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Sociology | Class 11 | Introducing Western Sociologists


Sociology is occasionally referred to as the offspring of the "era of revolution."

The Enlightenment, sometimes known as the scientific revolution, the French Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution all contributed to the development of sociology.

It was thought necessary to remove nature, religion, and the divine acts of gods from their prominent positions in older paradigms of comprehending the world due to the emergence of fundamentally new ways of thinking about it.

Three main processes contributed to the modern age in Europe and the prerequisites of modernity. The social circumstances of the three processes that assisted sociology's emergence had an impact on the thoughts of classical theorists like Marx, Weber, and Durkheim regarding society.

Which were:

  • the beginning of the age of reason or the Enlightenment.

  • The French Revolution served as an embodiment of the desire for political autonomy.

  • the Industrial Revolution's introduction of mass production.

The Age of Enlightenment

Western Europe experienced the rise of significantly new worldviews in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. These new ideas, together known as "The Enlightenment," declared that logical mind and the human being were the two most important aspects of the creature.

This indicates that the secular, scientific, and humanistic mentalities that we now refer to as the Enlightenment were both made feasible by and contributed to their development.

The capacity for critical and logical thought changed the individual human into the "knowing subject," who is both the creator and consumer of all knowledge.

Only those with the capacity for thought and reason might be regarded as fully human.

It was required to push nature, religion, and the divine acts of gods out of the spotlight for reason to establish itself as the distinguishing characteristic of the human world.

The French Revolution

Political sovereignty was introduced at the level of both individuals and nation-states during the French Revolution (1789).

The Declaration of Human Rights challenged the legitimacy of birthright privileges and affirmed the equality of all citizens.

The majority of the peasants, who were serfs (or bonded labourers) bound to landed estates controlled the nobles, were set free.

There was a cancellation of the numerous levies that the peasants had paid to the feudal lords and the churches.

The privacy of the autonomous person had to be respected by the state, and its laws couldn't interfere with people's private lives.

The public sphere of the state and the private sphere of the family were divided.

While education, especially schooling, became more "public," religion and the family became more "private."

Also redefined as a sovereign entity with a centralised government was the nation-state itself.

Liberty, equality, and fraternity—the tenets of the French Revolution—became the guiding principles of the modern state.

It represented an end to the repressive control of the ecclesiastical and feudal institutions that had ruled France prior to the Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution, which started in Britain in the late 18th and early 19th century, established the groundwork for contemporary industry.

  • The first was the methodical application of science and technology to industrial production, especially the development of new tools and the exploitation of new energy sources.

  • Second, on a much greater scale than ever before, the industrial revolution also gave rise to new ways of arranging markets and labour.

The Industrial Revolution caused significant social changes as a result of modifications to the manufacturing system. Workers who were uprooted from the countryside and moved to the metropolis in search of employment staffed the industries that were established in metropolitan areas.

Men, women, and even children had to put in lengthy shifts in dangerous conditions due to the factory's low pay in order to survive.

The need for new types of knowledge was sparked by contemporary systems of administration, where the state now oversees public health, sanitation, crime prevention, and general "development."

Karl Marx

Karl Marx was born in Germany, although he lived in exile in Britain for the majority of his intellectually productive years.

Marx was not a philosopher, although having studied it. He was a social theorist who favoured ending exploitation and tyranny.

He thought that scientific socialism would succeed in achieving this.

Marx claimed that human society has gone through various stages of development. These included feudalism, primitive communism, slavery, and capitalism.

Concept of Alienation

In the capitalist society, there was a multi-level, ever-intensifying process of alienation.

  • First, in today's capitalist society, people are further removed from the natural world than ever.

  • Second, as capitalism individualises formerly collective forms of social organisation and connections become more and more market-mediated, people become estranged from one another.

  • Third, because employees do not own the goods they produce, a sizable portion of the working population is cut off from the rewards of their labour.

Marx thought that despite this, capitalism was a necessary and forward-thinking phase in the development of humanity since it set the ground for an equal future free from both exploitation and poverty.

The working class, who are the victims of capitalism, would unite to jointly bring about a revolution to overturn it and establish a free and equal socialist society, transforming it.

