Founders of Sociology.

An Essay By Caitlyn // 10/30/2008

Three men in history, Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim, were known as the founding fathers of Sociology. Though from different time periods, their ideas reflected one another and showed great progression in Social Science.

Karl Marx, the earliest of the three founding fathers, was said to be the most influential sociological thinker in the 19th century. He was born into a middle class family on May 5th 1818, in Trier Germany. When Marx was 17 years old, he went to Bonn University to study law. He spent his time there focusing on frivolities, rather than studies, which resulted in his transfer, by his father, to Berlin University. During his stay at the Berlin University, Marx became a member of the Young Hegelian movement. This group, which included two theologians, Bruno Bauer and David Friedrich Strauss, made it their goal to draw from the ideas of Georg Wilhelm Hegel and make radical critiques of Christianity and the Prussian Political System. Because of his participation in this group, Marx found that any hope of finding a career at the University had been shut down by the Prussian government; therefore he decided to embark on a career in Journalism. His success was eminent for, in October of 1842 he became editor for Reinische Zeitung. This was an influential liberal newspaper that was supported by industrialists. Marx published several articles, many of which were economic questions. These articles caused the Prussian government to come and shut the newspaper down. This shut down caused a serious split between the Young Hegelians group. At the end of 1843 Marx immigrated to France. Once there, he immediately made contact with groups of German immigrants and different groups of French socialists. He worked on editing a book, “Deutsch- Franzosische Jahrbucher”, which was created as a response to the destruction of the Reinische Zeitung. It was intended to bridge the gap between French Socialism and German Hegelians. He also published his views in a book called the “Economical and Philosophical Manuscript”. This book outlined people’s perception of communism and the contrast of the strange idea of labor under capitalism verses communism, in which people are free to have their own kind of cooperative production. Marx believed that the economy had a lot to do with our social structure. His ideas were that there was a revolution to be staged by the proletariats, which were people who sold their labor, to throw off the binding chains of capitalism, and wholly accept a communistic life style. His writings were published in various books and newspapers up until the day he died on March 14th, 1883.

Max Weber was another very important man in the development of Social Science. He was born on April 21st, 1864 in Thuringia, Germany. He was the first of seven children in the Weber family. Both his parents were political figures so his childhood was immersed in politics. In 1882, Max enrolled in the University of Heidelberg as a law Student. He lived with his parents for most of the 1880’s, first as a student, second as a Junior Barrister and finally as a Docent at the University of Berlin. Weber earned his law doctorate in 1889 by writing a doctoral dissertation on law history called, The History of Medieval Business Organizations. Two years later Weber completed his Habilitationsschrift, this was the final writing that allowed him to become a German Professor. In 1888, he began to work with his interest in social politics, by joining “Verein fur Socialpolitik”. This was a new gathering of German economists, associated with the historical school, who saw the role of economics as the solving of social problems of the age, and who studied large economic problems. In 1890, the social group he was with began a research program to study what was known as The Polish Question. This was the arrival of new foreign farmers into Eastern Germany as the local German farmers quickly immigrated into Germany’s new more industrial cities. Weber had a huge contribution to these studies because he had been put in charge of the whole project. He wrote large parts of the final report, which helped stabilize Weber’s reputation as an expert in Agrarian Economics. During the First World War, he served as a director of the Army hospitals in Heidelberg. His views on war and the expansion of the German Empire changed during the war. He became a prominent member of the worker and soldier council of Heidelberg in 1918, and in the same year he became a consultant to the German Armistice Commission at the Treaty of Versailles. After the war, Weber continued teaching, first at the University of Vienna and then at the University of Munich. In Munich he was head of the first German institute of Sociology. He mostly worked with the sociology of religion, politics and government. His main studies were on the effect religious ideas had on the economy, the relation between social stratification and religion, and the characteristics of the Western civilization. He continued with his studies up until he died of pneumonia in Munich on June 14th 1920.

Emile Durkheim was the final most influential provider in the development of Today’s Sociology. He was born in the eastern Pascoag providence of Lorraine, which at that time was part of Germany, on April 15th 1858. He came from a long line of conservative French Jews but, he decided early in his life he would not follow in his family’s footsteps. He led a completely secular lifestyle. In fact, most of his sociological work was an effort to prove that religious happenings came from social rather than divine factors. While he made sure to separate himself from his family’s religious beliefs, he never completely detached himself from his family or the Jewish community. Many of his colleagues and students were either from the Jewish community or of blood relation. In 1879 Durkheim entered École Normale Supérieure, as a very promising student. That year’s class was one of the most brilliant in the nineteenth century. Many of his classmates, such as Jean Jaurès and Henri Bergson, went on to become very influential to France’s history. Very early in his career, Durkheim became interested in the scientific approach to society by reading works by social scientists, Herbert Spencer and Auguste Comte, and studying with Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges. Thus, he found many problems with the French Academic System, because they had no social science curriculum. After studying social science at a University in Germany, he traveled to Bordeaux in 1887 for a teaching position. There, he occupied a position teaching pedagogy and one of the few positions as a Social Science teacher. From his teaching position he slowly introduced the idea of Social Science becoming a curriculum to the French School System. In the 1890’s, Durkheim saw his greatest years of creative genius. In 1893 he published his doctoral dissertation, called The Division of Labour in Society, which addressed the nature of human society and its development. His interest in social happenings was fueled by politics. In 1895, he published the Rules of Sociological Method, a public declaration of principles and intentions telling what sociology was and how it should be accomplished. He also founded the first European Department of Sociology at the University of Bordeaux. In 1897 he published a case study on suicide and its connection with society. He worked with different groups of people and found the different rates of suicide found in these groups. And finally in 1898, he founded the journal, L'Année Sociologique, in order to publicize the promising works of sociology students and colleagues that shared his sociological views. In 1902, Emile finally achieved a prominent status in French society when he attained the chair of education at the Sorbonne. This position was so important to the school that his lectures were the only ones that required the attendance of the entire student body. In 1912, the chair became his permanently and was officially re-named, the chair of education and sociology. He also published his last major influential work that year, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. This was the analysis of religion being naught but social happenings, using the religions of aboriginal tribes in Australia. World War I had quite a tragic effect on Durkheim’s life. His own son was killed, which devastated him so emotionally that he never recovered. He died from exhaustion, on November 15th, 1917 at the age of 59.

In conclusion, one can see that these men had quite an influence on society. Though their ideas seemed out of the ordinary at the time, they shaped Sociology as we know it today. Also, though they all came from different times and different circumstances, they used their minds to conquer territories in the scientific field that were rarely broached. They used resources, such as the works of other writers and used their words to persuade a large society. They weren’t afraid of what people thought of them, they were only concerned with proving a point and making a mark in history.



You know if you fixed this up (and tied it with a ribbon and gave it a card), you might get a scholarship for it.

With all the study you've done for this paper, who were you supporting for president?

"I love those moments. I like to wave at them as they pass by."-Captain Jack Sparrow

The Brit | Sun, 11/09/2008


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