classical sociology figures

The classical sociology figures featured in this post have their main source in the book by the sociologist George Ritzer. The list of classical sociological figures below is shown as an online reference for learners who want to get to know sociological figures.

Auguste Comte

Biography: Auguste Comte was born in 1798 in Montpellier, a city in southern France which became one of the centers of the resistance movement against the French revolution. Comte was born into a devout Catholic bourgeois family. However, his childhood is full of bitter memories caused by the chaos of the French Revolution period. Comte is known as the father of positivism and is also considered to be the first to coined the term sociology as a modern science that studies the social aspects of human life. Comte is a figure of early classical sociology. Comte’s positivism ideology promotes the belief that society can be understood in accordance with the laws of natural science.

Masterpiece: Discurs sur L’espirit Positive


The sacred formula of positivism; love as its principle, order as its foundation, progress as its goal.


Harriet Martineau

Biography: Hariet Martineau was born on 12 June 1802 in Norwich, England. Martineau is one of the early female intellectuals who studied sociology comprehensively. Martineu also translated Auguste Comte’s great works from French into English, so that Comte’s sociology was known in English-speaking countries. Martineau’s sociology focus is on the moral principles and values ​​of society in relation to institutional structures, social relations, and empirically apparent patterns of behavior. Martineau’s comprehensive sociological study was carried out during his visit to America, where Martineau investigated the relationship between the values ​​and morals of American society and the country’s institutional structures. Martineau is one of several classical sociological figures of women.

Masterpiece: Society in America


So many readers but so few thinking.

Herbert Spencer

Biography: Spencer was born in Derby, England in 1820. Known as the originator of social Darwinism for adopting Darwinian theory to analyze the development of society. Spencer paid special attention to how to organize society in order to solve its social problems. According to Spencer, there is a certain law that governs the social world so that people, especially policy makers, are so sure of the policies taken. Those who argue that the laws of sociology are not like the laws of natural science, he argues, fail to recognize that much of the natural sciences cannot be explained mathematically either, but can be explained qualitatively, like social science.

Masterpiece: The Study of Sociology


The ultimate goal of education is not knowledge, but action.


Karl Marx

Biography:Karl Marx was born in Trier in 1818. During his youth, he claimed to be a hegelian. Marx was much inspired by Hegel about historical dialectics. The doctrine of historical materialism is widely stated in his book entitled ‘The German Ideology’, but one of the most politically influential books is ‘The Communist Manifesto’. In the latter book, Marx integrated his thoughts on political economy, class analysis and social organization. Together with his friend, Fredrick Engels, Marx sparked the theory of exploitation in seeing social relations between two opposing classes; bourgeois and proletariat. The proletarian-working class is an alienated class from many aspects, from the members of its class to the products it produces itself. ‘Das Capital’ is a 2000-page critique of the capitalist political economy system written by Marx. Engels contributed to the third volume.

Masterpiece: The Communist Manifesto


Workers all over the world, unite!

Max Weber

Biography:Max Weber was born in Erfurt, Germany in 1864, is one of the great intellectuals who succeeded in making comparative studies on politics, economics, sociology, and culture. One of Weber’s contributions to sociology is the formula for interpreting social action to understand the social world. According to Weber, the adoption of natural science methodology to understand social science will always fail. Social science has its own logic which is totally different from natural science. The logic of social science is subjective logic, where the element of subjectivity is always attached to humans as the subject of social reality itself. Weber proposed a method called Verstehen, or interpretive understanding of social action to understand social life. Another contribution that also had a big influence was his idea of ​​bureaucracy.

Masterpiece: Economy and Society


The state is an institution that has the legitimacy to commit violence.

Emile Durkheim

Biography:Emile Durkheim was born in Espinal, France on April 15, 1858. His father was a Rabbi, Durkheim was originally directed to follow in his father’s footsteps as a Rabbi. In his career, however, he developed an interest in sociology. Religion is one of the objects of study in sociology which is his interest. Durkheim’s contribution to sociology also lies in the methodological aspect of strengthening sociology as a modern scientific discipline. Durkheim argues that society develops from its simple, complex forms, from ‘primitive’ to ‘civilized’, from organic to mechanical solidarity. The sociology developed by Durkheim is a macro sociology where social phenomena are social facts that have laws such as natural laws.

Masterpiece: The Division of Labor in Society


The only power that can eliminate egoism is solidarity with the interests of the group.


