Interesting social sciences/Macrosociology

Macrosociology in the 19th and 20th centuries

English subtitles exist in this video. On the cover is the founder of sociology, Auguste Comte.

Development of Macrosociology at 19-20 centuries

Herbert Spencer
Henri Saint-Simone
Henry Charles Carey
Adolphe Quetelet
The State as Leviathan

Discussion about essence of society between various schools and the directions in macrosociology


The philosophy has turned out in a condition of crisis in 20 century and the philosophy hasn't given to the world of truly original theories and large theorists. Contrary to philosophy, development of macrosociology has led to emergence of the whole bouquet of original theories in 20 century. When students begin to study course of history of the western macrosociology at the university for the first time, this students are simply struck with an enormous difference in originality between macrosociology and philosophy in 20 century. Representatives of various schools and the directions in macrosociology conduct among themselves a discussion about essence of society. Any of these schools and the directions couldn't win in this discussion since each of them is right in own way and the theory of their synthesis is necessary.

Near 11 schools and the directions exist in macrosociology. Three of them are the most influential today: symbolical interactionism, functionalism and school of the conflict. Positivism – this leading direction in sociology of 19 century - the beginnings of 20 century. Henri de Saint-Simon and Auguste Comte were the ancestors of this direction, Herbert Spencer and Émile Durkheim were their followers. The main aspiration of positivism is refusal from speculative reasonings about society, positive sociology has to be evidential as natural sciences. Naturalism, organicism and evolutionism served as characteristic features of positivism. The naturalism means the point of view that social phenomena are subject to laws peculiar to the nature - to laws of physics, mechanics, biology, geography.

Social physics


Main thought of social physics: society is similar to the sum of elements, each of which can be studied independently of each other. People can be studied independently of each other as gas molecules.

Authors who worked within this direction: Henry Charles Carey, Adolphe Quetelet.[1]

Adolphe Quetelet tried to explain even social life with help of laws of physics and Adolphe Quetelet has established statistical interrelation between types of crimes, a sex, origin, age, the place of residence of the criminal. Adolphe Quetelet has drawn a conclusion from this that a certain number and certain types of crimes accompany society with need of the law of the nature. To describe society, it is necessary to find characteristics of "the average person".

Geographical determinism


Main thought: geographical factors influence on society, for example, the climate influences on temperament of inhabitants, the size of the territory influences on the form of government and on the size of the population, it is necessary to make a periodization of the Russian history on the periods of colonization of the territory. Inhabitants prefer to introduce republic in small on the territory countries, inhabitants prefer to introduce the monarchy in average on the territory countries, and inhabitants prefer to introduce the tyranny in big on the territory countries, by the principle "than country is more on territory, that more rigid political regime and form of government exist in this country".

Authors, who worked in this direction: Charles Montesquieu, Henry Thomas Buckle, Vasily Klyuchevsky, Friedrich Ratzel, Lev Ilyich Mechnikov.[2]

The mistake of the geographical determinism consists, in particular, that all countries are obliged to introduce all social inventions irrespective from geographical factors. For example, all countries have to introduce best form of government – representative democracy though inhabitants prefer to introduce the presidential republic as more rigid political regime in big on the territory countries, and inhabitants prefer to introduce the parliamentary republic as less rigid political regime in the small on the territory countries.


Thomas Hobbes
Paul von Lilienfeld

Main thought: society and an organism are similar each other.

Authors, who worked within this direction: Thomas Hobbes, Herbert Spencer, Paul von Lilienfeld, Albert Schäffle, René Worms.

Thomas Hobbes (years of his life: 1588-1679) has stated such idea in work "Leviathan" that the state is an artificial man, in which the sovereignty is artificial soul, magistrates and other officers of judicature and execution are joints, a reward and punishment are nerves, the wealth and riches of citizens are strength, safety of the people is business of the state, counsellors to the king is memory, justice and laws are a reason and will, the concord is health, a sedition is sickness, civil war is death. [3] Herbert Spencer wrote that growth is characteristic both of society, and of an organism. Paul von Lilienfeld wrote that trade reminds blood circulation. Albert Sheffle wrote that economic life reminds a metabolism. René Worms compared a workshop with small gland, factory with a liver, goods with secretion of gland, the railroads with blood vessels, the government with a brain.

Conclusion: comparison of society and an organism is true, but only metaphors help in scientific research not enough.

Social Darwinism


Main thought: the mechanism of social evolution doesn't differ from the mechanism of biological evolution therefore only the strong survive in society. Thus, factors of evolution both in society, and in the biosphere are the heredity, variability, natural selection and fight for existence.

