Theories of Sociology

Theories of Sociology

Auguste Comte

Auguste Comte was the first scholar to develop a sociology concept by defining it as a positive scene. The three stages of human development in Comte’s theory include theological, metaphysical, and positive stages. Comte wanted to preserve the traditions of the Christian church while taking away any sense of the supernatural. He theorized that knowledge gleaned from positivism could significantly improve the human condition and influence the course of social change (McIntyre, 2014). Initially, Comte wanted to come up with theories that he could test to improve the world. He aimed to uncover the natural law that could help society. The theory of positivism articulates that inquiry is identical across all science branches; inquiry aims to predict, explain and discover and research needs to be empirical observed in the human sense. According to positivism science is not similar to common sense and it needs to remain free of values and be judged by logic.

Herbert Spencer

One of the major contributions of Herbert spencer to sociology is the application of biological evolution theory to sociology. Spencer proposed that society was a result of the change from higher to lower forms. He also considered social evolution as a process created through a combination of individual actions, that organize spontaneously establishing social organizations and rules picked based on their ability to perform functions in the society (McIntyre, 2014).  According to this theory, all the societies evolve from a militaristic primitive phase to an industrial civilized phase. For Spenser, there were the first militaristic or hierarchical societies in history, but through evolution, they became nearly everywhere differentiated industrial or civilized societies. According to Spencer everything – even the universe – was constantly in evolutionary development, every simple physical, biological structure was intended to get a more complex one.

Emile Durkheim

Emile Durkheim is the father of modern sociology, but Comte, his teacher, coined the term “sociology” to mean “social engineering. He is also considered the father of functionalism. Durkheim’s theories were based on social facts defines as values, norms, and societal structures. Some major theories attributed to Durkheim are the following: Theory of ‘Solidarity in Society’ (Functionalist Theory), which refers to how society is held together. There are two kinds of solidarity including mechanical solidarity that is together because of the same religion, culture, and ethnicity and another is organic solidarity that is held together by the economic sense in modern society (McIntyre, 2014). From Durkheim’s perspective, society needs to be described and examined according to their functions. Division of labor was also another important concept constructed by Durkheim. It focused on changes in society from simple to complex. Durkheim argued traditional societies comprise of homogenous people are less or more the same in terms of religious belief, values, and backgrounds (Singh, 2019). However, modern societies are a contrast to this and are made up of complex beliefs, labor, and backgrounds.  There is also the theory of ‘anomie which means a social condition that involves the disappearance of former common values and norms because of rapid change in society.

Max Weber

Max Weber expanded and explored Ferdinand Tonnies’ ideas concerning the motivations of people for acting. One of his major concepts was rationalization. According to sociology the theory of rationalization means replacing traditional, emotions and values as behavior motivators in the society with concepts grounded on reason and rationality such as predictability and efficiency.  In his “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” the scholar purported that capitalism’s modern spirit sees profit as an end and the following profit as virtuous. He also linked the emergence of modern Capitalism to the ethics of austere Calvinistic Protestantism. According to rationalization, contemporary society has progressively become concerned with dehumanization, calculability, predictability, and efficiency (McIntyre, 2014). Rationalization is a result of technological changes and scientific study in the modern world. It paved way for new practices by reducing humanity’s held traditions. It not only played a significant role in the development of capitalism but also transformed modern society.

Karl Marx

Karl Marx created Marxism, a theory that is mainly focused on the struggle between the working-class and capitalists. Marxism is based on three basic concepts including dialectical materialism in philosophy, class struggle in history and politics, and surplus value in economics. According to Marx’s the power relationship between workers and capitalists was significantly exploitative and would lead to class conflict (McIntyre, 2014). The conflict would ultimately create a revolution that involves the working class overthrowing the capitalists. Till the presence of class and class struggle between exploited and exploiter. Marx’s theory is further developed by so many people though out the world and to date many studies are being conducted, none can negate the basic concepts of Marx. Marxism has played an significant role in the history of ideas and made useful contributions in several areas relating to social justice.

History of Sociology as a Discipline

Even though sociology has its origins in the works of philosophers like Aristotle, Plato, and Confucius, it is a fairly new discipline of academics. Sociology first appeared as a disciple during the enlightenment period in the 18th century. It was formally institutionalized as an academic discipline in 1895 at the University of Bordeaux when Emile Durkheim created the first French Department of sociology (Singh, 2019). Sociology developed at that time and place in response to modernity challenges. The technological advances and increasing mobility lead to an increase in exposure of people to societies and cultures that were different in many ways. The effects of this exposure lead to a nuanced understanding of the world and a breakdown of traditional customs and norms. Due to these changes, sociologists responded by exploring the possible solutions and trying to comprehend what held social groups together.

Most Convincing Theory

Of the theories I have selected I find Marxism to be most convincing and appealing. Marxism helps people to understand societal dynamics and how different classes can be related to each other to production functionality within the society. It also helps people consider the contemporary in a long-term perspective through the historical lenses of Karl Marx (Kotz, 2017). Nonetheless, it serves as a mode of analysis that examines the association between power, ownership, and social change which can in turn help illuminate societal change.








Kotz, D. M. (2017). Social structure of accumulation theory, Marxist theory, and system transformation. Review of Radical Political Economics49(4), 534-542.

McIntyre, J, L. (2014). The Practical Skeptic: Core Concepts in Sociology (Sixth Edition). New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing.

Singh, R. (2019). The Origins of Sociology as a Discipline: A Critical Discourse Analysis. International Journal Of All Research Writings2(2), 58-62.

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