The terms ‘Sociology’ and ‘Political Science’ are closely related. They both lack clearly defined meaning. The origin of the term ‘Political Science’ is rather old, as it is associated with the Greek word polis whereas the term ‘Sociology’ was coined by Auguste Comte in 1839 to designate the science of society.
Comte had earlier used the term ‘Social Physics’ in the same sense, but later replaced it with ‘Sociology’ and since then, the use of the term has changed little.
Sociology is the parent science of all the social sciences. It is the science of society viewed as an aggregate of individuals or “it is the science of men in their associated process.”
It deals with social development in general and analysis and describes social life in all its phases and complexities through all ages and climes.
Sociology may, thus, be defined as the science of the origin and development, structure and functions, of social groups, their forms, laws, customs, institutions, modes of life, thought and action and their contribution to human culture and civilisation. It seeks to discover the general principles underlying all social phenomena and social relationships and to establish the laws of change and growth in society.
Political Science and Sociology are so intimately connected that the “political is embedded in the social and if Political Science remains distinct from Sociology, it will be because the breadth of the field calls for the specialist, and not because there are any well-defined boundaries marking it off from Sociology.”
They are mutually contributory. Political Science gives to Sociology facts about the organisation and functions of the State, and obtains from it knowledge of the origin of political authority and laws which controlled society.
The State in its early stages was more of a social than a political institution, and Giddings is of the opinion that “to teach the theory of the State to men who have not learned the first principles of sociology, is like teaching astronomy or thermodynamics to men who have not learned the Newtonian law of motion.”
A political scientist must be a sociologist and a sociologist ought to be a political scientist. For example, the institution of marriage by itself is an element in the social life of man and if is the concern of Sociology.
But if a code of marriage, like the Hindu Marriage Act, is enacted to regulate it in a particular way, it at once falls within the domain of Political Science as it comes within the scope of organised control and obedience.
The Hindu, the Sikh, the Muslim and the Christian communities by themselves are the subjects of Sociology, being parts of the Indian society, but when they quarrel among themselves and their quarrel flares up into communal riots, it not only represents the pathological side of Indian social life but also a problem of deep political concern to prevent their recurrence and to remove the causes of conflict in order to weld them into a patriotic nation.
Likewise, if we study revolutions, we must take into account their social as well as their political causes as appearing in different environments. The analysis of political parties cannot be divorced from their relationship to social classes and the sociology of the electorate—behaviour of man in the associated process solves the difficulties emerging from the basic democratic mechanism.
In spite of this close affinity between Sociology and Political Science, the study of both the sciences is distinct and their problems are by no means the same. Giddings has said that the province of Political Science is not co-extensive with “the investigations of society but that the lines of demarcation can be drawn.”
Sociology deals with man in all his varied social relations and in all forms of human associations. Its study is not confined to one aspect of man alone. Political Science, on the other hand, is a study of the political governance of man and it is a specialised branch of Sociology.
It has a narrower and more restricted field to cover than Sociology. Secondly, the political life of man begins much later than his social life. Sociology is prior to Political Science. Thirdly, Sociology embraces the study of organised and unorganised communities and the conscious and unconscious activities of man.
The province of Political Science is the politically organised society and conscious political activities of man. Finally, Political Science aims at the past, present and future determination of the political organisation of mankind whereas Sociology is the study of various social institutions that exist or have hitherto existed.
It does not and cannot predict about the future of society and social relationships. Its study is empirical and has no philosophical trend to follow. The distinction between Political Science and Sociology has been aptly described by Ernest Barker. He says,
“Political theory only deals with political associations, united by a constitution and living under a government; sociology deals with all associations. Political theory assumes as a datum that man is a political being, it does not explain, as sociology seeks to do, how he came to be a political being.”