A for universal truth through his inheritance traditions:

A dictionary defines sociology as the systematic study
of society and social interaction. The word “sociology” is derived from the
Latin word socius (companion) and the Greek word logos (study of), meaning “the
study of companionship.” While this is a starting point for the discipline,
sociology is actually much more complex. It uses many different methods to
study a wide range of subject matter and to apply these studies to the real
world (OpenStax, 2012). The
Enlightenment may be characterized as a catalyst for the development of
particular styles of social thought. It does not represent a set of ideas which
can be clearly demarcated, extracted and presented as a list of essential
definitions, but presents a general shift in thought. These ideas when fused
with government practice, produced some core themes. First a concept of freedom
based upon an autonomous human subject who is capable of acting in s conscious
manner. Second, the pursuit of a universal and foundational ‘truth’ gained
through a correspondence of ideas with social and physical reality. Third, a
belief in the natural sciences as the correct model of thinking about the
social and natural world over, for example, theology and metaphysics. Fourth,
the accumulation of systematic knowledge within the progressive unfolding of
history. Collectively these changes acted as catalysts and/or informed the
scientific study of human societies. This journey all began with Immanuel Kant
(1724-1804. Kant added power to the search for universal truth through his
inheritance traditions: rationalism and empiricism. Kant concluded that the
material world causes sensations, but mental apparatuses order these and
provide the concepts through which people understand their experiences in the
‘phenomenal’ world (the ‘noumenal’ world being beyond experience). Out of this
fusion of ideas comes an ability to reflect upon nature and society in a
rational manner (May, 2008). Auguste
Comte was a prominent French philosopher. He introduced a new discipline namely
Sociology in the early 1800’s. Although Comte did not originate the concept of
sociology or its area of study, he greatly extended and elaborated the field.
Comte divided sociology into two main fields: social statics, or the study of
the forces that hold society together, and social dynamics, or the study of
causes of social change. While the concept of sociology was around before
Comte, he is credited with coining the term sociology (Cashdollar, 1979). Comte was a precursor to the founding fathers
of sociology Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber. Sociologists today employ
three primary theoretical perspectives, the symbolic interactionist
perspective, the functionalist perspective and the conflict perspective. These
perspectives offer sociologists theoretical paradigms for explaining how
society influences people and vice versa. The symbolic interactionist
perspective or symbolic interactionism, directs sociologists to consider the
symbols and details of everyday life, what these symbols mean and how people
interact with each other. It can trace its origins to Max Weber’s assertion
that individuals act according to their interpretation of their meaning of
their world. Then there is the functionalist theory, also called functionalism
and according to this each aspect of society is interdependent and contributes
to society’s functioning as a whole. Functionalists believe that society is
held together by social consensus, or cohesion in which members of the society
agree upon and work together to achieve, what is best for society. Emile
Durkheim suggested that social consensus takes one of two forms: mechanical
solidarity or organic solidarity. Lastly is the conflict perspective, which
originated primarily out of Karl Marx’s writing on class struggles presents
society in a different light than do the functionalist and symbolic
interactionist perspectives. While these latter perspectives focus on the
positive aspects of society that contribute to its stability, the conflict
perspective focuses on the negative, conflicted and ever-changing nature of
society (Cliffnotes, 2017)


Main Theories

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There are a few main theories in sociology. One of
these is Marxism. Marxism was developed by German philosopher and social
scientist Karl Marx in the mid-19th century. It originally consisted
of three related ideas: a philosophical anthropology, a theory of history and
an economic and political program. There is also Marxism as it has been
understood and practiced by the various socialist movements, particularly
before 1914. Then there is Soviet Marxism as worked out by Vladimir Ilich Lenin
and modified by Joseph Stalin which under the name of Marxism Leninism became
the doctrine of the soviet parties set up after the Russian Revolution in 1917.
Marx declared that philosophy must become reality. One could no longer be
content with interpreting the world, one must be concerned with transforming
it, which meant transforming both the world itself and the human consciousness of
it (Britannica, 2017). Marxism is a
conflict theory in which Marx based the discussion of conflict on “the history
of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of
production,” or what he calls forms of “social intercourse.” Which is to say
that crises emerged from the inability of bourgeois society to control
productive forces it has developed. With the development of capitalism, the
class struggle takes an acute form. Two basic classes, around which other less
important classes are grouped, oppose each other in the capitalist system: the
owners of the means of production or the bourgeoisie, and the workers or the
proletariat (Clarke, 1993). The
proletariat is according to Marx exploited by the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie
employ proletariats in their factories. The proletarians are paid money for
their labor, the bourgeoisie then use proletariat labor to produce goods that
are sold for more money than the wage of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie then
keep the profits and become wealthy from the labor of the proletariats. This
division of society into bourgeoisie and proletariat can be seen in the social
changes which accompanied the Industrial Revolution. Workers were poorly paid,
even exploited in some cases by profit driven factory owners. According to Marx
the proletariats would eventually tire of their exploitation and oppression and
overthrow the capitalist bourgeoisie. The end result of the revolution would be
the establishment of a communist society, a classless state where all means of
production and property would be shared among all citizens (Skwirk, 2017)

