The Social Theory of Du Bois

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s): 144
  • Published: July 16, 2013
Read full document
Text Preview
The Social Theory of W.E.B Du Bois
Aaron Josuah Cabahug
Sociology 102
4/21/2013
Abby Mosher

The Social Theory of W.E.B Du Bois
Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim are widely recognized as the trinity of sociological theory. While these three sociologists were trailblazing social theorists who enhanced the study of human behavior and its relationship to social institutions, other, more contemporary scholars were just as innovative - one of those scholars being W. E. B. Du Bois. W. E. B. Du Bois was a political and literary giant of the 20th century, publishing over twenty books and thousand of essays and articles throughout his life. W. E. B Du Bois is arguably one of the most imaginative, perceptive, and prolific founders of the sociological discipline. In addition to leading the Pan-African movement and being an activist for civil rights for African Americans, Du Bois was a pioneer of urban sociology, an innovator of rural sociology, a leader in criminology, the first American sociologist of religion, and most notably the first great social theorist of race. The work of W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963) has recently become recognized for its significant contributions to sociological theory. Although Du Bois himself was overwhelmingly concerned with the scientific perspective of "value free" sociological research, later social theorists have found his thoughts on race to offer one of the first instances of the articulation of standpoint theory. This theoretical perspective is anything but value free, because of the self-conscious efforts of the researcher to look at the social world from the vantage point of minority groups. Feminists, multiculturalists, and even postmodernists have come to recognize the importance of the black point of view found in Du Bois's work. They have also come to appreciate Du Bois for his focus on local knowledge and practices.

W. E. B. Du Bois was an important American thinker. Poet, philosopher, economic historian, sociologist, and social critic, Du Bois’ work resists easy classification. Du Bois is more than a philosopher; he is, for many, a great social leader. His extensive efforts all bend toward a common goal, the equality of colored people. His philosophy is significant today because it addresses what many would argue is the real world problem of white domination. So long as racist white privilege exists, and suppresses the dreams and the freedoms of human beings, so long will Du Bois be relevant as a thinker, for he, more than almost any other, employed thought in the service of exposing this privilege, and worked to eliminate it in the service of a greater humanity. Du Bois was a prolific author. His collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk, was a seminal work in African-American literature; and his 1935 magnum opus Black Reconstruction in America challenged the prevailing orthodoxy that blacks were responsible for the failures of the Reconstruction era. He wrote the first scientific treatise in the field of sociology; and he published three autobiographies, each of which contains insightful essays on sociology, politics and history. In his role as editor of the NAACP's journal The Crisis, he published many influential pieces. Du Bois believed that capitalism was a primary cause of racism, and he was generally sympathetic to socialist causes throughout his life. He was an ardent peace activist and advocated nuclear disarmament. The United States' Civil Rights Act, embodying many of the reforms for which Du Bois had campaigned his entire life, was enacted a year after his death.

Early in his career Du Bois claimed that the "race idea" was the central thought of all history and that the primary "problem of the twentieth century was the problem of the colour line." Du Bois viewed the goal of African Americans not as one of integration or absorption into white America, but one of advancing "Pan-Negroism." Critical of the excessive materialism of white America, Du Bois...
tracking img