is the
process of transferring information through the same system of symbols.
Communication means a process of transferring information, feelings,
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ideas and thoughts from one individual to a different individual or group


of individuals.

9.2

SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES


BETWEEN THE DISCIPLINES

The field of social science is a form of research on a group of people in a society


(an organised group of persons associated together for religious, benevolent,
cultural, scientific, political, patriotic or other purposes). However, no one can
learn human affairs and their relationship to society as a whole because social
science is a wide and complex field of research. Therefore, we need to divide it
into several branches in order to conduct smaller studies.
This division into units or disciplines is what we know as the disciplines of
History, Political Science, Economics, Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology,
Linguistics (the science of language, including phonetics, phonology,
morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics and historical linguistics), Geography
and Communications. This division into disciplines is based on how humans
interact among themselves. For instance, if they interact through the process of
buying and selling or trade, then we can group this research under the
Economics discipline. If the interaction is about power or authority, then it can be
grouped under Political Science. It is the same for all other disciplines. Each has
its own origin and history, materials, emphasis and research techniques (Rohana
Yusof, 1996).
It must be explained here that in most social science disciplines, Sociology has the
widest scope of research and focus. This is due to the main emphasis and focus of
Sociology being the relationship between human beings and groups as well as
within institutions of society, particularly social institutions. Hence, the main
research material in Sociology is human society i.e. the patterns and
arrangements of societys structures, the processes of how societies develop and
change, and how the patterns and processes affect individual and group
behaviour. In other words, Sociology can be differentiated from other disciplines
in social science. Sociologists focus more on the behaviour of a group of people
and less on individual behaviour.
Although there are obvious differences among the disciplines in social science, the
relationship between Sociology, that covers a wide scope, and the other disciplines
should also be observed. This is explained by Ronald C. Federico in his book
Sociology (1979). According to him, each discipline in social science focuses on
research aspects that are social in nature and have sociological traits. For instance,
as explained earlier, Economics focuses on the production and distribution of
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products and services within and among societies. What is its relationship to
Sociology? What can be seen are two similar factors i.e. the factor of production
and distribution of sources is related to the concept of social stratification.
Clearly, sociology uses economic concepts to understand social stratification and
social conflict. So too with Political Science which focuses on studying the
structure and distribution of power and authority in society. What then is the
relationship between Political Science and Sociology? What can be seen are the
concepts of power and authority. Sociology uses power (ability to do or act;
capability of doing or accomplishing something) and authority (the power to
determine, adjudicate or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right
to control, command or determine) to understand diversions, social control and
social stratification.
In general, social science focuses on researching various relational aspects between
an individual and society. The individual is part of a society. All disciplines in
social science believe that there is consistency in social living that needs to be
observed and has reasons to be explored. Thus, different approaches and methods
are used to explore them in relation to the complexities of social life.
The field of social science is vast and comprises so many fields. If all these
disciplines are observed closely, you will notice that they emphasise the same
subject human behaviour. Basically, all social scientists attempt to understand
human behaviour, although each discipline looks at it from a different perspective.

9.3

METHODS AND AIMS OF THE DISCIPLINES

Each discipline has different techniques of research and each has its own
advantages and disadvantages. However, for the purpose of this module, we will
only focus on the aims and methods of selected disciplines, namely: History,
Anthropology, Sociology and Psychology.
The discipline of history focuses on events that occurred in the past. Historians'
main aim of research is to find actual, true and credible facts on events that have
already occurred.
Historical writing requires numerous sources and a lot of knowledge. One of
historys sources is records. Records provide information, usually in the form of
descriptions and explanations. Events are recorded by listening, observing,
feeling or experiencing something. Its methods and media are also varied, for
example, leaves, animal skins or bark. The accuracy of records affects the
accuracy of future research. The variance between observation and fact is from
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89

the point of degree of truth. A fact may arise from the notes but it may not
necessarily be factual as its accuracy may still be questionable.
Historians (including writers, students or scholars of history) are more inclined
to carry out archival research in order to obtain various historical materials.
Archival research generally involves using existing information such as reports,
documents, files, records, tape recorders (oral history), pictures and so on. In
Malaysia (see Figure 9.1), the National Archives keeps various collections and
information for reference purposes. Various information or secondary material
can also be obtained from museums and libraries.

