Classical Sociological Theory, 1830 to 1930

Classical Sociological Theory, 1830 to 1930

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    • 00:00

      [MUSIC PLAYING][Classical Sociological Theory, 1830 to 1930]

    • 00:11

      JONATHAN TURNER: Good day.My name is Jonathan Turner, a Research Professorat the University of California at Santa Barbaraand University Professor of the University of Californiasystem [Jonathan Turner, Researchand University Professor].Today I'm going to talk about the emergence of sociologyin what's called the classical period.That's between 1830 and 1930.

    • 00:32

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: And the reasons for the emergenceof sociology at this particular timeare related to the dramatic transformations thatwere occurring in the social world,both the economic and the political world.As the old feudal order was declining,industrialization and spread of capitalismwas increasing, urbanization was occurring,the decline of the rule sector and mass migrations of peasants

    • 00:55

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: into urban areas and all the pathologiesthat generated in urban areas.That really caught people's attention.And they wanted to understand what's going onand what they can do about the problemsthat they perceived to exist.That's fertile ground for a field like sociology to emerge.But equally important were intellectual trendsthat were occurring.

    • 01:15

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: One was the long philosophical tradition, especiallyin French philosophy, specifying the rightsof humans in relationship to government and centersof power and society.And the obligations, also, of citizens to societies.These were very important questionsand they were very much involved in the French Revolution

    • 01:37

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: and the various revolutions that occurred in the early partof the 19th century.Equally important was the sudden emergenceof science as having the capacity to dowhat the Bible had only been able to do.That is, to explain the operation of the physicaland the biological and now, people hoped,

    • 01:59

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: the social universes.[The History of Sociology]In France, a young and very disturbed man in many waysnamed Auguste Comte-- it's a bit embarrassingto have essentially a madman as the founder of your field,but that is the casd-- published in the first volumeof his great treatise on positive philosophy in 1830.

    • 02:22

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: And he coined the term sociology.He didn't like the term sociology.I don't either, quite frankly, today.The original term he wanted was social physics.And that says a very different message.Society should be studied in a scientific wayso that you can have a natural science of societyjust there's a natural science of physics or biology

    • 02:44

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: or geology or even medicine.He argued that sociology could be such a natural scienceand his model for the science wasNewton's famous law of gravity.And here you had a law that could explain everythingthat people had wondered about the cosmos, at leastat the time, with one simple equation.

    • 03:04

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: And Comte felt that this was possible for sociology,so he set about trying to justifythe existence of sociology.Now one of the ideas he had-- it's kind of a fanciful idea,but it's an interesting idea-- is this.That there's a hierarchy of sciences,that the sciences that are simple evolved first.

    • 03:26

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: And then the more difficult and complex sciences evolved later.And so he developed this hierarchyof sciences with mathematics at the bottom, whichis the language of science.And then he argued that these sciences sort of stackedup, simple ones evolving first and the last one,sociology-- which we thought would be the queen

    • 03:47

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: science-- evolving last.There's a figure on your screen now,and you can see the hierarchy.See up there is sociology called the queen science.I'm not sure why he didn't call it the king science,but he called it the queen science.And he felt he would emerge out of biology.And biology up to that point had been the most complex science.

    • 04:10

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: But he felt now sociology was ready to become a science.It had to wait, however, for the development of chemistry,of physics, and biology.And only then, after all this time, could sociology emerge.The time was right circa 1830 for sociologyto take its place at this table of science.

    • 04:31

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: [Sociology as a Science]Comte articulated what sociologists todaymight call a hard science view of what sociology could be.But he also had a vision that sociologybe used for something, that it should somehowbe used to make a better world.Now the people who followed Comte

    • 04:52

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: were Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim, Georg Simmel,and George Herbert Mead.Not everyone in the classical periodwas in favor of sociology being just a hard science.For example, Karl Marx, who did consider himself a science,wanted science to be used to construct a revolution thatwould change the world and make the world better

    • 05:13

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: for the average person.And that would be the march of society towards communism.Max Weber, who was a historian, justdidn't believe that the social world was predictablethe way that science would have to make it,that the world evolves through historic convergenceof various kinds of events that can't be predicted.

