Why Bother

The Why Bother?(Question 1)

Part A

There have been many definitions and many philosophers of social and human sciences who has attempted to give definitions of what sociology is. In my view, there kinds of attempts are useful when one thinks of sociology in terms of an academic discipline. However, there are arguing that classical texts are a source of intellectual vitality and should not be discarded or the classical theories are not useful in the modern society. The question asked by the students is “Why bother with Durkheim anyway?” This question motivates Parker to find a new guidance in teaching classical authors like Marx, Weber, and Durkheim and researches about students' different viewpoints of learning the classical theories. In Parker's writing “Why bother with Durkheim? Teaching sociology in the 1990s”, Parker provides several compelling argument as to why classical sociologists are still the main ingredient in teaching and learning sociological theories.

Parker states that there are four justificatory strategies for teaching the sociological classic. Firstly, cannon products the tools to measure sociologists' theories themselves compare to others. Secondly, sociology classics are important sources which enable sociologists to perform the tasks today. Thirdly, modern sociologists must learn recognize cannon in order to make them recognizable to the profession. Lastly, sociologists make reference to the sociological classics serves to legitimize their sociological credentials.

Parker speaks to many students to recognize the importance of studying the sociological classics. Some students feel that knowing about Durkheim, Marx, and Weber is a good idea to change their viewpoints. One of parkers' students, Emma mentioned “it shows to me that Marx is still relevant to society now because before I'd even read him that was how I saw my world” (Parker, 1997:128). However, Emma makes her idea clearly about the problems of teaching sociology if only founding fathers are focused. She supports her statement “it tends to compartmentalize things and maybe closes people off to other ideas which don't fit nicely into those boxes” (Parker, 1997:129). Yet, parker asserts that a claim of the importance of engaging classical authors in order to understand current debates about modernity and postmodernity. It proves the importance of teaching the classical theories. Another student Ashfag feels that knowing about Durkheim, Marx, and Weber is a very important part of the sociological intellect. He mentions “I regard the three (Marx, Weber, Durkheim) as important people. I think it's important to have some sort of basic insight. If I can improve that by using these people, even further, I'll do it” (Parker, 1997:131). On the other hand, not everyone agrees with teaching early classic theories by sociologists are relevant to today and useful. The reason is that we are living in a different society of multiculturalism and cultural diversity. Even though many people believe that classic theories are important, it is not really necessary to go back to Mark, Weber, and Durkheim to be a sociologist. Parker points out “the challenge of sociology teaching towards a new century is to draw on these fresh sources of inspiration to truly redefine the core of sociology” (Parker, 1997:134). Parker is also concerns about if sociology were not redefined, sociological theory would render itself even more irrelevant to students attempting to understand the crucial forces shaping their lives.(Parker, 1997:133) Sociology should be created and developed more depth and relevance to modern society, a sociological curriculum that encompass different races, genders, and creeds. Lastly, Parker suggests “it is imperative that students are encouraged to engage critically with these texts. Critique without engagement can be at least as damaging as unthinking endorsement” (Parker, 1997:141). Parker demonstrates that students must think critically about accepting ideas from classic theories.

In the article, “The Author the Text and the Canon: Gadamer and the Persistence of Classic Text in Sociology” by Alan How, mainly argues about classical authors and their texts. How deals with the issue of authorship, arguing that while names remain to sociology and why classic texts persist. Firstly, How argues about the problems of classic texts. He mentions “while canonical authors have provided the intellectual backbone for various discipline, doubts have arisen because repeated attention to their work seems to involve too much acceptance of its apparent truth in a world different from the one originally addressed”( How, 2007:5). However, it is true that Marx, Weber and Durkheim name are still powerful force in the discipline of sociology. Barthes and Foucault both criticize the authority of authorship. They argue “because we know the author through the book, in a sense the book creates the author, rather than the author, the book” (How, 2007:9). Barthes and Foucault state that we have to evaluate the books not by authorships for justification. They also mention that authors like Marx and Freud are considered founder of discourses so they cannot be easily dismiss, but other authors lost their voices after time has changed. However, Foucault understands the importance of “name” in order to justify a claim or writing a paper. This is because authors of classic text are held in high esteem and using certain authors name gives more weight and authority to your argument.

Reading classical can also be a challenge as it is debatable whether it should be read in a ‘historicist or presentist' way. How mentions “the argued, wrongly assumed of meaning between what the authors originally meant and our present concerns” (How, 2007:11). How points out that there are possibilities that authors' original meant can be changed by our interpretation and understanding. How indicates the importance of interpretation, due to the fact that a text always involves an interpretation. If we understand the authors' theories, we must apply it to our own situation. According to Gadamer, Gadamer also explains the importance of learning classics. She argues “classics is not an antiquarian concern with what was merely said or thought or done in the past; it is what we share with it, what continues from the past even in its difference from the present that matters. There is something true to be learned from the past”(How, 2007:16). Gadamer emphasizes that classic texts are crucially important to understand today and future from the past.

