Classical Stage European Sources of Sociological Theory

From the very beginning people have always been immersed in their social worlds and have influenced one another, both intentionally and unintentionally, in various ways, positive and negative. Their relationships, whether cooperative or competitive, long-term or short-term, have always involved common sense theoretical assumptions regarding why different people behave as they do and how they should adapt to one another or organize themselves for some common purpose. This applies to face-to-face relationships as well as larger social systems. Many of these implicit assumptions and beliefs, which may vary greatly in different societies or different groups within a society, tend to be passed along from generation to generation as parents socialize their children.

Although people have always speculated and theorized about human beings’ behavior and the organization of their society, the scientific approach to social life as we understand it today did not develop until just a few hundred years ago. This chapter reviews this development briefly as a foundation for the more detailed discussion of contemporary theories in subsequent chapters. The general topics to be covered in this chapter include the following:
  • Social and intellectual background—This section will highlight the growth of science and the transformation from traditional to modern society as helping stimulate the development of sociology. The contributions of Auguste Comte will be described briefly, plus the transition from the eighteenth century faith in reason to the nineteenth century rediscovery of the persistence of nonrational features of social life.

  • Major European founders—This section will provide a highly selective review of the key contributions of Émile Durkheim, Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Georg Simmel to modern sociology.

  • Other important classical-stage theorists—In this section, the contributions of several additional pioneering theorists will be highlighted, including Harriet Martineau, Alexis de Tocqueville, Vilfredo Pareto, Ferdinand Tönnies, and Marianna Weber.


Modern Society Social Order Suicide Rate Social Integration Sociological Theory 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

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