The Power Trio of Sociology

Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber
are three of the most important figures in
Their ideas about society are still discussed
It’s important to know what they thought and
But first....we wouldn’t have had many of
these great thinkers if it wasn’t for Auguste
French Philosopher
Founder of the discipline of sociology.
His work was influenced by the huge social
changes happening in France through the
French Revolution (1789-1799)
 French Revolution were years of upheaval within
France – between social classes. A lot of turmoil
and frustration around a failing economy and
political power. It was a stressful time for people,
life was hard! People wanted change!
His focus was on positive philosophy and he
developed a social theory called: Social
▪ Made up of 3 stages. He referred to historical milestones
to back up his theory and how society changes over
time. The last stage being the most important as it
related to the current state of the France’s struggle to
overcome hardships. His last stage focused on positivity:
the society will move out of upheaval and learn to live
together, problem solve and be prosperous and stable
once again.
German Philosopher
He believed the social world was driven by
economic forces and this frustrated him a lot!
He believed history was shaped by Materialism
and that each stage of history was triggered by a
new mode of production of goods and materials.
 Back then the big belief was that history was shaped by
ideas (psychology perspective). Marx’ different way of
thinking was met with a lot of flack! Kicked out of
several countries actually!
Marx was disgusted with the mode of production that
dominated his time: Capitalism
 It upset him to see how millions of people working in
hard labour jobs (fields, factories making goods) had
very little to show for their work.
 He believed there were two social classes:
 the bourgeois – the wealthy, powerful people who
own the factories, farmland, etc.
 the proletariat – the people who don’t own much
and are forced to work for the bourgeois to feed
their families.
Marx thought Capitalism hurt everyone:
 He believed it was a system that trades real things (work, food,
shelter) for an imaginary thing: money.
He saw that social life is fundamentally focused on conflict
over food, land, money, and other material goods and
between social classes.
Marx worked to support the Communist Party, a group
that believed that everyone should resources.
 What do you think Marx would think of our society today?
 Marx thought one day we would live in a world where
everyone would contribute what they were able and take
what they need. Do you think this will ever happen? Why or
why not?
Born in France
Studied philosophy & social theory.
 He was the first to be called a “sociologist”
 He was not as suspicious of society as
Marx was.
 He believed the social world was built on
cooperation among groups.
Durkheim believed that our social life (home,
work, play, and worship) is what defines us;
what gives us meaning and purpose.
He also believed the study of the social world
should be based on social facts of groups
rather than the individual.
He believed societies are held together by
shared ideas & values, which change over time
as societies become bigger and more complex.
 Example...inventions of technologies
He believed that all groups serve different
functions but that together they function
productively and peacefully (most of the time).
Do you think Marx and Durkheim would have
gotten along? Do they share much in
German sociologist
Agreed with Marx that people often fight to
protect their own interests (social conflict)
Agreed with Durkheim that what people
consider their interests often are determined
by socialization and shared values (cohesion).
“Sometime we fight, sometimes we get
along: the trick is to understand why and
when and how? “ ~ Weber
Weber believed the social world is marked by
 A set of standards and rules are meant to apply to
everyone. Society meant to run like a well oiled
 People are locked in to defined roles.
▪ Webber would say that a person was paid to do a job
based on their ability to carry out their duties and
responsibilities, not based the individual. If he/she quit,
someone else will come in and be paid the same amount
for the same responsibilities.
Do you think Karl Marx would have agreed
with Weber’s theory of rationalization?
Why or why not?
Which of the three do you agree with most?