Note on Key Figures in the History of Sociology

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Auguste Comte

Auguste Comte was born into an aristocratic Roman Catholic family. He was a genius student. As one of the founding fathers of “Sociology”, he coined the term 'sociologie' later ‘sociology’, for the first time in about 1939 in his famous book “Course de Philosophic Positive”, we say “Positive Philosophy”.

Some important works of Auguste Comte

  • Plan of the Scientific operations Necessary for the Reorganization of Society, 1822
  • Course de Philosophic Positive “Positive Philosophy”
  • A Discourse in the Positive Spirit
  • System de Politic positive

Comte’s approach on ‘Positive Philosophy’

source:slideplayer.com
source:slideplayer.com

Comte first called the application of positivistic philosophy to society ‘Social Physics’. Like few of his contemporaries, Comte believed that society could be made as the subject of scientific study. He felt that the twin standards of empirical observation and logical understanding could reveal the working of social affairs and could also be a tool in the creation of better society. This orientation goes by the name of ‘Positivism’. Comte has classified the law of social evolution and development of human thought into three stages. For him, society and human thought progress through Theological, Metaphysical and Positive stages. Theological thought explains phenomena with reference to actions of capricious supernatural beings, passing from anthropomorphism in the early period of fetishism to polytheism and then to monotheism. It is the early stage of human society where people believed that all the natural phenomena have been granted and developed by a supernatural force. In particular, the social and physical world is seen as produced by god.

Theological thought explains phenomena with reference to actions of capricious supernatural beings, passing from anthropomorphism in the early period of fetishism to polytheism and then to monotheism. It is the early stage of human society where the people believed that all the natural phenomena have been granted and developed by a supernatural force. In particular, the social and physical world is seen as produced by god. Metaphysical thought attributes causation to abstract less capricious forces in which all the natural phenomena including humankind have been controlled and regulated by the natural force rather than personalized gods. In this stage, the believe on supernatural force has been diminishing to some extent than in the first stage and belief that everything is controlled and regulated by the ‘Nature’.

In general, this period was characterized between thirteen hundred to eighteen hundred. Positive thought seeks a scientific explanation in terms of universal laws. People at this age tend to give up the search for absolute causes and concentrated on the observation of the social and physical world in terms of scientific laws governing them. Thus, theological and metaphysical thought are incompatible with the positive method of nature, sciences which demystify the world through empirical testing of its theories. In this stage, scientific approach has been applied to interpret the evolution of human society.

Many of the founding fathers of sociology believed that it would be possible to create a science of society based on the same principles and procedures as the natural sciences such as chemistry and biology, which is known as positivism. Auguste Comte maintains that the application of the methods and assumption of the natural sciences would produce a positive science of society. His belief that this would reveal that the evolution of society followed invariable laws. It would show that the behavior of man was governed by principle of cause and effect which were just as invariable as the behavior of matter, the subject of natural science. The positive approach in sociology places particular emphasis on behavior that can be directly observed.

Max Weber

Weber is generally acknowledged to be one of the founding father of sociology. He was born and brought up in a literate household and he enjoyed an excellent education. He enters the field of sociology through law and remained as one among the great sociologist of the 20th century. His almost all works were greatly acknowledged by other sociologist and translated and published them after his death.

Some important works of Weber

  • “Economic and Society”, 1922
  • “General Economic History”, Allen and Unwin, London, 1927
  • “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”, New York, Scribner, 1930
  • “From Max Weber: Essay in Sociology”, New York Oxford University Press, 1964
  • “The Sociology of Religion”, Boston Beacon Press, 1963
  • “Economy and Society”, Totwa, M J Bedminster(three volumes), 1968

Max Webers' Class, Status, and Power

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source:slideplayer.com

According to the Weber class is a group of individual who shares a similar position in a market economy. Those who share a similar class situation also share similar life chances. Their economic position will directly affect their chances of obtaining those things defined as desirable in their society. In addition, he regards class as only one of the three phenomena distribution of power within a community, the others being status, group and party.

While talking about the status he argues that class refers to an unequal distribution of economic rewards, status refers to the unequal distribution of social honor. A status is the degree of position of an individual in his/her society. A status group is made-up of an individual who is awarded similar amount of social honor and therefore share the same status situation. He also talked most about power as well. Power is the chance of a man or a number of men to realize their own will in communal actions even against the resistance of others who are participating in the action according to him. The members of status groups are almost always aware of their common status situation. In many societies, class and status, situations are closely linked. He notes that property as such is not always recognized as a status qualification but in the long run, it is an extraordinary regularity.

Power is, therefore, an aspect of the social relationship. Many sociologists argue that political sociology is the study of power in its broadest sense. It suggests that there is a fixed amount of power. This view is sometimes known as a contention concept of power. This interpretation of the nature and use of power has been adopted by many sociologists. Therefore, power is used mainly for exploitation and oppression. Power is an aspect of the social relationship. An individual or group does not hold power in isolation they hold it in relations to others. It is simply the degree of status to which an individual or group can get its own way in a social relationship. Power politics occur when there are differentials in power. In terms of this definition, any social relationship which involves power differentials is political.

  • The propertied upper class, the high property owners
  • The property less white-collar workers, administrators, professional etc
  • The petty bourgeoisie, the small property owners
  • The manual working class, the labor power owners

Reference:

Khatri, Prem Kumar et.al., Elementary Sociology and Anthropology XI, Bhundipuran Prakashan, Kathmandu

Sharma, Kamal Raj, Introduction to Sociology and Anthropology inNepal-XI, Sunrise Prakashan Pvt. Ltd., Kathmandu

Sitaula, Mohan Kumar, Introduction to Sociology and Anthropology-XI, Ekta Books and Distributors, Kathmandu

  1. There are three stages of social evolution and development of human thought they are: theological, metaphysical and positive.
  2. Sociology could not have been developed without an acceptance of positivism.
  3. The class follows three phenomena such as a distribution of power within a community, the others being status, group and party.
  4. Power is mainly used for the exploitation and oppression.

 

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