THREE CLASSICAL SOCIOLOGISTS
Marx, Weber, Durkheim
by Phil Bartle, PhD
Introduction to the Module (Hub)
Documents Included in this Classical Module
The Three Fathers of Sociology
Sociology began in the mid nineteenth century in the middle of the European Industrial revolution.
In many ways it was in response to that process, as journalists remarked on the exploitation, poverty, oppression and misery of the working class.
Karl Marx did not consider himself a sociologist, but analysed revolutionary social change, and saw the most important dynamic as being the conflict between the workers and the owners of the factories.
From his writings, one of the three major perspectives of sociology developed, the conflict approach. He himself did not invent the term nor the perspective.
Max Weber opposed the materialist approach of Marx, and stated that the driving factor in social change was the shirt in ideas, values and beliefs, arising from the Calvinist or protestant reformation.
Although he did not invent the term or the approach, Weber’s writings contributed to what is now the symbolic interaction perspective.
Durkheim also opposed Marx, but in different ways, looking at the notion of a “social fact” suggesting that it referred to statistical rates of any activity, in contrast to the personal activity of an individual.
He argued that we should not try to explain social events with reference to individual events, a method known as reductionism.
Although he did not invent the term or the approach, Durkheim’s writings contributed to what is now known as functionalism.
While huge arguments arose in the social sciences between proponents of these three approaches, the post modern approach as taken in this web site suggests that all three approaches are valid, and that we get a more in depth view of society by using all three at the same time.
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