Read this article to learn about the meaning, definition, nature, characteristics, scope, importance and development of rural sociology.
Meaning of Rural Sociology:
India is basically a land of villages. Rural sociology is the sociology of the village or village society.
It is a branch of sociology which studies rural society. Rural sociology studies the relations of the people who live in the villages.
It is just like a mirror of the rural social life. It provides a detailed study of knowledge about different aspects of rural life, its problems, its culture, its religion, its economic and political life.
The Indian society has a euphoria for village life. The village society is considered as the backbone of Indian society. Millions of money has been spent on the development of villages. The basic aim of the study of rural sociology is to make the village people self sufficient and also link them with the wider society at regional and national levels.
Due to historical reasons, the existing Indian rural society has become a veritable mosaic of various types of rural societies and hence reveals a diversified cultural pattern. To reconstruct our rural society, it is urgently necessary to study not only the economic forces but also the social, the ideological and oilier forces operating in our society. It is a very complex and colossal task.
“Indian rural sociology or the science of the laws governing the specific Indian rural and social organisation has still to be created. Such a science is, however, the basic premise for the renovation of the Indian rural society, so indispensable for the renovation of the Indian society as a whole.” — A.R.Desai
Definition of Rural Sociology:
Many Western and Indian sociologists have given their definitions regarding rural sociology in their own point of view. Among the sociologists, T.L. Smith, A.R. Desai, Dwight-Sanderson, Chapin etc. are very important.
“…… the prime objective of rural sociology should be to make a scientific, systematic and comprehensive study of the rural social organisation of its structure, functions and objective tendencies of development and on the basis of such study, to discover the laws of its development.” —A.R. Desai
“Rural sociology is the sociology of life in the rural environment.” —Sanderson
“The sociology of rural life is a study of rural population, rural social organization and the rural social processes operative in rural society.” —F. S. Chapin
“Such sociological facts and principles as are derived from the study of rural social relationships may be referred to as rural sociology.” —T. L. Smith
The above definitions have given a clear cut Idea about rural sociology. The definitions no doubt, include the theoretical as well as applied aspect of rural sociology. Rural sociology clarifies the laws of rural social life and points out the necessary conditions of its progress.
Nature of Rural Sociology:
In India, rural sociology is treated as a part of sociology. Like sociology it is also considered as a social science. It is precisely a specialized field of sociology. Its nature is scientific. Actually to say, by nature rural sociology is a science. Science in simple words refers to a systematic body of knowledge. In case of rural sociology the rural problems are systematically and logically studied.
As a result of which the study becomes universally applicable. Rural sociology fulfills the different criteria of science. But the whole controversy centres round some problems which denies the rural sociology the status of a science. Generally the term ‘Nature’ refers to essential qualities or characteristic features of a phenomenon.
Characteristics of Rural Sociology:
1. Rural sociology is of recent origin and a very new discipline. Here sociological principles are applied for studying rural society.
2. Rural sociology is multi-dimensional in character.
3. Rural sociology is scientific and systematic in character.
4. It has acquired an inter-disciplinary status over a period of time.
5. It emphasises on micro studies.
6. It employs comparative method.
The development of rural sociology in India has not attained a scientific level. It is to be hoped that there will be a development in this direction in the future.
Scope of Rural Sociology:
The scope of rural sociology refers to the boundary or subject matter of this discipline. Regarding the subject matter, A.R. Desai is of the opinion that it is a developing science, a young science at the stage of infancy and its subject matter is yet to be determined.
Prof. Nelson says about the scope of rural sociology that rural sociology is the description and analysis of progress of various groups as they exist in rural environment.
T.L. Smith also says that the field of rural sociology is the study of pattern of association, groupings and group behaviour of the people who mainly live on agriculture and agriculture is their means of livelihood.
It is concluded from the above opinion that the scope of rural sociology is the study of rural societies and complexities of rural social life. Indian rural community is a veritable mosaic of different communities.
In case of every social science, controversies have taken place.
In connection to scope, there are four main controversies. They are:
1. Rural sociology is a science or an art.
2. Whether rural sociology is a scientific subject matter or special subject matter or it is a synthesis of different social sciences.
3. Whether rural sociology deals with only village community or includes urban communities.
4. Whether rural sociology Includes only the formulation of different laws or includes Follow-up action.
Rural sociology is the scientific, systematic, comprehensive study III rural social organisations, its structure, functions and objective tendencies of development. It deals with the systematic study of social relationship and various problems concerning the rural society mid rural life.
(i) A Study of Rural Community:
Rural sociology is concerned with the characteristics, features, nature and human ecology of village community. It is also the study of activities of rural people. Through these activities we know the institutional objects of the community.