Figure 9.1: National Archives


Source: http://www2.arkib.gov.my/sarbica/images/malaysia_arkib.jpg

The discipline of Anthropology studies mankind and all aspects of their lives or
cultures. Social anthropologists, for instance, are more interested in the nature
and evolution of religion, family and kinship. Anthropological research on
religion is often regarded as the centre or focus of social anthropology. This is
due to a large number of scholars who developed social anthropological theory
such as Durkheim, Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski who discussed the
relationship between religion and social structure. In short, social and cultural
anthropologists are interested in learning the process of natural change in
society. Anthropologists collect material for studying culture, society and human
beings by using ethnographic methods.

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Sociology focuses on society and social relationships. It observes social behaviour,


particularly in a modern society. Most sociologists are drifting towards conducting
surveys in their research; using questionnaires to collect data.
Psychologists are more inclined towards experimenting. This procedure involves
active manipulation and control of the factors studied, so that the conclusion
relating to a causal relationship can be obtained. Among the methods used are
laboratory experiments, field experiments and even natural experiments.

ACTIVITY 9.2
In your opinion, which social science discipline is more relevant to
study changes in society? Give your answer based on the issues
concerning Malaysian youths today.

Social science is a field of knowledge that studies all aspects of change in


human beings, society and culture.

The scope of social science is wide and includes all disciplines which attempt
to understand human behaviour, although each discipline focuses on
different aspects of that behaviour.

Understanding the methods and aims of a particular discipline is crucial in


order to ensure systematic research.

A social scientist must choose the proper form of research method in order to
ensure critical and rational investigation into a problem.

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DISCIPLINES OF SOCIAL SCIENCE

Anthropology

History

Archives

Linguistics

Communications

Political science

Economics

Psychology

Experiments

Social science

Facts

Sociology

Geography

Survey

91

Ismail Yusoff. (2001). Pengenalan sains sosial. Sintok: Penerbit Universiti Utara
Malaysia.
Noran Fauziah Yaakub. (1987). Pengantar sosiologi. Petaling Jaya: Penerbit Fajar
Bakti.
Qasim Ahmad. (2000). Karya sejarah: Pendekatan dan persoalan. Edisi Kedua.
Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.
Rohana Yusof. (1996). Asas sains sosial dari perspektif sosiologi. Kuala Lumpur:
Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.

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Topic The

10

Development
of Social
Science in
Malaysia

LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1.

Describe the early emergence of social science in Malaysia;

2.

Explain the contribution of local scholars in the development and


dissemination of social science; and

3.

Discuss the relevance of social science in the context of nation


building.

INTRODUCTION
This topic explains the early history of the emergence and development of social
science in Malaysia. The history of social science is crucial in the intellectual
history of the people and the nation. Intellectual history is the eyes and soul of
enlightenment for the entire history of the people and nation. The contributions
of scholars and social science thinkers in the development of the nation,
particularly concerning Malaysias multi-ethnic society, is important for the
progress of the country. It should be stressed that social science is still relevant
and must be given attention by all parties, especially the policy-makers.
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10.1

THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIAL SCIENCE IN MALAYSIA

93

EARLY HISTORY OF SOCIAL SCIENCE IN


MALAYSIA

According to Abdul Rahman Embong (2006), the history of social science in


general and Malaysian studies in particular began in Malaysia more than five
decades ago. Social science was introduced in this country through the colonial
education system. A lot of changes and developments occurred particularly in
the early 1970s. The subject of social science first appeared in formal education in
this country in the 1960s, with the introduction of the discipline of Economics in
Universiti Malaya (see Figure 10.1).

Figure 10.1: University Malaya or UM


Source: http://www.daftarwarisan.gov.my/admin/mypicture/

Today, the cluster of social sciences have already created their own niches and
impacted the countrys and societys development. The spirit and focal point of
social knowledge may differ throughout the years. However, some of its basic
principles remain the same. Therefore, in order to move forward and further
develop social science in the 21st century, it is important for us to observe the
history of its development and study those developments in order to identify
their spirit and focal point.

