The Enlightenment The 17th century was torn by witch-hunts and wars of religion and imperial conquest. Protestants and Catholics denounced each other as followers of Satan, and people could be imprisoned for attending the wrong church, or for not attending any. All publications, whether pamphlets or scholarly volumes, were subject to prior censorship by both church and state, often working hand in hand. Slavery was widely practiced, especially in the colonial plantations of the Western Hemisphere, and its cruelties frequently defended by leading religious figures.
It was inevitable that sooner or later many people would begin to grow tired of the repression and warfare carried out in the name of absolute truth. In addition though Protestants had begun by making powerful critiques of Catholicism, they quickly turned their guns on each other, producing a bewildering array of churches each claiming the exclusive path to salvation. It was natural for people tossed from one demanding faith to another to wonder whether any of the churches deserved the authority they claimed. People lived in rural areas only producing what was needed to survive.
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As scientific thought emerged, more influence on people’s ideas and social norms expanded, the way of thinking and living changed and people moved to urban areas to work and live. The Enlightenment consisted, in essence, of the belief that the expansion of knowledge, the application of reason, and dedication to scientific method would result in the greater progress and happiness of humankind. Although the intellectual movement called “The Enlightenment” is usually associated with the 18th century, its roots in fact go back much further.
This is one of those rare historical movements, which in fact named itself. Certain thinkers and writers, primarily in London and Paris, believed that they were more enlightened than their compatriots and set out to enlighten them, they believed that human reason could be used to combat ignorance, superstition, and tyranny and to build a better world. Their principal targets were religion (embodied in France in the Catholic Church) and the domination of society by a hereditary aristocracy.
Interestingly, it was among those very idle aristocrats that the French Enlightenment philosophers were to find some of their earliest and most enthusiastic followers. Despite the fact that the Church and State were more often than not allied with each other, they were keenly aware of their differences. Even kings could on occasion be attracted by arguments, which seemed to undermine the authority of the Church. The fact that the aristocrats were utterly unaware of the precariousness of their position also made them overconfident, interested in dabbling in the new ideas partly simply because they were new and exciting.
In short the world was turned upside down, Science replaced religion as the main source of knowledge, people’s ideas replaced religion and the monarchy as the main platform of government and industrial production and urbanization transformed previously agricultural, rural societies. Karl Marx 1818-1883 Karl Marx saw society as being made up of two classes (the bourgeoisie and the proletariats), which were in permanent conflict. “Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labor of others by means of such appropriation” (Engels, Marx 86). The bourgeoisie were the class of modern capitalists/ruling class, these were the owners of the means of social production and employers of wage labor controlling income, living conditions and lifestyles and the proletariats the wage laborers, who had no means of production (no land machinery or property) had to sell their manual labor in order to survive, this in turn caused conflict between the two classes due to the vast inequality between employers and workers, the workers were barely able to feed themselves and their families because of the poor wages they were paid often suffering from disease and malnutrition while the employers lived comfortably from the profits of their labor, this was referred to as a subsistence economy. Marx seen the economy as the basis of society and called this the infrastructure, he saw the institutions of society such as the political system, the education system, the mass media, religion and even family as developing out of the economic system which he called the superstructure which was shaped by the base (infrastructure), the means of production (everything required to produce), machines, factories, land and raw materials all owned by the bourgeoisie.
The Marxist theory of historical materialism understands society to be determined by the relationships which people enter into with one another to fulfill their basic needs, for instance to feed and clothe themselves and their families. In general Marx identified five successive stages of the development of these material conditions in Western Europe. ???Primitive communism- early human societies (hunter gatherers) ???Slavery- considered to be the beginning of “class society” where private property appears. ???Feudalism- monarchy attempts to control the lands of the realm through agreements with regional leaders. ???Capitalism- an economic system based on private ownership of capital ???Socialism unfairly concentrates power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital and derives its wealth through exploitation.
Marx saw that each stage or epoch created a new class or invention that would lead to its downfall. Each passing stage would therefore raise the standard of living of the masses while at the same time be doomed to its own downfall because of internal contradictions and class conflicts. Only the last two epochs are spared from this fate. With socialism the final oppressive class is overthrown and society is put under the tyranny of the majority and thus advances into communism. The first three stages are not given particular attention, since by Marx’s time they had long gone. Marx believed that the basis of the social order in every society is the production of economic goods.
