Textbook Notes (363,507)
Canada (158,391)
Sociology (1,671)
Chapter 1

Chapter 1 Introduction to Classical Sociological Theory – A historical sketch of sociological theory.docx

10 Pages
Unlock Document

Western University
Sociology 2240E
Charles Levine

Introduction to Classical Sociological Theory –A historical sketch of sociological theory: The Early Years (September) Overview: • we are headed to an increasingly centralized world with less individual freedom (Alexis de Tocqueville) • we are evolving in the direction of a world dominated by science (Auguste Comte) • the world is moving in the direction of increasing order and harmony (Herbert Spencer) • capitalism is based on the exploitation of the workers by the capitolists (karl Marx) • the modern world offers less moral cohesion than did earlier societies (Durkheim) • the modern world is an iron cage of rational systems from which there is no escape (Max Weber) • the city spawns a particular type of person (Simmel) • gender inequality explains most of individual experience, the ills in society, and history (Charlotte Perkins Gilman) • a “veil” rather than a wall seperatesAfricanAmericans and whites (Du Bois) • people engage in conspicuous consumption (Veblen) • knowledge is shaped by the social world (Mannheim) • people’s minds and their conceptions of themselves are shaped by their social experiences (Mead) • in their social relationships, people often rely on tried and true “recipes” for how to handle such relationships (Schutz) • society is an integrated system of social structures and functions (Parsons) Introduction • by classical sociology, we mean theories of great scope and ambition that either were created during sociology’s classical age in Europe or had their roots in that period and culture Social Forces in the Development of Sociological Theory • All intellectual fields are shaped by their social settings Political Revolutions • Almost the immediate factor for the rise of sociological theorizing in the 19 c • Impact of the revolutions had a positive effect on societies and many positive changes resulted • Tocqueville saw negative changes however o Disturbed by the chaos and disorder, especially in france o Had a desire to restore order in society o Sought to find new bases of order in socierties that have been overturned by the political revolutions of the 18 and 19 centuries The Industrial Revolution and the Rise of Capitalism • Large numbers of people left farms and agricultural work for the industrial occupations offered in the burgeoning factories • Large companies arose to provide the many services needed by industry and the emerging capitalist economic system • In this economy, a free market place was ideal • Few profited great, while most suffered long hrs and low wages • All of this, involved the enormous upheaval in western society that affected sociologists greatly The Rise of Socialism • Most sociologists were opposed to it and feared it • Marx was a supporter of the overthrow of the capitalist system with the replacement by a socialist system o However, did not develop a theory of socialism o But spent time criticizing capitalistic societies Feminism • There has always been a feminist perspective o Women everywhere all the time have been mistreated o Amain focus on the professional (job) side of women o Men made conservative responses to the feminist arguments going on around them  Made issues of gender an inconsequential topic to which they responded conveniently rather than critically in sociology Urbanization • Large numbers of people in the 20 centuries were uprooted from their rural homes and moved to urban settings o Was caused from jobs created by the industrial system in the urban areas o Became hard for people to adjust to this way of life o Overcrowding, pollution, noise, traffic, etc – these problems attracted sociologists, especially Weber and Simmel Religious Change • Social changes brought on by political revolutions, the industrial revolution and urbanization had a profound effect on religiosity • Sociologists who came from religious background became interested in this field and wanted to improve people’s lives • For some, (Comte) sociology was transformed into a religion • Durkheim: wrote 1 religious work. Mortality played a key role • Weber: devoted to the religions around the world • Marx: interest in religiosity, but orientation is more critical • Spencer: religion as a significant component of society Intellectual Forces and the Rise of Sociological Theory • Intellectual forces cannot be separated from social forces • The many intellectual forces that shaped the development of social theories are discussed within the national context in which their influence was primarily felt The Enlightenment • Critical element in terms of the later evolution of sociology and a period of remarkable intellectual development and change in philosophical thought • Most prominent thinkers associated were: o Montesquieu & Rousseau • Enlightenment thinkers focus on the individual • The influence of the enlightenment on sociologic theory, however was more indirect and negative than it was direct and positive • The emphasis to sociologists was on producing grand, general and abstract systems of ideas that made rational sense o They wanted to mix empirical research with reason • Characterized by the belief that people could comprehend and control the universe by means of reason and empirical research • Enlightenment philosophers were inclined to reject beliefs in traditional authority. When examined traditional values and institutions, they found them to be very irrational. • The theorists most directly and positively influenced were Tocqueville and Marx The Conservative Reaction to the Enlightenment • French sociology