Rodney Stark in his writing entitled “SSSR Presidential Address, 2004; Putting an End to Ancestor Worship” mentions importance about the work and finding of three of the most well known people in the field of sociology. Max Weber, Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim are sociologists of worldwide reputation in the field of sociology. Despite of this fact, not everyone agrees with their theories and believes in them. Rodney Stark is one of them who does not believe what the sociologists found and he tries to convince others why he thinks he is right in some of their most recognized work.

First, Rodney Stark discovers some flows and errors from “The Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism” by Max Weber which is the most famous of his work. Weber offered a theory of capitalism. Weber argued in his work that capitalism originated first in Europe and that was accomplished by the Protestants who had moral visions and was able to restrain from over consumption as they enthusiastically seek wealth. However, there were people who against Weber's statement. According to Henri Pirenne found out that feature of capitalism existed in other cities like Italy which consisted of mainly Catholics. Thus, Weber's thesis that capitalism came through Protestantism was not true. Also, other economic historian rejected Weber's thesis on the basis of time order. “the first examples of true capitalism appeared in the great Christian monasteries as early as about the ninth century”(Stark, 2007:466). It proves that there are elements of capitalism that existed long before capitalism itself. Weber also believed that protestant ethics originated in the monastic way of life. However, it was false. “Despite the fact that many, perhaps even most, monks, and nuns were from the nobility and wealthiest families”(Stark, 2007:467). Stark asserts “He seems to have felt that these “facts” were so obvious that no documentation was needed, although he did mention a study by one of his students, the only actual data Weber cited anywhere in his famous monograph”(Stark,2007:468). Starks indicates that Weber's claims are dubious and not scientifically proven. Lastly, Stark finds many flaws and errors from Weber's work.

Emile Durkheim is by far one of the most important sociologists in the history of the field. Durkheim defined the functions of religion as a social solidarity. He thought that religious beliefs were social obligation and social cohesion. “Durkheim explicitly excluded belief in gods or any other sort of supernatural entity as a defining aspect of religion. Consequently, he remained unaware that “godless” religions could not sustain the moral order”(Stark, 2007:468). In addition, Durkheim mentioned that religion was mainly about rites and rituals and that god were just “window dressing” and not the real essence of religion. He also argued “all society must have religions and it necessary to define religions without reference to gods so as to include Buddhism”(Stark, 2007:469). However, what his exclusion of God was extremely and fundamentally wrong. Different religions groups place different emphasis on rituals and the supernatural entity that is involved. Durkheim asserted the importance of precisions when relating to their supernatural entity. However, In the Catholic religion precision is not as necessary. Stark supports his statement “no sincere catholic thinks that transubstantiation will not occur during the mass of the priest gets some of the words wrong or out of order. Indeed most appeal to Yahweh, Jehovah or Allah involves a minimum of rituals, often being impromptu supplication by ordinary believers”(Stark, 2007:469). Durkheim also claimed “religion exist because it unites human into moral communities”(Stark, 2007:469). However, Edward Tylor asserts that only some kinds of religions have moral implication. The consensus believe that participation in rituals and rites has no direct influence ones morality, but it is proved that people placed on God are less likely to commit immoral acts and it's correlated with morality. Thus, Durkheim's thesis became clear that he made a major mistake in dismissing god.

Lastly mentions about Karl Marx also wrote the “religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature…the opium of the people” which he also defined the religion Mark insisted “faith is rooted in want and miserly and that piety is most prevalent among the poor”(Stark, 2007:471). Mark believed that religion was more associated with economic struggles and hardship. However, there are many disputes the claim that religiousness is rooted in poverty. However, Stark points out “members of these groups are about as likely to have gone to college and to earn high incomes as are members of more liberal denominations as well as Roman Catholics, while the unchurched are the least educated and have the lowest incomes”(Stark, 2007:471). Stark also proves that Jehovah's Witnesses includes more percentage of people who have the privilege than low-status people. A Stark also mentions early Christianity was based primarily in the privileged not the poor. In addition, Stark is able to statically prove that studying 483 ascetics Catholic saints who live between 500 and 1500, 75 percent were from the nobility and another 14 percent can from wealth families. Based on the fact, Marx's claim of the deprivation is not supported by object evidence.

Stark concludes that Weber, Durkheim, and Marx's theories are considered more important than a social scientific form of Shinto. However, we should believe the importance of facts which are scientifically proved. Nowadays, we have more resources to gain knowledge about religion by utilizing scientific researches, compare to these early sociologists and not from the interpretation of them.

The Why Bother?(Question 1)

Part B

After I read the articles that I was assigned, I realized that there are many debates about classical theories and authors in the modern society. I cannot say that classical theories are really necessary being taught to all students in college as a curriculum. However, I believe that early sociologists' theories provide all students with an in depth understanding and usefulness in understanding contemporary societies. I also do think classical texts have their place in modern sociology. However, they should be treated as history and not be so overly used and study as many scholars of sociology would like us to do. I think they should be used in the context of historical text. In the sociology curriculum, I really think it is appropriate to make mention of Marx, Weber, and Durkheim because of their status in the discipline of sociology. I believe that sociology students should have knowledge of who these important people and what they present in the field of sociology.

