Foundation of Sociological Concepts

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Social Thoughts of Auguste Comte-Karl Marx-Herbart Spencer-Vilfredo Pareto-Emile Durkheim-George Simmel-Max Weber-Karl Mannheim-Pitirim Sorokin has been summarised with additional supply of selective Bibliography.

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Auguste Comte [ 1798-1857]

August Comte


A French philosopher and social theorist Auguste Comte is known as the originator of sociology (He invented the term) and ‘positivism’, a philosophical system by which he aimed to discover and perfect the proper political arrangements of modern industrial society. His system of ‘positive philosophy’ had two laws at its foundation:

  • a historical or logical law, ‘the law of three stages’, and
  • an epistemological law, the classification or hierarchy of the sciences.


  1. Comte, A. (1830-42) Cours de philosophie positive (Course in Positive Philosophy), Paris: Société Positiviste, 5th edn (identical to the first), 1892, 6 vols; ed. M. Serres et al., Paris: Hermann, 1975, 2 vols; trans. and condensed H. Martineau, The
    Positive Philosophy, London: G. Bell, 1896, 3 vols. (Comte’s major work.)
  2. Comte, A. (1844) Discours sur l’esprit positif (A Discourse on the Positive Spirit), Paris: Vrin, 1990.(An attempt to introduce and popularize positivism.)
  3. Comte, A. (1844) Discours sur l’esprit positif (A Discourse on the Positive Spirit), Paris: Vrin, 1990.(An attempt to introduce and popularize positivism.)
  4. Comte, A. (1848) Discours sur l’ensemble du positivisme (A General View of Positivism), Paris: Société Positiviste, 1907. (A further introduction to positivism.)
  5. Comte, A. (1851-4) Système de politique positive ou Traité de sociologie instituant la religion de l’Humanité, Paris: L. Mathias, 1928, 4 vols; Osnabrück: Zeller, 1967; trans. J.H. Bridges, F. Harrison et al., System of Positive Polity, London,1875, 4 vols; repr. New York: Burt & Franklin, 1966.(Presents Comte’s scheme for a new society.)
  6. Comte, A. (1856) Synthèse subjective ou Système universel des conceptions propres à l’état normal de l’Humanité (Subjective Synthesis), vol. 1: Traité de philosophie mathématique, Paris: Société Positiviste.(Comte’s last, uncompleted, work.)

Karl Marx [1818-1883]



Marx (Jew) in Das Kapital (Capital), set out to identify the ‘laws of motion’ of capitalism. The capitalist system is presented there as a self-reproducing whole, governed by an underlying law, the ‘law of value’. But this law and its consequences are not only not immediately apparent to the agents who participate in capitalism, indeed they are actually concealed from them. Thus capitalism is a ‘deceptive object’, one in which there is a discrepancy between its ‘essence’ and its ‘appearance’. In the preface to Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy) published in 1859, contains the classic statement of Marx’s materialist theory of history.


