Classical Sociology

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Dustin Jones

There were many social theorists from the period of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This period of time is regarded as the period of the Enlightenment. A few of the major figures of this particular “movement” were Rene Descartes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant. They altered the way in which the social world was viewed and helped pave the way for other classical social theorists to explain the individual’s role in society. Karl Marx, Alexis de Tocqueville, Henri De Saint-Simon, and Emile Durkheim are only the names of a few classical social theorists who set out to explore the role of an individual within society. These men believed that Reason, along with the application of a scientific approach, would be able to positively change the world and break through to a new form of power and authority. Although the ideas and theories of these men give rise to far greater advancement in sociological theory, there is a failure in intuition, and thus, a failure of the classical sociological element. The first section of this paper includes an explanation of classical sociology along with an overview of the theories associated with some of the greatest sociologists of this time. The next section of this paper explores reasons and explanations for the failure of classical social theory and interpretations to why before-mentioned theories were compromised. The final section of this paper summarizes some of the conclusions drawn about the failure of this particular ideology. I. Classical Sociology/Theories Explained

Classical sociology includes the idea that people can change the course of history through developmental progress. The object of study was society itself. The development of modern, industrial, and capitalist societies was believed to have separated people from the traditional way of living. The explanations and theories derived from them were a way to correlate the new society with the structure, organization, and dynamics derived from the social world. One form of classical sociological theory attempts to establish a causal relationship for institutions while another form of sociological theory argues that the causal explanation for these institutions is not justifiable. The approach is not pertinent, but what is pertinent is classical sociology explains the interaction of individuals in society, and paves the way for advancement to an explanation of the contemporary world. On page 2 in Classical Sociological Theory: A Reader, Ian McIntosh states: “The more optimistic Enlightenment thinkers thought that Reason could guide a process of positive change in the world and individuals could influence the course of history in the name of ‘Progress’. Such ‘Progress’ could, it was hoped, free the individual from the yoke and shackles of traditional forms of power and authority- embodied by religion and the myriad ties of feudal obligation.”

Karl Marx was one of these great social thinkers who explains society in terms of social class and the material of the worker. He felt there was great conflict between the capitalists and the working class. The term capitalist is synonymous with the bourgeoisie: these were the people who controlled the land, the factories, and sought the most interest in personal gain. He believed that the value of anything is basically the amount of labor which it takes to produce it. In this way, he felt that profit can only be made by any surplus after the amount of labor it takes to feed, clothe, and shelter a man is produced. From this theory, he believed in the exploitation of labor. He believed that with the rise of industrialization, profits would actually fall because each industry is trying to keep up with the next guy: the cost manufacturers make for machinery goes up while what is being produced drops.

Karl Marx also gives a fairly detailed description of the fall of capitalism. He believed that the downfall of capitalism was...
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