Marx performed a thorough investigation of capitalism's political, social, and especially economic facets in order to comprehend how it functions.

Marx's view of the economy

The idea of a mode of production served as the foundation for Marx's economic theory.

  • The productive forces and production relations are part of the economic base, which is largely economic in nature.

  • All factors or means of production, including land, labour, technology, and energy sources, are referred to as productive forces (such as electricity, coal, petroleum and so on).

  • All forms of labour organisation and economic ties that are involved in production are referred to as production relations.

  • Relations based on the ownership or control of the means of production are known as property relations, or production relations.

  • According to Marx, people's views and ideas were shaped by the economic system in which they lived.

  • Human mind was influenced by how they made a living; ideas were not shaped by material life; rather, material life was shaped by human thought.

Marx gave a lot of attention to economic processes and structures since he thought they were the cornerstones of all social systems throughout human history.

Class Struggle

Instead of using factors like religion, language, ethnicity, or other such identities, Marx believed that the production process was the most significant way to categorise individuals into social classes.

According to his theory, a class will eventually be formed out of individuals who hold the same position in the social production process.

Conflicts arise between various classes as the mode of production shifts, leading to struggles. Marx supported the idea of class conflict. He thought that the main force influencing social transformation was class conflict.

The working class is a new urban, property-less social class produced by the collapse of the mediaeval agricultural system and the capitalist method of production.

Small peasants and serfs lost their former means of subsistence as well as their access to their farms.

Propertyless individuals who were required to work for a living formed a new social class. Workers form a class in this common space during the production process.

Marx influenced the class conflict. He thought that the main force influencing social transformation was class conflict.

Marx and Engle gave a clear and succinct presentation of their ideas. "The history of all previously existing societies is the history of class conflict," it states in its opening sentences.

The working class lost all of the resources it had held or had access to for production. Because they had no other means of support, employees in the capitalist social structure were forced to sell their labour for wages in order to exist.

Even when two classes are inherently at odds with one another, conflict does not always result. They must become subjectively aware of their class interests and identities, as well as those of their competitor classes, in order for conflict to arise.

Where there are class disputes, political mobilisation leads to the development of "class consciousness." A revolution is when a dominating or ruling class (or coalition of classes) is overthrown by previously dominated or subordinated classes as a result of such struggles.

Marx's thesis held that the contradictions brought about by the economic process led to class strife.

Revolutions did not happen by accident as a result of economic processes. Additionally, social and political procedures were required to completely restructure society.

This prevalent ideology, or method of thinking, frequently serves to defend the hegemony of the ruling class and the current social structure. For instance, dominant beliefs may lead poor people to feel that their poverty is not the result of being exploited by the wealthy but rather of fate, evil deeds committed in a former life, etc.

Alternative worldviews or competing ideologies can also challenge dominant ideologies, and dominant ideologies are not always successful.

Marx claimed that although it also depends on political and social circumstances, economic processes generally have a tendency to lead to class conflicts. When favourable circumstances are present, class disputes lead to revolutions.

Emile Durkheim

Durkheim is regarded as the creator of sociology as a formal field because he was the first sociology professor.

For his early schooling, Durkheim was sent to a rabbinical school, a Jewish religious institution.

In 1876, he enrolled in the Ecole Normale Superieure. He decided to abandon his religious beliefs and call himself an atheist.

His moral upbringing had a long-lasting impact on how he thought about society.

The fundamental elements of a civilization that shaped people's behaviour patterns were its moral standards.

Durkheim, who was raised in a religious household, was passionate about the idea of gaining a secular understanding of religion. He was ultimately able to realise this wish in his final book, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life.

Social fact as described by Emile Durkheim

Durkheim believed that society existed as a moral group independent of the individual.

Social facts are components of social reality such as social norms, laws, and regulations that compel people to behave in accordance with group norms.

He believes that a person's behaviour is determined by their moral code. He places emphasis on communal representations that serve as a mirror for a society's morals, values, beliefs, traditions, etc.

These social facts are prevalent across society and are all universally observed.

This furthered his greater goal of establishing sociology as a rigorous scientific discipline and brought it closer to the natural sciences.

