The basic premise of all classical sociological theory is that the contemporary world is the outcome of a transition from “traditional” to “modern” societies. Explain how Karl Marx, Max Weber, & Emile Durkheim describe this transition. How do they define the consequences of such a transition on western societies? What do they think about the future of modernity?
Sociological theory aims to understand what we know as the modern world. This is approached through understanding the transition from pre-modern or traditional societies to modern societies. The theorists commonly known as the founders or fathers of sociological theory are also three key figures in understanding this transition, its consequences, and ultimately what it will lead to in the future. Before this transition can be understood, the characteristics that define traditional and modern societies must be operationalized. Putting it into the colonial context then we can understand part of the defining characteristic of the transition to modernity as the development of the nation state (through what Cedric J. Robinson (2005) referred to as the monopoly of force that began in the 16th century). Modernity is defined by the rise of nation states and also a new conception of the individual whose thoughts and desires is independent of others. The characteristics that motivated that transition has been presented by three sociologists commonly referred to as ‘founding fathers’ of classic sociological thought.
The classical sociological canon is framed by the works of Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim. Karl Marx relied on a particular understanding of historical materialism and ‘laws of history’ (Tucker 1978; Seidman 2004). Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism is a critique of Marx’s historical materialism to argue that the material conditions required to fuel capitalism are not enough and that capitalism also requires ideological formulations to help create the conditions needed to transition fully from feudalism to capitalism. Emile Durkheim on the other hand argued that transition from traditional/primitive to modern/advanced societies is an evolutionary process that requires intervention into primitive societies by advanced societies as well as natural changes.
MESSAGE TO READER FROM THE AUTHOR: Below is a summary of Karl Marx’s theorizations of dialectics and historical materialism that I put together. What I review is the main contributions of Karl Marx’s work that contributes to how many critical scholars theorize the place of capitalism and hegemony in what we see as the history of “modernity”. This encyclopedic entry is NOT a replacement for reading Marx’s work. Your thoughts and analysis on a text matter and you should read things for yourself to confirm and evaluate their value and context to your political ideological development.
Karl Marx Encyclopedia Entry
Karl Marx’s philosophy of history is an inversion of Hegel’s ‘idealist conception of history’ that argues that society is determined at any given time by its material conditions. Marx’s theory of historical materialism, “led him to the view that instead of the state being the basis of “civil society,” as Hegel held, civil or bourgeois society is the basis of the state” (Tucker, 1978:16). Marx’s historical materialism reveals that no means of social reproduction can exist without the necessary material conditions. This articulation also reveals that the very circumstances that create social phenomena also harbor the means for their demise: their contradiction. Continue Reading
Recently Gwyneth Paltrow tweeted a picture of $29 worth of food to equate to what a family on SNAP benefits has for a week with on food stamps. She isn’t the first celebrity to do this, we’ve even seen politicians do this to make a point to fight against cutting SNAP benefits. While they may mean well, they may think that they are helping, the end result is about the same as them not speaking or doing anything at all. SNAP challenges are in many ways a form of problematic mockery that reduce complicated interconnected issues into single isolated problems that appear to have not too difficult fixes. Attempting to mimic this one component of the very unfortunate inequitable lives of poor people in the U.S. is not solidarity. In many ways intersectionally privileged people engaging in SNAP challenges comes off as some fad, especially when real help & solutions are possible. What Gwyneth Paltrow’s SNAP challenge reveals is that she really is clueless about the intersections of poverty. If Gwyneth wants to help then that’s great, she needs to find an effective way to help that isn’t just donating to food banks which usually provide high calorie low nutrient produce & doesn’t solve the issue of poverty. Food banks do not help combat the ultimate causal factors of poverty, so its influence is minimal & doesn’t combat the host of health problems that come along with poverty. We don’t need band aid solutions & to be honest here, we don’t need band aid solutions from people with enough influence & power to actually HELP. Poor people aren’t just here for you to have pity on so you can feel better about your sense of morality. If you value these human lives then help in was that can alter the balance of power like: a living wage; shifts in workplace control; universal, affordable, quality child care; safe and affordable housing; equitable access to quality education; and universal prevention focused health care, etc.. Continue Reading
Kendrick Lamar recently dropped the track “The Blacker The Berry”, what has been called a “Black Anthem” that deals with the hypocritical racial self hatred in the Black community. As a hip hop head I was hype to first listen to the song, hoping that it would say something critical, contextually accurate, reveal the true issues at hand & I was unfortunately immediately disappointed. The song left a bad taste in my mouth, it was disrespectful, lecturing, and inaccurate. “The Blacker The Berry” has been quickly gaining traction since its release and its for a very particular reason: Black pathology sells (H/T @thetrudz). Continue Reading
The more modern understanding of Zombies as instinct driven monsters who have been infected by a virus that reanimates the dead & are driven by the basic need to feed on the flesh of the living. This understanding can very much be applied to many processes that are occurring in society right now. I will discuss how in many ways the Zombie Apocalypse is already happening on social levels in America. Continue Reading