Sociology Class 11 Notes Chapter 4 Introducing Western Sociologists

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Sociology Class 11 Notes Chapter 4 Introducing Western Sociologists

  • Sociology is sometimes called the child of the ‘age of revolution’.
  • Three revolutions paved the way for the emergence of sociology: the Enlightenment, or the scientific revolution; the French Revolution; and the Industrial Revolution.

The modem era in Europe and the conditions of modernity were brought about by three major processes. These were:

  • The Enlightenment or dawning of the age of reason.
  • The quest for political sovereignty embodied in the French Revolution.
  • The system of mass manufacture inaugurated by the Industrial Revolution.

The Enlightenment:

  • The ability to think rationally and critically transformed the individual human being into both the producer and the user of all knowledge, the ’knowing subject’.
  • Only persons who could think and reason could be considered as a complete human being.
  • For reason to become the defining feature of the human world, it was necessary to displace nature, religion and the divine acts of gods from the central position.
  • The Enlightenment was made possible by, and in turn helped to develop, attitudes of mind that we refer to today as secular, scientific and humanistic.

The French Revolution:

  • The French Revolution (1789) announced the arrival of political sovereignty at the level of individuals as well as nation-states.
  • The Declaration of Human Rights asserted the equality of all citizens and questioned the legitimacy of privileges inherited by birth.
  • The peasants, most of whom were serfs (or bonded labourers) tied to landed estates owned by members of the aristocracy, were freed of their bonds.
  • The numerous taxes paid by the peasants to the feudal lords and to the churches were cancelled.
  • The state had to respect the privacy of the autonomous individual and its laws could not intrude upon the domestic life of the people.
  • A separation was built between the public realm of the state and a private realm of the household.
  • Religion and the family became more ‘private’ while education (specially schooling) became more ‘public’.
  • The nation-state itself was also redefined as a sovereign entity with a centralized government.
  • The ideals of the French Revolution—liberty, equality and fraternity became the watchwords of the modem state.

The Industrial Revolution:
The foundations of modem industry had two major aspects.

The first was the systematic application of science and technology to industrial production, particularly the invention of new machines and the harnessing of new sources of power.

Secondly, the industrial revolution also evolved new ways of organizing labour and markets on a scale larger than anything in the past.

  • Changes in the production system also resulted in major changes in social life. The factories set up in urban areas were manned by workers who were uprooted from the rural areas and came to the cities in search of work.
  • Low wages at the factory meant that men, women and even children had to work long hours in hazardous circumstances to make out a living.
  • Modem forms of governance, with the state assuming control of health, sanitation, crime control and general ‘development’ created the demand for new kinds of knowledge.
  • Karl Marx was from Germany but spent most of his intellectually productive years in exile in Britain.
  • Marx had studied philosophy but he was not a philosopher. He was a social thinker who advocated an end to oppression and exploitation.
  • He believed that scientific socialism would achieve this goal.
  • Marx argued that human society had progressed through different stages. These were: primitive communism, slavery, feudalism and capitalism.
  • Capitalist society was marked by an ever intensifying process of alienation operating at several levels.
    • First, modem capitalist society is one where humans are more alienated from nature than ever before.
    • Second, human beings are alienated from each other as capitalism individualizes previously collective forms of social organization, and relationships get more and more market-mediated.
    • Third, a large mass of working people is alienated from the fruits of its labour because workers do not own the products they produce.

Marx believed that capitalism was nevertheless a necessary and progressive stage of human history because it created the preconditions for an egalitarian future free from both exploitation and poverty.

