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Rise of sociology as an intellectual tradition. Classical tradition in sociology of the XIX century

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Belarus State Economic University


«Rise of sociology as an intellectual tradition. Classical tradition in sociology of the XIX century»

Minsk 2008

1. Rise of sociology as an intellectual tradition

Since ancient times man has been interested in issues of his own living among other people. Why do people try to join living with other people, not without? What makes them fix borders, form separate states and struggle with each other? Why do some people possess all benefits, others are deprived of them?

Searching for answers to these questions forced ancient thinkers to focus their attention on man and the society where he lives in. Emergence of sociology is obliged to the concept “society”, its theoretical development and use in practice. Attempts to comprehend optimal ways of governing, social order, people’s effective activities were first made by ancient Chinese and Indian philosophers.

Antique philosophers made their contribution by suggesting new ideas which are now considered fundamentals of sociology. For instance, Plato and Aristotle developed a doctrine of human and the society; their works initiated studies of certain social institutions such as the state, family and law.

Following the principle of social division of labour, Plato (427-347 BC) created a first in the world theory of stratification according to which the society is divided into three classes: higher class consisting of wise men who govern the state; middle class or warriors who defend the society from disorder, and lower class consisting of craftsmen and peasants. Anyway, in his theory there was no place for slaves whose destiny was hard work considered as unworthy by free citizens.

Aristotle considered middle class a foot-hold of order. To his mind, the state is better governed if egoistic interests of the rich are limited, the poor are not excluded from government, and middle class is greater and stronger than the rich and the poor.

Traditionally the origins of sociology are seen in European philosophy of the XVIII century, a period that is referred to as the Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason. This movement advocated rationality as a means to establish an authoritative system of ethics, aesthetics, and knowledge. The intellectual leaders of this movement regarded themselves as courageous and elite, and saw their purpose as leading the world toward progress and out of a long period of doubtful tradition, full of irrationality, superstition and tyranny. The Enlightenment also provided a framework for the American and French Revolutions, as well as leading to the rise of capitalism and birth of socialism. The XVIII century also saw a continued rise of empirical philosophical ideas, and their application to political economy, government and sciences such as physics, chemistry and biology. However, investigations of this age were far from being systemic and integral. Lots of important issues were not paid attention to, that’s why achievements in learning social phenomena were less considerable as compared to other sciences.

Of utmost interest of the period became study of social communities and processes of their development and functioning. The study was caused by two factors. The first factor was industrial development of European countries; the second one was that all spheres of human activities became more complicated that raised problems of people’s interactions and their government, creation of social order in the society etc. When problems were realized and sounded, prerequisites for developing a new science appeared, science which could study groups of people and their behaviour in groups, human interactions and their results.

As origins of sociology are seen in spiritual and political ideas of the Enlightenment and reaction to the French Revolution, French thinkers, English and German philosophers who worked and created in that period are considered direct predecessors of sociological knowledge.

Of German philosophers Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is more often recollected due to his contribution to development of social problems, in particular problems of personality. Kant believed that man is an ambivalent being by his nature: he is both good and bad, honest and dishonest, fair and unfair, free and dependent. To his mind, man’s natural negative character is hidden and displayed in those living conditions which make man reveal his vices. But man is striving for self-perfection and his ally is reason that helps man to overcome his negative qualities. Kant considered that harmony between human and the society is achieved if man overcomes his vices by obeying laws and moral norms.

Georg Hegel (1770-1831) made this dialectics more generalized. His aim was to define basic determinants of historic development so that he could examine peculiarities of its realization in different historic periods and show correlation of historic necessity and people’s conscious activities. He drew a picture of social reality all parts of which (objective and subjective, dynamic and static, material and ideal) are interrelated by a dialectic method.

Of French philosophers one can mention Charles Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Saint-Simon and others. Ch. Montesquieu (1689-1755) underlined importance of comparative research of social phenomena. J.-J. Rousseau (1712-1778) distinguished classes in the society and believed that man’s nature is good but man is “spoilt” by the society. Into the basis of harmonic arrangement of the society he put social agreement, i.e. consensus of people as reflection of their common will which is expressed in laws.