I can demonstrate that sociological theory is indispensable in understanding the social world. However, I also think that there are too much to read and analyze these difficult texts that have little or no significant in a society that has changed since those texts were written. I strongly believe that Marx, Weber, and Durkheim were very important during the time and period in which they did their work, so their work should be treated as such.

The Durkheim Question (Question 2)

Part A

According to The Rule of Sociological Method by Emile Durkheim, Durkheim understands that sociology is a science. Durkheim's conception of sociology is as general social science conceived as the study of the form and function of social facts. He demonstrates that social facts are not the function independently of the individual. He also asserts that sociology is a scientific study of a reality “a category of facts which present very special characteristics: they consist of manners of acting, thinking, and feeling external to the individual, which are invested with a coercive power by virtue of which they exercise control over him” (Durkheim, 1982:52). They have a coercive power over the individual and this is actually how we can indentify social facts because they are external to the individual and they are social. “I fulfill obligations which are defined in law and custom and which are external to myself and my actions” (Durkheim, 1982:50).

He insists is to treat social facts as things. These facts are not material things, they are rather ways of thinking and feeling, prosperities that exist outside of the human consciousness, but are capable of a definition and are appropriate to be investigated. The existences of social facts lead to scientific method. “to treat phenomena as things is to treat them as data and this constitutes the starting point for science” (Durkheim, 1982: 69). What we need is scientifically developed concept of the social. Sociology needs to be established as a rigid discipline. He argues that discard all preconception is necessary and it is the basis of all scientific method. He cannot let investigate all things subjectively. “to be objective the definition clearly must express the phenomena as a fiction, not of an idea of the mind, but of their inherent properties” (Durkheim, 1982:75). Durkheim argues that the sociologists must refuse of using those concepts which are not scientific. “He must free himself from those fallacious nations which hold away over the mind of the ordinary person, shaking off, once and for all, the yoke of those empirical categories that long habit often makes tyrannical”(Durkheim, 1982:73). Durkheim also points out that Social facts are studied objectively. We must dismiss common experience, and create the observed data. “Personal” must be discarded and objectivity should be retained. He emphasizes that sociological observations must to be equally objective, and thus social facts should be separated from the individual facts. He asserts “thus it is the rule in the natural sciences to discard observable data that may be too personal to observe, retaining exclusively those data which present a sufficient degree of objectivity”(Durkheim, 1982:81). He emphasizes that if data is based on personal opinions and feelings; it becomes subjective and obscures the research. He also argues “for it to be possible to compare the different forms that a social phenomenon takes with different peoples, it must have been isolated from the time series to which it belongs”(Durkheim, 1982:147). He emphasizes that even though it is very difficult to discover the all conditions to identify the social facts, we cannot limit ourselves to the study of a single people. What Durkheim discovers throughout the rules of sociological method is that sociology is an independent discipline of all other sciences and there was a distinct difference between anatomical and physiological facts.

The Durkheim Question (Question 2)

Part B

Durkheim's rules are crucial in the field of sociology and the standard which he sets is emulated by many researchers. This is a poof in the research article written by Uli Orth entitled “Punishment Goals of Crime Victims.” According to the Punishment Goals of Crime Victims by Uli Orth, the goal of Orth‘s research is to find out crime victims perspective of punishment goals.

In using the data collected by Orth uses the basic principles of Durkheim which is a sense of objectivity. According to the Orth, Orth investigates punishment goals among 174 adult crime victims (rape and nonsexual assault) for each participant's real criminal case in Germany. Orth examines 84 victims of rape and 90 victims of non sexual assault by using a method which is individual surveys and data are collected by self-report. However, Orth explains “there is an almost total lack of empirical data concerning punishment goals among crime victims”(Orth, 2003:176). According to the Orth's research, Orth does not use Durkheim's the rules of sociological method in his theory which is “statement to have scientific value it must be validated a very great number of times: we would almost have to be assured that all the facts had been reviewed”(Durkheim, 1982:153). Even though Orth tries to make her statement clearly by using several methods, lack of her methods does not fully convince others. However, there is no doubt that Orth tries to follow the basic guidelines which Durkheim has set in his theories.


Durkheim, E. 1982. The Rules of Sociological Method. with an introduction by Steven Lukes. New York, Free Press.

How, Alan R. 2007. The Author the Text and the Canon: Gadamer and the Persistence of Classical Texts in Sociology. Journal of classical Sociology. 7:5-22.

Orth, Uli. 2003. Punishment Goal of Crime Victim. Law and Human Behavior.27(2):173-186.

Parker, David. 1997. Viewpoint: Why Bother with Durkheim? Teaching Sociology in the 1990's. Sociological Review 45:122-146.

Stake, Rodney. 2004. SSSR Presidential Address, 2004. Putting an End to Ancestor Worship. Journal for the scientific Study of Religion. 43:465-475.

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