  • Capitalist society would be transformed by its victims, i.e. the working class, who would unite to collectively bring about a revolution to overthrow it and establish a free and equal socialist society.
  • In order to understand the working of capitalism, Marx undertook an elaborate study of its political, social and specially its economic aspects.
  • Marx’s conception of the economy was based on the notion of a mode of production.
  • The economic base is primarily economic and includes the productive forces and production relations.
  • Productive forces refer to all the means or factors of production such as land, labour, technology, sources of energy (such as electricity, coal, petroleum and so on).
  • Production relations refer to all the economic relationships and forms of labour organization which are involved in production.
  • Production relations are also property relations, or relationships based on the ownership or control of the means of production.
  • Marx argued that people’s ideas and beliefs originated from the economic system of which they were part.
  • How human beings earned their livelihood determined how they thought – material life shaped ideas, ideas did not shape material life.
  • Marx laid great emphasis on economic structures and processes because he believed that they formed the foundations of every social system throughout human history.

Class Struggle:

  • For Marx, the most important method of classifying people into social groups was with reference to the production process, rather than religion, language, nationality or similar identities.
  • He argued that people who occupy the same position in the social production process will eventually form a class.
  • As the mode of production – i.e., the production technology and the social relations of production changes, conflicts develop between different classes which result in struggles.
  • The capitalist mode of production creates the working class, which is a new urban, property-less group created by the destruction of the feudal agricultural system.
  • Serfs and small peasants were thrown off their lands and deprived of their earlier sources of livelihood.
  • A new social group was created consisting of property-less people who were forced to work for their living. This shared location within the production process makes workers into a class.
  • Marx was a leader of class struggle. He believed that class struggle was the major driving force of change in society.
  • Marx and Engle presented their views in a clear and concise manner. Its opening lines declare, ‘The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle’.
  • The working class lost all the means of production that it owned (or had access to) in the past. Thus, in the capitalist social system, workers had no choice but to sell their labour for wages in order to survive, because they had nothing else.
  • Even when two classes are objectively opposed to each other, they do not automatically engage in conflict. For conflict to
  • occur it is necessary for them to become subjectively conscious of their class interests and identities, and therefore also of
  • their rivals’ interests and identities.
  • ‘Class consciousness’ is developed through political mobilisation where class conflicts occur. Such conflicts can lead to the overthrow of a dominant or ruling class (or coalition of classes) by the previously dominated or subordinated classes – this is called a revolution.
  • In Marx’s theory, economic process created contradictions which in turn generated class conflict.
  • Economic processes did not automatically lead to revolution. Social and political processes were also needed to bring about a total transformation in society.
  • This dominant ideology, or way of seeing the world, tends to justify the domination of the ruling class and the existing social order. For example, dominant ideologies may encourage poor people to believe that they are poor not because they are exploited by the rich but because of fate, or because of bad deeds in a previous life, and so on.
  • Dominant ideologies are not always successful, and they can also be challenged by alternative worldviews or rival ideologies.
  • According to Marx, economic processes generally tend to generate class conflicts, though it also depends on political and social conditions. In given favourable conditions, class conflicts culminate in revolutions.
  • Emile Durkheim may be considered as the Founder of Sociology. He was the first to become a Professor of Sociology in Paris in 1913.
  • Durkheim was sent to Rabbinical school (a Jewish religious school) for his early education.
  • He entered the Ecole Normale Superieure in 1876. He broke with his religious orientation and declared himself an agnostic.
  • His moral upbringing had an enduring influence on his sociological thinking.
  • The moral codes were the key characteristics of a society that determined the behavior patterns of individuals.
  • Coming from a religious family, Durkheim cherished the idea of developing a secular understanding of religion. It was in his last book, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life that he was finally able to fulfill this wish.
  • For Durkheim, the social class was to be found in the codes of conduct imposed on individuals by collective agreement. It was evident in the practices of everyday life.
  • ‘Moral facts are phenomena like others; they consist of rules of action recognizable by certain distinctive characteristics, it must then be possible to observe them, describe them, classify them and look for certain laws explaining.
  • The morality appropriate for one society was inappropriate for another. So for Durkheim, the prevailing social conditions could be deduced from the moral codes.
  • This made sociology akin to the natural sciences and was in keeping with his larger objective of establishing sociology as a rigorous scientific discipline.
  • Durkheim’s vision of sociology as a new scientific discipline was characterised by two defining features.