Saint-Simon (1760-1825) was possibly the first to suggest planning as a way to run economy. To his mind, social problems could be solved by moral and religious reforming, based on employers’ good will to better the working conditions. In 1822 he published his work, Plan de traveaux scientifiques nécessaires pour réorganiser la société (План научных работ, необходимых для реорганизации общес­тва), written with Auguste Comte. In the book the thinkers suggested an idea of developing a new science of the society which, by analogy with physics, should be based on observation, experiment and other methods of natural sciences. Initially, the science was given the name of social physics.

By that time a social theory presented a mixed spectrum of various views in which both basic and additional motives were combined; basic motives bore rational and irrational character while economic, political, legal and moral interests constituted the entity of additional ones. Those views reflected thinkers and researchers’ outlook, their ideological positions and ways of studying social problems.

In this context legacy by A. Comte (1798-1857), the initiator of sociology, was not an exception. There are two reasons why A. Comte is acknowledged as the founding father of sociology. First, he developed a systematic and hierarchical classification of all sciences and by including sociology into them, he gave grounds for establishing its autonomy as a discipline; second, in 1839 he changed the name of social physics into sociology. His fundamental works are Cours de philosophie positive in 6 volumes (1830-1842), Système de politique positive (1850-1854).

A. Comte’s legacy includes the law of three phases, his contribution to further development of the theory of an industrial society started by Saint-Simon. It is by his statement of this law that he is best known in the English-speaking world. The law says that the society has gone through three phases:

  1. theological, or military authority;

  2. metaphysical, or feudal authority;

  3. scientific, or positive phase seen as an industrial civilization.

In the theological phase man’s place in the society and the society’s restrictions upon man were referred to God. The metaphysic phase involved justification of universal rights as something on a higher plane than the authority of any human ruler could countermand. The scientific phase is that one in which people could find solutions to social problems and bring them into force despite of the proclamations of human rights or prophecy of the will of God. For its time, the idea of a scientific phase was considered up-to-date.

A. Comte also formulated the law of three phases: human development (social progress) progresses from a theological stage, in which nature was mythically conceived and man sought the explanation of natural phenomena from supernatural beings, through a metaphysical stage in which nature was conceived of as a result of obscure forces and man sought the explanation of natural phenomena from them to the final positive stage in which all abstract and obscure forces are discarded, and natural phenomena are explained by their constant relationship. This progress is forced through the development of human mind and increasing application of thought, reasoning and logic to the understanding of world. Due to it, A. Comte thought that industrialization is the result of a scientific way of thinking spread out in all spheres of human life but not of technical and economic progress.

However, he rejected the role of general theory in sociology: instead of theoretic generalization of empiric data to make up a whole of them, he presented the society as a simple entity of interconnected facts. He didn’t clearly determine the subject of a new science; either he didn’t find its scientific method to learn laws of social development.

A great contribution to establishing the methodological basis of sociology, mostly its empiric basis, was made by Lambert Ketle (1796-1874), a French and Belgian mathematician and statistician. He brought in new theoretic and methodological ideas and a new sample of research aimed at solving certain applied problems. His achievements in sociology are as follows:

  • discovery of statistical laws;

  • understanding a social law as a stable tendency of changing means;

  • methodical recommendations how to formulate questions in forms and questionnaires.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), a British philosopher, is also acknowledged as one of the founders of sociology as he published a number of works devoted to different domains, such as Principles of Sociology and Principles of Ethics. They included his ideas on evolution, that’s why H. Spencer is seen as the originator of the scientific perspective called Social Darwinism. Furthermore, his major works predated those of Charles Darwin. H. Spencer’s book, First Principles, is an exposition of the evolutionary principles underlying all domains of reality. It was H. Spencer, not Ch. Darwin who coined the phrase “survival of the fittest”, as well as popularizing of the term “evolution”.

H. Spencer considered the society as an organism made up of systems subdivided into smaller ones. The inner system performs the function of preserving the organism by adaptation to the conditions of “subsistence”; the external system performs the function of regulation and control between the subsystems and milieu; the intermediate system is in charge of distribution, transit and communication. By this approach to the study of the society H. Spencer marked the basic elements of functionalism, later developed by other researchers: a systemic character of the society as a totality of actions which are not reduced to the actions of individuals; the conception of the system’s structure that is built due differentiation and stabilized through integration.

