1.The development of sociological theory emerged due to drastically changing social conditions in both
the 18 and 19 century Europe, which Karl Polyani called “The Great Transformation”. The political
changes occurring in France after the revolution of the 18 century created a new system of rights and
freedoms as well as a new modern state of individuals. In England the development of Capitalism led to
the work of Karl Marx and Max Weber who studied the impact it has on social life.
The French Revolution in 1789, had a massive impact on individual rights and freedoms, altering the
political and social foundations that had been in place. The work of George Hegel and his response to
the revolution helped to led to the development of an autonomous social theory distinct from
philosophy . He was the first to conceptualize different stages of society as distinct social forms which
follow a precise pattern of development. His work was later turned into social theory by Marx who used
economic and social concepts to explain our social history The revolution had such a dramatic effect on
the development of modern social theory because all prior economic and political theorizing since
Aristolte and Plato began to manifest itself in the social world.
Social conditions in England remained quite stable until the mid-19 century, when industrialization and
Capitalism became widespread. It replaced the prior feudal economy and social system. The transition
from rural to urban living created a shift in working patterns. Instead of living off the land, workers were
forced to move to the cities to work for wages. This created a new working class poor without the
means of production, and therefore could not provide for themselves without wages. England became
know as the “workshop of the world” for its role as an industrial centre. As how the revolution shaped
Hegel’s perspective, the economic and political changes occurring in England shaped Marx’s and led to
a distinct shift from philosophy to economy in social theory, and the study of Capitalism.
Social theory was developed even further through the ideas of Auguste Comte and mile Durkheim. They
created a social theory influenced by the “hard” sciences, and rejected philosophy entirely in social
inquiry. This shift from speculative to scientific social theory , was shared by both Comte and Durkheim.
Durkheim took this further to develop Structural theory by conceiving that society is made up of
structures that exist outside the individual. This caused observation and classification replaced historical
laws and economic themes created by Marx.
The final shift in modern social theory was brought about by Max Weber. He, like Marx, placed
Capitalism at the forefront of social theory, however as Marx focused on changes in England in the 19 th
century, Weber look at modern society in the West. He saw social theory as consisting of various social
spheres (religion, law, politics, economy) that interact with one another. He was the first to challenge
Marx on Capitalism and economy. He also challenged Durkheim on using scientific methods to study
social sciences. He wanted to separate social acts from physical ones and so he believed that
evaluaitona dn judgement affect out inner state known as interpretive social action.
2. The central subject matter of Sociology is based in three broad areas of investigation. First the
political changes due to the Political Revolution in France in 1789 in the feudal society. Another area of
investigation is economic shifts that led to Industrialization and Capitalism in England. The final aspect of
social theory is the creation of industrialization and individualism. First feudal society was system of land ownership and agricultural economy, where social relations and
hierarchy come into play. Surfs lived on the land provided to them by the landholder in return for
payment. The surfs were able to sustain their family entirely through the use of the land, although the
social class system in place created social division. The corvee rights system held that the landholder is
legally able to compel work from serfs and to decide the form and amount of labour. With French
Revolution came the Declaration of the Rights of Man which made all people born free, and equal. This
created two shifts; first the class structure and privilege was abolished, and brought about political and
legal reforms which formed a democratic state based on the rights of the people
The economic changes in England due to industrialization and capitalism created large scale social
disruption. Industrialization brought about land enclosures, which privitized land. With this the surfs
were evicted from the land they once worked on and force to migrate to the cities where they would
work for wages because they did not own the means of production. The growth of town economies,
which were far more open. This lead to new social links to work family and school instead of church,
monarch, and aristocracy. Another development at the time was the decline of the guild system, which
saw assocaitions of craftsmen regulating the trades. They were directly opposed to Capitalism, but fell
to it instead.
The final subject matter of Sociology concerns a person’s relationship to society as a whole and
collective unity. This theme is individualism, which is a process that forms privacy in the form of
detached isolation. People were becoming autonomous, with rights and freedoms, and reduced ties to
previously dominant institutions. An example of this is the dissolution of guilds and instead of rights
given to the group they were transferred to the individual. This led to the development of such concepts
as laissez-faire competition, private enterprise, and self interest.
4. Emile Durkheim has been one of the most influential theorists, and is well known for founding
Sociology as a disciple. His major works include, The Division of Labour, The Rules of Sociological
Method, and Suicide. His works include the influences of August Comte, the father of sociology, from his
concept of Positivism and both Thomas Hobbes and Jean Jack Rousseau. Another influence on
Durkheim’s work was the issue of individualism prior to the 20 century. Durkheim is best known for
founding Sociology and defining its boundaries.
The influence of August Comte is most seen in his idea Scientific Rationalism. Comte first created the
shift in Sociology from philosophy to science through Positivism; a movement to place all the speculative
sciences such and Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology on the same standing as the “hard” sciences.
Positivism stresses that observation from the senses should be the basis of study and that facts can
. Another influence for Durkheim’s5 adoption of ‘social realism’, which believes that there exist external
social realities that are independent of a person’s perception of them. Therefore there are external
restraints, which are visible through duties and obligations. Another belief of social realism is that
society is made up of structures that are considered realities. Thomas Hobbes influenced Durkheim in an oppositional manner, with his “Original state of nature”. He
believed that this was a condition when people lived with no laws or government and therefore there
are no restraints on the individual. Durkheim directly opposed this, believing that restraint is imposed by
society, externally. The influence of Jean Jack Rousseau was also significant. He believed that the
collective will was mad e up of many individual wills, but have replaced them. Durkheim on the other
hand asserts that collective structure were separate from the individual.
The debate over the concept of Individualism in the late 19 century helped Durkheim assert his view
that social reality exists outside the individual. He did this by directly opposing the dominant to
utilitarian theory. They believed that the individual will creates action in the individual, and that human
motivation is driven by private economic gain. Durkheim`s view is that there are social rules which
govern individual action, and act as restraints external from the individual.
Autonomy grows out of the exspense of collective will
5.A substantial part of Durk