The subject matter of sociology – the study of social facts – was different from the other sciences:

  • Sociology concerned itself exclusively with what he called the ’emergent’ level, i.e., the level of complex collective life where social phenomena can emerge. These phenomena are social institutions like religion or the family, or social values like friendship or patriotism etc.
  • Social entities like teams, political parties, street gangs, religious communities, nations and so on belong to a different level of reality than the level of individuals. It is this ’emergent’ level that sociology studies.
  • The second defining feature of Durkheim’s vision of sociology was like most of the natural sciences.

It was to be an empirical discipline:

  • One of Durkheim’s most significant achievements is his demonstration that sociology, a discipline that dealt with abstract entities like social facts, could nevertheless be a science founded on observable, empirically verifiable evidence.
  • Social facts are like things. They are external to the individual but constrain their behavior. Institutions like law, education and religion constitute social facts.
  • Social facts are collective representations which emerge from the association of people. They are not particular to a person but of a general nature, independent of the individual. Attributes like beliefs, feelings or collective practices are its example.

Division of Labour in Society:

  • In his first book, Division of Labour in Society, Durkheim demonstrated his method of analysis to explain the evolution of society from the primitive to the modem.
  • He classified a society by the nature of social solidarity which existed in that society.
  • He argued that while a primitive society was organised according to ‘mechanical’ solidarity, modern society was based on ‘organic’ solidarity.
  • Mechanical solidarity is founded on the similarity of its individual members and is found in societies with small populations.
  • It typically involves a collection of different self-sufficient groups where each person within a particular group is engaged in similar activities or functions.
  • Mechanical solidarity based societies have repressive laws designed to prevent deviation from community norms.
  • This was because the individual and the community were so tightly integrated that it was feared that any violation of codes of conduct could result in the disintegration of the community.
  • Organic solidarity characterizes modem society and is based on the heterogeneity of its members.
  • Interdependence is the essence of organic solidarity. It celebrates individuals and allows for their need to be different from each other, and recognizes their multiple roles and organic ties.
  • The laws of modern society are ‘restitutive’ in nature rather than ‘repressive’. This means that in modem societies, the law aims to repair or correct the wrong that is being done by a criminal act.
  • In primitive societies the law sought to punish wrong doers and enforced a sort of collective revenge for their acts.
  • In modem society the individual was given some autonomy, whereas in primitive societies the individual was totally submerged in the collectivity.
  • Individuals have different identities in different contexts. This enables individuals to emerge from the shadow of the community and establish their distinct identity in terms of the functions they perform and the roles they play.
  • The Division of Labour in Society provides a good preview of Durkheim’s enduring concerns.
  • His objective and secular analysis of the social ties which underline different types of society laid the foundation of sociology as the new science of society.

Max Weber:

  • Max Weber was one of the leading German social thinkers of his time.
  • He wrote extensively on many subjects but focused on developing an interpretive sociology of social action and of power and domination.
  • Another major concern of Weber was the process of rationalisation in modem society and the relationship of the various religions of the world with this process.
  • Weber argued that the overall objective of the social sciences was to develop an ‘interpretive understanding of social action’.
  • For Weber, ‘social action’ included all human behaviour that was meaningful, that is, action to which actors attached a
  • meaning.
  • Sociology is a systematic form of ’empathetic understanding’, that is, an understanding based not on ‘feeling for’ (sympathy) but ‘feeling with’ (empathy). .
  • Weber was among the first to discuss the special and complex kind of ‘objectivity’ that the social sciences had to cultivate.
  • The social world was founded on subjective human meanings, values, feelings, prejudices, ideals and so on.
  • Social sciences inevitably had to deal with these subjective meanings.
  • In order to capture these meanings and describe them accurately, social scientists had to constantly practise ’empathetic understanding’ by putting themselves (imaginatively) in the place of the people whose actions they were studying.
  • ‘Empathetic understanding’ required the sociologist to faithfully record the subjective meanings and motivations of social actors without allowing his/her own personal beliefs and opinions to influence this process in any way.
  • Weber called this kind of objectivity’value neutrality’.
  • The sociologist must neutrally record subjective values.
  • Weber recognized that this was very difficult to do because social scientists were also members of society and always had their own subjective beliefs and prejudice.
  • However, they had to practice great self discipline, exercise an ‘iron will’ as he puts it in order to remain ‘value neutral’ when describing the values and worldviews of others.
  • Weber suggested another methodological tool for doing sociology—the ‘ideal type’.
  • An ideal type is a logically consistent model of a social phenomenon that highlights its most significant characteristics. Being a conceptual tool designed to help analysis, it is not meant to be an exact reproduction of reality.
  • Ideal types may exaggerate some features of phenomenon that are considered to be analytically important, and ignore or downplay others.
  • An ideal type is to be judged by how helpful it is for analysis and understanding, not by how accurate or detailed a description it provides.
  • The ideal type was used by Weber to analyse the relationship between the ethics of ‘world religions’ and the rationalization of the social world in different civilisations.
  • Weber used the ideal type to illustrate three types of authority that he defined as traditional, charismatic and rational – legal.
  • While the source of traditional authority was custom and precedence, charismatic authority derived from divine sources or the ‘gift of grace’, and rational-legal demarcation of authority.
  • Rational-legal authority which prevailed in modem times was epitomised in the bureaucracy.
  • It was a mode of organization which was promised on the separation of the public from the domestic world.
  • Bureaucracy restricted the power of the officials in regard to their responsibilities and did not provide absolute power to them.

Bureaucratic authority is characterised by these features:

  • Functioning of Officials
  • Hierarchical Ordering of Positions
  • Reliance on Written Document
  • Office Management; and
  • Conduct in Office

Functioning of Officials:
Within the bureaucracy officials have fixed areas of ‘official jurisdiction’ governed by rules, laws and administrative regulations.The regular activities of the bureaucratic organisation are distributed in a fixed way as official duties. Commands are issued by higher authorities for implementation by subordinates in a stable way, but the responsibilities of officials are strictly delimited by the authority available to them.

Hierarchical Ordering of Positions:
Authority and office are placed on a graded hierarchy where the higher officials supervise the lower ones.

Reliance on Written Document:
The management of a bureaucratic organization is carried out on the basis of written documents (the files) which are preserved as records.

Office Management:
As office management is a specialized and modern activity it requires trained and skilled personnel to conduct operations.

Conduct in Office: As official activity demands the full time attention of officials irrespective of her/his delimited hours in office, hence an official’s conduct in office is governed by exhaustive rules and regulations.

  • Weber’s characterization of bureaucracy as a modern form of political authority demonstrated how an individual actor was both recognized for her/his skills and training and given responsibilities with the requisite authority to implement them.
  • According to Weber, bureaucracy is a type of social organisation in hierarchical order. In this order each person has some power and authority.
  • Its aim is to run the administration of the state.

An ideal type of bureaucracy has following features:

  • Specified spheres for workers and officials.
  • Hierarchy of official position.
  • Functioning of officers in modem bureaucracy.
  • Office management.

Important terms:

  • Alienation: A condition in which men are dominated by forces of their own creations, which confront them as other powers. It is a process in capitalist society by which human beings are separated from nature, other humans, their self and their work. According to Marx, it is a condition of self estrangement.
  • Charismatic authority: Based on charismatic legitimacy which depends on devotion to the specific and exceptional sanctity, heroism or exemplary behavior.
  • Surplus value: It refers to the quality of value produced by the worker beyond the necessary labour time.
  • Office: A public post or position of impersonal and formal authority with specified powers and responsibilities.
  • Enlightenment: A period in 18th century when philosophers rejected the supremacy of relations doctrines, established reason as the means of truth and the human beings as the sole bearer of reason.
  • Bureaucracy: A mode of organisation which was premised on the separation of the public from the domestic world. Regulated by explicit mles and regulations.
  • Productive forces: All the means or factors of production such as land, labour, technology, . source of energy etc.

Sociology Class 11 Notes

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