H. Spencer used the criterion of comparative meaning to classify societies as military and industrial ones. Military societies have common systems of belief, people interact due to violence and compulsion, in other words, people exist for the state. Industrial societies, in which the economic system dominates, are characterized by democratic principles, diversity of belief systems, people’s interactions are voluntary: the state is for people. Human development progresses from military societies to industrial ones, although a return to military forms can’t be excluded. Besides, H. Spencer believed that social order in industrial societies could not be adequately explained as an outcome of contractual agreements between people motivated by self-interests.

Criticizing H. Spencer’s conceptions, modern sociologists agree that alongside with Marxism it was the first experience of combining a historical-evolutionary approach to analyze social phenomena with a structural-functional one.

2. Classical tradition in sociology of the XIX century

A classical tradition in any science is often connected with institutionalization of its knowledge. And sociology was not an exception. Its classical tradition started with the theories worked out by E. Durkheim, K. Marx, M. Weber, G. Simmel and other celebrities.

A French thinker Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) is widely acknowledged as a founding father of modern sociology, who helped to define the subject-matter of sociology and establish its autonomy as a discipline.

In his doctrine of social realism E. Durkheim saw the domain of sociology as the study of social facts, not individuals. He believed that societies had their own realities which could not simply be reduced to the actions and motives of people, and peopele were molded and constrained by their social settings. In his work, The Rules of Sociological Method (1895), he demonstrated that law was a social fact, embodied in formal, codified rules and not dependent on humans or on any particular act of law enforcement for its existence. He came to see social norms as regulating people’s behaviour by means of institutionalized values which the human internalized, rather than the society simply acting as an external constraint.

In another work, The Division of Labour in Society (1893), E. Durkheim argued against H. Spencer’s understanding of social order in industrial societies. To his mind, a pursuit of self-interest would lead to social instability, as manifest in various forms of social deviance such as suicide. He distinguished two forms of social order found in primitive and modern societies. In primitive societies he identified mechanical solidarity which was based on common beliefs and consensus found in collective consciousness. As societies become industrialized and more complex, the increasing division of labour destroys mechanical solidarity and moral integration, thus rendering social order problematic. E. Durkheim was well aware that industrial societies exhibited many conflicts and that force was an important factor in preventing social disruption. He believed, however, that in advanced societies a new form of order would arise on the basis of organic solidarity. It would comprise the interdependence of economic ties arising out of differentiation and specialization within modern economy, a new network of occupational associations such as guilds that would link people to the state, and the emergence of collectively created moral restraints on egoism within these associations.

Anyway, the main idea of his work may be expressed in the following statements:

  • division of labour leads to cohesion;

  • division of labour gradually replaces religion as the basis of social cohesion. This process of change gives rise to social difficulties that result in anomie, or feeling of aimlessness or despair.

In Suicide (1897), which represents the most influential sociological contribution to this issue, E. Durkheim explained how even apparently individual decisions to commit a suicide could be understood as being affected by different forms of social solidarity in different social settings. In identifying types of suicide he used the suicide statistics of different societies and different groups within them.

Karl Marx (1818-1883) is generally viewed as political scientist, economist and sociologist although he was not of high opinion about the sociology of A. Comte that expressed interests and consciousness of the bourgeoisie. Marxist sociology is materialistic interpretation of history (which F. Engels adapted as dialectical materialism) which was certainly influenced by G. Hegel’s claim that reality (and history) should be viewed dialectically, through a clash of opposing forces. K. Marx asserted that “philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point however is to change it”, and he clearly dedicated himself to trying to change the world. The researcher believed that he could study history and the society scientifically and discern tendencies of history and the resulting outcome of social conflicts.

Marxist analysis of history is based on a distinction between means of production, or land, natural resources, and technology that are necessary for the production of material goods, and social relations of production, i.e. social relationships people enter into as they acquire and use means of production. Together these comprise the mode of production. For K. Marx, the society is a system of social relations (economic, political, legal etc.) where the subjects of social relations are groups of people, or classes and individuals. He asserted that the economy determines the social structure in the statement about the economic basis and superstructure, i.e. social, cultural and political phenomena are determined by the mode of production. To his mind, economic, cultural, and political changes go together in coherent patterns, and they are linked because economic and technological changes determine political and cultural changes.

