He then founded the sociology department at Brandeis University and taught there for 15 years before joining the sociology department of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Sociology[ edit ] Coser was the first sociologist to try to bring together structural functionalism and conflict theory ; his work was focused on finding the functions of social conflict. In a society that seems to be disintegrating, conflict with another society, inter-group conflict, may restore the integrative core. For example, the cohesiveness of Israeli Jews might be attributed to the long-standing conflict with the Arabs. Conflict with one group may also serve to produce cohesion by leading to a series of alliances with other groups. Conflicts within a society, intra-group conflict, can bring some ordinarily isolated individuals into an active role.

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From Lewis A. The Work Karl Marx was a socialist theoretician and organizer, a major figure in the history of economic and philosophical thought, anda great social prophet.

The Overall Doctrine Society, according to Marx, comprised a moving balance of antithetical forces that generate social change by their tension and struggle. For him, struggle rather than peaceful growth was the engine of progress; strife was the father of all things, and social conflict the core of historical process. This thinking was in contrast with most of the doctrines of his eighteenth century predecessors, but in tune with much nineteenth century thought. To Marx the motivating force in history was the manner in which men relate to one another in their continuous struggle to wrest their livelihood from nature.

This is indeed a historical act, a fundamental condition of all history. Man is a perpetually dissatisfied animal. In the effort to satisfy primary and secondary needs, men engage in antagonistic cooperation as soon as they leave the primitive, communal stage of development. As soon as a division of labor emerges in human society, that division leads to the formation of antagonistic classes, the prime actors in the historical drama.

Marx was a relativizing historicist according to whom all social relations between men, as well as all systems of ideas, are specifically rooted in historical periods. They are historical and transitory products. When he asserted, for example, that all previous historical periods were marked by class struggles, he immediately added that these struggles differed according to historical stages.

In marked distinction to his radical predecessors who had tended to see history as a monotonous succession of struggles between rich and poor, or between the powerless and the powerful, Marx maintained that, although class struggles had marked all history, the contenders in the battle had changed over time. Although there might have been some similarity between the journeymen of the late Middle Ages who waged their battle against guild masters and the modern industrial workers who confronted capitalists, the contenders were, nevertheless, in a functionally different situation.

The character of the overall social matrix determined the forms of struggle which were contained within it. The fact that modern factory workers, as distinct from medieval journey-men, are forever expropriated from command over the means of production and hence forced to sell their labor power to those who control these means makes them a class qualitatively different form artisans or journeymen. The anatomy of civil society is to be sought in political economy.

Nor can such change be explained by reference to the emergence of novel ideas. The genesis and acceptance of ideas depend on something that is not an idea. Ideas are not prime movers but are the reflection, direct or sublimated, of the material interests that impel men in their dealings with others.

Consequently, for Marx, any aspect of that whole—be it legal codes, systems of education,religion, or art—could not be understood by itself. Societies, moreover, are not only structured wholes but developing totalities. Although historical phenomena were the result of an interplay of many components, all but one of them, the economic factor,were in the last analysis dependent variables. But they all react upon one another and upon the economic base.

By relations of production Marx does not only mean technology, though this is an important part, but the social relations people enter into by participating in economic life.

The modern workshop, which is based on the use of machinery, is a social relation of production, an economic category. In the social production which men carry on they enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material powers of production.

The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of reality—the real foundation, on which legal and political superstructures arise and to which definite forms of social consciousness correspond.

The mode of production of material life determines the general character of the social, political and spiritual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being determines their consciousness. These property relations in turn give rise to different social classes. Just as a man cannot choose who is to be his father, so he has no choice as to his class.

Social mobility, though recognized by Marx, plays practically no role in his analysis. Once a man is ascribed to a specific class by virtue of his birth, once he has become feudal lord or a serf, an industrial worker or a capitalist, his mode of behavior is prescribed for him. Different locations in the class spectrum lead to different class interests. Such differing interests flow not from class consciousness or the lack of it among individuals, but from objective positions in relation to the process of production.

Men may well be unaware of their class interests and yet be moved by them, as it were, behind their backs. Man is human only in society, yet it is possible for him at specific historical junctures to change the nature of these constraints.

The division of society into classes gives rise to political, ethical, philosophical, and religious views of the world, views which express existing class relations and tend either to consolidate or to undermine the power and authority of the dominant class.

The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production. In revolutionary or prerevolutionary periods it even happens that certain representatives of the dominant class shift allegiance. Every social order is marked by continuous change in the material forces of production, that is, the forces of nature that can be harnessed by the appropriate technologies and skills. When this is the case, representatives of ascending classes come to perceive existing property relations as a fetter upon further development.

Those classes that expect to gain the ascendancy by a change in property relations become revolutionary. New social relationships begin to develop within older social structures and result from contradictions and tensions within that structure at the same time as they exacerbate them.

For example, new modes of production slowly emerged within late feudal society and allowed the bourgeoisie, which controlled these new modes of production, effectively to challenge the hold of the classes that had dominated the feudal order. As the bourgeois mode of production gained sufficient specific weight, it burst asunder the feudal relations in which it first made its appearance. The dissolution of the latter sets free the elements of theformer. As these men acquire class consciousness, they discover their fundamental antagonism to the bourgeois class and band together to overthrow a regime to which they owe their existence.

Bottomore London, McGraw-Hill, , p. I have used this useful volume throughout, since it is easily available. In some cases, where the translation was outmoded, I have slightly modified it. Selected Writings. Selected Works, I, p. Selected Works, II, p. This is a late formulation, earlier statements are considerably more dogmatic in their insistence on the priority of economic factors.


Masters of sociological thought : ideas in historical and social context



Masters of Sociological Thought: Ideas in Historical and Social Context



Lewis A. Coser


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