Different sociologists have defined rural sociology in different ways. A few definitions may be examined here:
1. Sanderson says that “Rural sociology is the sociology of rural life in the rural environment”.
2. Bertand says that in its broadest sense, “Rural sociology is that study of human relationships in rural environment”.
3. F. Stuard Chapin defines rural sociology as follows: “The sociology of rural life is a study of the rural population, rural social organisation and the social processes comparative, in rural society”.
4. A.R. Desai says that “Rural sociology is the science of rural society … It is the science of laws of the development of rural society”.
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 organisations, structure and set up. It provides us that knowledge about the rural social phenomena which can help us in making contribution to the development of rural society.
Origin of Rural Sociology:
Rural sociology is comparatively a new branch of sociology. It was first originated in the United States of America. It has taken more than half a century to become established as a distinct academic field or professional study.
The main contributors to the development of rural sociology are-Charles Sanderson, Burtherfield, Ernest Bornholm, John Morris Gillin, Franklin H. Giddings, and Thomas Nixon Carver.
It was President Roosevelt who, through the appointment of Country Life Commission’ gave a good encouragement to the development of the rural sociology in 1908. The report of this Commission encouraged the studies of rural society.
In 1917 the Department of Rural Sociology was set up by the American Sociological Society. In 1919, a Rural Sociology Department” was established under the chairmanship of Dr. C.J. Galpin. The Great Depression of 1930 provided another stimulus to the growth of rural sociology. In 1937, ‘Rural Sociological Society’ was formed.
It started publishing a professional journal Rural Sociology’ containing results of rural sociological research. C.J. Galpin of the University of Wisconsin developed techniques for defining and delimiting the rural community. His approach is still popular today.
The Great Second World War gave yet another fillip to the growth of rural sociology. The destruction caused by the war demanded reconstruction. The reconstruction work brought further encouragement to the science. By 1958 there were about 1000 professional rural sociologists in America.
Rural sociology crossed the boundaries of America and became popular in Europe. A European society for Rural Sociology was formed in 1957, and a similar organisation was started in Japan also.
In developing countries, the role of the rural sociologist is primarily in the applied field of more effective planning and operation of rural community development programmes.
Scope or Subject-Matter of Rural Sociology:
The scope or the subject-matter of rural sociology is basically the study of rural society with all its complexities. 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.’
The main tasks of rural sociology can be mentioned here. They are as follows:
(1) Rural Community and Rural Problems’. This includes the characteristics and nature of rural community and its problems.
(2) Rural Social Life:
This includes various aspects of the rural people.
(3) Rural Social Organisation:
This includes the study of various rural social organisations and institutions including family and marriage.
(4) Rural Social Institutions and Structure:
This includes the study of dogmas, customs, traditions, values, morals, conventions, practices and various political, economic, religious and cultural institutions.
(5) Rural Planning and Reconstruction:
Rural sociology has great practical applications. Hence rural planning and reconstruction are also the main tasks of rural sociology to be dealt with.
(6) Social Change and Social Control in Rural Social Set up:
It is here we study the impact of city on rural life. The mechanisms of social control of the rural society are also examined here.
(7) Religion and Culture in Rural Society:
Religion plays an important role in a rural set up. Culture of rural society exhibits striking peculiarities. These come within the domain of rural sociology.
(8) Rural Social Processes:
Different social processes such as cooperation, competition, integration, isolation, and differentiation etc., that take place in rural society are also studied in rural sociology.
(9) Differences between Urban and Rural Society:
The study of rural society includes the differences between urban and rural society also.