K. Marx observed that within any given society the mode of production changes, and European societies had progressed from a feudal mode of production to a capitalist one. In general, he believed that the means of production change more rapidly than the relations of production. A proof is that we develop a new technology, such as the Internet, and only later laws to regulate that technology are developed. For K. Marx, the mismatch between the basis and superstructure, or between economic and social, is a major source of social disruption and conflict. As for social conflict, it was Karl Marx who provided extensive work on conflict theory relating to the economic basis of the society in relation to social classes. He basically highlighted class struggle and supported the working class for a healthy society.

However, K. Marx was rather pessimistic about capitalism because he witnessed ruin of peasantry and rapid enrichment of the bourgeoisie, growth of poverty and crime in towns etc. That’s why he put forward a new approach to social development, that of destroying the old society and substituting it with a new one, more fair. In other words, advocating revolutionary change of the society K. Marx used the conflict perspective, that’s why he is regarded an initiator of the theory of social conflict.

An Italian scientist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) made several important contributions to economics, sociology and moral philosophy, especially in the study of income distribution and in the analysis of individuals’ choices. He introduced the concept of Pareto efficiency and helped to develop the field of microeconomics with ideas such as indifference curves. He is well known for the observation that 20% of the population owned 80% of the property in Italy, later generalized (by Joseph Juran and others) into the Pareto principle, and generalized further to the concept of a Pareto distribution. The Pareto index is a measure of inequality of income distribution.

V. Pareto’s social policies were put on paper in his work, Mind and Society, in which he discussed questions of elites and elitism. Elite is a selected group of people whose personal abilities, specialized training or other attributes place them at the top of any field. Elitism is a belief or attitude that elite are the people whose views on a matter are to be taken most seriously, or who are alone fit to govern. Thus, elite is seen as occupying a special position of authority or privilege in a group, set apart from the majority of people who do not match up with their abilities or attributes. Members of inherited elite are called aristocrats.

Abilities or attributes that identify elite vary. They include:

  • high level of academic qualifications,

  • high level of experience in a given field,

  • high intelligence,

  • high natural abilities such as athletic abilities,

  • high creativity,

  • good taste,

  • claimed God-given qualities, abilities, or status.

Commonly, large amount of personal wealth, often assessed as a reward of elite qualities by those who are impressed by it, are insufficient on their own, as every nouveau riche can attest.

Elitism takes many forms, some of which are positive and some negative. Positive forms of elitism are formed in situations in which members of a community with special abilities or special qualifications are afforded greater respect in honour of their abilities or qualifications. Their position in the top of their field is used in order to benefit everybody.

Negative forms of elitism are formed when a group of people with high abilities or attributes conspire to give themselves extra privileges at the expense of all other people. This form of elitism may be described as discrimination.

At times elitism is closely related to social class and stratification. V. Pareto thought that a social system is in constant circulation as the elites are transformed - the old ones decline, the new ones emerge, so the elite circulation takes place. Thus, the society should be considered “the cemetery of elites”. V. Pareto asserted that the bourgeoisie which emerged as new aristocracy, or elite as a result of the French revolution, threatens to collapse. For him, revolutions were also circulation of elites as a dominant social class is opposed not by the population but by a new elite which is supported by the population and which comes further and further from it as far as it gets more access to power. The question sounded in E. Durkheim’s theory “How is order possible?” in V. Pareto’s theory would sound as “How is the society governed?”

It was inevitable in the circumstances that to certain theorists the society should present a picture not of harmony and unity, but of conflict and struggle. Ludwig Gumplowicz (1838-1909), a Polish-Austrian sociologist, was among them. He is well-known for his theory presented in his work, Race conflict (1883). In the history of mankind L. Gumplowicz sees a never-ending conflict of hordes, tribes, races, classes and other groups. These struggles may change their forms, but they never change their essential character – the exploitation of the weak by the strong. In other words, a conflict between groups results in subordination of one group by another of which supremacy relations arise, and it serves as the basis for establishing the state. The scientist held that social development rose out of conflict, first among races, then among states, then among other social groups. This is the essence of the sociological theory of the state by L. Gumplowicz which asserts that the state is based on power, and this contradicts the theory of contractual agreements.

