In this post, we shall learn about rural sociology.This module discusses the application of sociology to agricultural and ruralproblems. As agriculture is predominantly the rural occupation, this modulealso treats the discussion of rural sociology with emphasis on agriculturalsubjects.

This post touches on the basic concepts and thehistory of the development of rural sociology. After studying this, you shouldbe able to:

·explain briefly basic sociologicalterms

·discuss vividly the development ofrural sociology

·define rural sociology.

Definitions of Sociological Conceptsor Terms

Many students of rural sociology at the introductorylevel in many universities in Nigeria have not had any previous significantlearning experience in the study of sociology; hence it is necessary to explainthe basic concepts or terms often used in the field of sociology. These conceptsare not the final subject matter of rural sociology, but are intellectual toolsfor analyzing social situations in rural society.

  • Sociology: is the scientific study of society.
  • Society: is a group of people who havelived together, sharing common values and general interests, long enough to be consideredby others and by themselves as a unit. Rural sociology studies such societieswhen they exist in rural areas.
  • Rural sociology: is the systematic study of rurallife. It is the systematic body of knowledge which had resulted from the applicationof the scientific method to the study of the rural society, its organization,structure, social processes, basic social systems, institutions and dynamics.
  • Agricultural sociology: is the application of sociology tothe agricultural profession. It is the scientific study of the social lives ofthe people who are engaged in the agricultural occupation. As majority of thosewho are engaged in agriculture live and work in the rural area, AgriculturalSociology focuses largely on the use of rural sociological concepts.
  • Structure: is the systematic arrangementcharacteristic of a society, the smallest parts arranged to form a largediscernible unit. A society’s structure is composed of such parts as groups, institutions(e.g. government and schools), neighbourhoods and communities, organizationsand collectives.
  • Function: is an aspect of the relationshipbetween components mentioned above. It may involve the services provided by onecomponent to another within the total structure. The function of the villageschool is to provide sound educational facilities to village children so thatthey acquire the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to citizens andmembers of society. The concept of function may also apply, in a mathematicalsense, to relations among variables where changes in one are governed by changesin the other. For example, the density of population in a given geographicalarea will be governed by the size of population. Increase in density will be afunction of increase in size of population.
  • Change: means that some aspect of functionor structure differs at latter times from what it was at earlier times, changesinvolves the processes of disorganisation, organisation or reorganisations. Whenone component changes, it may no longer fit with other parts and changes ormodification of other parts and reorganisation of the whole structure mayresult.
  • Groups: are defined as two or more peoplein reciprocal information with one another.
  • Institutions: are “Crystallised mechanisms”–clearly defined ways in which society meets its needs-that have existed longenough to become embedded in the social structure. Examples of social institutionsare government bodies, school systems, village council and religious systems.
  • Organisation: are groups with special concernsand interest that have developed a structure involving specific roles forvarious members, and have a more or less formal set of rules and regulationsfor operation. An example is the village development organisation.
  • Communities and neighbourhoods: are groups of people living withina contiguous geographic area, sharing common values and a feeling of belongingto the group, who come together in the common concerns of daily life. A societymay include many communities and even more neighbourhoods (a smaller entity thanthe community characterized by much more frequent face to face contacts) acommunity can be a village or college campus. Hamlets are examples ofneighbourhoods.
  • Culture: is the total way of life ofpeople-their pattern of thoughts and behaviour-and constitutes the man madeenvironment as opposed to the natural environment. Within this wide area calledculture fit sub-concepts such as culture traits, the smallest component andunit of analysis. Cultural traits are the units which make up a culture.Examples of cultural traits in contemporary Nigerian Society are hoes,cutlasses, village residence and scattered settlements, various food, items;culture complex, the organization of culture traits around one dominant trait;culture area, the geographic area within which a common culture exists; andculture lag, the time difference between some technological change and theresulting change in culture.
  • Social norms: are techniques, folkways, moresand laws which are rules based on social values, that control and directinterpersonal relationships in society. Techniques are ways of doing things in whichtechnical efficiency is the criterion of operation. Folkways are the socially acceptable ways ofbehaviour, the customary norms of society that do not imply moral sanction,e.g. good manners. Mores are the socially acceptable ways of behaviorthat do involve moral standards; violation may result in severe social actionsuch as ostracism. Laws are formalised norms with legal and/or political enforcement, such as acts and statutes of a nation or politicalstate.
  • Social role: is the expected behaviour of onemember of society in relation to others. A single person in society may play anumber of roles such as father, teacher, citizen or rural sociologist. Some rolesare temporary; others are more permanent; and some may conflict with others.
  • Social stratification: is the division of society into aseries of levels indicating positions of individuals and groups in the value systemexisting in that society. Position in the social stratification levels denotesstatus of the group or individual. Individual and group behaviour in society isdeeply influenced by stratification and status.
  • Social processes: are the interactions of groups andindividuals with one another, and these may take four basic forms: a)competition,where the object is to outdo another in achievement of a goal; b) conflict,where the object and goal is to “eliminate” the other; c) cooperation, wherepersons or groups unite efforts to achieve a common goal; and d) accommodation,where a temporary or permanent termination of rival efforts occur and rivalparties are able to function together.
  • Leadership and patterns of influence: are the networks of influence thatweave through society, urban or rural and radiate from individuals and groupsinfluential in decision making. These individuals and groups who serve fromtime to time in positions of leadership may often be difficult to identify, yetthey are vital in decision making. Understanding of the patterns of influence,leadership, and power are invaluable in the analysis of the social situation.
  • Religion: is a system of belief in thesupernatural power which distinguishes between right and wrong, and whichprovides answers to some of life’s ultimate problems.
  • Rural persons: are those who live in the countryor in towns of less than 2,500 populations in the United States of America or lessthan 3,000 populations in Nigeria.
  • Urban people: are those who live in towns withpopulation of 2,500 and over in the United States of America, or 3,000 and overin Nigeria.
  • Primary groups: are small in size with face toface relationship of members and are informal in nature.
  • Secondary groups: are large in size, formal innature and characterized by impersonal relationships among the members.