Georg Simmel

Biography: Georg Simmel was born on March 1, 1858 in Berlin, Germany. According to Simmel, society as an abstract construction is very likely to be studied because of the categorization process. Social life is full of categorizations, such as gender, race, class, religion, and so on. Human efforts in creating categorization have implications for the fact that the social world exists. Simmel’s important contribution to sociology is a concept which he calls “form”. Sociology, according to him, is the study of how various forms of social interaction exist. These various forms can take the form of exchange, conflict, subordination, and appreciation. The sociology developed by Simmel received the label of formal sociology.

Masterpiece: The Problem of Sociology


Those who are educated understand how to look for what they don’t know.

Sigmund Freud

Biography: Sigmund Freud was born in Freiberg, Prussia, now part of the Czech Republic, in 1856. He is known as the founder of psychoanalysis, which is the effort of investigating psychics through clinical, theoretical and methodological analysis of the subconscious. Despite his extensive work on the analysis of psychic problems, Freud also wrote several books on civilization and society. According to him, society, like psychic, has an “internal” structure. At first, social groups were seen as a form of love that reflected respect for the leader. Then, social groups form a conflict relationship between hate and love. Society is formed from complex sexual desires, strengthened by the super ego drive so that it is organized in such a way as to become what is called a civilization.

Masterpiece: Civilization and Its Discontents


Fear of guns is a sign of sexual and emotional maturity.

George Herbert Mead

Biography:George Herbert Mead was born in Massachusetts, US on February 27, 1863. Mead developed his career in Chicago, known as a social psychologist and founder of symbolic interactionism. Mead’s contribution to sociology is the development of self-concept or “the self” and its relationship with others or “the other”. Society, according to Mead, has a dynamic and interdependent relationship with oneself. This relationship between society and self creates gestures and symbols which are maintained continuously in social relations. Mind, intellect, consciousness or “the mind” is the ability to play the role of “the other” through this relation. For example, our ability to think what other people think of our appearance determines how we look.

Masterpiece: Mind, Self and Society


Nobody is always stupid, but everyone is stupid sometimes.

WEB Du Bois

Biography:WEB Du Bois is an American sociologist, born in Massachusets on February 23, 1868. His main contribution to sociology is his study of racial probems and their relationship to social inequality. In sociology, Du Bois is known as the first black sociologist and the first person to conduct extensive surveys of American society based on skin color. Black Americans occupy a lower social class and experience discrimination in many aspects. Du Bois investigates the racial element in the social inequality of American society. Social problems related to racial relations remain a serious problem to this day. Du Bois sees the issue of skin color as the main problem of the 20th century. It is still clear that the human race is an important aspect affecting social life in the form of inequality.

Masterpiece: The Souls of Black Folk


The problem of the 20th century is the problem of skin color.

Alfred Schutz

Biography:Alfred Schutz was born in Vienna on April 13, 1899. His career as an intellectual was not linear. Schutz has studied law and economics, worked in a bank before taking up academics. Schutz’s important contribution to sociology is about a formula for understanding the social world through a theory called relevance. Schutz agrees that understanding the social world can be done through the interpretation of individual subjective actions. But according to him, the explanation that symbolic meaning determines social action is never satisfactory. Relevance theory was developed to show how social and natural objects produce specific meanings that form temporal differences in subjective experience.

Masterpiece: The Phenomenology of the Social World


Relevance is a product of reflection.


Talcott Parsons

Biography:Talcott Parsons was born in Colorado, US in 1902. His sociological thinking was heavily influenced by Durkheim and Weber. Parsons’ important contribution to sociology was the development of a theory of social action within the framework of structural functional theory. Parson sees social problems can be overcome if personal interests are suppressed by a moral framework that is formed based on shared values. Individuals, according to him, must enter into a cultural value system consisting of shared values ​​expectations. Thus, individual actions can be regulated and society operates in a functioning system. Parson sees the importance of elaborating on a theory that integrates social actions by individuals within a larger social system. Parson described, the theory of social action that has entered into the social system as voluntary action. Parsons became one of the greatest classical sociology figures of the 20th century.

Masterpiece: The Structure of Social Action


If the observed social facts do not conform to any alternative explanation, the system of observation itself needs to be reconstructed.

Robert K. Merton

Biography: Robert K. Merton was born in Philadelpia, US on July 4, 1910. His career as a sociologist developed at Harvard. Merton is known as a figure of classical sociology, critic and structural theorist of functionalism. His contribution to sociology is creating a specialization in the study of social deviations as part of the function of social systems. Although influenced by the previously developed structural functional theory, Merton’s theory of functionalism was not dogmatic. Functionalism, according to Merton, is a practice of interpreting data by describing its consequences on the broader social structure. Merton does not only focus on the functional aspects of social structures but also aspects of dysfunction that also keep social structures going.

Masterpiece: Social Theory and Social Structure


No one is able to fully know what constitutes his thinking


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