In the long run, his views were oriented to give proofs to the theses on inevitability of a social conflict determined by social and biological inequality of races. However, a proposition stating that social groups are basic factors of social life makes sociology of L. Gumplowicz tied up with the present. If to differentiate two theoretic aspects in sociology – the theory of integration and the theory of conflict, the Polish-Austrian researcher can be considered the founding father of the latter.

Maximilian Weber (1864-1920), an outstanding classic of German sociology, is acknowledged as one of the founders of a modern study of sociology and public administration. His three main themes were the effect of religious ideas on economic activities, the relation between social stratification and religious ideas, and the distinguished characteristics of Western civilization.

Weberian sociology is based on the concept of social action understood as behaviour to which human beings attach a specific meaning or set of meanings. It is also behaviour that is guided by or takes account of behaviour of other people (either as individuals or as a group). Meaningful social behaviour, or social action thus contrasts with nonsocial or reactive behaviour, undertaken automatically in response to some stimulus.

Just as people act on the basis of meaning, it’s important to understand the source of these meanings and thus motivation behind human social behaviour. To reveal the basis of social action M. Weber used a method of analysis called Verstehen (to understand), whereby the motivations of human social behaviour may be fruitfully revealed to the observer. That’s why his sociology is often called Understanding or Interpretative Sociology. It states that any research can never be fully inductive or descriptive without a conceptual apparatus. This apparatus was identified by the sociologist as the ideal type. The idea can be summarized as follows: an ideal type is formed of characteristics and elements of the given phenomena but it is not meant to correspond to all of the characteristics of a particular case. For instance, a choleric is a hot, fussy, easy-going person, but a particular individual, John by name, may be a difficult man to get on with. Although being an abstraction, it is essential to understand any particular social phenomena because, unlike physical phenomena, they involve human behaviour which must be interpreted by ideal types.

To M. Weber, social actions fall into four basic types:

(1) action oriented by expectations of behaviour of other people in the surrounding milieu (in Russian terminology: целерациональное действие). It means that an individual is rational as he clearly sees the aim, means for its achievement and foresees other people’s reaction to it; the criterion of rationality is success;

(2) action oriented to some absolute value as embodied in some ethical, aesthetic, or religious code (ценностно-рациональное действие). In other words, action which is morally guided, and not undertaken simply for one’s own gain;

(3) action guided by emotive response to or feelings about the surrounding milieu (аффективное действие);

(4) action performed as part of long-standing societal tradition (традиционное действие).

Of these four types, the last two are non-social behaviour whereas the first two types are inherently more social forms of human action, because they involve subjective assessment and result from the process of rationalization. Anyway, M. Weber never asserted that any of these types could operate independently of one another in the human individual. Typically, social action is guided by some combination of motivations, including both rational (the first and second types) and non-rational elements (the third and fourth types).

M. Weber examined the concept of social action within a number of sociological fields, from class behaviour to politics and religion. Its best-known example is contained in his famous work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904), in which the sociologist examines the motivation behind social action in the economic sphere. Specifically, he suggests that the spirit that drives modern capitalistic enterprise is motivated by the ethical doctrine of Protestantism.

M. Weber notes a relationship between the zeal for business profit and membership in specific Protestant denominations in Europe in the XVII century. This attitude toward moneymaking is embraced not only by the so-called captains of industry but by ordinary workers and peasants. For M. Weber, this suggests the existence of a new attitude toward work, the one in which the pursuit of gain (living to labour) has gained supremacy over the more traditional view that sees work simply as necessary for survival (labouring to live).