  1. What is ruralsociology?
  2. List the fourbasic forms of social processes.

The Development of Rural Sociology

Rural sociology is the scientific study of the socialbehaviour of rural people. Rural sociology was established as sub-disciplinetowards the beginning of the twentieth century, primarily in the United Statesof America. Early beginnings of rural sociology date to at least 1908, when UnitedStates President T. Roosevelt appointed the County Life Commission. ThePresident was influenced in his decision to set up the commission by Sir HoracePlunkett, who had observed the deterioration of rural life in Ireland andfeared that if nothing were done about it the United States might face the samesituation.

After the Second World War, rural sociology becameestablished in European academic and research institutions. In most Africancountries rural sociology was introduced as an invention of western civilizationduring the colonial era, particularly in the British territories. It was notuntil the early 1960s that sociology was established as a component of highereducation programmes in Africa. There are indications; however, that ruralsociological research was conducted in many African countries as historical oranthropological studies long before sociology was established formally as adiscipline in its own right.

Prior to 1960, when Nigeria became independent ofBritish rule, no attempt was made to teach Rural sociology as a discipline inthe only

Nigeria University, the University of Ibadan, whichwas established in

1948. Although a Department of Agricultural Economicswas established, rural sociology has been taught as a subject in the departmentsince 1966. In 1968 when a department of Agricultural Extension services wascreated in that University, the teaching of rural sociology was transferred tothe department.

The history of rural sociology during the last halfcentury is impressive.

From small beginnings and a few pioneers it hasdeveloped in status, academic importance, and practical utility to afull-fledge discipline which yields understanding of rural communities, groups,cultures, institutions and other forms of human association. Through scientificanalytical study, it offers some solutions to social problems not only in theUnited States, but far beyond its borders to countries all over the world,particularly those in the process of development of their rural areas. Therural sociologist can now look to the world as his laboratory and his field foreffective professional action.


  1. Early beginnings of rural sociology date to at least …………………when UnitedStates President T. Roosevelt appointed the ……………………………………………..……..
  2. Rural sociology has been taught as a subject at the Department of AgriculturalEconomics, University of Ibadan since ………………………….In ……………… when a departmentof Agricultural Extension services was created in that University, the teachingof rural sociology was transferred to the new department.


This post has introduced you to the basic concepts anddevelopment in rural sociology. Some of the basic concepts in this post will bediscussed at greater length in subsequent units.


The main points in this unit are as follows:

  • Rural sociologyis the systematic study of rural life. It is the systematic body of knowledgewhich had resulted from the application of the scientific method to the studyof the rural society, its organization, structure, social processes, basicsocial systems, institutions and dynamics.
  • Other basicrural sociological concepts were also defined
  • Rural sociologywas established as a sub-discipline toward the beginning of the twentiethcentury (1908), primarily in the United States of America.
  • Rural sociologyhas been taught as a subject in the Premier University in Nigeria (Universityof Ibadan) since 1966.


  1. Define thefollowing terms: a) Rural sociology b) Social Processes c) Socialstratification d) Social role.
  2. Discuss thedevelopment of rural sociology.


Chitambar J.B. (1973). Introductory Rural Sociology. A Synopsis of

Concepts and Principles. New EasternLimited, India, 369 pp.

Igbokwe E.M. (2005). Concepts in Rural and Agricultural Sociology.

In: S.F. Adedoyin (ed.).Agricultural Extension in Nigeria.

Publication of AgriculturalExtension Society of Nigeria, pp. 91-100.

Jibowo G. (1992). Essentials of Rural Sociology. Gbemi Sodipo Press

Ltd, Abeokuta, 243pp.

Youdeowei, A., Ezedinma, F.O.C. and Onazi, O.C.(1986). Introduction

to Tropical Agriculture. Longman, 344pp.