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Concept in Sociology: Characteristics, Functions, Social Theory, Difference, Relationship

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1. What is Concept? 

A. Introduction

Concept emerges after the long course of time with experience or situation. Understanding and analysis of any social situation is called concept or the process of such situation and concrete expression of the situation is concept. For example we can present globalization, caste system, colonialism, social class etc. Concept can be taken as word or thought that expresses in very short and meaningful way regarding to social relation, social process, social condition etc. which is experienced one. After a long course of time or of social process behaviors and processes get the form of concept. Fox example - Urbanization, Westernization, Modernization etc. Some of the concept may develop up to the form of theory. The gist expression of any event, condition, processes etc. is called concept which is based on facts.

Concept can be understood as the expression of logical statements on easily understandable form regarding to thoughts or processes prevalent in the society especially on concrete form. Concept is thought and assumption which is based on facts. Social process or experienced assumption which never be right or wrong. It can be known as right or wrong according to the understanding of community. Concept symbolizes the situation of processes, groups, classes, social relations etc. The concepts should have concrete, clear and representing the same meaning. In research work, there exists the role of hypothesis formulation, analysis of social event and cause and effect relationship. Concepts help to understand social process, condition, relation point of view and social impacts. The use of concept for the long period may get the form of social theory. According to this assumption, concept represents the concrete meaning after social processes, situation of human life and overall social condition with the view of human beings. For example achievement is a concept. It is the generalization of several facts which represents the behaviors of childhoods and continues up to the time on which the concept is emerged.

In conclusion, we can say that the concept is an assumption or fact developed on meaningful and logical form based on social process, behaviors and experiences. The stability of the concept may be or may not be and the concept may get the form of social theory after using it for the long time, the chances of to get the form of theory remains higher. The concepts are divided as disjunctive, common, causal, postulated concept is much more abstract and changeable or represents the various meaning according to the time and context. For example - 'Sanskritization' likewise, intuitive concept is unchangeable such as 'height', 'color' etc. Each concept has its own meaning. In disjunctive concept, the representation of several groups remain, i.e, fuel, vegetable, fruits, etc. In causal concept, similarities and differences play the vital role on the basis of the thing is classified, i.e. lower class, small boy etc.

Also read: Society and Culture from Evolutionary Perspective

B. Characteristics of Concept:

Concept is a concrete form of the understanding and analysis of social process, which represents the social reality in very short and clear form. Concept represents the several processes, forms, norms and postulations. Or symbolic representation of events, an attitude is called concept; which represents the concrete quality. In this context, the characteristics of concept can be presented as:
  1.  Concept is symbolic and short. 
  2. It remains as the form of certain process, quality, types, form of things and representation. 
  3. It emerges from behaviors and processes i.e. westernization.
  4. In classification, it remains on symbolic, representative form i.e. vegetable, bird, fuel, animal etc. 
  5. It is logical and based on rules. 
  6. It is based on past experiences. 
  7. It is summarization of greater form to general form. 
  8. It contains the quality / characteristic of objective (i.e. vegetable) subjective (i.e. westernization)
  9. Conclusion of experience and behaviors.  

C. Functions of Concepts:

The following can be mentioned as the functions of concept on points:
  1. Concept provides point of view to researcher which helps to view social events and way of understanding. 
  2. Concept contributes to form theory and define the theory. 
  3. Concept helps to classify the experiences of researcher and generalize the facts. 
  4. Concept provides similar type of language to communication among the researches. It defines certain condition with certain way. 
  5. Concept helps to understand, analyze and explain about the research problem subject. 
  6. Concept represents the social reality.  

2. Social Theory:

Social theory is conclusion of facts based on the study of social events and why and how the events happened. Social theory analyses the cause effect relation of social events. I have described in previous post about what is theory? How to formulates? What are the characteristics? etc. are mentioned. This background is very useful to understand social theory. That background is related to the social theory about social life or social subjects. The social theories are different than the theories of pure science. The theories related to social subjects such as sociology, anthropology, political science, economics, history, psychology, population studies etc. are the social theories which are based on social issues / subjects.

