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What Is Industrial Sociology?

By Tara Barnett
Updated May 16, 2024
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Industrial sociology is a branch of sociology that looks at the impact of labor and industry on society, as well as the ways in which society impacts industrial forces. The perspectives used within this discipline vary over time, and given the practical value of understanding this relationship, this type of study has often been very well supported. There are many topics within this field that merit individual investigation, including technologies used, worker relations, and even subjects as broad as globalization. Most of the time, industrial sociology is influenced by current sociological thought more broadly, making use of theories that are popular in the time in which a study is conducted.

There are many ways to think about sociology, but one of the most common definitions of sociology is that it is the study of society. This means that industrial sociology is the study of industry's place in society. Sociology often overlaps with other similar social sciences and may borrow theories when convenient from psychology, anthropology, and philosophy. Industry is an area in which the people being studied have a monetary interest in the results of sociological studies because these studies can help improve business practice. This can be an advantage for researchers in this field, but it can also lead to interference.

Topics within industrial sociology are incredibly diverse, but subjects of particular interest involve the people directly involved in industrial processes. This includes looking at management strategies, ways of employing people, and even the relationships between workers as a whole. Another interesting aspect of industrial sociology considers the effects of technological change and globalization on the people involved in specific industries. In the reverse, it is possible to look at how specific societies lend themselves to the evolution of certain work practices.

While the focus of sociology is often inequality on a human level, the definition of inequality is often different depending on the perspective used. The way in which workers view themselves and the traditions of a given culture make a large difference in whether inequalities actually exist in a given case. Viewing workers as non-agentive in industrial contexts is problematic and is often considered condescending. It is important to take into account both the factual elements of the case and the lived experience in order to get an accurate view.

Strategies and theories within industrial sociology are constantly evolving, and different trends within this discipline are characteristic of different ages. Generally, all theories attempt to explain a specific process, covering why things are a certain way. In some cases, industrial sociology ventures into predictive realms, attempting to make generalizations that hold outside of the past. Even when processes are economic rather than cultural, it is difficult to come up with theories that are accurate across different societies because of the unique factors at play in each case.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1001482 — On Apr 23, 2019

Thanks, but we need some more elaborations about the branch. Because it stands on the marginal position, especially in Indian context.

By Melonlity — On Feb 12, 2014

So, we've got a discipline that moves beyond merely looking at inequality on an individual basis to focusing on viewing it on a group basis. Sociology has long been too tangled up with politics, so one must wonder about the usefulness of turning theories about the exploitation of labor into a full fledged career choice.

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