Classical sociological theories were developed in Europe between early 18th century and 19th century. They were theories of great ambition and scope, and had their roots from the cultural practices of that period. They were the works of classical sociological theorists of that period such as Emile Durkheim, Karl Max, and Max Weber. Their contribution played a central role in the development of sociology. In addition, their ideas are still relevant to modern sociological theorists, because they are applied by the contemporary society. These ideas are called classic due to their wide range of application dealing with very important social issue.
However, it is difficult to state precisely when the sociological period started. Thus we begin by identifying the sociological thinkers who were clearly identified as sociologists at the beginning of the 18th century. The social conditions present in the 19th century were the utmost significance in the development of sociology (Davis 43).
These social conditions were chaos and disorders that arose after a series of political revolutions brought by the French revolution and disturbed many social theories that were in existence. Theorists recognised that it was impossible to have a return to the old order and sought new sources of order for the society that had been so traumatised by the dramatic social and political disorders. Industrial revolution also transformed western societies from agriculture to industrial systems. The expansion of city centres also produced a long list of urbanised problems that attracted the sociologists’ attentions.
George Mead was an American philosopher, psychologist and sociologist and a distinguished pragmatist. He is also known as one of the founders of social psychology and sociological tradition in America. As a behaviour theorist, he argued that a person’s behaviour is based on a pattern of response and stimulus. However, in case of human behaviour, the mind intervenes between the stimulus and response to provide a complex of action. He had a clear distinction between act and gesture, alleging that act is an interaction with objects while gesture refers to interaction with people or animals.
According to this theory, gestures are movements that provide a stimuli response to others. Both people and animals use gestures, but it is only human who employ the most significant gestures. These gestures involve a lot of thinking before making a response and the most important type of gesture is the significant symbol. This is the type of gesture that elicits the same response in others that it tries to elicit. A vocal gesture and language are the most complex types of gesture and significant symbol for human.
Mead’s development of the social self-theory is based on the argument that self is a social emergent. The concept of self entails individual self as products of social interaction other than biological and logical conditions of interaction. At birth, this interaction is not there, but arises in the process of social activity and experience. According to Mead, there is a very great difference between ‘I’ and ‘ME’. ‘I’ is a source of value and used in the realisation of the self, but also used by poets to refer to uniqueness. However, ’ME’ is an adaptation of the others perspective.
According to Mead, three activities develop the self: language, play and game. Language allows one to take the role of the other and allow them to respond to respond to his own gestures in terms of symbolisation of attitudes. During play, a person takes the role of the other person and pretends to be them so as to express the expectations of the significant others. Role playing process is important in generating self-consciousness and development of the self. In a game, a person is required to internalise the role of significant others involved in the game on condition that they comprehend to all the rules of the game.
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However, according to Durkheim, his argument was a little different. He believed that the society was the one that exerted that powerful force to an individual. According to him, people’s norms, values and beliefs make up the collective individual consciousness. The collective social consciousness binds people together thus creating a strong social integration.
Despite this integration, social interactions is increasingly becoming more complex as people engage in more economic activities with distant traders and neighbours. His major worry was the effect of modernity and its herald of integration to the unity of society. Accordingly, he discovered that not all social behaviours were anomic and referred to them as egoistic behaviours. Identification of the self is an example of excessive individualism that arise when coercive influence on social norms and values are lessened (Kimmel 98). When people disregard social norms in favour of their personal interest, no cohesion is possible.
Karl Marx is not responsible for development of the self-doctrine. His teaching is not based on what ought to be in the world nor explaining how the world works. According to him, humanity is conceived socially with self-creation, which is contrary to anything that purported by any theory or doctrine. In any society, self-development is made up of what an individual can do with his materiality. That is, money, capital, and the crazily accepted subjects like power and influence. While human freedom means a lot to human, conscious creates their personal life under mutually agreed relations. Socialism seeks to re-arrange the collectiveness of human in the society. Marx’s aim is to have a collective struggle from everyone in the world to improve our social interaction, self-creation as well as development; consequently, all these factors are the true meaning of freedom.