Social theories are highly related to the events of social life, where especially the sociological events are explained and analyzed. In such theories, the conclusions are drawn especially after the discussion, identification, interaction over the social events by applying sociological point of view. In this process, realization is done of the concepts which are concrete in social research, on the basis of it, the assumptions are formulated. By relating with these assumptions the events are studied contextually and minutely. In this process, the relationship of variables are studied regarding variables of the research. After this, the conclusion is drawn after the identification of cause effect relationship of variables. R.K.Merton says in this context as "The term sociological theory refers to logically interconnected sets of propositions." This definition symbolizes that the sociological theories are based on logical analysis which are also proved by scientific method.

Also read: Social Thoughts: Characteristics, Importance and Types 

In social theories, the study and analysis of social events are done by applying certain theoretical point of view and research model. The conclusions are drawn by using the scientific method to study events objectively, explain the events and collection of facts of the events. By the means of this types of theories, the social reality is shown related to how the reality formulates. The analysis of events is done. In this process, the cause effect relationship is identified by analyzing why and how the social events happened, the context of society is taken us the key of analysis.

3. Difference Between Concept and Theory:

Concept and theory are the logical statements or assumptions related to social events. Where the special priority goes to social interaction and to the condition emerged from social relations. In this sense, there is relationship between concept and theory. In the process of theory formulation, explanation and definition becomes compulsory process. In reality theory formulates from concepts. In the process of formulation of theory concept is very helpful element which specially helps to define, understand and to explain the relations of the theory. Explanation and analysis of the size of variable and its nature, level, expansion etc. becomes very helpful in the process of theory formulation. Concept explains and analyzes the social events. Operational definition of statement does by concept in the theory. On the other way, concepts formulate with the formulation of theory. So, the concept should have sufficient reality. Concepts are also the realities emerged from social practices, which remain as base of the explanation of events while formulating the theory. In spite of the above mentioned relations between theory and concept, there are some differences two, these are we can mentioned like this:
  1. Concepts are the realities emerged from social practices and experiences but theory remains as the form of conclusion emerged from the facts after experiment. 
  2. Theory can be generalized but concept never be generalized. 
  3. Concepts are based on pre-assumptions / predict and experiences but theories are based on experiment.
  4. Theory is the result of social realities but concept provides the identification of social realities. 
  5. Theory formulates after the formulation of concepts. 
  6. Theory contains the more stability than concepts. 
  7. Theory contains the cause effect relationship of variables but it is not compulsory in concepts. 
  8. Theories are not only the concepts and concepts are not the theories.     

4. Relationship between Social Theory and Social Research:

A. Introduction

There exists inseparable relationship between social research and social theory. Without research no theory can be built/formulated. Theories always based on facts. These types of facts can be received only after research. Theory is the integrated form of facts which explains and analyzes the relation of variables. These facts can be received only after research. For example the assumption of higher rate of suicide of unmarried rather than married can be existed as reality only after the sufficient facts from research. Likewise, theory provides all help, direction subject and methodological knowledge. All the researches are based on the certain theoretical perspectives. For example, human is mortal, is the theory on the base of it, research can be conducted to get the facts and prove the reality for this research subject can be formed as; are the human beings of society mortal? Not only this, theory provides the way to follow how to conduct the research for particular subjects, what type of research methods and processes are essential to follow etc. Theory directs to the whole research work. Research gradual forwards from the hierarchy of knowledge and its gets the value or establishes the certain type of value. Being the base of this value can study be done complex and detail.

Also Read: Society and Culture from Structural Functionalist Perspective

Research is essential to check, experiment and relevancy or validity test of the theory. In social research, the theory built at a time never be remained as the same form. Changes, occurs in variables which also make difference to the theory. The society also changes, so the test of the theory is possible by only the research on it. Likewise, the formulation of theory is possible by only facts. The theory explains and analyzes the facts in meaningful manner, so the relation between theory and research is inseparable. In the process of social research, the impact of one remains to the next.

B. Role of Theory is Social Research:

There is great role of theory in the process of social research. Regarding to this context, R.K.Merton has developed some of the points, these mentioned here:

1. Theory provides general orientation:

The theory related to the subject and area of study provides knowledge about the subject of research, objectives, method, technique, types of facts etc. for the researcher. Each and every research is conducted with the support of theory related to it. The theory helps to forward/continue the research by formulating hypothesis related to research. The model of several researches is deductive where observation is done coming from the theory for the experiment of it. On the basis of its, the research is conducted by staying on the base of area of subject.

