French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798–1857) greatly advanced the field of social science, giving it the name “sociology” and influenced many 19th-century social intellectuals. He rejected religion and royalty, focusing instead on the study of society, which he named “sociology.” He broke the subject into two categories: the forces holding society together (“social statics”) and those driving social change (“social dynamics”). Comte’s ideas and use of scientific methods greatly advanced the field.
I believe that his attempt to unify history, psychology and economics through scientific understanding of society is his one way of refining and promoting his “new world order.”
He produced is major work the six-volume Course of Positive Philosophy. In this work, Comte argued that, like the physical world, society operated under its own set of laws.
Comte also wrote the System of Positive Polity. In his formulation of a “religion of humanity,” Comte proposed a religious order based on reason and humanity, emphasizing morality as the cornerstone of human political organization.
First Woman Sociologist
Born in 1802, Harriet Martineau is considered the first woman sociologist. In 1853, she was the first to translate August Comte’s work from French to English. It is through this translation that English-speaking scholars could begin to learn the works of Comte, who is known as the father of sociology.
Martineau had a career full of writing for various journals, newspapers and, of course, her own books. Beginning in 1831, she began writing a series of stories, called Illustrations of Political Economy. Using the utilitarian principles of gaining happiness and the teaching of Adam Smith on free trade, she hoped to teach ordinary people how to better understand things such as tariffs, taxes and the state budget.
She formulated a comparative method for studying societies and analyzed the new American culture by measuring it against carefully stated principles. Quite possibly, she wrote the first “methodological essay” ever published, How to Observe Morals and Manners. Her greatest originality was in her method.
Karl Marx is credited with being a founder of communism, but Karl Marx’s economic writings were generally about capitalism and why it was doomed. It was later thinkers like Lenin who really developed the ideas of communism, so in a nutshell Marx’s principal contribution to communism was the idea that Capitalism was doomed. Marx while a communist thinker would really more accurately be described as anti-capitalist.
Marx wrote a relatively small pamphlet read by many called the Communist Manifesto, which was a call to the working classes to unite and try to bring about a revolution, but this was written as a persuasive essay really and does not really explain the economic thinking of Marx. Marx’s magnum opus in which his economic theories are laid out is Das Kapital. This book is in fact not about communism but about capitalism, which Marx thinks will collapse for a number of reasons. Probably the most important reason is the loss of excess value that is obtained from exploitation of laborers.
In an oversimplified explanation: A capitalist makes all of his profits from excess value beyond what he pays his workers and that to remain competitive, the capitalist will be required to replace workers with machines (from which he makes no extra profit). This will cut into capitalist profits and force some firms to go out of business leading to a crash in which fewer firms survive and grow larger. There would be repeated cycles of this with episodes of overproduction and subsequent crashes getting larger and larger as the firms grow larger and capitalists’ profits continue to be cut as described above.