13 Major Figures in Sociology and Their Theories
13 Major Figures in Sociology and Their Theories

13 Major Figures in Sociology and Their Theories

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Sociology is a social science that studies social behavior between groups and other groups or from individuals to other individuals. Humans are social creatures whose daily activities will always be related to social relationships. As a field of study, of course, the scope of sociology is very broad.

Not only studying how people influence other people but also in other fields. In a field of study, of course there are figures in it who have a role in developing the field of science. So, here are some of the world’s Major Figures  in sociology, as follows:

1. Auguste Comte (1798-1857)

Auguste Comte is a French scientist who is also known as the Father of Sociology. The term sociology was first proposed by Comte in 1839. Here are some of the contents of Augustthe Comte’s theory as a figure in sociology:

  • Previously, the use of the term social physics was used which was adapted from Adholpe Quetelet used to denote statistical studies related to the phenomenon of minerals.
  • Then Comte transformed it into sociology which marked it as a new science for society.
  • Comte is a figure who adheres to the flow of positivism which is quite well known. These positivists believe that society is one part of nature which uses empirical research methods to apply social laws.

2. Herbet Spencer (1820-1903)

Herbet Spencer is a British philosopher and thinker of classical liberal theory that is prominent. Although most of his works write about politics, he is better known by the nickname “Father of Social Darwinism”. Spencer analyzed society as an evolutionary system. Some of the theories found in Herbet Spencer in his formulation as a sociological figure:

  • According to Specer, the main objects of sociology are family, religion, politics, industry, and social control. It also includes the local community, division of labor, associations, social stratification, science, and research on beauty and the arts.
  • In 1879, Specer put forward the theory of Social Evolution which is still in use today despite many changes.
  • Specer believes that society undergoes evolution, from what was originally a primitive society and then became an industrial society.
  • As an organism, humans evolved independently of their responsibilities and desires and under a law.

3. Emile Durkheim (1859-1917)

Durkheim talks more about collective consciousness which is used as a moral force to bind individuals in a society. Through his writings, The Division of Labor in Society, Durkheim uses a collectivist approach to an understanding if society can be said to be modern or primitive. This solidarity is in the form of shared values, customs, and beliefs.

In primitive society, they are united by strong moral ties and have an intertwined relationship called Mechanical Solidarity. As for modern society, the collective consciousness is declining due to the existence of bonds with a complex division of labor and interdependence called Organic Solidarity, as follows from the political foundation of Emile Durkheim as a sociological figure which he formulated:

  • In his next work, The Role of Sociological Method, Dhurkeim explains the workings known as social facts, namely facts that come from outside the individual which can control the individual so that he can think, act, and has coercive power.
  • Social facts are divided into two, namely material and non-material. Furthermore, Durkheim was also able to prove that there is an influence between social facts and patterns of suicide.
  • This he concluded that there are 4 types of suicide, namely egoistic, altruistic, anomic, and fatalistic.

4. Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Karl Marx used the historical materialism approach to believe that the driving force of human history was class conflict. Marx argues that power and wealth are not evenly distributed in society, so that there are rulers who have the means of production which are always involved in problems by exploited workers.

Marxist sociology explains more about capitalism in which the production of commodities can affect the overall pursuit of profit. This is because production values ​​have permeated all areas of life. The level of profit earned will determine how much service will be provided. This is what Marx meant if the economic infrastructure will determine the superstructure.

The Marxist sociological approach does have a conclusion regarding the idea of ​​social reform which has been proven to be quite a brilliant idea in the twentieth century, here are the details.

  • Society is built on conflict
  • Society must be seen as a form of totality in the economy which is the dominant factor.
  • The basic driver of all existing social change is the economy.
  • Historical developments and changes do not occur randomly but can be seen from the relationship between humans and economic groups.
  • Individuals are indeed formed by society but can change society itself through rational actions based on scientific premises.
  • Working in a capitalist society can lead to alienation.
  • Through existing criticism, humans can understand and change the position of their own history.
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5. Max Weber (1846-1920)

The theory put forward by Max Weber does not agree with Marx, which states that the economy is the main force of social change. From his work, “Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism”, Weber argues that it is the revival of a certain religious view (Protestanism) that has brought society towards the development of capitalism. Protestants who have a Calvinist tradition claim that financial success is a major sign that God is on their side. So to get this sign, they will live a frugal lifestyle, be diligent in saving, and invest the profits in order to get a lot of capital.

Another view of Weber is about individual behavior that can affect society at large, this is what is called Social Action. According to him, social action can be understood as long as we can understand ideas, intentions, values, and beliefs as a form of social motivation. This approach is called  Verstehen. 

6. Georg Simmel (1859-1919)

Georg Simmel is indeed famous for his work which explains the specifics of individual actions and interactions, for example on the form of interaction, types of interaction, prostitution, poverty, and problems on a small scale. In fact, Simmel’s works have become a reference for figures in sociology in America, and there are also some theoretical foundations, as follows:

  • One of his most famous works is on the Philosophy of Money. Simmel is known as a sociologist whose attitude tends to oppose modernization or who is known as a pessimistic vision.
  • This view is often known as Cultural Pessimism. According to him, modernization makes humans grow and develop without quality because they are stuck with their own rationality.