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10.1.1

THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIAL SCIENCE IN MALAYSIA

The Development of Social Science in Malaysia

Social science is relatively a new field in Malaysia and can be regarded as a


post-Independence phenomena. However, this does not mean that prior to
Independence, this subject was not taught in local colleges. The first step towards
instituting social science in Malaysia began with the establishment of Raffles
College in 1929 in Singapore. There Economics was taught as an arts discipline,
along with other social studies such as History, Geography, languages and English
literature (Zainal Kling, 1995). When Universiti Malaya was opened in Singapore
in October 1949 through the merging of Raffles College and King Edward VII
College of Medicine, the discipline of economics was instituted with its own
department. When the Universiti Malaya Kuala Lumpur branch was opened in
1959, a number of social science disciplines were taught at its Faculty of Arts
whereby Economics had a special place, with the Department of Economics being
one of its main departments (Zainal Kling, 1995).
When the Kuala Lumpur branch became Universiti Malaya (UM) in 1961 (the
original institution in Singapore was renamed the University of Singapore),
social science was further developed by expanding the Department of Economics
to become the Faculty of Economics and Administration in 1966. Another faculty
was also set up and it was called the Faculty of Arts. This faculty contained
various departments such as Geography, History, Islamic Studies as well as
Malay, Chinese and Indian Studies. Other social science disciplines such as
Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology and Political Science had no specific
departments as yet. These disciplines, particularly Anthropology and Sociology,
were absorbed through the subject of Cultural Trends in the Department of
Malay studies beginning from 1959 (Zainal Kling, 1995). The discipline of
philosophy also had no support from a designated department but similar to
anthropology and sociology it was absorbed into other relevant disciplines.
Meanwhile, other social science disciplines had started to take root with the
introduction of new disciplines particularly Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology,
Political Science and Communications around the 1970s. However, Political
Science and Communications were only formally introduced in the 1980s.
As stated by Hairi Abdullah (1995), Zainal Kling (1995) and others, the
establishment of new universities, such as Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in
1969, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) in 1970, Universiti Putra Malaysia
(previously Universiti Pertanian Malaysia) in 1971, Universiti Utara Malaysia
(UUM) in 1983, and several other universities that were established later saw the
growth of new disciplines in social science. In 1971, Universiti Malaya followed
the steps of UKM and USM by establishing its own Department of Anthropology
and Sociology under the Faculty of Arts (Abdul Rahman Embong (2006).
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The development of social science in our countrys post-Independence has seen


much success in the effort to develop the people and society in the country.
Hence, several university colleges have also been given new university status in
the 21st century. It offers a strong foundation for new universities in our country
to develop the discipline of social science. This would then determine the role
and orientation of the discipline in the future. The progress of the country does
not mean that we will not face social problems in the future. Indeed, it may be
the reverse i.e. growing social problems due to rapid development. This means
that the discipline of social science needs to be developed systematically and
progressively in the future, so that it can meet the various challenges arising from
social, economic or political upheavals.

10.2

THE CONTRIBUTION OF LOCAL


SCHOLARS IN THE DISSEMINATION AND
DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIAL SCIENCE

The discipline of social science is getting more attention and appreciation from
various academic, political, public and private bodies. The importance of social
science has become even more obvious due to the rapid development that this
country experienced since Independence.
This was evident when the Government, academics and planners came up with
policies giving priority to the development of this discipline in the countrys
institutions of higher learning (Mohd. Yusof Hashim, 2006).
As the first university in Malaysia, UM was at the forefront with experienced and
qualified academics as it had several lecturers holding doctoral degrees (Doctors of
Philosophy) who were distinguished particularly in the Faculty of Arts, Faculty of
Economics and Administration and the Faculty of Education. They were the
pioneers who developed social science and humanities locally. These pioneers
included Ungku Aziz, Syed Hussein Alatas, Wang Gungwu, Syed Naguib Alatas,
Mohd Taib Osman, Awang Had Salleh, Kahar Bador, Mokhzani Rahim, Syed
Husin Ali and Atan Long. In order to develop the social sciences in new
universities, a number of lecturers were sent abroad, particularly to Britain,
Australia and New Zealand in the late 1960s and early 1970s to undergo training in
various social science disciplines.
Since then, the various social sciences especially new ones such as Sociology,
Anthropology and Psychology have undergone rapid growth. Thousands of
graduates have graduated in various social science fields and played their own roles
in the development of the country. Some of these graduates have also become
lecturers at several new universities and also contributed to the development and
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dissemination of social science. It can therefore be concluded, that the end of the
1960s and early 1970s marked an important transition period in the history of social
science development in Malaysia (Abdul Rahman Embong, 2006).

10.2.1

The Role, Orientation and Contribution of


Local Social Science Scholars

It cannot be denied that the field of social science contributed greatly in various
aspects, particularly the development of the knowledge corpus, as well as the
development of the country and society. A large part of social sciences contribution
is in the development of a knowledge corpus known as Malaysian Studies.
The contribution of local scholars towards the development of the knowledge
corpus was done in several ways:
(a)

First, by organising social science conferences locally and abroad.

