Sociology Theory

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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...
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