  1. Marx, K. and Engels, F. (1975-) Gesamtausgabe (MEGA), Berlin: Dietz. (This outstanding edition of the collected works is often known as MEGA II. However, at the time of writing, MEGA II, like MEGA I, seems likely to remain uncompleted.)
  2. Marx, K. and Engels, F. (1961-83) Werke (MEW), Berlin: Dietz. (A very adequate edition in German that contains all the works referred to in the text of the entry.)
  3. Marx, K. and Engels, F. (1975-) Collected Works, London: Lawrence & Wishart. (A complete edition in English)
  4. Marx, K. (1975-) The Pelican Marx Library, Harmondsworth: Penguin.(Not a complete edition, but a series that contains particularly good translations of Das Kapital, the Grundrisse, and the Early Writings, among others.)
  5. Marx, K. (1841) Differenz der demokritischen und epikureischen Naturphilosophie, trans. Difference between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature, in Collected Works, London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1975-, vol. 1, 25-107. (Marx’s doctoral dissertation.)
  6. Marx, K. (1843a) Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie, trans. R. Livingstone and G. Benton, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, in L. Colletti (ed.) Early Writings, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975, 57-198.
  7. Marx, K. (1843b) ‘Zur Judenfrage’, trans. R. Livingston and G Benton, ‘On the Jewish Question’, in L. Coletti (ed.)Early Writings, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975, 211-42. (An important treatment of the idea of emancipation.)
  8. Marx, K. (1844) The Paris Manuscripts, trans. R. Livingston and G. Benton in L. Coletti (ed.) Early Writings, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975, 279-400. (Contains Marx’s ideas on alienation.)
  9. Marx, K. and Engels, F. (1845a) Die Heilige Familie, trans. The Holy Family, in Collected Works, London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1975-, vol. 4, 15-211. (A polemic against Bruno Bauer and his associates.)
  10. Marx, K. (1845b) ‘Theses on Feuerbach’, trans. R. Livingston and G. Benton in L. Coletti (ed.) Early Writings, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975, 421-3. (aphorisms on philosophy.)
  11. Marx, K. and Engels, F. (1845-6) Die Deutsche Ideologie, ed. C.J. Arthur, trans. The German Ideology, London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1970.
  12. Marx, K. (1847) La Misère de la Philosophie, trans. The Poverty of Philosophy, in Collected Works, London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1975-, vol. 6, 105-212.(Polemic against Proudhon.)
  13. Marx, K. and Engels, F. (1848) Das Kommunistische Manifest, trans. The Communist Manifesto, in D. Fernbach (ed.) The Revolutions of 1848, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973, 62-98.(The classic statement of Marx’s political and social programme.)
  14. Marx, K. (1850) Die Klassenkämpfe in Frankreich, trans. Class Struggles in France, in D. Fernbach (ed.) Surveys From Exile, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973, 35-142. (Commentary on contemporary politics.)
  15. Marx, K. (1852) Das achtzehnte Brumaire des Louis Bonaparte, trans. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, in D. Fernbach (ed.) Surveys From Exile, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973, 143-249. (Commentary on contemporary politics.)

Herbart Spencer [1820-1903]



In his Principles of Psychology (1855), Spencer (Jew) put forward a Lamarckian explanation of mental development. For example, intelligence was a faculty developed as a result of cumulative modifications of the mind in successive generations of organisms responding to their environment. In First Principles (1862), he addressed the vexed question for his Victorian readership of the relation between science and religion. ForSpencer, science entailed the deduction of general laws, such as the conservation of energy, which were not empirical generalizations, but necessary truths about empirical phenomena. But these truths could never be completely grasped. In his Principles of Biology (1864, 1867) Spencer acknowledged the centrality of Darwinian natural selection, but insisted that Lamarckian modifications played their part in the evolution of organisms from simple to complex structures. In Principles of Sociology (1876-96) he explained how, as humanity advanced, a process of differentiation of functions occurred, and society was gradually transformed from the ‘militant’ type, which was characterized by authoritarianism, uniformity and status, to the ‘‘industrial’ type, which was characterized by liberty, diversity and contract. In Principles of Ethics (1879-93) he gave the law of equal freedom an evolutionary dimension by linking it to the principle that each person ought to experience the full consequences of their actions, both good and bad – a principle which entailed that the fittest survived.


