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Social Science: What It Is and the 5 Major Branches

What exactly is Social Science?

Social science is simply the study of human interactions. The field of social science primarily includes topics of anthropology, economics, political science, psychology, and sociology.

Social Science: What It Is and the 5 Major Branches

Social scientists investigate how societies function, examining anything from the causes of economic growth and unemployment to the causes of what makes people happy. Their discoveries influence public policies, education programs, urban planning, marketing techniques, and many other efforts.


Its origins can be traced back to 1650 when a revolution in natural philosophy altered the fundamental framework through which people perceived what was scientific. Diderot's magnificent encyclopedia, which includes articles by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and other pioneers, reflects the 18th-century origins of the social sciences. Other specialized encyclopedias reflect the expansion of the social sciences.

Social science was initially employed as a distinct conceptual discipline in the contemporary age. It was influenced by positivism, which emphasized knowledge based on genuine positive sense experience while avoiding negative speculation; metaphysical speculation was eschewed. Auguste Comte coined the name "science sociale" to designate the area, based on Charles Fourier's views; Comte also referred to it as "social physics".

Five development routes emerged in the social sciences following this period, influenced by Comte in other areas. Large-scale statistical surveys were conducted throughout the United States and Europe. Different approaches were taken by Émile Durkheim, who studied "social facts", and Vilfredo Pareto, who opened up metatheoretical ideas and individual theories. A third technique for discovering and analyzing social phenomena emerged from the later methodological split, championed by people like Max Weber. The fourth path was centered on economics, created and advanced economic knowledge as hard science. The final approach, advocated by Max Weber's antipositivism and verstehen sociology, was the correlation of knowledge and social values. In this route, theory and prescription were non-overlapping formal subject discussions.

In the West, establishing social sciences required conditioned linkages between progressive and conventional knowledge domains. Sociology gradually established itself in other cultures, such as the Italian one. It faced the challenge of establishing strategic knowledge beyond philosophy and theology.

The methodology of social science subfields has become increasingly quantitative. Because of the interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary character of scientific investigation into human behavior and the social and environmental elements that influence it, many natural scientists got interested in some aspects of social science methods. In the study of human action and its ramifications and repercussions, quantitative research and qualitative methodologies were increasingly being merged. As a result, statistics emerged as a distinct branch of applied mathematics in the early twentieth century. Statistical approaches were employed with confidence.

By the late nineteenth century, the academic and social sciences were divided into five branches: jurisprudence and legal modification, education, health, economics and trade, and art. Economic imperialism was coined at the turn of the century to describe the increasing realm of economics in the social sciences. For the foreseeable future, the social sciences will be divided into discrete research areas and approaches to the discipline.

What are the major branches of Social Science?

Most experts worldwide agree on five major fields of social science, such as:


Anthropology, the study of the origins and development of human civilizations and cultures, has been a focus for centuries. Still, it took off and gained prominence during the Age of Enlightenment. During that time, there was a strong emphasis on expanding society and knowledge, and understanding human behavior was critical to reaching that aim.


Economic philosophy can be traced back to Plato, Aristotle, and Xenophon, among other ancient Greek philosophers. Their studies were the cornerstone for practically all social science, including economics. Many nations' economic policies were suddenly influenced by the concept that a country should promote exports while minimizing imports.

This widely accepted thought was challenged by several writers, including Adam Smith, who is now regarded as the father of modern economics. Smith's theories and those of Rousseau and John Locke supported the concept of a self-regulating economy. They laid the groundwork for what is now known as classical economics. The Wealth of Nations, Smith's penned bookwork, is still studied and revered by many politicians today.

Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes are two other notable economists who have affected how we think about the subject today. Marx famously attacked capitalism as an appropriate economic model by emphasizing the labor theory of value. While most modern politicians disagree with Marx's beliefs, his critique of capitalism has significantly impacted many thinkers. Meanwhile, Keynesian thoughts on economics are also prevalent among today's economists. Keynesian economics is a theory of demand-side macroeconomics that focuses on short-term economic changes.

Political Science

Its roots can be traced to ancient Greece. Plato, the philosopher, produced several conversations concerning politics, justice, and what defined effective government at the time.

Plato's early contributions would pave the way for a more scientific approach advocated by Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes, Marx, and Max Weber. Centuries of political science have aided democracy by assisting politicians in making popular policy decisions and winning elections.


It arose as a science in Europe during the great social upheaval in the mid-1800s. Political changes and the Industrial Revolution radically transformed many people's lives, sometimes for the worse, forcing early sociologists to ponder how to preserve stability when everything was changing so quickly.

In 1875, Yale University offered the first sociology course in the United States. Other institutions followed suit in the years that followed, and the subject was introduced to high schools in 1911.

Social Psychology

Psychology is one of the most rapidly expanding branches of social science. It grew in popularity in the Western world throughout the twentieth century, thanks partly to Sigmund Freud's work.

In 2019, about 20.3% of people in the United States received mental health treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even though many individuals still utilize psychiatric medicine to treat mental health difficulties, in recent years, more people have resorted to alternative treatments such as mindfulness and yoga in addition to traditional talk therapy.

