What are the Main Branches of Sociology?

By Mary Smith. Updated: July 11, 2017
What are the Main Branches of Sociology?

The main branches of sociology are difficult to determine as it encompasses the study of almost every aspect of human life. However, there are some general branches which can be divided up into their constituent parts. Sociology is a social science which seeks to discover how human behavior and interactions affect society as a whole. However, even this definition brings up questions such as, what is society? This is why oneHOWTO wants to answer the question what are the main branches of sociology? It will work as an introduction into how empirical investigation and critical analysis has formed sociology as a whole. Hopefully it will be the starting point for your own further education in how we behave as a human community.

You may also be interested in: What Are the Main Branches of Philosophy

Main branches of sociology according to Émile Durkheim

While we are all individuals, we don't exist in a vacuum. Even a recluse is so because they reject society and do so as a reaction against it. If we never had to interact with anybody else, we would be free of many of the moral and practical problems our world faces. It would also be lonely and perhaps a life not worth living.

While philosophy and sociology have many correlations, there is a key difference. This key difference is something called empiricism. Empiricism means understanding drawn from sensory experience, i.e. it has to be proved as best it can from physical evidence. Philosophy tries to understand morality as a whole. While this involves social interaction, the ideas can come from anywhere. Positivism has many correlations to empiricism, as it entails how we can discern knowledge from the natural phenomena around us.

This is why sociology is so important. It helps us to understand the actuality of how we interact. This is not to say that philosophy does not have practical implications, not to mention how enjoyable it can be.

Émile Durkheim was a French sociologist often referred to as the father of sociology. His intention of making sociology an academic discipline in order for it to benefit society in a practical way. Much of Durkheim's work was focused on how societies could maintain coherence and integrity when tradition and religion ties are no longer important. It is not a coincidence that sociology developed after the wake of The Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin's seminal work which called into question how many of us viewed the world.

Durkheim sought to answer questions which society elicits, but which could not be explained by philosophy or even psychology. In his attempts to make sociology an academic discipline, he was trying to react to the many seismic changes occurring around him - loss of religion, industrial revolution and more. While sociology can become very complicated, it began as a way to help understand the world better.

According to Durkheim, sociology was divided into three main branches:

Social morphology

This branch studies geographical aspects of society, such as how density of population affects society.

Social physiology

Social physiology studies the influence of religion, law, economy and other aspects on society.

General sociology

The philosophical part of sociology, as it discovers social laws from social associations.

Nowadays there are many other branches of sociology due to the evolution of societies and the relations with the environment. However, much of what Durkheim had discussed in his works are still relevant today such as the theory of a collective consciousness. As previously said, sociology is a very broad science and new branches emerge day by day. Listed below are some of the most important, depending on the basis of their content.

Historical sociology

Historical sociology is one of the main branches of modern sociology and it studies the background of social events. In a sense, all sociological research is historical, given that sociologists dig into the past of societies and behaviors to study them. However, historical sociology specifically studies the history of human relations, how and when different groups and societies originated...

What are the Main Branches of Sociology? - Historical sociology

Sociology of knowledge

This branch of sociology believes that our knowledge is a social product. What this branch tries to show is that all the things we know come predetermined by social phenomena and social relations.


Another important branch of sociology in our everyday lives, criminology studies the criminal behavior of individuals or groups. Take a look at how to get into criminology if you're interested in this field.

Political sociology

This branch of sociology is also widely useful for today's societies as it studies the interrelationship between society and politics. Other topics of study within this branch are the origin of different political views and the relation between social structures and political institutions.

What are the Main Branches of Sociology? - Political sociology

Human ecology

Ecology is a branch of biology that studies the relation between organisms and their environment. However, it can also be applied to sociology if studied with humans. Human ecology in this case studies the relations of humans with their natural, social and built environment. Therefore, it studies the natural living environment of humans.

What are the Main Branches of Sociology? - Human ecology

Other branches of sociology

Sociology is a very varied social science that studies many aspects of society. Besides the previously mentioned, these are some of the other important topics of study:

  • Rural sociology: it studies societies in rural areas.
  • Urban sociology: it studies societies in cities and other urban areas.
  • Sociology of demography: studies the distribution of human populations.
  • Economic sociology: it studies economic phenomena.
  • Sociology of culture: it studies the meaning of culture inside a specific society.

Why is it important to study sociology?

Now that you know about the different branches of sociology, you may be asking yourself why it's important to learn about this field.

To begin with, it is highly important to understand an individual's behavior and how the individual interacts with the rest of society according to different factors, which can be applied in many fields such as Anthropology, Advertising, Politics, Geography, Economy, Philosophy, Law and even Criminology.

Relationship of sociology to other sciences

Sociology is mainly related to other Social sciences, so let's take a look at the most important:

  • Political science: They are very closely related, as one could not live without the other, as every single social problem that can be detected has a political cause behind it. Knowing about sociology in politics is highly important when understanding how a certain government's society works and what their necessities are.
  • History: It is clear that all societies have grown in a certain manner due to past events lived by a certain collective. The importance of their relationship resides on how to analyse a society's present and future while knowing causes and consequences of past events and can give us some insight on how a certain society will develop.
  • Economics: The relationships between people highly affect the study of economical activity, as different societies will have different consumption, distribution and exchange habit and how they relate with economic institutions.
  • Psychology: Some even say that psychology and sociology are so related that they are in fact the same science. Obviously they both study human behavior although one studies psychological processes (that can be triggered by social circumstances), whereas the other studies the behavior of certain societies (which can be influenced by an individual's emotions or personal behavior).
  • Anthropology: Both sciences study human behavior, this is clear. While one studies biological and cultural development, cultural anthropology will highly depend on sociological characteristics.

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Write a comment about What are the Main Branches of Sociology?

What did you think of this article?
maaji hosea
Military sociology and demography sociology are they part of the branches. And if they are then explain it for me
OneHowTo Editor
Hi Maaji,

As you can see sociology of demography is in the ‘other’ section, but military sociology could be another group on its own. It is not perhaps a main branch and may also be incorporated into other branches such as historical sociology.
Abiodun Toby Aihanu Jas
What Are The Political Sociology Work In A Country,federal Government, State, And Local Government?? Thank You.
these answers where some of the best of my answers.

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