Essays /

Sociology Theory Essay

Essay preview

Sociological Theory.
“What A Change there was between 1785 and 1824! There has probably never been such an abrupt revolution in habits, ideas and beliefs in the two thousand years since we have known the history of the World” (Stendhal. 1962: p.144) There has indeed been many changes throughout history to the way that we think about society. The Enlightenment signalled a change in the World that was so eye opening a complete new discipline emerged. There was a lot of key thinkers around this time who were very influential in the creation of Sociology as a discipline. This essay will discuss the key thinkers around the creation of Sociology namely, Durkheim, Marx and Weber who are considered the founding fathers of Sociology. It will also analyse the Functionalist, Marxist, social action and postmodernist perspectives looking at some of the key figures and concepts within the perspectives. The term ‘Sociology’ was coined from Auguste Comte (1798 – 1857) in 1883. Comte wanted to understand the great social changes that had occurred around him and made the first contributions towards Sociological thinking. Comte believed that methods used in Science could also be used to study society, thus Comte was the proponent of Positivism, defined as an epistemological position that advocates the application of the methods of the natural sciences to the study of social reality and beyond. (Bryman, 2004). Sociology as a discipline emerged from a series of debates which began during the Enlightenment between Philosophers, Scientists and Intellectuals about the origins and nature of society. However these questions did not lead to one set conclusion, it lead to the emergence of perspectives and different ideas. The three classical sociological perspectives are Functionalism, Marxism and Social Action Theory and the three key figures within these perspectives where Durkheim, Marx and Weber. These three men were considered the founding fathers of Sociology. (Bauman, 2002). Emile Durkheim (1858 – 1917) is often referred to as the founding father of Functionalism. He did draw on many aspects of Comte’s work, but he believed that Comte did not given enough detail and depth in his work. Durkheim put a lot of effort into establishing Sociology as its own discipline away from Philosophy and Psychology. This is evident in his two main themes of work, the priority of the social over the individual and the idea that society can be studied scientifically. Durkheim’s concept of social facts in itself differentiates sociology from Philosophy and Psychology. Social facts are the social structures, cultural norms and values that are external to and coercive over, Individuals. Social facts are not specific to the individual or capable of being simplified by individual consciousness. Durkheim believed that due to this, social facts can be studied empirically. Durkheim believed two type of social facts existed, material social facts which refer to the physical social structures which influence the individual and also immaterial social facts which refer to values, norms and conceptually held beliefs. Durkheim was most interested in immaterial social facts, particularly morality, collective conscience, collective representation and social currents. (Morrison, K 1995)(Taylor, 1995). Durkheim’s work discusses how society is held together through the division of labour that makes individuals dependent on each other. Durkheim believed that societies with little division of labour were more unified by Mechanical solidarity. All individuals share similar roles and responsibilities, which builds a strong collective conscience. However Durkheim believed that modern society functioned more with organic solidarity. The increasing division of labour and specialisation of jobs divided society and weakened the collective conscience. Durkheim studied these different types of solidarity through laws, he believed that a society with mechanical solidarity is characterised by repressive law. Society with organic solidarity however is characterised by restitutive law. (Durkheim, 1964). In his book ‘The Division of Labour in Society’ (1964) Durkheim writes; “This work has its origins in the question of the relation of the individual to social solidarity. Why does the individual, while becoming more autonomous, depend more upon society? How Can he be at once, more individual and more solidarity?” (Durkheim, 1964: p.37) Durkheim also went on to state that social facts can help explain suicide rates. His work showed that using historical comparative methods that suicide rates varied over time and across societies. According to Durkheim suicide cannot be explained by individual Psychological problems. Durkheim believed that two social facts influenced suicide rates, these were integration and regulation. Through this Durkheim believed that four different types of suicide existed; Egoistic suicide which was a result of a lack of integration and altruistic suicide which is a result of too much integration. Anomic suicide which is a result of too little regulation and finally fatalistic suicide which is a result of too much regulation. (Bauman and May, 2001)(Taylor. 1995). Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) had very different ideas of society than both Comte and Durkheim. Marx ideas where very much inspired by the industrial revolution and he argued that the capitalist system affected human experience. His work focused on the conflict between the classes, in which he believed there were two main groups the proletariat and the bourgeoisie; the proletariat being the wage labourer and the bourgeoisie being the owners of the mean of production. Marx believed that this system was designed for one purpose, to ensure the powerful continue to get richer and richer and control over the proletariat. (Morrison 1995). (Taylor 1995). Marx believed that under capitalism the relationship between labour and human expression has changed. Rather than labouring to fulfil the individual’s needs or express ideas, workers do so at the demands of capitalism. Marx believed that due to this workers where alienated from their labour because it no longer belonged to them. He believed that workers where alienated in four different ways. Firstly the workers where alienated from productive activity, secondly workers where alienated from the product of their labour, thirdly workers where alienated from other workers, and lastly workers where alienated from their own human potential. Marx critiques were designed to highlight that capitalism was the basis of alienation an...