Another main theory was the Social Action Theory. Max
Weber was one of the founding fathers of sociology. Weber saw both structural
an action approaches as necessary to developing a full understanding of society
and social change. In one of his most important works ‘Economy and Society’,
first published in the 1920’s, he said ‘sociology is a science concerning
itself interpretive understanding of social action and thereby with a casual
explanation of its course and consequences.’ Weber argued that before the cause
of an action could be ascertained you had to understand the meaning attached to
it by the individual. He distinguished between two types of understanding:
Aktuelles Verstehen and Eklarendes Verstehen. Aktuelles Verstehen or direct
observational understanding, was where you just observe what people are doing.
For example, you can observe someone chopping wood or you can ascertain (with reasonable
certainty) someone’s emotional state from their body language or facial
expression. However, observational understanding alone is not sufficient to
explain social action. Hence Eklarendes Verstehen or empathetic understanding
in which sociologists must try to understand the meaning of an act in terms of
the motives that have given rise to it. This type of understanding would
require you to find out why someone is chopping wood – Are they doing it
because they need the firewood, are they just clearing a forest as part of
their job, are they working off anger or just doing it because they enjoy it?
To achieve this Weber argued that you had to get into the shoes of the people
doing the activity revisesociology,
2017). Max Weber also studied the relationship between the ethics of
ascetic Protestantism and the emergence of the spirit of modern capitalism.
Weber argued that the religious ideas of groups such as Calvinists played a
role in creating the capitalist spirit. Weber first observes a correlation
between being Protestant and being involved in business, and declares his
intent to explore religion as potential cause of the modern economic
conditions. He argues that the modern spirit of capitalism sees profit as an
end in itself, and pursuing profit as virtuous. Weber’s goal is to understand
the source of this spirit. He turned to Protestantism for a potential explanation.
Protestantism offers a concept of the worldly “calling,” and gives worldly
activity a religious character. While important, this alone cannot explain the
need to pursue profit. One branch of Protestantism, Calvinism, does provide
this explanation. Calvinists believe in predestination – that God has already
determined who is saved and damned. As Calvinism developed, a deep
psychological need for clues about whether one was actually saved arose, and
Calvinists looked to their success in worldly activities for these clues. Thus,
they came to value profit and material success as signs of God’s favour (Weber, 2016)

Then there is Functionalism. It has its origins in the
work of Emile Durkheim, who was especially interested in how social order was
possible or how society remains relatively stable. As such it is a theory that
focuses on the macro-level of social structure, rather than the micro-level of
everyday life. Functionalism interprets each part of society in terms of how it
contributes to the stability of the whole society. Society is more than the sum
of its parts, rather, each part of society is functional for the stability of
the whole. Durkheim actually envisioned society as an organism, and just like
within an organism, each component plays a necessary part, but none can
function alone, and one experiences a crisis or fails, other parts must adapt
to fill the void in some way. For example, in most societies, the government or
state, provides education for the children of the family, which in turn pays
taxes on which the state depends to keep itself running. The family is
dependent upon the school to help children grow up to have good jobs so that
they can raise and support their own families. In the process, the children
become law-abiding, taxpaying citizens, who in turn support the state. From the
functionalist perspective, if all does not go well, the parts of society then
must adapt to produce new forms of order, stability and productivity (thoughtco, 2017). A big area of
Durkheim’s studies was on suicide. The range of Emile Durkheim’s analysis of
the interconnectedness of suicide with social and natural phenomena is so wide
and varied as to preclude treatment of all its avenues and roads. From his
findings he determined that there were four forms of suicide, Egoistic suicide
which was a result of the deterioration of social and familial bonds or when an
individual felt detached from others in his/her community. Altruistic suicide
which occurs in tightly knit groups when they came under severe threat. There
were integrated into this group to such a degree that they lose sight of their
own individuality, and they were willing to sacrifice themselves to the groups
interests, even if that sacrifice was their own lives. Anomic suicide is when
social and/or moral norms were confused, unclear or not present, in short
normlessness. It was common during times of political upheaval. Lastly there is
fatalistic suicide which occurred within tightly knit groups whose members
sought, but could not attain escape (Durkheim,