This new way of thinking which M. Weber dubs the “spirit of capitalism” appears concurrently with basic changes in religious thinking brought about by the Reformation. Such changes are connected with two prominent developments introduced by Martin Luther and John Calvin. What both M. Luther’s and J. Calvin’s teachings contributed was the emergence of a new type of Christian – Protestant who valued work as a moral duty, lived an ascetic lifestyle, and as a result achieved considerable success in material terms. This in turn came to be viewed as a sign of God’s favour – if one works hard, he will be saved. The notion of predestination became generally accepted that salvation was attainable, but only through a life of “good work”.

Ultimately the legacy of early Protestantism, in terms how it motivated capitalistic economic behaviour, became widespread in the Western world. At the same time, individuals largely came to reject the religious roots of the spirit of capitalism and instead became increasingly consumed by the secular passion for profit and acquisition of material goods. That’s why M. Weber defines “the spirit of capitalism” as the ideas and habits that favour the rational pursuit of economic gain. And among the tendencies identified by the researcher is a greed for profit with minimum effort, an idea that work is a burden to be avoided, especially when it exceeds what is enough for modest life.

In the studies of politics and government, M. Weber unveils the definition of the state that has become so pivotal to Western social thought – the state is that entity which possesses a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force. Politics is understood as any activity in which the state might engage itself in order to influence the relative distribution of force. Politics thus comes to be understood as deriving from power.

M. Weber is also well-known for his study of bureaucratization of the society so many aspects of modern public administration go back to him. In his work, Economy and Society (1922), he outlines a description of rationalization (of which bureaucratization is a part) as a shift from a value-oriented organization and action (traditional authority and charismatic authority) to a goal-oriented organization and action (legal-rational authority). The result is that increasing rationalization of human life traps individuals in an “iron cage” of rule-based, rational control.

Georg Simmel (1858-1918) is a German-Jewish sociologist and economist, who analyzed the impact of money relations and division of labour on human culture and alienation of labour in his main work, The Philosophy of Money (1890). Through the prism of money G. Simmel considered hidden mechanisms of social life and manifestation of various forms of labour. For him, money is both a pure form of economic relations and economic value. According to G. Simmel, values are fundamental, underlying relations in the society.

Another German sociologist Ferdinand Toennies (1855-1936) is best known for his distinction between two types of social groups – Gemeinschaft or community and Gesellschaft or society. This distinction is based on the assumption that there are only two basic forms of an actor’s will. Following his essential will, an actor sees himself as a means to serve the goals of the social group; very often it is an underlying, subconscious force. A group formed around an essential will is called Gemeinschaft. Of another type is an arbitrary will: an actor sees a social group as a means to further his individual goals; so it is purposive and future-oriented. A group formed around the arbitrary will is called Gesellschaft. Whereas the membership in Gemeinschaft is self-fulfilling, Gesellschaft is instrumental for its members. In pure sociology (theoretically) these two normal types of will are to be strictly separated; in applied sociology (empirically) they are always mixed.

Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929), an American sociologist, is considered the founding father of the institutional approach due to his study of social institutions. In his central work, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), he defined a social institution as social patterns of human behaviour and habits of thinking. According to him, mankind and human civilization develop as far as social institutions (those of private property, money competition, demonstrative consumption etc.) change. The engine of the society’s development is economy, in particular the development of production that results in change of social institutions and norms of social life; managers and technical intelligentsia play the major role in this development.

He also described capitalism as class struggle but not as happening between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat (according to K. Marx and F. Engels), but between businessmen (bankers, lawyers, brokers, managers) and industry (engineers, designers, technicians, and labour); in short, between those who make money and those who produce goods. His Theory of Business Enterprise (1904) further widened his renown.

Sociological knowledge grew not only in Western Europe and the USA. On the threshold of the XIX-XX centuries Russian sociological thought was gaining the world level, developing from social philosophy through social theory to sociological theory. In this period fame came to such thinkers as N.K. Michailovski, E.V. de Roberti, M.A. Bakunin, P.A. Sorokin etc.

One of the most influential movements in Russia was anarchism. Its founding fathers were M.A. Bakunin (1814-1876) and P.A. Kropotkin (1842-1921). Anarchism is the political belief that the society should have no government, laws, police, or other authority, but should be a free association of all its members.