  1. Spencer, H. (1851) Social Statics: or the Conditions Essential to Human Happiness and the First of them Developed, London: Chapman. (Spencer’s best work on political philosophy.)
  2. Spencer, H. (1855) Principles of Psychology, London: Williams & Norgate; 4th edn, 1899. (A comprehensive account of mind, intelligence, the nervous system, feelings, perceptions, memory, reasoning, sympathy and realism; very dense.)
  3. Spencer, H. (1861) Education, Intellectual, Moral and Physical, London: Everyman’s Library, 1961. (Four essays extolling the value of natural methods in education.)
  4. Spencer, H. (1862) First Principles, London: Williams & Norgate; 6th edn, 1900. (A work in two parts: ‘The Unknowable’, which shows how all science-led ultimately (like all religion) to a belief in an Absolute that transcended human understanding; and ‘Laws of the Knowable’ – a statement of the fundamental scientific principles governing the world.)
  5. Spencer, H. (1864, 1867) Principles of Biology, London: Williams & Norgate, 2 vols; 2nd edn, 1898, 1899. (A comprehensive and highly technical account of morphology, physiology, reproduction, growth, development, heredity, variation and evolution.)
  6. Spencer, H. (1873) The Study of Sociology, Ann Arbor, MI: Ann Arbor Paperback, 1961. (A pioneering work of popularization for the discipline of sociology )
  7. Spencer, H. (1876-96) Principles of Sociology, London: Williams & Norgate, vol. 1, 1876; 3rd edn, 1885; vol. 2, part 4, 1879; part 5, 1882; vol. 3, part 6, 1885; parts 7 and 8, 1896.(a massive but very readable study of anthropology, social structure, the family and ceremonial, political, religious, professional and industrial institutions.)
  8. Spencer, H. (1879-93) Principles of Ethics, London: Williams & Norgate, vol. 1, part 1, 1879; parts 2 and 3, 1892; vol. 2, part 4, 1891; parts 5 and 6, 1893. (An evolutionary approach to moral philosophy.)
  9. Spencer, H. (1884) The Man Versus The State, repr. with abridged edn of Social Statics, London: Williams & Norgate, 1892. (Four essays in which Spencer denounces the increasing collectivism of governmental policy in late nineteenth-century Britain.)

Vilfredo Pareto [1848-1923]

Vilfredo Pareto


Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto (Jew) by his Pareto principle showed that when a competitive market reaches an equilibrium, the outcome is Pareto-efficient, or a ‘Pareto-optimum’ (Pareto 1906). Pareto believed that valid interpersonal comparisons of utility are impossible, and so rejected the utilitarian view that a society is efficient when it maximizes aggregate utility.  Vilfredo Pareto introduced a mechanism for ordering social states that did not require interpersonal comparisons of utility but did allow policy-makers to favour some policies over others as utility-maximizing. This ordering relationship is known as ‘Pareto superiority’: one state of the world, W, is preferable to another, S, provided no one prefers S to W and at least one person prefers W to S. W is Pareto superior to S if and only if no one is better off in S than in W and at least one person is better off in W than in S.


  1. Pareto, V. (1906) Manual of Political Economy, trans. A.S. Schwier, London: Macmillan, 1972. (The original source of the Pareto principle.)

Emile Durkheim [1858-1917]

Émile Durkheim


French sociologist (Jew), tried to establish sociology as an academic discipline, Durkheim sought to identify early in his work the distinctiveness of the sociological approach and its unique methodology of sociological research. First, Durkheim established that society was not simply equivalent to the sum of its individual members; using a chemical metaphor, he viewed it as an organic compound endowed with qualities that surpassed the qualities of its constituting elements. His division of labour was considered an economic phenomenon that led to increased production and wealth. Durkheim argued that the division of labour was also an important moral phenomenon that described the changing foundations of social solidarity from traditional to modern societies.


  1. Durkheim, É. (1893) De la division du travail social, Paris: Alcan; trans. G. Simpson, The Division of Labor in Society, New York: Macmillan, 1933.
  2. Durkheim, É. (1895) Les regles de la methode sociologique, Paris: Alcan; trans. S.A. Solovay and J.H. Mueller, The Rules of Sociological Method, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1938.
  3. Durkheim, É. (1897) Le Suicide: etude de sociologie, Paris: Alcan; trans. J.A. Spaulding and G. Simpson, Suicide: A Study in Sociology, Glencoe, IL: Free Press of Glencoe, 1951.
  4. Durkheim, É. (1912) Les Formes elementaires de la vie religieuse, Paris: Alcan; trans. J.W. Swain, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, New York: Macmillan, 1915.
  5. Durkheim, É. (1925) L’Education morale, Paris: Alcan; trans. E.K. Wilson and H. Schnurer, Moral Education, New York: Free Press, 1961.


