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Development of Sociological Theories

XIX-XX century is a period of the prosperity and development of sociology. It was the time of the sociological world-famous theories and the opening of the brightest sociologists whose researchers we use even nowadays. Emily Durkheim, Max Weber, Fredrick Engels, Adam Smith, and Karl Marx are the power of sociology. They created classical sociology and gave the foundation for the modern one.

Sociology studies society and interaction of people within groups, it is interested in the place of a human being in a small social circle, as well as the global one. Historical changes, social networks, culture, gender, race, humanism, social justice, the factors of social progress and the problems of society are the objects of sociology. Without a doubt, one can find the analysis of such social phenomena in the works of sociologists. The current essay intends to explain the notion of the labor division and the interrelationship between individuals and society.

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The division of labor is a central theme among the sociologists discussed throughout the quarter. What are the similarities and differences in the various accounts of this phenomenon? What role does the division of labor play in contemporary society according to the authors? What is the assumed connection, if any, of the division of labor to other concepts that can be used to describe the economy (as for instance capitalism) or to other spheres of social life, such as politics and the state?

There is nothing strange that the division of labor remains a leading topic among the sociologists. First of all, one can explain it by a large number of sociologists that were interested in such a notion. Secondly, the division of labor is the basement for the development of morality and law. Durkheim was one of the brightest representatives of sociology as his work The Division of Labor in Society is a sociological “classic” that inspired others to develop their ideas and thoughts. Durkheim, Karl Marx, and Fredrick Engels created their works to appeal to modern sociologists. Consequently, Durkheim proves that the division labor in society can lead to conflicts.

Speaking about The German Ideology by Marx and Engels, it is necessary to admit that their study has communist motives as it concerns materialistic benefits. According to Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, the labor division is an inevitable phenomenon that appears from the necessity of remaining in a natural society and regulation of general production. Marx and Engels insist that consciousness differentiates people from animals. Production of means of subsistence is another typical feature of an intelligent man. They use materialism to depict economic, social and historical conditions.

Due to the division of labor, a person has a particular sphere of activity. Marx and Engels reject the spiritual entity of man (religion, beliefs) and, on the contrary, support the formation of production power and relations of production form the basis of the economic development. “(The) division of labor offers us the first example of how, as long as man remains in a natural society, that is, as long as a cleavage exists between the particular and the common interest… (Marx & Engels, 1848).” It means that both sociologists insist on the thought that the division of labor is a natural phenomenon.

The phenomenon of the labor division has similarities and differences in works of such sociologists as Adam Smith, Durkheim, Karl Marx, and Fredrick Engels. In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith believes in the power of labor and its division as it develops skills, judgment, and dexterity. For Smith, the labor division has many advantages. However, the same as Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in their The German Ideology, Adam Smith regards the labor division as a necessity of human nature.

The differences between the approaches of sociologists to the labor division are also evident. For Adam Smith, the labor division is the way of following personal interest. However, self-interested, economic actors compete with each other creating a self-constraining system that produces well-being and economic growth. Self-interest is characterized by the natural desire to provide one’s own welfare and personal better conditions. For Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, the labor division is a driving force of economic development.

The essential concepts of The German Ideology by Marx and Engels are a division of labor, materialist approach, communist society, power of production and relations of production. Depicting such notions Marx and Engels idealized their vision of labor, and their revolutionary understanding of the society is too abstract to put in practice. The division of labor underlines the border between the poor and the rich. Production of material life by people of the lower class does not benefit them to the same extent as compared to the bourgeois. Marx and Engels formulated historical materialism and the materialist conception of history as an integral approach. Social Development of the science of society is the main priority of the theory. Marx and Engels wanted to change socialism from utopia to science.

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Both sociologists insisted that work can provide means of livelihood. “He is a hunter, a fisherman, a shepherd, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood” (Marx & Engels, 1848). However, they did not take into consideration that people of the lower class work harder than those of the elite class, but they do not have the same means of livelihood. The German Ideology cannot be an objective material in the study of relationships between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and the division of labor as a driving force of manufacturing. As to Durkheim, he defines the division of labor as a condition of progress and supreme law of the society, as well as Karl Marx. Durkheim insists on capital investment and human resources as the driving forces of the modern business and industry.

According to the above-mentioned sociologists, the division of labor plays a crucial role in contemporary society. First of all, it is a driving force for the development of skills, knowledge, competencies, and abilities. Another value of it is that the labor division presupposes the stages of labor development. The division of labor is a leading aspect of the modern world. The material conditions and the results of their production define the well-being of people and their activities. The production and intercourse are two sides of the labor division. Production is related to nature and intercourse is related to other people’s activities. It is evident that intercourse and production are interrelated.