became rational, empirical, scientific and change-oriented, but not before it was also shaped by a set of ideas that developed in reaction to the Enlightenment o From the start, has been a mix of Enlightenment and counter- enlightenment ideas • Most extreme form of opposition to Enlightenment ideas was French Catholic counterrevolutionary philosophy o Reacting against the Enlightenment & French revolution • God was the source of society and reason was seen as inferior to traditional religious beliefs • The conservatives turned away from what they considered “naïve” rationalism of the Enlightenment o Recognized irrational aspects of social life and assigned them positive value o Emphasized social order • Zeitlin outlined 10 major propositions that he sees as emerging from the conservative reaction and providing the bases for the development of classical French sociological theory: 1. The conservative reaction led to an emphasis on society and other large- scale phenomena (society was seen as having an existence of its own) 2. Society was the most important unit of analysis, more important than the individual. It was society that produced the individual, through socialization 3. The individual was not seen as the most basic element within society. Society consisted of roles, positions, relationships, structures and institutions 4. The parts of a society were seen as interrelated and interdependent. Which led to a conservative political orientation 5. Change was seen as a threat not only to society and its components but also to the individuals in society 6. General tendency was to see the various large-scale components of society as useful for both society and the individuals in it.As a result, there was little desire to look for the negative effects of existing social structures and social institutions 7. Small units (E.g. family, the neighbourhood, religious groups) were seen as essential to individuals and society 8. Tendency to see various modern social changes (industrialization, urbanization, bureaucratization) as having disorganizing effects 9. While most of these feared changes were leading to a more rational society, the conservative reaction led to an emphasis on the importance of nonrational factors (ritual, ceremony) in social life 10. Conservatives supported the existence of a hierarchal system in society. Important to have status and reward. The Development of French Sociology • Tocqueville, Saint-Simon, Comte, Durkheim Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) • Directly and strongly influence by Montesquieu • Seen as a political scientist • Best known for “Democracy inAmerica” o Develops a broad social theory • Supporter of freedom • Most concerned with the growth of centralization, especially in the government and the threat centralized governments poses to freedom • Links equality to “individualism” • Believes it would be far worse in socialism because its far greater commitment to equality, and the much greater likelihood of government centralization poses more of a threat to freedom Claude Henri Saint Simon (1760-1825) • Comte served as his secretary and disciple • Strong similarity between the two of them • Most interesting aspect was his significance to the development of both conservative and radial Marxian theory o Conservative: wanted to preserve society as was o Positivist: he believed that the study of social phenomena should employ the same scientific techniques as those used in social sciences o Radical: saw the need for socialist reforms Auguste Comte (1798-1857) • First to use the term “sociology” • Believed the study of sociology should be scientific • Disturbed by the anarchy that pervaded French society and was critical of those thinkers who had spawned both the enlightenment and the revolution • Developed “positivism” • Didn’t think it was possible to return to the MiddleAges, advances in science and industry made it impossible • Developed “social physics” o This new science would come the dominant science he said o Social dynamics were more important than social statics • Did not urge revolutionary change because he felt the natural evolution of society would make things better o Reforms were only needed to assist the process • Developed his “revolutionary theory” or “the law of the 3 stages” o Says the world goes through 3 intellectual stages in history, as well as individuals, groups, sciences, societies and even minds 1. Theological stage (prior to 1300): the social and physical world is produced by God 2. Metaphysical stage (1300-1800): abstract forces like nature, rather than personalized gods, explain virtually everything 3. Positivistic stage (1800): people looked for causes (God or nature) • Focused on intellectual factors – intellectual disorder is caused by a social disorder • Focuses on larger entities like family, rather than the individual Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) • Emphasis on science and social reformism • Seen as the inheritor of the conservative tradition • Was politically liberal, but took a intellectual conservative position • Feared and hated social disorder o Said they could be reduced by social reforms Social Facts • Social facts are forces and structures that are external t
More Less

Related notes for Sociology 2240E

Log In


Don't have an account?

Join OneClass

Access over 10 million pages of study
documents for 1.3 million courses.

Sign up

Join to view


By registering, I agree to the Terms and Privacy Policies
Already have an account?
Just a few more details

So we can recommend you notes for your school.

Reset Password

Please enter below the email address you registered with and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Add your courses

Get notes from the top students in your class.