THE SUBJECT-MATTER OF SOCIOLOGY
Spencer did not provide a developed, formal definition of sociology or of its relation to other social sciences. But in The Study of Sociology he paid much –attention to demonstrating the possibility of its existence as a science. This possibility depended on the existence (1) of a universal law of «natural causality» which operated in society to the same extent in nature, and (2) of a regular connection of the elements and structure of any phenomenon. By examining in detail the objective and subjective difficulties (including class prejudices) of shaping sociology as a science, Spender anticipated a number of the theses of the future sociology of knowledge.
The most complicated methodological task for him was to demarcate sociology from history. When studying the laws of the development of society, sociology is, in spirit, a historical science. But in Spencer’s opinion, it was related to traditional, narrative, descriptive history in the same way as anthropology to biography. While biography recorded all the chance circumstances in a human life, anthropology studied the state and conditions of the development of the organism. In the same way sociology, even though it rested on historical facts, was closer methodologically to biology.
In contrast to Comte, Spencer not only set out his understanding of the subject-matter and tasks of sociology but also, in fact, realised the principles he proclaimed. His Principles of Sociology was essentially the first attempt to construct an integral sociological system on ethnographic material.