The nomenclature ‘Rural Sociology’ indicates that it is the scientific study of Rural Society. Broadly speaking, it deals with the systematic study of Rural Society, its institutions, activities interactions, social change etc. It not only deals with the social relationship of man in rural environment but also takes urban surroundings into considerations for a comparative study. So Rural Sociology primarily deals with the description and analysis of groups of various kinds as they exist in rural environment. Rural sociology is a scientific discipline focused on all aspects of a rural way of life, including its customs, demographics, and interactions with urban groups.
This specific area of sociology explores rural society’s role in the rest of the world, particularly in terms of economics and social theory. Many rural areas are rich centers of resources that sometimes face unique challenges due to changes in technology, infrastructure, and agribusiness. Scholars who study rural sociology often attempt to illustrate the differences between rural and urban life as well as the social issues that both types of populations have in common.
In 1916 the first text book on sociology was published by J.N Gillette. D. Sanderson says that “Rural sociology is the sociology of rural life in the rural environment.” [Sanderson, D.: rural sociology and social organization, p. 10] F. Stuart. Chapin defines rural sociology as “The sociology of rural life is a study of the rural population, rural social organization and the social processes operative, in rural society.” [Chaplin, F. Stuart: social structure in rural society, p. 7]
It is clear from the above mentioned definitions that rural sociology studies the social interactions, institutions and activities and social changes that take place in the rural society. It studies the rural social organizations, structure and set up. It provides us that knowledge about the rural social phenomena.
There is a controversy whether the sociology can be regards as science with his own subject matter. Science may be defined as body of systematized knowledge or synthesized body of knowledge. In the collection of facts for any knowledge, when we apply a scientific method it is called as a science. Science goes with the method and not with the subject matter. Scientific method consists of systematic observation, classification and interpretation of data. It is believed that rural sociology employs the scientific method.
Rural Sociology employs scientific method. All the methods used in Rural Sociology are scientific in nature. These methods are observation, interview, case study, schedule, and questionnaire and so on. In these methods, the first step is collection of data through observation. Then the date is classified and finally the results are brought out on the basis of accepted data. The validity of these results is verified.
Rural Sociology is always based on factual study. It studies rural social relationship and activities in a factual way. It makes a scientific study of facts, general principles and theories involved in them.
The laws and principles of Rural Sociology are universal in nature. Because they prove true at all times and at all places and produce the same results. For example, the principles of family disorganization and social disorganization are correlated, it true everywhere.
The principles of Rural Sociology prove true at every verification and re verification. Their validity can be examined by any one. For example one can consider the law that and increase in the rate of divorces indicates acceleration of family disorganization. This principles can be examined anywhere by anyone.
Like Sociology, Rural Sociology also discovers a cause effect relationship between the phenomena. For example, in the modern society, the rate of divorce increases rapidly due to the family disorganization. Similarly, due to the rapid growth of population the rate of poverty and unemployment increase in the Rural Society. In these illustrations, family disorganization and population growth are two causes and divorce as well as poverty and unemployment are their effects.
Finally, on the basis of cause-effect relationship, rural Sociology can anticipate the future and make predictions concerning social relationship, activities, and incidents so on. For example, if disorganization in the families becomes pronounced, it can make predictions concerning the number of divorces and many other things. Knowing the cause-effect relationship, Rural Sociology can determine ‘what will be’ on the basis of ‘what is’.
On the basis of conditions enumerated above, it is said that rural sociology is by nature a science. However, there are some factors which limits the scientific sociology is by nature a scientific nature of the subject. But a lot of objections against the scientific nature or Rural Sociology are found. Some sociologists have raised their views against the nature of Rural Sociology as a science.
Rural Sociology is comparatively a new branch of Sociology which is of recent origin. It is a separate science having its own subject matter and method of study. The scope or Rural Sociology refers to what it studies. According to Lawry and Nelson, “the subject-matter of rural sociology is the description and analysis of the progress of various groups as they exist in the rural environment.”
Rural Sociology, as is clear by the nomenclature, is the sociology of Rural Society. As sun is the Centre of solar system, in Rural Sociology, Rural Society is the Centre. Rural Sociology, basically studies Rural society, its nature and basic ingredients from the structural and functional standpoints. Its main aim is to study of rural social life. Rural social life covers the behavior patterns, web of relationship, social interactions, standard of living and socio-economic conditions of the rural people. The scope of Rural Sociology, therefore, expands where the boundary of Rural Society is expanded.