2. Developing Sociological concept:

Theory formulates by finding the experimental realities of concepts. A theory contains several concepts related research, defining it and determining the area of subject. On the basis of it, research goes on.

Also read: Theory of Origin of Anthropology and Development of Anthropological Theory 

3. They Furnished Past Factum Sociological Interpretation:

In social research, collection of facts has been done at first and subjective analysis after this, in this situation, explanation of events becomes more important than the experiment of hypothesis. In this explanation, theory helps to the research where the theories are already formulated through the similar type of explanation. Therefore, theory helps to maintain the explanation with facts and to find out the essential objective facts. Theory also helps to make conclusion through the arrangement of objectives facts.

4. Theory Formulates Empirical Generalization:

Theory helps to keep facts on summarized and purity form collected from experimental or scientific research related to the relationship of variables. Theory also support to test and experiment of the conclusion drawn from research. From this, the experiment of reliability of theory after a long period of time can be done and new theory can also be formulated. On the basis of it, empirical generalization can be done.

Also read: History of Origin of Sociology and Development of Sociological Theories

5. Theory helps to further development of sociological theory:

Theory makes research contextual and provides efficient of it. By the process of it, several researches related to different subjects and areas can be done. Conducting research by following this process may help to find out the new sociological theories. For this, research supports to formulate hypothesis and experiment of it both. In this process, formulation of new types of searches and subjects may be done there which helps for the development of sociological theory.

Also read: Conflict Theory in Sociology: Causes, Characteristics, Strength, Weakness 

C. Relation between Data and Observer:

The theory never be formulated without the collection of facts. Facts are the base of the justification of the theory. The reliability of theory increases if sufficient real data are collected, in short it can be said as 'the more real data, the more the reliability of the theory'. In the process of explanation of the relation of variables, data of facts are essential elements. Likewise, theory also helps to collect facts and explanation and analysis of these facts. Theory directs to the researcher about what and how much the facts are essential to collect, how to maintain the relation between theory and facts, and about how to maintain the relation between theory and facts, and about how to explain the facts being base of what type of theoretical background. Facts are essential for the experiment of the theory. The role of facts remains greater for the classification, explanation and clarification of concepts which are fixed for the theory or may be fixed for the theory. Likewise, fact supports for the development of theory and experiment of it and unification of facts does by the theory.

Research plays the below mentioned role for the development of theory.
  1. Availability of facts for the theory. 
  2. Classification and explanation of facts. 
  3. Availability of method for theory formulation as required by subject of research. 
  4. Research works for the formulation of theory, experiment, to prove it as wrong and modification of it. It further helps to test the validity of theory. 
  5. The formulation of variables which becomes helpful to formulation of theory. 
  6. Research helps to predict the tendency of social events on the basis of variables formulated by theory. 
 Theory formulation process basically depends on research. Therefore, on the process of theory building and restructure of it, the study of society and culture is essential. As a observer social researcher tries to find out the social realities. The real facts are achieved of the society while a researcher observes the natural form or condition of social events by which the construct and reconstruct of theory becomes possible. The experienced facts can only be achieved by seeing the direct eyes of researcher. In the lack of experienced facts, cannot be found the cause effect relationship of variables. It is the process of the formulation of right theory. On the other side, theory provides direction to the observer about the subjects of observation especially what and how to do the observation. This helps to include all the subjects of research without any absent. Theory works here to control over the deviation of observer or researcher. Without any good researcher no right and useful theory can be formulated. From observation we can receive the essential information for the theory.

Also read: Society and Culture from Diffusionist Perspective

Participant symbolizes person or institution who participate in overall research process. Specially the person who provides and receives information we can mention as participant. The research becomes unsuccessful if the information provider doesn't provide information without bias or provides inadequate information or wrong information. On the other side, researcher has also to work without bias for the research.
Likewise, the influencing facts of research such as sources of information, person, institution, etc. are essential to be free from the influence of others or biasness. The combination of all these factors at right position creates very useful theory. The bad side of the theory symbolizes the indifference to the weak and marginalized people of the society. The utility of research ends after the formulation of theory. The theory especially does the integration of scattered information and their summarization received from research.

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