1. The Stage of Folklore:
Pre-literate people were also inquisitive. They thought about the dramatic phases of life, and they sought their own explanation. Their imagination worked out only supernatural explanations. They reasoned about the daily occurrences of life in concrete and personal terms.
Archaeological records indicate that the pre-literate people had a simple and crude awareness which had its own social implications. Early mythologies speak of the importance of social bonds which early people had developed among themselves.
The proverbs of the primitive people give us some idea about social property and social responsibility. Folktales, folksongs, etc., give us ideas about the primitive man’s family, life, his religious beliefs, social organisations such as clans and so on.
There are enough proofs to say that primitive man’s mind entertained social thinking. Communal property was the outcome of communal thinking. Group dances, feasts, festivals, building enterprises, celebrations, etc., denote a social spirit.
Warfare, which they engaged in, indicates tribal loyalty and group spirit. Folkways of these people mirror their notions of societal welfare. All these things reveal the beginnings of social thought. Though it appears premature today, it had its own prominence then.
2. The Stage of Social Philosophy:
Just as human society proceeded from simplicity to complexity, human thinking also started becoming more complex. Early people started thinking in terms of facing the challenges in a better manner, and finding solutions to the social problems more efficiently. In their efforts to do so, their thinking style underwent a change. It got ascended from the stage of folklore to the stage of social philosophy.
In the stage of social philosophy, large number of poets, philosophers, moralists, spiritual leaders, metaphysical thinkers, social visionaries, social reformers and others expressed their views, and enriched human thought.
Their views influenced the ways of life then and also of the future generations. The views of Manu on Varnashrama system, the opinions of Kautilya on politics, the beliefs of Confucius on ideal family, and practical morals, etc., could be cited here as examples.
3. The Stage of Social Theory:
In the stage of social theory, there is scope for discussion, logic, analysis, appreciation, acceptance, rejection and so on. The views or ideas expressed or advocated by a philosopher or scholar need not necessarily be accepted by all as though it is “divine”, “unchangeable” and “ultimate.”
The views of Manu, Aristotle, Cicero, Confucius and others were taken for granted in the beginning. As years passed on, social theoreticians like John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Rousseau, Karl Marx, Adam Smith, Ferguson, Machiavelli, Montesquieu, and a host of others established their own theories regarding human society and its dynamics.
Jeremy Betham’s “Utilitarianism”, Thomas More’s “Utopianism”, Spencer’s “theory of social evolution”, Marxian “theory of classless society”, Huntington, Lombroso and other social geographer’s “theory of geographic determinism” can be mentioned here as examples.
4. The Stage of Social Sciences:
It is very difficult to say when exactly the stage of social sciences began, because different social sciences emerged at different times. Example: Political science and history are pretty old social sciences, whereas anthropology, psychology and sociology are quite new.
The success attained and the progress registered in the field of natural sciences also provided inspiration for the social thinkers to emulate the same in the field of social sciences.
The methods that helped the physical sciences to attain success were also borrowed to understand and analyse the social world in a scientific manner. This new approach added precision, credibility and dependability to the social sciences. Most of the social sciences have now obtained a stage in which they stand on their own, have their own field of study, and pursue their own approach.
They have modified the scientific method and procedure to suit to their needs and conveniences. Sociology, which has joined the family of social sciences at a later stage has also made an impressive beginning and progress in its studies.