History of the Development of Sociology and Its Pioneering Figures

Have you ever asked when sociology was born? Because sociology studies the relationship or interaction of humans in groups or societies, sociology was born since humans asked about society, especially about its changes. The social background for the birth of sociology is the change in society in Western Europe due to the industrial revolution in England and the French revolution which took place in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Illustration of the Industrial Revolution in England


Many people at that time hoped that the industrial revolution and the French revolution would bring progress to all members of society. With the emergence of the industrial revolution, traditional patterns began to be abandoned and new technologies emerged that made it easier and at the same time increased people’s production, so as to improve their standard of living.


If in the period of feudalism before the French revolution society was divided into social strata which severely restricted the space for the lower social strata, after the revolution everyone hoped that access to all social and economic resources such as education and employment should be wide open to all. layer.


However, what the community hoped for did not come true. The revolution has brought about change, but at the same time it has also brought greater concern. What really happened? In society there was greater anarchy (a situation without rules) and chaos after the French revolution.

French Revolution Illustration


In addition, social disparities arise between the rich and the poor. Instead of being abolished, social classes are becoming increasingly real. The workers are increasingly being pressured by the few people who own capital and companies. Thus conflict between classes is inevitable.


In the following we will study some of the figures who pioneered the birth of sociology, starting with Auguste Comte.

  1. Auguste Comte (1798 – 1857)

The term  ‘ sociology ‘  was first coined in 1839 by Auguste Comte, a French philosopher. It was he who first used the term as a special approach to studying society. Apart from that, he also made important contributions to sociology. Therefore, experts agree to call him the ” Father of Sociology “.


Why? It must be admitted that Comte did a great job of doing sociology. Some of the important contributions are as follows.

■ He said that sociology should be based on systematic observation, comparison, experimentation and historical methods. The object to be studied must be facts, not expectations or predictions. So, it must be objective and must also be useful, and not lead to certainty and accuracy.

■ He contributed thoughts that led to the development of sociology in his book Cours de Philosophie Positive , known as the law of human progress or the law of the three levels. In explaining natural phenomena and social phenomena, humans will go through the following three levels.

  • Theological level, that everything is explained by referring to things that are supernatural.
  • Metaphysical level, where humans understand something by referring to metaphysical forces or things that are abstract.
  • Positive level, that natural and social phenomena are explained by referring to scientific descriptions (scientific level).

■ He also said that sociology is the queen of the social sciences, and is at the top of the social science hierarchy.

■ He divided sociology into two major parts, namely statics social social statics ) representing the stability or stability, and social dynamics social dynamic ) which represent the change.


Sociology is called  social statics  and  social dynamics . What does it mean? Sociology as  social statics  means that sociology is a science that studies the interrelationship between social institutions. Meanwhile, as  social dynamics, it  means that sociology looks at how these institutions develop and experience development over time.



  1. Karl Marx (the 1818 – 1833)

The rationale for this is the massive exploitation carried out by entrepreneurs or capital owners (the capitalists, also known as the bourgeoisie) against the workers (also known as the proletariat).


The workers work the working hours set by the employers at their will. Not only that, the wages given are so low, they are not proportional to their work. According to Marx, the capitalists or entrepreneurs are loan sharks who live on the sweat of the workers. In other words, there is enormous injustice in society.


There are groups that control the means of production, namely the capitalists, and there are groups that do not have the means of production at all, so that their life is entirely dependent on the capitalists. This group is called the workers. Marx said that the history of human society is the history of class struggle, which gave birth to the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.


Aware of its position in society, namely as an exploited group, the proletariat unites and revolts against the bourgeoisie. The conflict between classes is what gives birth to change in society. According to Marx, one day the proletariat will win this class struggle which will then give birth to a classless society.


3.Herbert Spencer (1820 – 1903)

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Herbert Spencer is an Englishman who describes sociology material in a detailed and systematic way. According to Spencer, the main objects of sociology are family, politics, religion, social control, and industry. This includes associations, local communities, division of labor, social strata, sociology of knowledge and science, and research on art and beauty.


In 1876 Spencer came up with a theory of ” social evolution “, which is still adhered to today, although there are changes here and there. He applied the Darwinian theory of ” Theory of Evolution ” analogously to human society. He believes that society has evolved from a primitive society to an industrial society.


Spencer also developed ideas about social interaction systems, particularly in British society. He also assumed that the condition of society would change towards a safer and more orderly situation. This happens because in the community there has been a system of regular division of labor. Various work handling in society began to be handled by people who were experts (professionals). The relationship between various jobs is also very compact.


Herbert Spencer also developed a systematics of public research in his book entitled  Principles of Sociology . Through this book the term sociology has become more popular. Thanks to Spencer’s services, sociology developed rapidly in the 20th century, especially in France, Germany, and the United States, until now it has spread to all corners of the world.


  1. Emile Durkheim (1858 – 1927)

For Durkheim, the social phenomena that grow scattered in people’s lives are real. Therefore, the social phenomena that grow and develop in society can actually be studied by empirical methods, and not philosophically.


In principle Durkheim rejects scientific explanations of action (as well as of social institutions) which only bases analysis on individual characteristics, such as instinct, will, imitation, and self-interest. Such an explanation according to Durkheim is only the result of a collection of individual traits and actions.


According to Durkheim, sociology is the study of social facts. Do you know what social fact is? Social facts are any fixed or non-standard ways of acting that can impose coercion on individuals. Social facts are external to the individual. Social facts can be in the form of ways of acting, thinking, and feeling that show certain characteristics that are outside the consciousness of the individual.


Social facts are general, in the sense that they are evenly distributed and belong to collectives, not just the sum of several individual facts. For example, laws, customs, and ways of dressing. In studying society, Durkheim emphasizes more on collective consciousness as the basis of social order or more on cooperation which reflects moral consensus as the most basic social process.


  1. Max Weber (1864 – 1920)

Max Weber argues that as a science, sociology seeks to provide an understanding of social actions. Sociology helps study and understand human behavior and at the same time examines the causes of social interactions.


Weber’s work on the development of sociology includes analysis of authority, bureaucracy, sociology of religion, economic organizations, and so on. Weber argues that the methods used in the natural sciences cannot simply be applied to problems studied in the social sciences.


According to him, because social scientists study the social world in which they live, of course there are things that are subjective in their research. Therefore, sociology should be ” value free ” ( value free ), there should be no bias that influences research and its results. He stated that sociology is a science that seeks to understand social action.


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