    • 05:35

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: And yet at the same time, Max Weberwanted to be kind of scientific or analytical.And George Herbert Mead was an American philosopher.He also believed in science.But he thought science is really part of a more general processof what he called pragmatism.Science allows us to adjust and adapt better to the world,and that's why we have.It's not something that stands by itself,

    • 05:58

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: but it's just part of humans' basic adjustmentsof the environment and that's why he favored it.Although he realized that some things are notpredictable in the way science might like them.[Visions of Sociology]So what happened now here in the very beginnings of sociologythrough the whole of the 19th century

    • 06:20

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: was three different views of what sociology could be.One is the view that sociology could be a hard science.It can formulate laws of human social organizationand you can then collect data to test those laws.And by affirming those theories with the empirical tests,you can accumulate knowledge.This is the view of science of physics or biology.

    • 06:42

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: Also emerging with Marx was an activist viewthat whatever the merits of science might be,sociologists would use actively to construct and reconstructthe social universe so that it creates a more humane setof conditions for human beings.And finally, there was a view a sciencethat emerged from the interpretations of Meadand to some extent Max Weber as well.

    • 07:04

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: Society cannot not be predictable and there are noinvariant laws of human organization because the verynature of social reality can be changed by people's capacityfor agency.And so that it's foolish to try to thinkthat we could be like physics with lawsthat explain everything.Rather what we can do at best is to describe the world

    • 07:25

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: as it unfolds from human acts of creativity and agency.And so those three views stand in conflict.Now they don't have to all stand in conflict.Marx considered himself a scientist, for example.He thought of himself as extendingthe great works of Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations.Max Weber wanted to so more universal or analytical things

    • 07:48

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: about societies, but he was trappedby the view of that society unfoldsas a historical process, not in accordance with invariant lawsbut rather in terms of chance, confluencesof various kinds of social events.And Mead saw that human social universe,while predictable in one sense, human acts of agency

    • 08:09

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: can indeed make the world somewhat unpredictableoutside the strict purview of scientific inquiry.So today these same divisions among the founding fathers--and they were all men at this time-- of sociology persist,but in a much more intense way.

    • 08:30

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: Modern theory in sociology is dramatically divided overwhether sociology can be a science or a non-science.It's divided over whether sociologists shouldbe activists and advocate for certain kindsof social constructions or value-freeand staying on the sidelines and justtrying to understand the nature of societywithout pronouncing what is good for society.

    • 08:53

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: And then there are other divisionslike quantitative versus qualitativemethods are the best methods.And the fights continue.These divisions among the classical sociologistsweren't played out in the way they are today.Today we have just very active debate, sometimesrather acrimonious.

    • 09:13

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: Whereas in those times, these figuresare writing at somewhat different times,and so they were just making referenceto each other, oftentimes very veiled references.They weren't directly confronting each other the waysocial theorists today do.So social theorists simply just disagree on whether or notsociology can be a hard science or not, whether or not

    • 09:38

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: sociology should be activists in the sense of actively engagedin political movements that try to change the social world.And they disagree over whether or notit's possible to make predictionsabout what's going on in society because of the capacitiesof humans for agency.We have, some argue, the capacityto change the very nature of our reality.

    • 09:59

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: That's like just willy nilly changing the solar system.People think that that's possible.And those who think that way don't think science, therefore,is the best tool for doing sociology.And no one's quiet about their beliefs on this matter.And so they argue incessantly.And that's the way sociology is today.[Conclusion]

    • 10:22

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: Between 1830 and 1930, the field emerged and the sort ofcodified these three lines of inquiry.And people just line up as to wherethey stand on these issues.For further references, I would recommend two of my own books.I wouldn't do this if I didn't thinkthey'd be the most relevant.One is called The Emergence of Sociological Theory, published

    • 10:43

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: by Sage.And another is called Theoretical Sociology 1830to the Present, also published by Sage.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Classical Sociological Theory, 1830 to 1930

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Professor Jonathan H. Turner explains the history and development of sociology as a science. He also describes the three main, conflicting stances of sociology: hard science vs. nonscience, activism vs. value neutrality, and explaining vs. agency.

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Classical Sociological Theory, 1830 to 1930

Professor Jonathan H. Turner explains the history and development of sociology as a science. He also describes the three main, conflicting stances of sociology: hard science vs. nonscience, activism vs. value neutrality, and explaining vs. agency.

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