Early Sociologists and Perspectives*

Early Sociologists and Perspectives…
Chapter 1 Section 2
Roots of Sociology…
 1800’s
 Started in Europe – primarily France,
Germany & England all of which were
significantly changed due to
 Observation, controlled experiments,
collection & analysis of data all led to the
theories of the following men…who are
considered the early pioneers in the field of
AUGUSTE COMTE (1798-1857)
 French scholar who first applied the methods of
physical science to studying social life; also the first
to come up with the term sociology to refer to the
study of society.
 Comte believed that studying the “social static”
(things that held society together) along with the
“social dynamics” (things that cause social change)
would be helpful in order to reform societies.
 Although not well received in his time…his ideas
on social order & change are still used today.
 English laborer who inherited a lot of $$ in
his 30’s and used it to pursue the study of
 Strongly influenced by Charles Darwin’s
theories of evolution, Spencer adopted a
biological model of society and determined
that society is a set of independent parts that
work together to maintain the system over
time (similar to how a biological system
works together to maintain a living
SPENCER continued…
 From this theory Spencer concluded that
 Social change & unrest are a natural part of
society’s evolution;
 The best aspects of a society will survive over
time so no need to correct social problems;
 Only the fittest societies would survive
overtime and this would lead to a general
upgrading of the world as a whole – referred
to as social Darwinism.
KARL MARX (1818-1883)
 German whose ideas focused on the theory that
the structure of a society is governed by how its
economy is organized.
 Focused on the conflict between 2 social classes
– proletariat (workers) & bourgeoisie (owners);
since clashes between classes would always
cause conflict Marx proposed a “classless society”
as the ideal. Reward based on NEED not
 Also not well recognized during his time – but
he has influenced many generations since.
EMILE DURKHEIM (1858-1917)
 French professor who was among the first to apply
methods of scientific study to sociology.
 Concern with social order (like Comte) led to the
idea that the interdependent parts of a society all
served a specific function that was necessary for the
maintenance of the whole social system. EX:
religion helps maintain social order because
common beliefs hold followers together.
 Observable phenomena – study things that are
directly observable; collect data & use it to learn
more about the social problem & solve it (suicide
MAX WEBER (1864-1920)
 Prussian professor who focused on separate groups
within a society. His works focus on the effect of
the society on individuals.
 Unlike Durkheim, Weber believed that studying
Unobservable things (feelings, emotions, etc.)
would also produce valuable insight into
understanding societies. He called this Verstehen –
why do people act as they do? This led him to
develop an ideal type – which is a description of the
essential characteristics of a feature of society. (EX:
create an ideal type for public schools… - what
essential characteristics would need to be present?)
 A theory is an explanation of the relationships
among particular things…so a sociological
theory would attempt to explain the
relationship between the particular parts of a
 There are 3 broad theoretical perspectives you
need to know to get through the rest of this
course. The ideas of the men you just learned
about each fall under one of these theories…
(tonight’s HW)
Name that sociologist!
 QUOTE: “You are horrified at our intending to do
away with private property. But in your existing
society, private property is already done away with
for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the
few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of
those nine-tenths.You reproach us, therefore, with
intending to do away with a form of property, the
necessary condition for whose existence is the nonexistence of any property for the immense majority of
 Marx
Name that sociologist…
 QUOTE: “There is no absolutely ‘objective’ scientific
analysis of culture . . . [because] . . . all knowledge of
cultural reality . . . is always knowledge from particular
points of view”
 QUOTE: “Each victim of suicide gives his act a personal
stamp which expresses his temperament, the special
conditions in which he is involved, and which,
consequently, cannot be explained by the social and
general causes of the phenomenon.”
 QUOTE: “Now, the existing disorder is abundantly accounted for
by the existence, all at once, of three incompatible philosophies, -the theological, the metaphysical, and the positive. Any one of
these might alone secure some sort of social order; but while the
three coexist, it is impossible for us to understand one another
upon any essential point whatever.”
 "This survival of the fittest, which I have here sought to express in
mechanical terms, is that which Mr. Darwin has called 'natural
selection', or the preservation of favored races in the struggle for