Secondly, the sociologists reinforce the role of a worker for contemporary society. Workers are the instruments for the accumulation of wealth and increasing power. An independent force of the producer is an alien phenomenon, as well as referring the objects of labor to its producer. Another benefit of the labor division for society is the development of individual talents as labor presupposes the development of personal skills and abilities for achieving public and personal interests. However, it is necessary to mention that the labor division that pursuing public interests benefits economic growth, while greed benefits economic crisis.

One can connect the division of labor with the class struggle. The exploitation of the lower class by the elite and class struggles are the driving forces of all historical developments and the labor division. The class feudal society caused the creation of class antagonisms. Then, the class feudal society was interchanged by the manufacturing system due to the constant growth of the market and rising customer demand. However, at the present time, the modern industry took the place of the economic system. Modern industry belongs to the modern bourgeois, leaders of modern armies and industrial millionaires.

Class relationships emerging from a new ruling class is an essential economic aspect, and means of production are the basis of class relationships. As a result, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels oppose lord to serf, patrician to plebian, freeman to the slave, oppressor to oppressed, guild-master to journeyman. Such opposition proves the existence of brutal, shameless and direct exploitation. It is evident that the modern bourgeois cannot exist without the improvement of the instruments of production and the relation of production. As a result, the lower class creates such conditions for the bourgeois.

One can follow such a message in The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels. It becomes evident that modern industrial society faces a class conflict between the rich and poor, in terms used by Marx and Engels, bourgeoisie and proletariat. Even though forces of capitalism have an exploitative relationship, they are quickly ceasing. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels described the proletarian revolution, which is aimed at making the latter the new ruling class. However, they make a human factor a leading one.

The major concepts used by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels are new classes, struggle, means of production, mode of production, the relation of production, bourgeoisie, and proletariat that are related to the labor division. The revolution of the proletariat is their way of appropriating property and desire to obtain control and destroy the ownership of private property. As to capitalism, it is unstable and the revolution will bring changes. The communists promoted the revolution as they were willing to move history towards the natural conclusion. According to the communists, the revolution is the only way in which social classes can be eliminated as changes in government and reforms will not be efficient.

The main issue of the labor division is that the producer has not an independent power as he/she is a dependable subject. For the worker, labor can be turned in deformity, hovels, and privation in spite of the fact that he/she works for the beauty, palaces and expensive things. Changes in the community do not benefit a poor worker. He works for the sake of others and the object of his production does not belong to him. Generally speaking, an increase in the production in rang and power can put a person in a more miserable position. It means that a worker is a constant producer and his products enrich the elite. The major concepts of Estranged Labor by Karl Marx are the accumulation of capital, capitalists, and labor. Division of the society in two classes is inevitable as the accumulation of capital is in few hands. The rest of the community works for the enrichment of others. The propertyless workers depend on the property owner. Both categories belong to different classes and there is a big gap between them.

Capitalists run the community and it is a natural phenomenon. The lower class works to satisfy their physical well-being. The elite class receives the results of the work and satisfies their physical and moral existence. Karl Marx indicated in his work that there was a direct relationship between labor and its producer. However, there was also a connection between workers and objects of his production. It is necessary to mention that such relationships hide behind the political economy. The division of capital and land, labor and capital are not included in the political economy. As a result, such discipline protects the rights of capitalists as it defines wages as profits.

The classical sociologists provided arguments on how individual(s) and society relate to each other. What role does individual action play in explaining society and social processes at large? What impact does society, in turn, have on the constitution of human beings as individuals? What kind of prospects for autonomy and/or self-realization do individuals have depending on the social context of which they are a part (i.e. as members of different classes, occupational groups, urban living conditions, etc.)?

The classical sociologists, such as Emily Durkheim, Max Weber, Fredrick Engels, Adam Smith, and Karl Marx, relate individuals and society in their works. French sociologist Emile Durkheim believes that societies are interrelated and that is why they share values, traditions, and knowledge. It means that the community is a place for the interchanging of the thoughts, knowledge, and traditions between people. However, individuals always follow their personal interests. German sociologist Max Weber is supposed to be on equal terms with Emile Durkheim. He supposes that people always struggle for their own interests. According to Durkheim, everyone has forces inside that encourage following one’s interests and desires. Both sociologists were convinced that their interests are determined by shared values and socialization. Max Weber supposes that society is developing, becoming bureaucratic and rationalized.