(ii) A Study of Rural Social Structure:
Rural sociology studies the various components of rural social structure. For example, village community, caste, class, dominant caste, jajmani system, caste and politics, backward class etc.
(iii) A Study of Rural Institutions:
Rural sociology studies the structure, characteristics and functions of rural social institutions. It studies the institutions like family, marriage, kinship, religion, caste etc. in the rural context.
(iv) A Study of Rural Social Organization:
In rural sociology rural social organisations are unavoidably studied. It includes the study of rural family pattern, marriage, rural social stratification, educational system, religion, cultural institutions etc.
(v) A Study of Rural Problems:
The subject matter of rural sociology includes the problems of rural life such as social, economic, political and cultural problems. Rural social problems are increasing day-by-day. It is essential that these should be solved in a planned way.
It requires separate analysis because the cause and consequences of these problems are different from the problems in general. These, problems include poverty, illiteracy, religious superstitions, traditionalism, inadequate housing, rural unemployment etc.
(vi) A Study of Religion and Culture:
In rural society religion and culture of rural people are given more emphasis. Because these are the indispensable part of their lives. Religion plays an important role in rural society. Rural society is basically religion oriented society.
It acts as an informal means of social control. The rural people follow all the rules and regulations related to religion and culture. Culture includes old customs, traditions, folkways, norms, values, etc. Rural sociology studies the complexity of rural culture, cultural patterns etc.
(vii) A Study of Rural Social Process:
Social process indicates the fundamental ways through which these people can interact with other groups. IL includes associative and dissociative processes. Co-operation as an associative social process can be observed more than any other processes. Competition and conflict can also be seen in rural society. These processes take place in peculiar way in rural society and studied separately from a particular angle.
(viii) A Study of Rural Social Control:
Rural sociology is also a study of rural social control. Social control is the control over the society. It starts from the family level. Rural sociology significantly studies the infernal means of social control like customs, traditions, folkways, mores, norms, religion etc.
Social controls are more social than legal. The fear of boycott from the social function is more powerful control than any other legal punishment. Social control may be conducted in various ways. It varies from society to society.
(ix) A Study of Social Change:
Social change is the change in the social relationships; the changing aspect of any system of the society. Due to the impact of modern education, means of transport and communication, modernisation, urbanisation, industrialisation, the rural society is now undergoing tremendous changes.
Only through change, the way of progress and change can be possible. Rural sociology studies the various factors responsible for social change in a very systematic way.
(x) A Study of Rural Reconstruction:
Rural reconstruction is an important aspect of life and without which development is impossible. Rural sociology studies various plans and programmes relating to community development programmes. It also studies different laws of government regarding the reconstruction of village community.
Rural society needs rural planning and reconstruction in a systematic and planned manner. Rural sociology serves the purpose and provides guidelines to the institutions and organisations which are engaged in developmental tasks. Thus planning and reconstruction of rural society forms the subject matter of rural sociology.
(xi) A Study of Rural – Urban Continuum and Contrast:
Rural sociology studies rural—urban contrast and continuum on the basis of social, economic, religious and cultural point of view. Both village and city hypothetically are two contrasting modes of community life. It has to be studied in a scientific manner. By studying the comparison between these two, it can meet different plans and programmes for the development of rural community.
(xii) A Study of Planning:
Rural sociology is a study of social planning relating to rural society. Community development projects, Panchayati Raj, Co-operative movements are coming under this study. Their success and failure can only be measured by the study of rural sociology. It is the prime objective of rural sociologist to show exact position of different plans and programmes which have been implemented in the rural areas.
Thus, the scope of the study of rural sociology is very wide and comprehensive. Although it is a young and developed science, it studies various aspects of social life and social problems concerning rural life and rural society to a great extent.
Now many new studies have been included within the scope of rural sociology, these are: environmental decay and erosion of ecology; problems and structure related to land and agriculture, study of tribal, forest and village people. Rural sociology also studies the stratification pattern which has emerged from the working of developmental programmes.
Importance and Significance of Rural Sociology:
After Independence it is very much necessary for our country to have a systematic study of the rural social organization, its structure, function and evolution.
Prof. A. R. Desai, while highlighting the importance of rural sociology, observes, “It is, however, urgently necessary to make a scientific and systematic study of rural society; of its economic foundations, social and cultural superstructure, of its institutions and functions, of the problems arising from the rapid process of disintegration which is undergoing and which even threatens its breakdown.”
The practical value of the study of rural sociology is widely recognized today. Rural sociology which aims at providing systematic and scientific approach to rural problems and life is assuming great significance because in India rural society after independence has acquired new significance.