(b)

Second, by forming a scholarly and professional association called


Persatuan Sains Sosial Malaysia (PSSM) or the Malaysian Association of
Social Sciences in 1978. The association is still actively involved in academic
activities as well as public advocacy.

(c)

Third, with the publication of social science material, especially academic


journals like Akademika (since 1972 in UKM), Kajian Malaysia (since 1983
in USM), Sari (since 1983 in UKM) and Pertanika (since 1993 in UPM).
Various other journals published include Ilmu Masyarakat published by
PSSM since 1983 (ended in 1995); the Antropologi dan Sosiologi journal
published by the UKMs Department of Anthropology and Sociology from
1972 (stopped in 1995) and the journal Sumber published in 1983 by UKMs
Faculty of Developmental Science (but stopped in 1997).

According to Mohd. Yusof Hashim (2006), the orientation of social scientists in


Malaysia can be summarised into several points as follows:
(a)

Social scientists should not only focus their interests in their academic
professions but also should involve themselves in research of a problemsolving nature in the states undergoing development that comes with social
and economic changes. Research should focus on dynamic, unsettled
issues, which would not benefit society in general. Its objective should be
driven by the need to help the country and its people to face development
and its consequences optimistically.

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(b)

Social scientists should also be interested in conducting in-depth studies on


existing systems within our society and dare to make acceptable
suggestions so that changes can occur in an organised manner. The new
systems suggested should be based on strong foundations, which have
been researched and studied in detail. Social scientists should understand
that changes are usually faced with opposition or resistance particularly
those relating to values or attitudes.

(c)

Social scientists themselves should be motivated to serve society by looking


at the changes in this country. They should be dedicated and believe that
the people will only progress through development. It is up to them to
suggest the ways or methods that the Government should adopt in
implementing development policies. Social scientists should not merely act
as observers when social problems arise but should provide guidance for
the government.

The contribution of local social science scholars can also be seen within various
agencies and government ministries, either as consultants, advisors or
researchers. Their contribution in planning government policies and surveying
the achievements of these policies are also in line with their roles as resource
people and researchers.

10.3

THE RELEVENCE OF SOCIAL SCIENCE IN


THE CONTEXT OF NATION STATE
DEVELOPMENT

Social science is still relevant and important in a developing nation such as


Malaysia. Since independence, many achievements as well as advancements
have been experienced either through physical or social developments.
It should be noted that the concept of social development has become an
important issue since 20th century. Politicians, administrative officers and policy
planners place importance on science and technology as the tool, which will lead
to the nations development. Therefore, it is the role and responsibility of social
science and scientists to raise this discipline to a certain level of credibility,
placing much trust on the field of science and technology. The concept of social
development is one that involves not only physical development but also
infrastructure and more importantly, human development in terms of changes in
attitude, values, mentality, knowledge and skills. With this, the discipline of
social science has an implicit relationship with the efforts of societal development
in our country.
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Social science is still relevant in human and national development. The


contribution of social scientists in planning the direction of policies should be
acknowledged. Various research has been carried out by social scientists in order
to re-evaluate the effectiveness of a particular policy set out by the ruling
Government. In relation to this, suggestions and constructive criticisms by social
scientists towards strengthening and stabilising the policies should be respected
as a form of social commitment, in light of our developing society.

ACTIVITY 10.1
1.

List down the social activities that you have taken part in
throughout your learning. What have you learned from them?

2.

In your opinion, what are the current challenges faced by social


scientists in developing the field of social science in our country?
How far does the Government pay attention to this field in
planning the countrys future development?

Social science as a field of knowledge is crucial in fulfilling the countrys


development plans.

The contribution and role of social scientists ensure that each policy planned
by the Government focuses on human development.

The discipline of social science is still relevant as social scientists are able to
champion for balanced development; as they provide a bottom-up
perspective, from the grass-root level to the top leadership.

Policy makers

Social science

Psychology

Sociology

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Abdul Rahman Embong. (2006). Peranan dan orientasi sains sosial di Malaysia.
Bangi: Penerbit Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
Hairi Abdullah. (1995). Antropologi dan sosiologi: Menggaris arah baru. Bangi:
Penerbit Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
Mohd. Yusof Hashim. (2006). Peranan dan orientasi sains sosial di Malaysia.
Bangi: Penerbit Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

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MODULE FEEDBACK
MAKLUM BALAS MODUL

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1.

E-mail your comment or feedback to modulefeedback@oum.edu.my

OR
2.

Fill in the Print Module online evaluation form available on myINSPIRE.

Thank you.
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(Pusat Reka Bentuk Pengajaran dan Teknologi )
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