Last Thoughts- Blog 6

I wanted to express some final words before the end of the semester to wrap up what I’ve learned throughout the semester.  Sociology is the study of humans and how he or she interacts with his fellow man, in a community or other aspects of human experience. How we interact with our fellow man makes me unique from animals, as it is a complex and a fascinating source of knowledge we exchange to one another. (barring The Jersey Shore and The National Enquirer.)

The 3 main figures of sociology whose influences are still felt today are Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber. I believe these three men were the most influential because their insight forever changed the way we look at society and its impact on mankind.

Marx was a communist and architect of modern socialism. He sought to reform social injustices brought on by capitalism, (Industrial Revolution). He believed that economic relationships were very important in that conflict between the classes was inevitable. He believed that the conflict between the classes would result in an uprising from the working class and that revolution was near.

Another founder of sociology was Weber. He was a believer in predestination. He believed that god had already decided who went to heaven and hell, and that nothing you do in life, would defer his decision, whether it was good or bad. Thus, he believed that you should try to please God in whatever way possible by old-fashioned hard work and the accumulation of money. Weber also like the idea of bureaucracy as it had an order or a routine to its system. He also believed that everyone was “equal” in that a disadvantaged person (working class) could work his/her way up to the top.

Finally, another major influence in sociology was a man named Durkheim. He believed that different cultures ultimately shared one thought or a collective consciousness. This is the concept that the same values or beliefs are held by a culture direct the behavior of its members subconsciously. Anyone who deterred from the collective was considered deviants. He was also the father of field work, which is the “hands-on” investigation outside of the classroom and labs.

I leave this semester with these three men in my mind and I see their influences in modern sociologist I read and study about today. Their ideas were truly a gift to the craft and science of sociology; and their influences forever engrained.

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One response to “Last Thoughts- Blog 6

  1. Thanks for sharing your reflections on the Big Three of sociological theory. I’d like to add a few subtle, but important points of clarification (especially because the slippage/conflation described below is very common among students).

    Marx’s place in the sociological canon rests on his analysis of *capitalism*. It’s his theory and concepts of capitalism that we study in the course. This is where Marx put his theoretical energy, not so much into developing an architecture for socialism. Much less was he an “architect of modern socialism,” if by that you mean the historical case of the Soviet Union and its satellites. Of course, in the popular imagination Marx is linked to all things “socialist,” “communist,” to anything vaguely “leftist” and even to things “anarchist,” but within sociological theory he’s recognized chiefly for his analysis of capitalism and “bourgeois society.” As for his politics, as you point out, he looked forward to the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. On the critical question of *revolution* vs *reform*, Marx was resolutely on the side of revolution and wanted no part in movements seeking to “*reform* the social injustices of capitalism.” It may seem like a trivial issue, “just semantics,” as they say, but language is important here.

    OTOH, Weber and Durkheim were liberal *reformers*. Politically, they were interested in ameliorating the injustices of capitalism. But it’s important to separate their *ideals* (what they would like to see) from their *ideas* (what they see). We’re interested in the latter, specifically, in their theories about the world, as it is. To clarify, Weber was not a “believer in Predestination.” He was a sociologist who studied the *belief in Predestination*, more broadly what he termed the “Protestant ethic.” He approached it as an analyst, not a believer. Whether he liked bureaucracy (he didn’t) or the principle of equal opportunity (he did) is beside the point. The purpose of his theory is to understand social action in the real world.

    You’re right that Durkheim is remembered for innovation in data collection methods. But he didn’t so much go into “the field” and interact with people as an ethnographer would but to government offices where he accessed public records that covered long time periods and over a broad geographical area. He then analyzed this large quantity of public health data comparatively, uncovering for the first time patterns that demonstrated the *social* factors that contributed to health and mortality.

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