Is Classical Sociology Still Relevant Today?
Classical sociology theories are large-scale concepts that originated in Europe in the early 1800s and early 1900s (Ritzer 2011). Their origins can be traced back to the society of the time. Early sociologists developed these theories to solve the economic and political problems that arose during that period. Many social theorists were concerned about the social instability and turmoil that arose from a series of democratic revolutions in Europe, such as the French and industrial revolutions. As a result, academics devised models to solve the problems and thereby improve societal order.
However, classical sociological approaches have received a lot of critic from the contemporary thinkers. The post modernists argue out that most early theories did not take into consideration universality since most of them are Eurocentric and bound by approaches of experiences and thoughts in western European society. Similarly, the critics argue that there cannot be a single collective social theory hence social thought entails contemplation of original and different conditions. According to Kivisto (2008), analysts and feminists argue that most of the classical sociologist’s writers were male and centered their conventional analysis on family and women hence their approaches are biased and cannot be relied upon in the modern society.
On the other side, modern theorists such as Karl Marx, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim and George Simmel have developed ideas and concepts from the early classical sociological theories to explain and address contemporary social issues such as globalization, environmental crisis, and the fate of community among others (Wallace and Wolf 2005). Therefore, classical theories are not only important historically but also in the modern social world. Notably, the contemporary sociologists extensively find the relevance of the early ideas. The concepts of division of labor, alienation, rationalization, anomie, mode of production as well as disenchantment in contemporary society are explained by modern theorists basing the argument on classical theory (Kivisto 2008).
Therefore, classical sociology theories are still relevant today based on the fact that their approaches apply to contemporary social issues.
Rationalization refers to the act of replacing values, traditions, and behaviors with the aim of motivating current behaviors with actions and thoughts that appear rational (Ritzer and Stepnisky 2014). According to Marx Weber, change in society is inevitable. He used bureaucracy to explain how variations in the community occur over time. Currently, the issue of globalization, as well as its effects, are becoming a bother and challenge for many people in the world. Countries across the world are increasingly changing their cultures hence becoming westernized and modernized. The rise of technology has enhanced the prevalence of globalization by global interlink through media and social networking.
Engel and Marx attributed the emergence of modernity to the development of capitalism as well as industrialization. Max borrows the concept of capitalism from classical sociologists. Currently, there is a tremendous increase of obesity cases in the world as a result of consumption of fast foods. For instance, the population across the globe is growing at a higher rate hence increased predominance of fast food restaurants in America as well as across the world (Ritzer and Stepnisky 2014). The concept of rationalization can be explained using McDonaldization theory which is developed by a modern sociologist. McDonaldization theory is based on the fact that changes in the society occur. The argument has been put forward by a contemporary philosopher to explain rationalization in the modern society as a result of contemporary issues such as globalization.
Based on Max Weber’s theory, bureaucracy can be a dehumanizing place to be served by or work. On the same note, Ritzer McDonaldization theory is still disadvantageous since it suffers from irrationality. Therefore, to explain the current dominance of obesity due to increased fast food restaurants, the concept of rationalization drawn from Marx’s theory is significant hence classical sociology is relevant in the contemporary society.
Mode of Production
According to Karl Max and the Marxist economic theory, the mode of production is referred to as the various ways that people in a society collectively produce goods to enhance survival and social being (Wallace and Wolf 2005). The production process involves the use of productive forces such as means of production and labor power. The means of productions include land, building, equipment and tools among others. Also, the mode involves technical and social production relations such as government laws, social class relations as well as power. Marx develops the Marxism theory from the classical theory to explain the relationship between human beings and the overall modes of production. Marxism theory is based on capitalism where workers are alienated and exploited.
Currently, human laborers have been exploited and alienated leading to the formation of human rights movement. To explain the concept of modes of production in modern society as well as the cause of human rights movement formation, contemporary sociologists base their arguments on classical sociological theories. In a modern society, production process involves a combination of factors of production which include labor, land, and capital. Most entrepreneurs are capitalist as they argue that giving a lot of benefits to the employee would favor him/her over the company. Similarly, entrepreneurs are profit maximizers hence they end up exploiting employees.
Contemporary sociologists argue that the presence of capitalism within a company would result in exploitation and alienation of employees. Consequently, workers would feel oppressed hence the formation of social movements to change the systems to socialist or communist production means. Therefore, the current formation of social movements to eliminate capitalism can be argued used the concept of modes of production by Karl Max and Marxism economic theory (Dunlap 2002).