Durkheim envisioned sociology as a brand-new scientific field with two distinguishing characteristics.

The study of social facts is the subject matter of sociology, which differs from other sciences in the following ways:

  • He defined sociology as the study of what he called the "emergent level," or the level of complicated collective existence at which social phenomena can appear. Social institutions like religion or the family, as well as social values like friendship and patriotism, are examples of these phenomena.

    • Social constructs such as groups, political parties, gangs, religious communities, and nations, among others, exist on a higher level of reality than do individuals. Sociology examines this 'emergent' level.

  • The second characteristic of Durkheim's conception of sociology was similar to that of the majority of the natural sciences.

    • It was to be an empirical discipline:

      • Durkheim's ability to show that sociology, a field that dealt with abstract concepts like social truths, could yet be a science based on tangible, empirically verifiable evidence is one of his greatest contributions to science.

      • Social facts resemble objects. Despite being outside of the person, they control their behaviour. Social realities include institutions like the law, education, and religion.

      • Social facts are group representations that result from social interaction. They are not specific to an individual but rather universal and not dependent on the person. Things like beliefs, emotions, or social customs are examples of its attributes.

Division of Labor in Society

In his first work, Durkheim outlined his method of analysis to explain how society evolved from the prehistoric to the modern era.

He categorised societies based on the type of social solidarity that was present in each one.

In contrast to modern civilization, he claimed, which is built on "organic" solidarity, primitive society was structured according to "mechanical" solidarity.

  • Mechanical solidarity, which is present in small-population societies, is based on the similarities of its individual members.

    • It often entails a variety of distinct self-sufficient groups, where each member of a given group is involved in related tasks or activities.

    • Societies founded on mechanical solidarity have restrictive regulations intended to stop violations of social standards.

    • This was due to the fact that the community and the individual were so closely entwined that it was feared that any transgression of norms of conduct could lead to the community's dissolution.

  • Modern society is characterised by Organic solidarity, which is built on the diversity of its constituents.

    • Interdependence is what organic solidarity is all about. It recognises their various functions and organic ties, honours individuals and respects their urge to be unique from one another.

Modern society's laws are "restitutive" in nature, not "repressive." This indicates that in contemporary countries, the goal of the law is to undo the harm that has been caused by a criminal act.

In prehistoric communities, the goal of the law was to punish wrongdoers and impose a form of communal vengeance.

The individual was allowed considerable autonomy in modern society, whereas in prehistoric cultures, the individual was completely enmeshed in the collectivity.

In certain situations, people take on different identities. This makes it possible for people to step out from under the community's shadow and forge their own unique identities in terms of the tasks and duties they take on.

The Division of Labor in Society serves as a decent introduction to Durkheim's ongoing issues.

The foundation for sociology as the new social science was formed by his objective and secular investigation of the social relations that characterise various types of society.

Max Weber

He published extensively on a wide range of topics, but he concentrated on creating an interpretive sociology of social action and of dominance and power.

The process of modern society's rationalisation and how different religions around the world related to it were two additional key concerns for Weber.

Creating a "interpretive comprehension of social action" was, according to Weber, the social sciences' main goal.

According to Weber, "social action" refers to all meaningful human behaviour, or behaviour to which actors ascribe a purpose.

Sociology is a methodical example of "empathetic understanding," which is understanding based on "feeling with" (empathy) as opposed to "feeling for" (sympathy).

One of the first to talk about the unique and difficult form of "objectivity" that the social sciences needed to develop was Weber.

The foundation of the social world is made up of arbitrary human meanings, values, emotions, prejudices, ideals, and so forth.

Social sciences had to cope with these arbitrary interpretations inexorably.

Social scientists had to continually practise "empathetic understanding" by placing themselves (imaginarily) in the shoes of the individuals whose activities they were investigating in order to capture these meanings and express them effectively.

In order to demonstrate "empathetic comprehension," the sociologist had to accurately capture the subjective intentions and motivations of social actors without letting his or her own values or worldview get in the way.

This kind of objectivity is what Weber dubbed "value neutrality."

  • Subjective values must be recorded objectively by the sociologist.