What is produced, how it is produced, and how it is exchanged determines the differences in people’s wealth, power, and social status. Marx also put emphasis on the role of religion in the alienation process, independently from his famous quote on the “opium of the masses”. (Contribution to Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right 1843). His basic attitude towards religion is caste in a wholly negative light. He believes that religion is used as a social ideology to stabilize and enslave the working class. That our tendency towards religious fervour is representative of a response to alienation. Religion, because it makes us feel a false sense of happiness creates an illusion in and of itself. Emile Durkheim 1858-1917 The first and fundamental rule (of sociology) is to consider social facts as things, a social fact is every way of acting which is capable of exercising an external constraint upon the individual” (The rules of Sociological method 1985) Durkheim was concerned primarily with how societies could maintain their integrity and coherence in the modern era, when things such as shared religious and ethnic background could no longer be assumed. In order to study social life in modern societies, he sought to create one of the first scientific approaches to social phenomena. Durkheim argued that social facts have, sui generis, an independent existence greater and more objective than the actions of the individuals that make up society. Even the most “individualistic” or “subjective” phenomena, such as suicide, would be regarded by Durkheim as objective social facts.
In le Suicide (1897), Durkheim explores the differing suicide rates among Protestants and Catholics, explaining that stronger social control among Catholics results in lower suicide rates. According to Durkheim, Catholic society has normal levels of integration while Protestant society has low levels. Durkheim stated that there are four types of suicide: ???Egoistic suicides ???Altruistic suicides ???Anomic suicides ???Fatalistic suicides Egoistic suicide is committed by people who are not strongly supported by membership in a social group. As outsiders, they depend more on themselves than the goals and rules of the group and in times of stress feel isolated. Durkheim considered this to be the most common.
Altruistic suicide is committed by people who are deeply involved to group’s goals and see their own lives as unimportant. Basically dying for a cause. Anomic suicide is committed by people when society is in crisis or rapid change. In such times customary norms may weaken or breakdown. With no clear standards of behaviour to guide them, many people become confused, their usual goals lose meaning and life seems aimless. Fatalistic suicides occur in overly oppressive societies, causing people to prefer to die than to carry on living within their society. Durkheim described how social order was maintained in societies, and the transition from more “primitive” societies to advanced industrial societies.
Durkheim suggested that in a “primitive” society, mechanical solidarity with people acting and thinking alike with a collective or common conscience allows social order to be maintained. In such a society, Durkheim viewed crime as an act that “offends strong and defined states of the collective conscience. In an advanced, industrial, capitalist society, the complex division of labor means that people are allocated in society according to merit and rewarded accordingly. Durkheim argued that moral regulation was needed, as well as economic regulation, to maintain order (or organic solidarity) in society with people able to “compose their differences peaceably”.
He thought that transition of a society from “primitive” to advanced may bring about major disorder, crisis, and anomie, (The Division of Labor in Society 1893). In contrast to Marx Durkheim spent a good part of his intellectual effort in studying religion concentrating particularly on religion in small-scale traditional societies. His Elementary Forms of Religious Life first published in 1912 is perhaps the single most influential study in the sociology of religion. He based his work upon a study of totemism as practiced by Australian aboriginal societies and urged that totemism represents religion in its most elementary or simple form. Durkheim defines religion in terms of a distinction between the sacred and the profane.
According to Durkheim sacred is ideal and transcends everyday existence; it is extra-ordinary potentially dangerous, awe-inspiring, fear inducing. The sacred refers to things set apart by people including religious beliefs, rites, duties or anything socially defined as requiring special religious treatment. The sacred has extra-ordinary, supernatural and often dangerous qualities and can usually be approached only through some form of ritual such as prayer, incantation or ceremonial cleansing. Durkheim strongly emphasizes the fact that religions are never just a matter of belief. All religions involve regular ceremonial and ritual activities in which a group of believers meet together.
Ceremony and ritual in Durkheim’s view are essential to binding the members or groups together. Durkheim believes that scientific thinking increasingly replaces religious explanation and ceremonial and ritual activities gradually come to occupy only a small part of an individual’s lives. Yet he says there is a sense in which religion in an altered from is likely to continue. Even modern societies depend for their cohesion upon rituals that reaffirm their values; new ceremonial activities thus may be expected to emerge to replace the old. Max Weber 1864-1920 Like Marx, Weber had a wide ranging set of interests: politics, history, language, religion, law, economics, and administration, in addition to sociology.
His historical and economic analysis does not provide as elaborate or as systematic a model of capitalism and capitalist development as does that of Marx. But the scope of his analysis ranges more widely than that of Marx; is examines broad historical changes, the origins of capitalism, the development of capitalism, political issues, the nature of a future society, and concepts and approaches that Marx downplayed ??? religion, ideas, values, meaning, and social action. Weber’s early work was related to industrial sociology, but he is most famous for his later work on the sociology of religion and sociology of government. Weber created and worked in the antipositivist, tradition. We know of no scientifically ascertainable ideals. To be sure, that makes our efforts more arduous than in the past, since we are expected to create our ideals from within our breast in the very age of subjectivist culture”. ??? Max Weber in 1909. His works started the antipositivistic revolution in social sciences, which stressed the difference between the social sciences and natural sciences, especially due to human social actions which Weber differentiated into traditional, affectional, value-rational and instrumental. ???Traditional action is a social action taken because it was done in the past. ???Affectional action is a social action caused by an emotion. Rational action is a social action which is taken because it leads to a valued goal, but with no thought of its consequences and often without consideration of the appropriateness of the means chosen to achieve it. ???Instrumental action is a social action pursued after evaluating its consequences and consideration of the various means to achieve it. They are usually planned and taken after considering costs and consequences. Weber began his studies of rationalisation in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 1904, in which he argued that the redefinition of the connection between work and piety in Protestantism, and especially in ascetic Protestant denominations, particularly Calvinism, shifted human effort towards rational efforts aimed at achieving economic gain.