M.A. Bakunin’s ideas are as follows:

  • Liberty is the only medium in which intelligence, dignity, and the happiness of man can develop; not official “liberty”, licensed, measured and regulated by the state; not individual liberty, selfish, mean and fictitious, which considers the rights of the individual as limited by the rights of the state, and therefore necessarily results in the reduction of the rights of the individual to zero;

  • Liberty has a social character as it recognizes no other restrictions than those which are traced for us by the laws of our own nature; such laws are immanent in us, inherent, constituting the very basis of our being, material as well as intellectual and moral; instead, finding them a limit, we must consider them as the real conditions and effective reason for our liberty.

P.A. Kropotkin went further. He borrowed socialist ideas and developed them in the theory of socialism and federalism. Its major postulates are as follows:

  • Socialism as the social system must be based on individual and collective liberty and activities of free associations;

  • The state must be abolished;

  • The relationships between the subjects of society are built on the principles of federalism, i.e. a free union where the subjects have equal rights.

Although the ideas of anarchism (complete individual liberty, rejection of regulation by the state etc.) were naïve, the ideas of equality, justice, individual liberty, federalism in social life are still followed by.

Another famous movement in Russia was narodnik movement, or populism. Its ideologists were P.L. Lavrov (1823-1900) and N.K. Michailovski (1842-1904). Still of importance are thoughts about power and dictatorship expressed by P.L. Lavrov:

  • The possession of great power corrupts the best people, and even the ablest leaders, who meant to benefit the people by decree, failed;

  • Every dictatorship must surround itself by compulsory means of defense which must serve as obedient tools in its hands. Every dictatorship is called upon to suppress not only its reactionary opponents but also those who disagree with its methods and actions. Whenever a dictatorship succeeded in establishing itself, it had to spend more time and effort in retaining its power and defending it against its rivals than upon realization of its programme, with the aid of that power;

  • A dictatorship can be wrested from the dictators only by a new revolution.

While solving the problem of interaction between the individual and the society, they asserted that the major engine of historic development were actions undertaken by critically thinking personalities (as a rule, the vanguard of the intelligentsia).

N.K. Michailovski as a founder of the theory of social progress formulated the law of antagonism between the state and personality. Antagonism is given birth because the society develops fast and makes more complex, and man, as a result of social division of labour, turns to the bearer of a particular function of the society. The antagonism could be overcome if a personality were given more liberty with regards to the society (the principle of the personality’s supremacy over the society). He asserted that the crowd obeying the impact of leaders loses the ability to critically assess their words and actions.

The psychological movement in Russia of the 1890s is presented by E.V. de Roberti, N.I. Kareev etc. They analyzed such fundamental issues of social development as its primary reasons and motive powers, progress and regress, the role of the mass and personality in history etc. Their analysis proceeded from the assumption that individual and collective psychology is dominant at determining human behaviour. It means that all social phenomena are of psychological character so the society is a system of psychical and practical interactions of people.

Of other Russian researchers who worked in empiric sociology in the first decade after the October revolution of 1917 one can mention P.A. Sorokin who had to flee away abroad, A.V. Chayanov, S.G. Strumilin, A.K. Gastev etc. For instance, an agrarian economist A.V. Chayanov (1888-1938) developed a theory of the family labour household in the countryside. He managed to create an integral conception of the organization of peasantry household and make a conclusion about lack of the category of wages in a non-capitalistic peasantry household and its turning to the pure profit of the family members.

Thus, late XIX – early XX centuries were signified by formation of anti-naturalistic doctrines of theoretic sociology with its own perspective of the subject and specificity of sociological knowledge. The classical stage in sociology was finished in the 1920-1940s with active introducing of empiric and applied sociological researches which marked the beginning of the third, contemporary stage.

Additional literature

  • Blau P. Exchange and Power in Social Life. (3rd edition). – New Brunswick and London: Transaction Publishers, 1992. – 354 p.

  • Bourdeiu P. Logic of Practice. – Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990. – 382 p.

  • Coser L. The Functions of Social Conflict. – Glencoe, Ill: Free Press, 1956. – 188 p.

  • Durkheim E. The Division of Labour in Society. – New York, NY: Free Press; 1997. – 272 p.

  • Durkheim E. Suicide. – New York, NY: Free Press; 1951. – 345 p.

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