  • Due to the fact that social scientists were also members of society and constantly held their own irrational views and prejudices, Weber acknowledged that this was a very challenging task.

  • To remain "value neutral" when expressing the values and worldviews of others, they had to exercise considerable self control and a "iron will," as he puts it.

Concept of Ideal Types

The "ideal type" was another methodological instrument Weber offered for doing sociology. Weber’s ‘ideal type’—

  • is a methodological tool.

  • is a social phenomena model that emphasises its key traits and is logically consistent.

  • is not intended to be a perfect replica of reality.

  • accentuate particular aspects of a phenomenon that are thought to be analytically significant, while minimising or ignoring others.

  • should be accurate in a broad sense, but its primary function is to facilitate analysis by highlighting key aspects and relationships of the social phenomenon under investigation.

  • useful for analysis and comprehension, but also for how precise or thorough a description it can offer.


1. Weber examined the connection between the morals of "global religions" and the rationalisation of the social world in various civilizations using the ideal type. Webeclaimed that the ethics of particular Protestant Christian sects significantly impactedon the growth of capitalism in Europe in this context.

2. Weber once more employed the ideal type to show the three different sorts of authorithe distinguished as conventional, charismatic, legal,al and logical.

Traditional authority came from precedent and custom, but charismatic authority came from divine sources or the "gift of grace" and was determined by rational and legal criteria.


Bureaucracy is a kind of organisation that was founded on the division of the domestic (private) and public (public) spheres. The bureaucracy represented the rational-legal power that was prevalent in modern times. This indicates that there were clear norms and laws governing behaviour in the public realm.

As a public institution, bureaucracy limited the officials' authority in relation to their duties and did not provide them unrestricted authority.

Defining characteristics of bureaucratic power

  • Workings of Officials: Officials in the bureaucracy have set "official jurisdiction" areas that are governed by rules, laws, and administrative regulations.

    • As official obligations, the routine tasks of the bureaucratic organisation are assigned in a set manner.

    • Only individuals who are qualified to do the duties are employed since they must be performed on a regular basis.

  • Hierarchical Ordering of Positions: Authorities and positions of authority are arranged in a gradated hierarchy, with higher authorities in charge of the lesser officials.

    • When lesser authorities' choices are disagreed with, a higher official may be contacted due to the hierarchy of position.

  • Reliance on Written Documents: Written documents (the files), which are kept as records, are the foundation upon which a bureaucratic organization's management is conducted.

  • Office Management: As a specialised and contemporary activity, office management calls for trained and skilled staff to carry out activities.

  • Conduct in Office: Since official business necessitates an official's undivided attention, regardless of the official's set number of hours at the office, the conduct of an official in the workplace is subject to a number of strict standards and guidelines.

It was an organisational style that promised to keep the private and public spheres apart.

The power of the authorities was constrained by bureaucracy in relation to their duties and was not unrestricted.

An individual actor was given tasks with the necessary authority to carry them out while also being recognised for his or her abilities and training, as seen by Weber's description of bureaucracy as a contemporary form of political authority.

According to Weber, bureaucracy is a form of hierarchical social organisation. Each member in this hierarchy possesses some authority and power.

Important terms:

  • Alienation: When a person is alienated, they are under the control of forces that they have created and present to them as external forces. In a capitalist society, this process of detachmenoccurs from nature, other people, oneself, and one's workrs. Marx identifies it as a state of self alienation.

  • Charismatic authority: Based on charismatic legitimacy, which is dependent on adherence ta uniqueal sanctity, bravery, or exemplary behaviour, is charismatic authority value

  • Value that is created by a workover of what is required in terms of labour time is referred to as surplus value.

  • Office: A public office or post with formal, impersonal authority and predetermined duties.

  • The Enlightenment was a time in the 18th century when philosophers rejected the teachings that relationships were supreme, proclaimed reason to be the only source of truth, and identified humans as the only carriers of reason.

  • A form of organisation based on separating the private and public spheres was known as bureaucracy. governed by clear laws and rules.

  • Productive forces: All the tools or components used in production, including labour, land, technology, energy sources, etc.


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