Weber continued his investigation into this matter in later works, notably in his studies on bureaucracy and on the classifications of authority into three types???legitimate, traditional, and charismatic. In these works Weber described what he saw as society’s movement towards rationalization. What Weber depicted was not only the secularization of Western culture, but also and especially the development of modern societies from the viewpoint of rationalization. The new structures of society were marked by the differentiation of the two functionally intermeshing systems that had taken shape around the organizational cores of the capitalist enterprise and the bureaucratic state apparatus. Weber understood this process as the institituionalization of purposive-rational economic and administrative action.
To the degree that everyday life was affected by this cultural and societal rationalization, tradional forms of life – which in the early modern period were differentated primarily according to one’s trade – were dissolved. ??? Jurgen Habermas Modernity’s Consciousness of Time. Weber’s work on the sociology of religion started with the essay The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 1904, which grew out of heavy “field work” among Protestant sects in America, and continued with the analysis of The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism1915, The Religion of India: The Sociology of Hinduism and Buddhism, and Ancient Judaism1958. His three main themes were the effect of religious ideas on economic activities, the relation between social stratification and religious ideas, and the distinguishable characteristics of Western civilization.
According to Weber, one of the universal tendencies that Christians had historically fought against, was the desire to profit. After defining the spirit of capitalism, Weber argued that there were many reasons to look for the origins of modern capitalism in the religious ideas of the Reformation. Weber thought that all communities are arranged in a manner that goods, tangible and intangible, symbolic and material are distributed. Such a distribution is always unequal and necessarily involves power. Classes, status groups and parties are phenomena of the distribution of power within a community. Status groups makes up the social order, classes the economic order, and parties the legal/political order. Each order affects and is affected by the other.
Weber considered human action to be an important feature of social structure and social change. Weber’s analysis helps bridge the gap between the large structures of society and individual social action and interaction. Weber argued that sociologists could develop an understanding of actions of individuals and groups, and thereby of historical processes. Weber described this as verstehen or understanding, whereby the sociologist becomes empathetic with the individual, developing an understanding of the meaning that individuals attach to various courses of action. Note that Weber argued that this gives the sociologist an advantage over the natural scientist ??? an ability to understand social phenomenon.
In Weber’s words, “We can accomplish something which is never attainable in the natural sciences, namely the subjective understanding of the action of the component individuals”. (Weber, Economy and Society 1909,). Often the study of human society is thought to be too difficult because of the complexity of human thought an action. Weber attempts to turn this into an advantage rather than a disadvantage. In comparing the various theorists, it can be seen that both Karl Marx and Max Weber had great influence on the modern theorists of today. Theories that were created or mentioned quite some time ago have been modified somewhat by a few theorists, but the basic principles of the social conflict theory established by Karl Marx still hold true today.
Marx and Durkheim are concerned with money and power and what these things do to those who have them, when they are confronted with those that do not. This is much like the human body, which is made up of many individual cells and organs and such that have specific jobs. A society’s culture thus consists of rules, norms, or institutions regarding how to think, feel, and express oneself. According to class theory, there are sharp divisions between the various classes while supporters of stratification theory claim that there are sliding transitions between the various social layers. Religion is believed by Marx to be much more of a chain and vehicle of enslavement.
Marx argues that it is a force for enslavement, Durkheim believes it to be a defining complex of social interactivity, and Weber argues that it is a personal quest for understanding and salvation. Durkheim is not the only sociologist, however, that addresses capitalist society and the issues that can and do arise from it. They do their own thing but if you put them all together they make up a human being. Durkheim calls this ‘organic solidarity. One of the main contributions of Max Weber, for example, was stratification theory. Thus, according to stratification theory, disparity and conflicts stretch across all layers of society. Stratification theory considers a society based on quantitative measurements. Weber disagreed with Marx in that economics was the central force in social change.
And although Modern day Communism, widely attributed to him, is very different from his Marxism. BIBLIOGRAPHY, ONLINE TEXT AND ARTICLES A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy in 1859 Contribution to Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right 1843 Contribution to Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right 1843 Engels, Marx 86 le Suicide 1897 Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848 Marxists Internet Archive Max Weber’s HomePage “A site for undergraduates” The Division of Labour in Society 1893 The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 1904 The rules of Sociological method 1985 The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx 1968 Wikipedia. org The free encyclopedia