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Sociological imagination can be defined as “that quality of mind essential to grasp the interplay of man and society, of biography and history, of self and world” (9). Sociological imagination is central to the study of society because it allows many of the personal troubles of individuals to be understood and solved on a broader, “society-wide” level. I have written many papers for many teachers and taken many tests for teachers. If I fail a test then it looks bad on me and my intelligence, but if half the class fails the test then the teachers test making skills have to be looked at, and possibly the failure of the test was because the teacher made a bad test or possibly the test was discriminating against the students race, gender, culture, etc.
Three sociologists made a very strong impact on how we as a culture interpret society. Karl Marx (1818-1883) was a German political philosopher and revolutionists, cofounder with Friedrich Engels of scientific socialism (modern communism), and one of the most influential thinkers of all time. Marx was also known for being a historian and an economist. Marx inspired the modern conflict theory. Marx’s theory of class conflict:
1. All social systems distribute scarce and valuable resources unequally.
2. The resulting inequalities and inequities create conflicts of interest among the various strata and classes in the system.
3. These conflict of interest result in the reorganization of social systems. In the past, new patterns of inequality always brought about further conflict and change.
4. In the long run, these conflicts result in the reorganization of social systems. In the past, new patterns of inequality always brought about further conflict and change.
Marx believes that society is and always has been fundamentally divided between two classes – the one that controls the means of production and the one that does not. Marx focused on the conflict struggle between the controlling class and the class that had no power. To back up his theory of class struggle, Marx showed how throughout history there has always been a power struggle. For example, between master and slave, lord and peasant, whites and blacks, etc. Marx’s influence during his life was not great, after his death it increased with the growth of the labor movement. Marx’s ideas and theories came to be known as Marxism, or scientific socialism, which constitutes one of the principal currents of contemporary political, thought. His analysis of capitalist economy and his theories of historical materialism, the class struggle, and the surplus value have become the basis of modern socialist doctrine. Of decisive importance with the respect to revolutionary action are his theories on the nature of the capitalist state, the road to power, and the dictatorship of the proletariat. These doctrines, revised by most socialists after his death, were revived in the 20th century. Vladimir Ilich Lenin developed and applied these theories. They became the cores of the theory of Bolshevism and the Third Internationalism. Marx’s ideas, as interpreted by Lenin, continued to have influence throughout most of the 20th century. In much of the world, including Africa and South America, leaders who claimed to represent the proletariat formed emerging nations. Marxist theory on class struggle was not a thing of the past; it continues on today. The struggle that occurs most often is the struggle between male and female. Even between the same gender there are struggles for most control.
Max Weber (1864-1920) was another sociologist that believed in a sort of conflict theory. Max Weber was a German economist and social historian, known for his systematic approach to world history and the development of western civilization. Weber defined sociology or Verstehen as “ the science which aims at interpretive understanding…” (27). “Verstehen can be achieved only by discovering the subjective meanings that individuals give to their own behavior and to the behavior of others” (27). Another simple definition is what is going on in the world. Weber thought that to understand social interactions that you must understand the subjective meaning of the individual and their impact on others behaviors. Weber’s theory is a debate against Marx’s views. Max Weber felt that culture was the major impact on social structure. Weber found that in his culture, the demand for finding rational efficiency was out ruling personal feelings.
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Sociology, mile Durkheim, Karl Marx, Social theory, Conflict theories, Max Weber, Social structure, Social science, Structural functionalism, Historical materialism, Culture, Sociology of religion
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