Classical Sociological Theory

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How do they define the consequences of such a transition on western societies? What do they think about the future of modernity? Sociological theory aims to understand what we know as the modern world. This is approached through understanding the transition from pre-modern or traditional societies to modern societies.

Sociological Theory and Levels of Analysis

The theorists commonly known as the founders or fathers of sociological theory are also three key figures in understanding this transition, its consequences, and ultimately what it will lead to in the future. Before this transition can be understood, the characteristics that define traditional and modern societies must be operationalized. Putting it into the colonial context then we can understand part of the defining characteristic of the transition to modernity as the development of the nation state through what Cedric J.

Robinson referred to as the monopoly of force that began in the 16th century. Modernity is defined by the rise of nation states and also a new conception of the individual whose thoughts and desires is independent of others.

With the nation state being among the central markers defining the difference between traditional and modern societies, we can then come to understand how Karl Marx utilized historical materialism to understand society. This articulation also reveals that the very circumstances that create social phenomena also harbor the means for their demise: their contradiction. Marx advanced his materialist conception of history through dialectics to reveal that every phenomena has contradictions, processes, and histories.

Dialectics places the notion of any phenomena within its context or within the material conditions and circumstances in from which it arrived. This means that everything has a history and must be studied within the context of its material conditions. Marx analyzes the place of class struggle within feudalist relations to understand the origins of the capitalist nation state.

Introduction to Classical Sociological Theory — Department of Sociology

Marx discusses the rise of capitalist modernity in the terms of labor relations and private property. In The German Ideology , Marx states that under feudalism,. Thus the chief form of property during the feudal epoch consisted on the one hand of landed property with serf labour chained to it, and on the other of the labour of the individual with small capital commanding the labour of journeymen.

The organisation both was determined by the restricted conditions of production— the small-scale and primitive accumulation of the land, and the craft type of industry. There was little division of labour in the heyday of feudalism Tucker Under feudalism nobility had power over serfs and serfs were attached to the land.

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The material conditions that bore the rise of capitalism lie within private property. Marx argues that the transformation from feudalism to capitalism harbors in it the contradictions of capitalist exploitation and plant the seeds for the revolt of the working class and give way to communism Seidman ; Tucker According to Marx, the conditions for capitalist means of production and exchange were generated in feudalist society.

They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder.

Into their place stepped free competition, accompanied by a social and political constitution adapted to it, and by the economical and political sway of the bourgeois class Tucker The transition to modernity lies in the relationship between the propertied and laboring class thus the relations of production.

These relations have exploitative consequences that alienate workers from themselves, nature, and the products of their labor. Marx argues that private property is the end product of alienated labour. Capitalism rises through the commodification of labour power and the objectification of nature. As the serfs were freed from their land they had nothing to sell but their labor. And to generate a profit, capitalism aims to produce a profit for the owners of the means of production and providing a mere means of subsistence that ensures that workers show up each day.

These means of exploitation that harbor the demise of capitalism.

Marx argued that the future of capitalism is thus its destruction,. The weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself. But not only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death to itself; it has also called into existence the men who are to wield those weapons-the modern working class-the proletarians Tucker Thus, the future of modernity for Marx is the rise of the working class resulting in the abolishment of private property.

The transition from traditional to modern societies according to Max Weber rests on a multifaceted explanation for the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Marx sees the transition to modern society as a consequence of the direct purpose and intent of bourgeoisie actions, Weber points to a more complicated relationship where other social factors contributed to its development but not necessarily on purpose.

In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism , Weber seeks to understand why and how capitalism came to be the dominant economic system when its values are the opposite of Catholic values that dominated pre-capitalist Europe. Weber asks why all the Protestants were part of the capitalist class and why their regions more industrially advanced than Catholic regions.

Summary of Classical Sociological Theory

Weber argues that the rational ethic of ascetic Protestantism was needed to encourage people to participate in capitalism and shift from the catholic notions of avoiding temptation and worldly distractions. Weber argues that the Protestant ethic gives rise to the spirit of capitalism because it allows people to can deny the world by being involved in it. Labor becomes external to the satisfaction of needs, through becoming a form of prayer or demonstration of piety Weber In order to demonstrate that you are chosen and favored by God, you must work hard to materialize the proof to show the world your piety.

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Marx, Durkheim, Weber

Forgot your password? However, theory, as Robert Cox argues, is always for someone and for some purpose. Theories are always derived from particular standpoints and privilege certain perspectives. This article aims to unpack the classics' epistemological assumptions and argue for a critical renegotiation of their legacy. There is a need to contextualize, provincialize, and pluralize the classics to make them cognizant of non-Western and non-masculine accounts of modernity.

The aim is to explore the possibilities of an approach that allows sociologists to make connections between social worlds without using European modernity as central referent for analysis.