Authors, who worked within this direction: Thomas Robert Malthus, Herbert Spencer, Arthur de Gobineau, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Ludwig Woltmann, Georges Vacher de Lapouge, Francis Galton, Ludwig Gumplowicz.[4]

Conclusion: Results of Nazi experiments on the embodiment in life of the theory of social Darwinism have terrified the whole world.

Psychological direction


Main thought: laws of society is possible to reduce to laws of psychology. Life of society is a game of congenital instincts, especially sexual and aggressive instincts. Life of society can be reduced to imitation, to crowd psychology or to national psychology. Progress of society can be explained with conscious aspiration to progress.

Authors, who worked within this direction: William McDougall, Sigmund Freud, Gabriel Tarde, Gustave Le Bon, Moritz Lazarus, Heymann Steinthal, Lester Frank Ward, Franklin Henry Giddings.

Mistake of psychological direction: the psychological reasons didn't explain in any way the mechanism of social evolution since instincts, the crowd psychology, the imitation mechanism, "national soul" were same both today, and ten thousand years ago, however society has changed strongly during this time, these psychological factors can't be by cause of progressive development of society. Émile Durkheim has proved that the psychological reasons can't be by cause of suicides even.

Behaviorism and social exchange theory

John B. Watson
B. F. Skinner
Bronisław Malinowski
Alfred Radcliffe-Brown

Main thought of behaviorism: the behavior of the man can be reduced to answers on stimuluses of environment by the principle of a conditioned reflex. Any act of the man can be explained with material remuneration or aspiration to avoid corporal punishments.

Founders of behaviorism: John B. Watson, B. F. Skinner.[5]

In my opinion, the mistake of Behaviorism consists that consciousness of the man is arranged more difficult, than consciousness of a rats over which B. F. Skinner made experiments. Man, unlike a rat, has not only conditioned reflexes, but also man has abstract thinking, oral speech and ability to tool activity, the merit of behaviorism consists in what the theory of behaviorism (stimulus-response) has much in common with my theory of social control (norm-sanction)

Main thought of Social exchange theory: people exchange goods, services, information, thanks, etc. in the course of social interaction

People weigh future remunerations and expenses before entering to social interaction. If the expected expenses is more then remuneration, then people refuse to enter in interaction. Exchange happens by the principle "If you give me, then I will give you". Man is forced to spend efforts in the course of communication of people that to find general subject for a conversation, that to make our communication steady. The behavior of the man is caused by how his acts were rewarded in the past, for example, the man has gone fishing today because his fishing was successful yesterday.

Author of Social exchange theory theory: George C. Homans.[6]

Symbolic interactionism


Main thought: it is possible to communicate and exercise psychological control with help of a language of gestures and body language. It is possible to humiliate or show own high opinion about the person with help of playing of sketches (scenes). Man is forced to create the image at work and in policy. "Badge of shame " prevents communication. The confusion is sign of a mistake in a game and expression of a request to repeat attempt.

Authors, who worked within this direction : George Herbert Mead, Herbert Blumer, Erving Goffman, Harold Garfinkel. [7]

In my opinion, exchange of information and social control with help of gestures are an ancient, primitive way of exchange of information and psychological control which is inherited by man from animal ancestors. In addition to it man has invented other, more modern ways of exchange of information with help of words and ways of social control with help of threat of sanctions and introduction of stereotypes.



Main thought: man looks at the world through a prism of the values (this thing is good, and this thing is bad) and man works according to these values. Man seeks to reach good thing and to avoid bad thing. The systems of values differ from each other during different eras. The system of values is imposed to man by his environment in the course of socialization, in the course of assimilation of norms.

Author, who worked within this direction: Max Weber.[8]

The functionalism


The main thought of functionalism: each organization, each custom, each idea and each belief have own function in the society.

Authors of functionalism: Herbert Spencer, Émile Durkheim, Bronisław Malinowski, Alfred Radcliffe-Brown, Robert K. Merton, Piotr Sztompka, Talcott Parsons.

Bronisław Malinowski and Alfred Radcliffe-Brown were anthropologists and they proved this main idea on the example of the customs, discovered by them in the primitive societies of Melanesia and Andaman Islands. In opinion of this authors the social phenomena, which do not have own function must disappear, for example, conflict is dysfunction and conflict must disappear. In the opinion of Émile Durkheim, the refusal of man from the performance of own family and religious functions leads to the solitude and, after all, to the suicide. Thus, society revenges to person for the refusal from the performance of own functions. Function of crime consists that punishment for this crime allows people to confirm rules, the forbidding crime. Division of labor between people didn't exist in primitive society where people were similar at each other. Public opinion soars above the people and this public opinion dictates to people behavior in the contemporary society. [9]

Conclusions: the mistakes of the functionalism are the underestimation of the role of conflicts in the society, the use of excessively abstract notions and the absence of the classification of the stages of the development of society.