Rural population is the basic essence of Rural Sociology. It studies the nature, characteristics, size, density and distribution of rural population from different angles. Rural Sociology aims at the study of the factors of growth of population, its evil effects of Rural Society, rural –urban migration for the greater interest of the country at large.
Rural community is the oldest organization of mankind. Rural Sociology, therefore, is mainly concerned with the divine origin, nature characteristics, social attributes and human ecology of rural community. It also studies the homogenous rigid and conservative nature of hither to existing customs, traditions, folkways, mores, norms, values and so on in rural community.
Social organization is the most fundamental basis of every society as well as social life. The most important function of Rural Sociology, therefore, is to provide basic knowledge about rural social organization. Rural Social organization covers the spiritual lives, religious activities sacred relationship and divine notion of rebirth, Karmaphala etc.
Rural social institutions as we mean, is recognized forms of procedure governing the relations between the rural people. Rural sociology, thus, studies the structure, characteristics and functions of rural social institutions. Rural social institutions include family, marriage, kinship, religion, caste and Rural Sociology studies the sociological importance of these institutions in the rural context.
Rural economy is basically known as agricultural economy. Agriculture is the backbone of rural economic life. Rural people directly depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Rural Sociology therefore studies the factors responsible for the failure of agriculture and suggests various measures for the improvement of agriculture in rural areas. Besides, the adoption of new agricultural technology among the farming centers, modernization of old farming methods, creation of open markets and providing agricultural training to the farmers are the important areas of the study or Rural Society.
Rural Sociology mainly studies the two process of rural social interaction, namely, conjunctive and disjunctive. Rural conjunctive process includes co-operation, accommodation and assimilation. Rural disjunctive process, on the other hand, includes competition and conflict. Thus, the nature, characteristics and social importance of these processes are to be properly studied by the scope of Rural Sociology.
Rural Society is basically a religion oriented society. Religion is the soul of rural people and it is regarded as the chief essence of rural life. Religion, therefore, plays a vital role in Rural Society. Rural Sociology, in this context, and studies the concept and social importance of rural religion and its impact on Rural Society.
Culture, as we mean, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, moral law, art, custom and any other capabilities acquired by man as a member of society. Rural culture is strictly based on rigid and conservative dogmas and it is very static in nature. It includes old customs, tradition, folkways, mores, norms, values and so on. Rural Sociology studies the complexities of rural culture, its different structural organizations, cultural patterns, cultural traits and cultural lag in the rural contexts.
Rural Society is a hell of social evils. It is basically called a hot bed of rural social problems. Its major problems are poverty, unemployment, population growth, illiteracy, castes, untouchabitlity and so on. Rural Sociology, therefore, studies the causes and evil effects of these problems and also suggests measures for their eradication for the greater interests of the country at large.
Social control as we mean, is the control of society over individual. In Rural Society, social control is in formal and rigid in nature. Rural Sociology significantly studies the informal means and agencies such as religions, customs, folkways, mores, norms etc., of social control. In Rural Society, the important primary groups like family and neighborhood play a vital role in social control.
Social change is meant only such alterations as occur in social organization, that is, structure and functions of society, Rural Society, now-a-days, is on the way of social change. Due to the impact of money modernizing forces, Rural Society is undergoing tremendous changes in the twentieth century. For a better account of the speed of social change in Rural Society, Rural Sociology undertakes necessary steps. Rural Sociology also studies the various factors responsible for social changes in a systematic way.
Rural planning and reconstruction are very much essential for under developed societies. In this context, the poor and backward condition of Indian Rural Society needs rural planning and reconstruction in a systematic and planned manner. Rural Society is full of social problems. For the eradication of these problems and for the betterment of rural life, the proper planning and reconstruction should be made by the state as well Central Government. A.R. Desai says, “Rural Sociology studies all these subjects and provides proper guidelines in this direction.” It is evident from the above analysis that the scope or subject matter or Rural Sociology, no doubt is very vast. Though, it is the youngest and progressive science, yet it studies the various aspects of Rural Society as well as rural life to a great extent.