Division of Labor
Division of labor refers to assigning various parts of production task or process to different individuals to increase efficiency (Simmons 2013). Early classical sociologists such as Adam Smith developed the concept of labor division based on activities that were taking place in Europe. Industrialization resulted in the development of the distribution of work concept. Adam Smith believed that a society that capitalizes on the use of labor division is more productive. According to Smith, the division of labor makes work easier since employees would concentrate on tasks that they are familiar with hence increasing efficiency of production.
Emile Durkheim who is a modern sociologist further explains the concept of division of labor using classical theories developed by Adam Smith. He argues that division of labor enhances competence for survival in a developed society. According to Porter (2008), it increases specialization, efficiency, and effectiveness of production process. Furthermore, Durkheim explains the concept of labor division as well as its implications for social solidarity and development.
According to Durkheim, women do not play a significant role in the division of labor since they do not participate in the workforce (Durkheim et al., 2014). He argues that women activities do not contribute towards organic solidarity. Durkheim material facts do not constitute women sociological facts hence the model is biased and disadvantageous. However, in the modern society, the division of labor is significant in enhancing efficiency in the production process. Indeed, companies that practice division of labor maximize their outputs by reducing labor costs and increasing the quality of products.
Alienation is a theoretical concept developed by Marx, and it describes disenchanting, dehumanizing and isolating effects of working under a capitalist economic system (Ritzer 2014). It makes individuals feel estranged, meaningless and powerless in fulfilling their duties at work place and in the community. The financial system is associated with alienation. Isolation concept originated from classical theorists. According to early philosophers, the industrial revolution, as well as the agrarian revolution in Europe, resulted in isolation. Furthermore, the division of labor in the production process led to further alienation.
Modern sociologists such as Karl Marx uses early classical sociological ideas to explain alienation in the contemporary society. His theories and observation were based on industrial capitalism from classical sociology. Technological advancement in the modern society has led to isolation. According to Karl, technology has led to alienation as well as de-isolation in the society.
Similarly, the relationship between alienation and technology is still relevant in the modern society. Industrialization as well as technological advancement force workers into a routine and exploitative production work. Modern sociologists recognize the broad spread of alienation across jobs with restricted employee autonomy. In the 21st century, technological effects is a contemporary issue affecting people in the society (Dunlap 2002). However, technology creates alienation of workers through labor division as well as it creates de-alienation of employees through technological connectivity. Therefore, factors contributing to alienation in modern society can be explained by the contemporary sociologist using classical sociological theories.
To sum up, classical sociology is still relevant today and can be used to explain contemporary social issues. Traditional methods were developed from happenings in Europe, and they lay the basis for the sociological advancements (Porter 2008). Modern sociologist such as Karl Marx, Weber, and Durkheim among other sociologists have based their sociological ideas and concept from classical concepts.
For instance, concepts such as mode of production, the division of labor, alienation as well as rationalization have been used to explain to explain the occurrence of contemporary issues (Kivisto 2008). For instance, rationalization concept developed by early theorist has been employed by Marx Weber to explain the presence of obesity due to consumption of fast foods. McDonaldization theory has been drafted to explain the concept further.
Similarly, Marx and Durkheim base on the works of Adam Smith to account for the idea of division of labor in the modern society as well as the fate of females in the industry. Smith advocates that division of labor enhances production efficiency hence increased output. On the same note, Durkheim base his sociological concept on Adam Works by arguing that specialization in the society improves the quantity of production as well as it leads to specialization. However, his argument is based on the fact that women do not contribute much in enhancing solidarity.
Finally, the classical theorist is still relevant today in explaining the concept of alienation as well as in addressing technological issues in the society. In fact, modern sociologists develop their ideas from the classical sociological theories to explain current contemporary issues hence the early theories are very significant and relevant in the contemporary society (Simmons 2013).
Dunlap, R. E. (2002). Sociological theory and the environment: classical foundations, contemporary insights. Lanham, Md, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Durkheim, E., Lukes, S., & Halls, W. D. (2014). The division of labor in society. New York, Free Press.
Kivisto, P. (2008). Illuminating social life: classical and contemporary theory revisited. Princeton, N.J., Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic. Fast foods
Porter, J. N. (2008). Is sociology dead? : Social theory and social praxis in a post-modern age. Lanham, University Press of America.
Ritzer, G. (2011). Classical sociological theory. New York, McGraw-Hill
Ritzer, G., & Stepnisky, J. (2014). Sociological theory. New York, NY, McGraw-Hill.
Simmons, A. M. (2013). Revitalizing the classics: what past social theorists can teach us today.
Wallace, R. A., & Wolf, A. (2005). Contemporary sociological theory: expanding the classical tradition. Upper Saddle River, N.J., Prentice Hall.