George Simmel [1858-1918]

George Simmel


Founders of German sociology. Simmel’s (Jew) Philosophy of money, where wide-ranging philosophy of money makes important contributions to the theory of value, to the philosophy of social action within a means/end framework, to a theory of the individual person and individual freedom, and to the aesthetics of modern society. Money as symbol of the eternal flux of interrelations between the most diverse phenomena serves to generate a theoretically grounded relativism.


  1. Simmel, G. (1988-) Gesammelte Werke (Complete Works), ed. O. Rammstedt, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 24 vols.(A recent critical edition of Simmel’s complete works.)
  2. Simmel, G. (1890) Über soziale Differenzierung (On Social Differentiation), ed. H.J. Dahme, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1989.
  3. Simmel, G. (1892) Die Probleme der Geschichtsphilosophie, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1905; trans. and ed. G. Oakes, The Problems of the Philosophy of History. An Epistemological Essay, New York: Free Press, 1977.
  4. Simmel, G. (1892-3) Einleitung in die Moralwissenschaft. Eine Kritik der ethischen Grundbegriffe (An Introduction to Moral Science. A Critique of Basic Ethical Concepts), ed. K.C. Köhnke, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1989, 1991.
  5. Simmel, G. (1900, 1907) Philosophie des Geldes, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot; trans. T. Bottomore and D. Frisby, The Philosophy of Money, London: Routledge, 1978.
  6. Simmel, G. (1904) Kant, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot.
  7. Simmel, G. (1906a) Kant und Goethe, Berlin: Bard, Marquardt.
  8. Simmel, G. (1906b) Die Religion, Frankfurt: Rütten & Loening.
  9. Simmel, G. (1907) Schopenhauer und Nietzsche, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot; trans. H. Loiskandl, D. Weinstein and M.Weinstein, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, Amherst, MA: University of Massachussetts Press, 1986.
  10. Simmel, G. (1908) Soziologie, ed. O. Rammstedt, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1992; partly trans. K.H. Wolff, The Sociology of Georg Simmel, New York: Free Press of Glencoe, and London: Collier-Macmillan, 1964.
  11. Simmel, G. (1910) Hauptprobleme der Philosophie (Key Problems of Philosophy), Leipzig: Göschen.
  12. Simmel, G. (1911) Philosophische Kultur. Gesammelte Essais (Philosophical Culture. Collected Essays), Leipzig
  13. Simmel, G. (1987) Das individuelle Gesetz. Philosophische Exkurse (The Individual Law. Philosophical Excursions), ed. M.Landmann with afterword by K.C. Köhnke, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.
  14. Simmel, G. (1968) The Conflict in Modern Culture and Other Essays, trans. and ed. P.K. Etzkorn, New York: Teachers College Press.
    Simmel, G. (1971) On Individuality and Social Forms. Selected Writings, ed. D.N. Levine, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  15. Simmel, G. (1980) Essays on Interpretation in Social Science, G. Oakes, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Max Weber [1864-1920]

Max Weber


Max Weber(Jew), German economist, historian, sociologist, methodologist, and political thinker, through his Methodological essay  ‘Objectivity in Social Science and Social Policy’, published in 1904, he brought together the key themes of his thinking as a methodologist of social science. Weber argued that the results of the cultural sciences could be valid in an objective sense and that indeed, ‘scientific truth is precisely what is valid for all who seek the truth’ (1904-17: 84). He argued that the objects of explanation in social science are constituted by culture-specific and discipline-specific cognitive interests and consequently are historically relative.


