How and where it originated
Rural Sociology as related to American society: As a branch of Sociology, Rural Sociology came to be studied in depth in the United States. As is well-known, America, as we see it today, was created by European setters. In the early stages, they set up communities and lived off the land around them. They struggled against heavy odds, and learned to cooperate with each other to make life a bit easier in the strange land. Gradually, industrialization took place transforming the face of the primitive, poverty-ridden communities to thriving settlements. A formal government was installed that distributed land and forest resources among the citizen through a legal and equitable basis. The role of women changed from that of a house wife to a wage earner. Thus, rural sociology of the U.S. evolved in a dramatic manner upending many old practices and customs.
Rural Sociology in the Indian contest
As Gandhiji so aptly said, India lives in its villages. Like that in the U.S., and many other countries, rural life in India has undergone fast and fundamental transformation since the beginning of the twentieth century. Grinding poverty, an oppressive caste system, feudal land lords and denial of basic human rights to women are no longer accepted. Laws have changed, and the desired effects, though slow in coming, is there for everyone to see.
How, the rural folks lived off their land, faced off natural calamities, and developed kinship with one another are well-documented in history. With urbanization, people have migrated to towns and cities in increasingly large numbers. As a result, nearly 45 % of Indian population now live in urban and semi-urban areas. At te beginning of the 20th century, only 5% of the country’s population lived in cities.
Study of this phenomenon comes under the ambit of Rural Sociology.
Definition of Rural Sociology
According to A. R. Desai, 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.
Sanderson defines it like this. “Rural sociology is the sociology of life in the rural environment.”
Nature of Rural Sociology
India being a predominantly a rural country, study of sociology here centers around the life in villages. Scientific methodology has been applied to the subject of Rural Sociology to make it look more rational and robust.
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 has many dimensions.
3. Rural Sociology uses scientific tools that make it appear systematic.
4. It has evolved into an inter-disciplinary branch of knowledge.
5. Emphasis is laid on micro studies.
6. It uses comparative methods.
Despite all the progress done in the realm of Rural Sociology, it still lacks scientific rigor. We have a long way to go in this regard.
Importance of Rural Sociology
One of the main focus area of the new government in independent India was to frame policies that would lift the rural folks from the malaise of poverty, illiteracy, superstition and the scourge of the oppressive caste system that had plagued the country for centuries. To form effective policies in this direction, it became necessary to study the rural society in depth and identify the problems and devise remedies.
Prof. A. R. Desai was a pioneer in the study of rural sociology in India. He felt the need to conduct scientific and systematic study into this problem. He wanted to focus on economic foundations, social and cultural hierarchy, the role of institutions, and the new problems created by urbanization.
The practical value of the study of rural sociology is widely recognized today by the Niti Ayog, governments and various NGOs working in villages. India has an agrarian economy based on small landholdings. This makes the study of Rural Sociology so important.
The importance of rural sociology can be seen from the following angles
1. Rural sociology is based on a bedrock of systematization and scientific analysis. Earlier studies conducted by scholars lacked graphical interpretation, and suggestions for possible solutions.
2. Urban population today in Indian cities had their roots in villages. Migration with time resulted in cities growing in number and size. So, attempts to solve urban problems can be made easier by studying Rural society and its evolution.
3. Now India faces many problems caused by unplanned urbanization and un-checked migration from villages. The solution to this problem lies in correctly studying and interpreting the knowledge gather from rural sociology.