India is a classic land of agriculture; the economic foundation of village community centres around agriculture. It is with the help of rural sociology that it can be possible to find out what are the causes of break-up of the self-sufficiency of the village community.
It is necessary to understand and to act according to the laws prevailing in the village in order to achieve progress of the villages. This necessitates a special study of the rural society. In our country, the emphasis of rural sociology is to analyse the implications of traditional rural society in the modern context.
The importance of rural sociology can be examined under the following heads:
1. Rural sociology lays great stress on systematization and scientific analysis. Many studies have been made but many of them now are in monograph or article form. Some of the studies seriously lack proper analysis and solution.
2. Vast majority of population lives in the villages which has its own problems. Even today, two-third of the world population lives in rural areas. Rural sociology aims at studying all those problems and life of rural people.
3. Rural society is the fundamental basis of human civilization and culture. People who are living in urban areas they are mainly the migrants from the rural areas. So rural area or village is the well-spring of our culture and civilization. Thus to know about the life of urban community it is essential to know their original place of living, that is rural community.
4. The basic importance of rural sociology has to find out the laws of development and those principles only can be discovered by studying rural communities in detail.
5. The importance of rural society cannot be ignored in studying rural problems in India. India is a country of villages, therefore, rural sociology is comparatively more important here than in any other country of the world. The importance of true Indian culture can be found only In the Indian villages.
6. Now India is facing with problems of social, economic and political reconstruction. Unless, one understands what rural India is, one cannot understand the problems of India as a whole and its ancient tradition, customs, culture and ways of life.
The importance of rural sociology is increasing day by day. The reasons are:
1. Social life In India is mostly the rural life.
2. About 80% of Indian population lives in villages.
3. Rural sociology provides us knowledge about the study of rural problems and their solutions.
4. Rural society is the store house of ancient cultural heritage. Its study is having importance.
5. Agriculture is the livelihood of the country.
6. Unique nature of transformation of Indian society.
7. Greater interest of democratic decentralization. Scientific study of village community is a pre-requisite for it.
8. Village is the basic unit of study.
9. Growing influence of modernization, industrialization and urbanisation.
10. Rural sociology is a means of mass media exposure with regards to rural reconstruction.
11. In recent years, the rural sociologists have attached supreme importance to the study of agrarian relations, land reforms, peasant movements, rural stratification system, rural leadership etc.
The importance of rural sociology cannot be ignored or underestimated. The role of rural sociology in understanding the solving of rural problems is well emphasised by all. To-day, it is the slogan, “Back to the villages”. “If village will prosper, we will prosper and if village will perish, India too will perish.” The importance of rural sociology is becoming more and more popular in our society. It is considered as a progressive social science.
Origin and Development of Rural Sociology in India:
Rural sociology is relatively novel branch of sociology. It Is originated in the United States of America in the form of systematic science in the year 1820. It has taken more than half a century to become established as a distinct academic need or professional study.
In the year 1907, rural sociology seems to be started its growth. At that time, American President Roosevelt emphasized on the study of rural sociology and rural social problem.
In 1911, a Rural Sociology Department was established in American Sociological Society. In 1919, a Rural Sociology Department was established under the auspices of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics under the leadership of Dr. C.J. Golpin. The name was later changed to “Rural Population and Rural Life.” A quarterly named “Rural Sociology” was published in 1936.
In India, only after the independence, literature on rural society has been on the increase. After independence, during the first five-year plan, strategies were made for the upliftment of the condition of rural people.
In the year 1955, prominent village studies by famous sociologists were brought out in India. It was suggested that there was a need of rural reconstruction and welfare. Therefore community development programmes came into the scene. Planning Commission has introduced several projects, land reforms, co-operative movement, five-year plans, Panchayat Raj etc.
These plans and programmes have contributed a lot towards the development of rural sociology in India. Different sociologists have made their original contributions in the field of rural sociology in India. Among them are Dr. D. N. Majumdar, Prof. N. K. Bose, Prof. M.N. Srinivas, S. C. Dube etc. are the pioneers.
Before independence, also, many studies were conducted about village life in India. In 1926, Royal Commission on Agriculture was set up. World war I saw agrarian crisis and began to draw the attention of the scholars towards rural India. George Keating’s and Harold Mann in Bombay, Gilbert Slater in Madras and E.V. Lucas in Punjab initiated intensive studies of particular villages.
In the meanwhile, Viswa Bharati set up a Rural Reconstruction Board. In 1932 Scottish Church College, Calcutta published accounts of village life. But all these studies before independence remained isolated. Only after 1947, our nation decided to have planned development.