  1. Weber, M. (1903-5) Roscher und Knies: The Logical Problems of Historical Economics, trans. G. Oakes, New York: Free Press, 1975. (Contains a useful introductory essay by G. Oakes.)
  2. Weber, M. (1904-5) The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. and ed. T. Parsons, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958. (Presents Protestant theology of salvation in producing the rationalistic individuals who could bring about the capitalistic rationalization of labour.)
  3. Weber, M. (1904-17) The Methodology of the Social Sciences, trans. and eds E.A. Shils and H.A. Finch, New York: Free Press, 1949. (Includes Weber’s three most important methodological essays, two of which focus on causality.)
  4. Weber, M. (1913) ‘Some Categories of Interpretive Sociology’, trans. E. Graber, The Sociological Quarterly 22: 151-80, 1981. (Formulates an individualist analysis of the collective social phenomenon.)
  5. Weber, M. (1916a) The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism, trans. and ed. H.H. Gerth, Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1951. (deals with Chinese religion and capitalism, and especially with the inhibitory effects on the capitalism of Confucianism.)
  6. Weber, M. (1916b) The Religion of India: The Sociology of Hinduism and Buddhism, trans. and ed. H.H. Gerth and D. Martindale, Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1958.
  7. Weber, M. (1917-18) Ancient Judaism, trans. and ed. H.H. Gerth and D. Martindale, Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1952. (Part of the same 1916 project, but important for other themes, such as the role of the prophets in rationalizing theodicy.)
  8. Weber, M. (1922a) Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (Economy and Society), trans. G. Roth and C. Wittich, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1978. (Detailed examination of the basic concepts of social sciences and economics, as applied to
  9. Weber, M. (1922b) Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Wissenschaftslehre (Collected Essays in Scientific Theory), Tübingen: Mohr, expanded edn, 1951. (This text is a collection of essays, most of which have been translated into English)
  10. Weber, M. (1923) General Economic History, trans. F.H. Knight, Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1950.(Posthumously published lecture notes providing a summary of Weber’s account of the origin and history of capitalism)

Karl Mannheim [1893-1947]

Karl Mannheim


Karl Mannheim (Jew) was a German sociologist and founder of the sociology of knowledge. In his Ideology and Utopia (1929) Mannheim suggested that it was a pluralistic product of diverse social groups undergoing common experiences. Knowledge was a cooperative process, but political discussion was further characterized by the unmasking of rationalized situational motivations which were attributes of a collective unconscious. These could adopt two forms: ideology and utopia. Ideology referred to the interest-bound thought of ruling groups and had a conservative, stabilizing consequences. Utopia referred to an emphasis on the transformation of a society and, unwittingly, on misdiagnosing it by identifying only its negative features.


  1. Mannheim, K. (1929) Ideology and Utopia, London: Routledge, 1936. (A modern classic on the subject, despite a confusing usage of terminology.)
  2. Mannheim, K. (1922-24) Structures of Thinking. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  3. Mannheim, K. ([1925] 1986) Conservatism. A Contribution to the Sociology of Knowledge. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  4. Mannheim, K. (1950) “Freedom, Power, and Democratic Planning.” Oxford University Press

Pitirim Alexandrovitch Sorokin [1889-1968]

Pitirim Sorokin


Russian-American sociologist founded the department of sociology at Harvard University in 1930. Here Sorokin began his study of world civilization which led to the work for which he is best known, Social and Cultural Dynamics.  Sorokin’s extensive study convinced him that our civilization is overly materialistic, disorganized, and in imminent danger of collapse. Sorokin outlines his epistemology, the integralist theory of truth. This system of truth encompasses reason, observation, and intuition, and he believes it is therefore superior to any one of the three taken alone. Some questions come to mind concerning this epistemology, particularly regarding the validity of intuition. By intuition he means the way of cognition, different from sensory perception or logical-mathematical and syllogistic deduction and induction, that comes from a supersensory source. The value of intuition, says Sorokin, is demonstrated in three ways: (1) Most scientific discoveries have resulted from intuitions; they have only been confirmed, not originated, by observation and logic. (2) Inspiration is the source of beauty in art and poetry. (3) Intuition affords us our only deep communion with the Absolute.


  1. Sorokin, The Sociology of Revolution (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1925),
  2. Sorokin, Leaves from a Russian Diary, rev. ed. (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1950
  3. Sorokin, Social and Cultural Dynamics, IV (New York: American Book Company, 1941
  4. Sorokin, The Reconstruction of Humanity (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1948)
  5.  Sorokin (ed.), Explorations in Altruistic Love and Behavior (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1950

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