Neuroscience, medication treatments, and an increasing number of psychotherapy approaches are expanding the alternatives for psychological treatment. The field also includes animal learning, social psychology, and economic psychology.

Social Science Education in Schools

Early social science education in developed countries now begins in elementary school. It continues into middle and high school, concentrating on key social science components such as economics and political science. More specific disciplines are available at the collegiate level.

Colleges and universities now offer a wide range of social science majors. Every major university has at least 15 academic departments classified as social sciences. They are as follows:

  • African American Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Cognitive Science
  • Demography
  • Economics
  • Ethnic studies
  • Gender and Women's Studies
  • Geography
  • Global Studies
  • History
  • Linguistics
  • Political Economy
  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • Sociology

College and university master's degree and Ph.D. programs provide additional chances for deeper specialization.

Careers in Social Sciences

Advertisers, psychologists, teachers, lawyers, managers, social workers, and economists are examples of typical social science jobs.

Human behavior, relationships, attitudes, and how these have evolved over time are all critical topics for any business to understand to become successful. Social science ideas such as demographics, political science, and sociology are commonly used in various commercial applications. Advertising and marketing experts, for example, frequently use human behavior ideas from these domains to advertise their products to consumers.

No doubt, economics is an important social studies topic in the business sector. Many industries evaluate and forecast business, sales, and other market trends using economic analysis and quantitative approaches. As a matter of fact, economists are in high demand in the United States, particularly behavioral economists, who use psychology to evaluate and predict individuals' and institutions' economic decision-making processes.

The expected change in employment for economists from 2020 to 2030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is expected to reach about 13%, compared to an average of 8% for all occupations. Employees in other areas of social science are also expected to be in high demand, with the BLS predicting a significant increase in employment between 2020 and 2030.

What are some other areas of study?

Other applied or transdisciplinary subjects that are related to or are linked to social sciences include:

  • Archaeology: It is the science that analyses human societies by recovering, documenting, analyzing, and interpreting material remains and environmental data such as architecture, artifacts, features, biofacts, and landscapes.
  • Area Studies: They are academic and interdisciplinary fields focusing on specific geographical, national/federal, or cultural regions.
  • Behavioural Science: It is an umbrella term for all disciplines investigating the activities and interactions of creatures in the natural environment.
  • Computer Social Science: It is an umbrella term for computational approaches to social science.
  • Demography: It is the statistical study of all human populations.
  • International Studies: International relations (the analysis of foreign affairs and global concerns among nations in the international system) and international education (the comprehensive approach that intentionally prepares people to be active and engaged participants in an interconnected world) are covered.
  • Library Science: It is an interdisciplinary field that applies management methods, education, practices, and other tools to libraries, such as the collection, organization, preservation, and distribution of information resources; and the political economy of information.
  • Marketing: It is the identification of human needs and wants, the analyses and measurement of their magnitude for demand, and the understanding of the process of consumer buying behavior to formulate products and services, pricing, promotion, and distribution to satisfy the needs and/or wants through exchange processes and the development of long-term relationships.
  • Public Administration: It is one of the primary branches of political science and may be generally defined as the formation, execution, and analysis of government policy branches. The ultimate purpose of the field is to promote public welfare by strengthening civil society and social justice. Though historically referred to as government management, public administration is continuously increasing, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that also work with a similar main focus on the welfare of mankind.

What are the wages in Social Science?

According to the BLS, social science professionals earn significantly more than their counterparts. According to their findings, the typical average annual salary for a social science graduate in 2019 was $64,000, slightly more than the $60,000 national average.

Naturally, incomes vary greatly, with some social science occupations earning significantly more than others. In 2021, the median salary for an economist was $105,630, while the median income for a social worker was $50,390.

Why is Social Science a low priority among others?

It is both surprising and unsurprising that natural sciences receive more funding than social sciences. Only 0.12% of total financing for climate-related research is predicted to be spent on climate change mitigation and social science. Climate change natural science research receives far more funding. Significant sums are also spent researching the impact and response to climate change. It has been suggested that this is a misallocation of resources because the most pressing puzzle is figuring out how to modify human behavior to reduce climate change. In contrast, the natural science of climate change is well known, and adaptation will take decades or centuries.

What role does Social Science play in today's world?

Social science is a broad study that seeks to understand human society and its many constructions and their connections to human interactions. At the same time, it conducts substantial research on how people tend to organize, behave, and create change in the environment around them. It attempts to uncover fundamental social concerns that shape our experiences, which may shed light on how our society functions. It is well within its purview to explain, for example, the factors that lead to the sharp climb in the unemployment graph. It is a crucial point in the concept upon which governments operate and make policy.

The Bottom Line

Social science differs from natural sciences such as physics, biology, and chemistry. Rather than studying the physical world, social science studies the interactions between people and societies and the formation and operation of communities. We can learn about our peers and the society in which we live thanks to social science. Understanding human behavior is essential for increasing efficiency and quality of life.

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