Assignment briefing: Evaluate the study of sociology from the enlightenment through to the writings of Durkheim, Marx and Weber.
In this essay I will explain the reasons behind the creation of social science and link it to the growth of scientific knowledge of the enlightenment, tracing the work of August Comte in developing the subject. I will also outline the key ideas of Durkheim relating to the collective conscience and his belief in scientific methods. I will outline Marx’s idea of social class conflict and his belief in scientific methods. I will also look at Weber’s idea of class, status and power and also his belief in social action theory. I will outline the key elements of ...view middle of the document...
(Haralambos & Holborn, 2008)
In recent years the need for such rigid divisions between quantitative and qualitative methods have been questioned and some sociologists have advocated combining the two approaches, while others have advocated methods associated with critical social science or with postmodernism. (Haralambos & Holborn, 2008)
Postmodernists tend to reject the claims of traditional quantitative, qualitative and critical researchers that it is possible to discover some objective truth about the social world and instead believe all that can be done is examine the world from the viewpoint of the different actors within it and to take apart existing explanations of society. (Haralambos & Holborn, 2008)
The earliest attempt to use scientific, quantitative methods in sociology is known as positivism. The French writer Auguste Comte who was the first person to use the word ‘sociology’ and who coined the term ‘positive philosophy’ believed that society conformed to invariable laws in the same way that the physical world operates according to gravity and other the laws of nature; Comte was confident that scientific knowledge about society could be accumulated and used to improve human existence, so that society could be run rationally without religion or superstition getting in the way of progress. (Haralambos & Holborn, 2008).
Comte believed that the scientific study of society should be confined to collecting information that can be objectively observed and classified and argued that sociologists should not be concerned with the internal meanings, motives, feelings and emotions of individuals since they cannot be measured in an objective way due to the fact that these mental states exist only in the person’s consciousness. (Haralambos & Holborn, 2008)
Emile Durkheim agreed with Comte’s positivist view and believed sociologists should confine themselves to studying social facts; he argued ‘the first and most fundamental rule is: consider social facts as things’ (Durkheim, 1938, first published 1895). Although he followed the logic and methods of positivism, Durkheim did not believe that social facts consisted only of things that could be directly measured or observed. To Durkheim social facts included phenomena such as belief systems, customs and institutions of society; he saw them as existing over and above individual consciousness, believing they were not chosen by individuals nor could they be changed at will. (Haralambos & Holborn, 2008)
In Durkheim’s view society is not simply a collection of individuals each acting independently but instead viewed people to be directed by a collective conscience. Durkheim’s study of suicide is seen as a classic example of how detailed statistical analysis, involving the comparison of different societies, different groups within society and different time periods can be used to try to isolate the variables that cause a social phenomenon. (Haralambos & Holborn, 2008)...