About the Sociology Founders

Where Did It All begin?

Auguste Comte

The French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798–1857)c58

  1. First used the term “sociology” in 1838 to refer to the scientific study of society.
  2. He believed that all societies develop and progress through the following stages: religious, metaphysical, and scientific.

Comte viewed the science of sociology as consisting of two branches:

  • Dynamics, or the study of the processes by which societies change
  • Statics, or the study of the processes by which societies endure.

He also envisioned sociologists as eventually developing a base of scientific social knowledge that would guide society into positive directions.

Herbert Spencer

The 19th‐century Englishman Herbert Spencer (1820–1903)

  1. Compared society to a living organism with interdependent parts. 
  2. Change in one part of society causes change in the other parts, so that every part contributes to the stability and survival of society as a whole.

Herbert_Spencer_5In other words, he believes that if one part of society malfunctions, the other parts must adjust to the crisis and contribute even more to preserve society. Spencer suggested that society will correct its own defects through the natural process of “survival of the fittest.”

He talks about :

  1. The “fittest”—the rich, powerful, and successful—enjoy their status because nature has “selected” them to do so.
  2. Nature has doomed the “unfit”—the poor, weak, and unsuccessful—to failure. They must fend for themselves without social assistance if society is to remain healthy and even progress to higher levels. Governmental interference in the “natural” order of society weakens society by wasting the efforts of its leadership in trying to defy the laws of nature.

Karl Marx

marxNot everyone has shared Spencer’s vision of societal harmony and stability. Chief among those who disagreed was the German political philosopher and economist Karl Marx (1818–1883)

  1. Observed society’s exploitation of the poor by the rich and powerful. 
The class of capitalists that Marx called the bourgeoisie particularly enraged him. Members of the bourgeoisie own the means of production and exploit the class of laborers, called the proletariat, who do not own the means of production. 
Unlike Spencer, Marx believed that economics, not natural selection, determines the differences between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. He further claimed that a society’s economic system decides peoples’ norms, values, mores, and religious beliefs, as well as the nature of the society’s political, governmental, and educational systems. Also unlike Spencer, Marx urged people to take an active role in changing society rather than simply trusting it to evolve positively on its own.

Emile Durkheim


A French philosopher and sociologist

  1. Stressed the importance of studying social facts, or patterns of behavior characteristic of a particular group.
  2. The phenomenon of suicide especially interested Durkheim. But he did not limit his ideas on the topic to mere speculation.
  3. Formulated his conclusions about the causes of suicide based on the analysis of large amounts of statistical data collected from various European countries.

Max Weber

downloadThe German sociologist Max Weber (1864–1920)

  1. Believed that individuals’ behaviors cannot exist apart from their interpretations of the meaning of their own behaviors, and that people tend to act according to these interpretations.
  2. Because of the ties between objective behavior and subjective interpretation, Weber believed that sociologists must inquire into people’s thoughts, feelings, and perceptions regarding their own behaviors. 

Weber recommended that sociologists adopt his method of Verstehen (vûrst e hen), or empathetic understanding. Verstehen allows sociologists to mentally put themselves into “the other person’s shoes” and thus obtain an “interpretive understanding” of the meanings of individuals’ behaviors. 

You can tell which one is our favorite !

Always Keep the Best for Last 😛