Individual actions define the atmosphere of the community and help explain social processes. Every society is characterized by social order or an intention to create it that is why it is necessary to regard the notion of “social order” in Weber and Durkheim. As to Weber, he draws a parallel between the chaos of individualistic ambiguity and social order. It means that social order depends on the individualistic order. Weber supposes that social order is built at the individualistic level. He states that one should define the individual motives that are the driving forces for the social order.

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Weber argues that people can give meaning to their own behavior and to the behavior of other people. Reciprocal relationships are the leading aspect here. Max Weber supposes that social regularity was the harmony between meaning that individuals attribute to their actions and to the actions of other people and individualistic social actions. It proves once more that “methodological individualism” is characteristic of Weber’s sociology.

Durkheim refers to social order not as individualistic actions but as a whole. “Methodological collectivism” is a characteristic feature of Durkheim’s sociology. If Weber pays attention to the individuals as the basement of society, Durkheim pays attention to the behavior of individuals as the nature of society.

Durkheim said:

“Man is double. There are two beings in him: an individual being which has its foundation in the organism … and a social being which represents the highest reality in the intellectual and moral order that we can know by observation. I mean society.”

It means that individual needs and desires are infinite but it is the society that limits them and struggles for social order and equality. Moreover, Weber supports the statement that the ideas and thoughts are important for social changes and social order. Durkheim is convinced that individualistic thoughts and ideas were not able to influence the existing social order. Durkheim supposes:

“Individuals are much more a product of common life than they are determinants of it.”

As to society, it also has an impact on the constitution of human beings as individuals. Freedom and human individuality are also one of the most important components that influence the development of social community. Durkheim is more optimistic telling that society can bring human individuality and freedom. However, Weber has an opposite thought that is more rational. Max Weber is convinced that society brought limitations and restrictions on human freedom and individuality. Such an approach is pessimistic. He even names the society as an iron cage for human freedom. He is also convinced that human freedom has disadvantages that ruined the social order and society.

As to Adam Smith, he believes that society is a driving force for the development and growth of an individual, namely his self-interest. At the present time, self-interest has more negative connotations as people are self-interested in becoming richer and violate all ethical morals, norms, and laws of natural liberty.

Without a doubt, the notion of self-interest presented by Adam Smith can exist but under the influence of selfish interests, it begins to transform and becomes a deceptive image of achieving personal benefits. For Adam Smith, it is natural that each person wants to provide his/her own welfare. Relying on Smith’s theories, one can say that self-interest can motivate the economy, but it happens only in limited situations. Smith believes the idea of self-interest is the basement for free-market economics and society. However, self-interest can motivate the economy when an individual follows public interests to reach his/her own private ones. Commitment to spiritual and ethical values is a necessary condition for the personal development of an individual. The absence of fulfillment and commitment can lead to a decrease in creativity and productivity that are necessary for the achievement of economic interests.

Depending on the social context, individuals have many prospects for autonomy and self-realization. For example, living in a community means to look for a calling. A calling is a natural phenomenon, like God’s gift. One can say that calling is convenient for capitalists as they could hide their richness and treasures behind religious values. Calling has a rational nature because it is realized not through heart, soul and God principles, but through luxurious and careless life. Max Weber incorporates calling through the concepts of asceticism and Protestants. They wanted to be people following their calling as it could help them avoid criticism regarding their property. Moreover, a calling was their way of interference with the social and economic life of the community.

The social context is the basement for self-realization and autonomy through self-interest. Self-interest plays an important role, especially in a modern society where private interests are above public ones. First of all, self-interest can provide one’s own welfare and better conditions without causing harm to other people. If self-interest provokes compassion, generosity, and esteem, then it will benefit economic growth and motivate economic development. If self-interest provokes hate, selfish passions, grief, and pain, then it will be selfish, harmful to economic growth and cannot motivate economic development. Fellow-feeling is another condition that is necessary for making self-interest a motivation for the development of the economy. Self-interest can motivate the economy when an individual follows public interests to his/her own private ones.

Adam Smith is convinced that society cannot exist among those who are ready to injure one another and whose self-interests are only private. For economic relationships, the interests and social passions are crucial and benevolence has no role at all. Economic interests are restrained by greed and parsimony. From Smith’s theories, it is evident that self-interest is not a basis for the development of society and the wealth of nations. Self-interest can be cooperative and prudent. Besides, it needs the approval of others and the competitive environment.


Having analyzed, the most important sociological theories of Emily Durkheim, Max Weber, Fredrick Engels, Adam Smith, and Karl Marx, one can come to the conclusion that they are the basement of sociology and stimulation to the creation of new theories. Without a doubt, there are differences in their theories and approaches to sociology. However, they contribute to the depiction of the labor division notion in the community and show the interrelationship between the individuals and society.