In addition, monetization symptoms that take place in various aspects of life can in fact shackle the community, especially in terms of freezing individual creativity, even in this case it can change awareness. This is because money is a means of payment, but power can be a human liberator over humans. So that money is not only used as a tool but as a goal.

7. Ferdinand Tonnies (1855-1936)

Ferdinand Tonnies has studied the forms and patterns of social ties and the organization which results in social classification. According to Tonnies, society has the nature of gemeinschaft or gesselschaft. The gemeinschaft community is a society that has closed social relations, is valued by each of its members, and is based on social compliance and family relationships.

  • Meanwhile, the Gesselschaft community is a society that has faded familial relations, its social relations tend to be more impersonal because of the complicated division of labor.
  • This form of society can be seen in urban communities. Tonnies’ theory has finally succeeded in distinguishing between traditional and modern concepts in the social sphere by using gemeinschaft and gesselschaft.

8. Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979)

Herbert Marcuse, a German scientist who is also a member of the Frankfurt School, became famous in the 1960s due to his support for radical and anti-establishment movements.

Here are some understandings found in Herbert Marcuse’s theory in his statement as follows:

  • Even Herbert Marcuse was nicknamed the “Grandfather of Terrorists” because of his criticism of capitalist society.
  • In his 1964 work, One Dimensional Man, he stated that capitalism creates false needs and consciousness and a mass culture which enslaves workers

9. Leopold Von Wiese (1876-1949)

Von Wiese, who is a scientist from Germany, stated that sociology is an empirical and independent science. The object of sociology itself is a study of the relationship between humans and other humans which is a social reality. So according to him the special object of sociology is a social process or social interaction. Subsequent research focused on the social structure which is the channel of human relations.

The following is the meaning of the formulation and some important theories in Leopold Von Wiese’s character as a figure in sociology:

  • According to Wiese, sociology is research that focuses on the relationship between humans which is a social reality.
  • Wiese researched on the classification of social processes with an emphasis on associative and dissociative social processes.
  • The process categories are then subdivided into smaller processes.
  • Sociology must focus its attention on human relations without being associated with existing goals and rules. Sociology must also begin with observations of certain concrete behaviors.
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10. Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937)

The Italian sociologist was one of the key thinkers of redefining the debate about class and power. His concept is about hegemony which discusses the complexity of modern society.

The following are some of the theoretical foundations taught by Antonio Gramsi during his famous period as a figure in sociology:

  • Gramsci argues that the bourgeoisie have power not because of coercion but because of agreement, forming political alliances with other groups and working ideologically in order to dominate in society.
  • The idea of ​​hegemony (winning power on the basis of the consent of the people) is indeed an interesting thing because in reality individuals always have reactions and redefine the society and culture in which they are located.
  • Gramsci’s ideas did have a lot of influence on the study of popular culture.

11. George Herbert Mead (1863-1931)

George Herbert Mead Is one of the figures from the center of symbolic interactionism who has a picture of self formation or what is known as the stage of socialization in describing children’s growth. According to him, children’s growth consists of 3 stages, namely the play stage, the game stage, and the stage of taking the role of the other.

  • Humans will not react to the world around them directly, but they will react to the meaning associated with events or objects around them.
  • WI Thomas stated if the definition of a situation, where we can only act appropriately if we have determined the nature of the situation.
  • Failure when formulating a situation correctly and correctly can lead to unpleasant consequences.

12. Lester Frank Ward (1841-1913)

According to him, Sociology has a goal to conduct research on human progress. Lester Frank Ward himself distinguishes between pure sociology, which focuses on the origin and development of social phenomena, and applied sociology, which focuses on changes that occur in society due to human efforts. Ward stated that if humans developed from a low level to their current status, here’s the theory:

Here are some of the theories found in Lester Frank Ward’s formulation of his becoming a figure in sociology:

  • Ward believed that ancient societies could be characterized by modesty and moral poverty.
  • Whereas in modern society it can be characterized by things that are more complex, happy, and get excess freedom.
  • Applied sociology includes awareness in using scientific knowledge that is used to be able to achieve people’s lives to be better than before.

13. Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923)

According to Vilfredo Pareto, sociology is based on observations made on actions, experiments on facts and mathematical formulas. Society is a very balanced power system, the balance depends on the characteristics of human behavior and actions. And these actions depend on the desires and impulses that exist in humans.

  • Pareto is known for his criteria of economic efficiency, he is even recognized as the founder of sociology in the 20th century along with Durkheim and Weber.
  • The emphasis of Pareto theory is more on the legal roots that exist in sources that oppose orthodox rational analysis and its construction that justifies logic on non-logos foundations.
  • In his work entitled “The Mind and Society”, Pareto tries to refute the statement of Marxism by using the existence of the ruling class or what is known as the elite group.
  • Pareto stated that the elite did not need to get a position because of their economic supremacy and social and political changes could occur due to the circulation of the elite which was not supported by economic factors.

So, those were some of the figures in world sociology and their theories that were quite famous and influential. Some of the existing theories are still used today even though they have changed according to the existing era. And of course these theories are very helpful in the development of sociology to this day. Hopefully the above information can be useful for you.


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