Conflict theory


The main thought of conflict theory: social conflicts are inevitable, but this conflicts must be settled. Lewis A. Coser considered that the conflicts give road to large innovations, the conflicts prevent the “ossification” of society and conflicts are reason of the developments of society.

Authors of conflict theories: Karl Marx, Lewis A. Coser, Georg Simmel, Ralf Dahrendorf, Theodor Geiger.

In the opinion of Lewis A. Coser, the functions of the conflicts, consist in the fact that,

  • conflicts promote the defusing of tension between people and conflicts are "diversion channels",
  • people know each other through the conflicts better.

Ralf Dahrendorf considered that the conflict is result of resistance to the relations of supremacy and subordination that conflicts are the generator of changes that the suppression of conflict leads to its aggravation, and settlement of conflict leads to the controlled evolution. Person which is subordinated on the work can quiet his vanity by the fact that he will become leader and controller in off-duty hours (in the sport command, in the church community, in the party organization, and so on.). It is impossible to influence on the reasons of the conflicts, but it is possible to reduce intensity of course of the conflicts. State, law court, press ‐ these institutes settle conflicts. Theodor Geiger considers that methods, tools and technology of class struggle were officially recognized and legislated by society in 20 century, thanks to it class struggle are put under control. Class struggle proceeds according to certain rules and, therefore, class struggle has lost own edge. Capital and wage labour conclude mutual compromises, capital and wage labour conduct the negotiations about solution of disputes and thus capital and wage labour determine the working conditions (level of wages and the duration of workday). The Socialist Revolution does not threaten to West today; therefore Karl Marx had made a mistake in his forecasts. There are three methods of solutionof conflict (method of avoidance, method of conquest or method of subjugations).[10]

In my opinion, the conflict can be settled in such case if loser recognize fact that loser had become by object of control by winner or loser had conceded own sphere of influence to the winner. The purpose to settle the conflict is an unfeasible task until moment this recognition this fact by the loser in the conflict. It is possible to settle only a question about the price for readiness to obey.

Technological determinism


Main thought: the equipment develops irrespective of will of man under the law of infinite improvement of technical parameters.

Authors of technological determinism: Thorstein Veblen, Clarence Ayres, Marshall McLuhan, James Burnham, Leslie White.[11]

Conclusion: forecast about transfer of power to technocrats as a result of The Managerial Revolution was a utopia.

Integrative theory


Many sociologists tried to create the theory of synthesis of these schools and the directions in Macrosociology that to unite in one theory all the best that was accumulated at other schools. Talcott Parsons tried to make it on the basis of association of an axiology and the structurally functional analysis. George C. Homans tried to make it on the basis of the theory of exchange. My version of the integrative theory is presented in the theory of interrelation between the social conflict and social control.

Citations and references.

  1. Collins. Dictionary of sociology. Second eddition. David Jary&Julia JaryAssociate Editors Phillip Nichols and Alan Sillitoe. Quetelet Adolphe.
  2. Collins. Dictionary of sociology. Second eddition. David Jary&Julia JaryAssociate Editors Phillip Nichols and Alan Sillitoe. Geographical determinism.
  3. Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan, or the Matter, Forme & Power of a Connonwealth, Ecclesiasticall and Civil. Introduction. Page 8.
  4. Collins. Dictionary of sociology. Second eddition. David Jary&Julia JaryAssociate Editors Phillip Nichols and Alan Sillitoe. Social Darvinism..
  5. Collins. Dictionary of sociology. Second eddition. David Jary&Julia JaryAssociate Editors Phillip Nichols and Alan Sillitoe. Behaviourism. .
  6. Collins. Dictionary of sociology. Second eddition. David Jary&Julia JaryAssociate Editors Phillip Nichols and Alan Sillitoe. Exchange theory. .
  7. Collins. Dictionary of sociology. Second eddition. David Jary&Julia JaryAssociate Editors Phillip Nichols and Alan Sillitoe.symbol interactionism.
  8. Collins. Dictionary of sociology. Second eddition. David Jary&Julia JaryAssociate Editors Phillip Nichols and Alan Sillitoe. Weber Max. .
  9. Collins. Dictionary of sociology. Second eddition. David Jary&Julia JaryAssociate Editors Phillip Nichols and Alan Sillitoe.Functionalism. .
  10. Collins. Dictionary of sociology. Second eddition. David Jary&Julia JaryAssociate Editors Phillip Nichols and Alan Sillitoe. Conflict theory. .
  11. Collins. Dictionary of sociology. Second eddition. David Jary&Julia JaryAssociate Editors Phillip Nichols and Alan Sillitoe. Technological determinism.