Literature in the subject gives us the following pioneers and early writers on sociology and sociological knowledge (Timesheff, 1967; Ritzer 1985)
Early practitioners of sociology. These include the following:
- Henri Saint-Simon (1760-1825) wrote his ideas on the science of society based on the assumption that the law of human behaviour could be determined in the same manner that the law of nature had been arrived at by natural scientist.
- Auguste Comte (1798-1857) was a French philosopher who advocated the idea of “positivism” or the use of empirical investigation to understand society and social phenomena. He coined the word “sociology” and is considered as the Father of Sociology.
- Herbert Spencer (1830-1903) was a British philosopher-scientist who argued that human societies go through an evolutionary process and who coined the concept “survival of the fittest” His theory of social evolution espoused the idea that societies develop from relative homogeneity and simplicity to heterogeneity and complexity.
- Karl Marx (1818 - 1883) was a German philosopher who belived that the misery and exploitation of the working lower classes in society was caused by capitalism – the existing industrial order. He reiterated that conflict and political revolution is inevitable to overthrow capitalism and to improve the social conditions. He said that all history was branded with economic determination, that all change, social conditions and society itself were based on economic factors, and that economic inequality has resulted in class struggles between the bourgeoisie – the owners and rulers of the means of production – and the proletariat, the industrial workers.
- Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) was a French sociologist who focused on the characteristics of social groups, particularly the cohesion or non-cohesion of religious groups. He advanced social theory along with social methodology with his classic study of suicide as it was influenced by certain social forces such as social integration, religion, marital status and parenthood. He believed that acts of deviance awaken people to their shared moral bonds and unite them in condemnation of the deviant.
- Max Weber (1864-1920) was a German economist-lawyer whose works dwelt on the significance of subjective meanings people give to their interactions with others. He encouraged the study of social action through qualitative, subjective methods as well as objective, quantitative methods. He pointed out the importance of “verstehen” – an emphatic understanding of what people are thinking and feeling or the people’s subjective experience. He provided a major analysis of modern economic arrangement and developed major theories on stratification and bureaucracy.
Other writers who played a leading part in early development of sociological literature include:
- Walter Bagehot (1826 – 1877, English) – Group cohesion in group struggle, “cake of custom” to attain group cohesion.
- Ludwig Gumplowicz (1838 – 1909, Polish) – Polygenetic hypothesis and hatred exists between groups and races why groups fight.
- Gustav Ratzenhofers (1842 – 1912, Austrian) – The principle of interest governs social life.
- Jacquez Novicow (1849 – 1912, Russian) – He posited four phases of social evolution: physiological, economic, political and intellectual.
- Achille Loria (1857 – 1943, Italian) – Economic evolutionism; his thesis: Gradual decrease of free land is the basic factor in the emergence of social classes.
- Adolphe Coste (1842 – 1901, French) – Demographic evolutionism; the increasing density of population determines the evolution of society.
- Benjamin Kid (1858 – 1916, English) – Religious evolutionism; religion with its social cohesion is the basic force in social evolution.
- William Graham Summer (1840 – 1913, American) – Analytical discourse on folkways and mores, ethnocentrism and social norms.
- Albion Small (1854 – 1926, American) – Theory of interests and their conflicts. Interest or desire refers to an unsatisfied capacity corresponding to an unrealized condition.
- Lester Ward (1841 – 1913, American) – Psychological evolutionism; comparison of pure sociology and applied sociology; “doctrine of Telesis” or mental evolution.
- Franklin Giddings (1855 – 1931, American) – He posited the idea of “consciousness of kind,” theory of statics.
Other Early Theorists
These include the following;
- Adolfe Quetelet (1796 – 1874, Belgian) – Statistical approach – use of statistics as a tool for the understanding of social phenomena.
- Frederic Le Play (1806 – 1882, French) – Case study approach to understand social phenomena; introduced participant observation as a social research technique.
- Edward Taylor (1832 – 1917, British) – His most lasting contribution to sociological theory is his definition of “culture” as that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, laws, customs and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of the society.
- Lewis Morgan (1818 – 1881, American) – Technological factors in social evolution; stages of cultural advance: savagery, barbarism and civilization.
- Arthur de Gobineau (1816 – 1882, English) – Racial determinism: Racial composition and inequalities as main factor to social evolution.
- Henry Buckle (1821 - 1862) – Geographical determinism: Geographical factors determine social evolution.
- Nicholas Danilevsky (1822 – 1885, Russian) – He posited the cyclical theory of the rise and fall of civilizations as apposed to unilinear evolutionism as applied to the historical analyses of civilization.
The Classical Writers
The classical writers whose sociological treatises had been received into the accepted canons of excellence include:
- Emile Durkheim (1858 – 1917, French) – He advanced the theory of growth from mechanical to organic solidarity, concepts of social facts, collective conscience, social institutions; division of labor; studies forms of suicide; social interpretations of religion.
- George Simmel (1858 – 1918, German) – He posited the process of social interaction as the focus of sociology; forms of sociation; analysis of dyads and triads; analysis of social types; social concept like social structure, social process, social status, and social role are derived from his works.
- Vilfredo Pareto (1848 – 1923, Italian) – He posited that society is a social system in dynamic equilibrium; theorized inner focus as logical and non-logical actions shown in residues, sentiments, derivation; “theory of the circulation of the elites”.
- Max Weber (1864 – 1920, German) – He introduced vestehen or sympathetic introspection or understanding in the level of subjective meaning of another’s act or the internatization by an observer of another human beings action; rise of Protestant ethics; ideal or pure type of social action.
- Charles Cooley (1864 – 1929, American) – He posited the “organic theory of society”; “theory of the looking glass self” – the self develops in the context of social relationships; personality as socially-conditioned or culturally conditioned.
- William I. Thomas (1863 – 1947, American) – The situational approach and the study of action; definition of the situation by the actor.
- Ferdinand Toennies (1885 – 1936, German) – He introduced typology of society as gemeinschaft and gesellschaft.
- Gabriel Tarde (1843 – 1904, French) – “Theory of imitation” or repetition of similar acts; repetition as a cosmic law; analysis of repetition, opposition and adaptation.
- Thorstein Veblen (1857 – 1929, American) – Technological evolutionism and human social relations and culture are shaped by technology; “Theory of the leisure class behavior”