The importance of rural sociology can be evaluated properly when it realize the importance of rural society. Rural society presents a scientific picture of rural life. Villages are important because they are the springs to feed urban areas.
Majority of the world population live in villages. Even today, two-third of the world population live in rural areas and in the third world countries, the share of rural population to total population is much higher than this. It is an accepted fact that the whole world is nothing but life villages. Almost all the social thinkers, planners and bureaucrats from nineteenth century till now have realized the importance of rural life and Rural Society. Since Rural Sociology deals with the study of the majority of the world population, it occupies a very key position among the social sciences.
Village is the fundamental basis of human civilization and culture. Cities grow out of villages or villages when modernized become cities or towns, but no town or city when ruined becomes a villages. So villages are the well spring of our culture. Further, village population is the main source of urban life and man-power of the country. The real picture of the man can be visible in villages but not in town.
The ways of living of man and his cultural patterns are greatly the product of the ecological factors. The main component of ecology is land, water, plant and atmosphere. These factors influence the social life to a great extent. Rural Sociology being involved in exploring and analyzing such type of inter-dependence is of vital importance.
Rural progress, rural reconstruction or improvement of rural societies is possible only when the people have correct idea about the rural way of life and problems. Rural sociology touches upon the rural psychology and provides a good understanding of the rural people and their society.
Rural reformation is the primary aim of rural sociology. In this context it helps in following works.
- Organization: Village unit which are dis-organized and can be organized through rural sociology. It improved in the co-ordination of various units and helps in bringing an improvement in economic, social and health conditions.
- Economic Betterment: Through detailed study of village problems and observation rural sociology gives stress on the importance of increasing the quantity and quality of production. This results in to raising the standard of living.
- Provide Technology and Systematic Knowledge and reforms in Farm Production: Main occupation of 80% population of village is agriculture. In order to improving this main occupation of rural people. The earlier researches in rural sociology were made in agricultural college.
- Solutions of Pathological Social Problems: Rural sociology examines the social pathological problems and it suggests ways for the improving these problem.
- Education: The improvement t, the development of any community depends on its education. Rural sociology lays stress on education in rural problems.
- Planning for Development: Rural sociology encourages the development of various plans for any rural development program. The work must be carried out according to these plans for the progress in rural society. The practical value of the study of rural sociology is widely recognized today. As long as the villages and the rural society assume importance, the rural sociology shall continue to acquire importance.
The major methods of investigation used by rural sociology are the following:
- Participant observation
- Social survey
- Social research
- Statistical method
- Questionnaire: In social research the questionnaire is used comprehensively. In the questionnaire method, as is evident from the name, a list of such questions is compiled, which throw light upon the different aspects of the problem. Usually the questions are accompanied by ‘yes’ and ‘no’ as their answers and the information has to reject the wrong answer. The questionnaire method is the most popular method in the rural social research.
- Schedule: The schedule method resembles the questionnaire to some extent, inasmuch as it, too, requires a list of questions, the answers to which supply the data. But these questions are taken by the observer to the informant and filled by the observer himself. Usually, this method is made use of only in a limited sphere. It involves more time, energy and money. This method archives greater minuteness in detail.
- Interview: In the interview method, evidently enough, the observer faces the information and questions him across the table, nothing done the information which the questions elicit. This certainly does elicit much useful information. Actually, much of the success of the interviews depends upon his individual ability.
- Participant observation: As is evident by the name, in the participant observation method, the observer participates with the people whom he is observing. This gives him opportunity to come into direct contact with the people who are to provide him with his information and obtain much useful information. This method finds an uninhibited use in many anthropological studies.
- Social survey: The word survey means to oversee or to look over. Social survey is intended to be study of the social aspect of a community’s composition and activities. It aims at the collection of quantitative facts. It presents programmers for improvement and development.
- Social research: Another important method of rural study is social research. Social research is the discovery of new truths about society. It is a systematic method of discovering new facts or verifying old facts, their sequences, inter-relationship, causal explanations and natural laws, in this way social research or investigation discovers new facts about social activities, social circumstances, social assumptions, social groups, social values, social institutions etc. it locates those natural laws which stimulate different phenomena in social life.