Read more


-1924 10 152 1785 1798 1818 1824 1857 1858 1870 1883 1891 1902 1910 1917 1918 1920 1922 1931 1937 1960 1962 1963 1964 1970 1971 1979 1982 1986 1990 1995 2001 2002 2003 2004 4th abil abl abrupt accord account achiev across act action activ actor actual ad adapt address adequ advoc affect affectu agent agil agre alien allianc allow alreadi also alter although althuss althusserian altruist ambigu analys analysi analyt anom anomi anoth antonio apparatus appeal appear applic approach argu argument aris armi around art aspect assert assum assumpt attain attent attitud attribut audienc august autonom autonomi away back balanc base basi basic basingstok bauman be becom began behaviour belief believ belong benefit best beyond bias bibliographi blackwel bloc book bourgeoisi breakdown bring broken bryman build built bureaucraci busi call calvin cambridg cannot capabl capac capit capitalist casual categori causeway cement central certain challeng chang characteris cherish childhood children church citi civil clarif class classic classifi clear cloud clue code coerciv coin collect collier combin come commod common communic communist compar compat complet complex compon compromis comt concentr concept conceptu concern conclus condit conflict conscienc conscious consensus consent consequ consid consider consist constitut constru consumm contain contempl continu contradict contribut contributor control cooper corpus could counter creat creation creativ crimin critic criticis critiqu crowel cultur current damn deal dealt debat deem deep defin demand democraci denomin depend depth deriv describ design detail determin determinist develop devianc deviant devoid differ differenti dimens direct disciplin discuss dispens distanc divid divis domin done door dramat dramaturgi draw due durkheim dynam dysfunct e easili econom economi ed edit educ effect effort egoist either elect element embodi emerg emil emphasis empir employ encount endeavour engag engel enjoy enlighten enough enquir ensur entir environ epistemolog equal equilibrium equip erv especi essay essenc essenti establish ethic europ evad even eventu evid evolutionari examin exemplifi exist expand expect experi explain explan explicit express extern eye fact faction fall fatalist father favour featur felt fetish figur final find first flaw focus follow forc forg form forma formal format forward found foundat four fredrich freedom freeli french front fulfil function functionalist fundament further g.n gain game gender general generat georg gerth gestur get gidden gift give given glass goal goal-attain god goffman govern grace gramsci great greed ground group guarante habit hail hand hear heart heavili hegelian hegemoni held help hey hide hierarchi higher highlight histor histori hoar hold howev human idea ideal ident identifi ideolog illegitim illustr imag imaginari immateri immedi impact imper impetus impli implicit import impress impuls includ incomplet increas inde individu industri inescap influenc influenti inform infus inhibit innov inquiri inspir instanc institut institutionalis instrument integr intellectu intend interact interaction interconnect interest intermedi internalis interpel interpret interrel intuit involv jenkin job judg justifi k karl kept key kind knowledg known labour lack languag larg large-scal last latenc latent law lawrenc lead leader leadership learn legal lenin less level life lifestyl like limit link littl london long longer look lot loui lower macmillon macro made main maintain mainten major make man manag mani manifest manipul manner margin marx marxian marxism marxist mask mass materi max may mead mean mechan member men mental merton messag method michigan micro mill mind minifi mode model modern modifi money moral morrison move movement much must name nation natur necessari need negat neither neutral never new non non-funct norm normalis notebook noth notion number object observ obtain occur offer often one oneself open opinion order organ organis origin ormskirk other outdat outsid overal overcom overthrow owner oxford p p.144 p.37 palgrav parson part partak particip particular passiv pay payer peasantri peopl perceiv percept perform period perpetu persever person perspect persuad pg phenomena philosoph philosophi physic pinnacl pit place plan play point polic policeman polit politi politician popular posit positiv possess possibl postmodernist potenti power practic practis practition pragmat pragmatist pre pre-requisit predomin premis preoccup press primari primarili primit principl prioriti prison privat probabl problem process produc product profit progress proletariat propel proper prophet propon propos protest protestant proven provid psycholog public purpos pursuit put q question r racien rate rather ration rationalis reaction read real realiti realm reason recent rectifi reduct refer reflex reform regard regim regul reject relat relationship reli religi religion remain repres represent repress reproduc reproduct requir requisit respond respons restitut result revel revolt revolut revolutionari richer right rigor robert role role-complex root routin rule sacr sage save saw scale school scienc scientif scientist second sector see seen seer select self self-clarif self-determin separ seri serv servic set shakerspear shape share show side signal signifi signific similar simpli simplifi sinc singl situat slaveri smith social socialis societi sociolog solidar sophist sort sourc special specialis specif spent sphere spirit stabil stage start state status stay stem stendhal still stimul strategi stress strive strong structur studi subject subordin substant success suffer suffici suggest suicid suit summon superstructur supplement support suppress sure surviv symbol system systemat tactic take talcott tautolog tax taylor team techniqu teleolog tell tend tenet term theatr theme theoret theori therebi therefor thing think thinker third thought thousand threat three throughout thus time today togeth toward trace tradit tran transform transmit tri true tsarist turn two type ultim un un-intend unanticip under underli understand unifi union unit univers unlik unpredict upgrad upon use valu vari various verstehen viabl view violenc virtuous vocat voter wage want war way weak weaken weber well well-b went western whether whole wide widest wishart within work worker world would write wrong year york z