The American people suffered a great loss, both medium and small sized businesses were slammed by the tight credit rates and low economic demand. This happened because the two big banks and the Wall Street opened casinos and gambled the economic system like addicts while the taxpayers stuck footing the bills called troubled asset relief programs and were devoid of jobs. In the stock market, the Dow Jones industrial index measure began to fall below average and the worse decline going to 80%. This loss of liquidity led the saving and loan crisis (Long 127).
According to Marx, specialisation allowed less fortunate workers to develop poor working skills and enthusiasm. He referred to the process as labour alienation, because workers tended to become more specialised through repetition eventually becoming alienating themselves to the production process. On the other hand, Durkheim acknowledged the existence of division of labour in societies and its positive correlation to social advancement that progressed proportionately within society. He arrived to the same conclusion as Adam Smith that division of labour increases an individual’s productive power of labour. In addition, the theory was also applied to other biological organisms other than human beings.
Karl Marx and Max Weber identified class divisions as the most common source of social conflict. However, Weber’s analysis to the context of social stratification is generalised. According to him, class, social status and honour are among the various dimensions of social structure and are significant contributors to social difference.
Marx and Weber differed on whether social change was a cause to industrial capitalism at the ideological level. Marx took a materialistic approach and asserted that an individual belief or consciousness about the society is an important product of the social situation they are based on the predominantly applied mode of production in that society (Calhoun 56). Weber thought that this was an excessive reduction on industrial capitalism to materialistic conditions thus emphasised on causal roles of ideas to emerge. Despite their differences, the common aspect of their points of view can be complemented the major role of ideas in recreating capitalism and the material root of capitalism.
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Mark focused on predication of ideas on the mode of social production, but ignored the role that those ideas play in creating it. Weber focused on how those ideas can play a causal role ignoring how the mode of production influences ideas. Thus their perspectives are mutually complementary explaining the rise and maintenance of that industrial capitalism. However, Durkheim concept of social change saw a significant decline in the common morality and used the term anomie to describe the situation. People are faced with anomie when they do not know what sufficient moral constraint is and have no clear concept of what is the properly accepted behaviour.
Durkheim had another motive of study in religion concerning the mechanisms serving to shore up the threatened social orders. Therefore, he was on quest for what is described as a functional equivalent of religion. According to him, a religion was a unified system of beliefs and activities related to sacred practices. Such beliefs and practices unite people in one moral community called a church to those who adhere to them. However, religion morals appear to die slowly and thus Durkheim proposed for a change in order to prevent the tendency for ethical and moral disintegration.
Weber found a great deal in modern society rooted in religious process, but the driving force is history of the material interest and not the ideas found in religious beliefs. Therefore, tying religion to capitalism, attempts to show the idea the directing forces already in motion. Therefore, religion is there for people to pursue their personal interest and achieve their own goals. Dubois endorsed the notion that the black Christianity had met all challenges of radical potential not just in the US, but in the world. However, his overall stance to black church was far from celebration.
In his advocacy to pan-Africanism, Dubois had a lot of influence sociology and his essays recount his impacts on class, race and gender. However, the American sociology pulled his work to the dustbin for pioneering such principles in the field of sociology. His theoretical argument of the issue of specialisation for social progress could not lead to any social development, especially in alienated society like America. The socially segregated class would tend to be stagnated to the same point and no social progress would be achieved thus tuning human to machine like creatures. This was because when racist factors are brought in the concept of specialisation, the less privileged races and gender will be left specialising on manual activities of the whole production process (Beaman 98).
Due to the social development in modern society in abolishing slavery and offering of equal opportunities of work, division of labour can be said lead to social progress. In his attempts to have an ideal vision for social progress, President Obama is more likely to adopt the Durkheim theory, because of the current legal system available in the United States of America.