, "word", "knowledge". It was first coined byAuguste Comte(1798–1857), in 1838. Comte had earlier used the term "social physics", but thathad subsequently been appropriated by others, most notably the Belgian statisticianAdolpheQuetelet. Comte endeavoured to unify history, psychology and economics through the scientificunderstanding of the social realm. Writing shortly after the malaise of theFrench Revolution,he proposed that social ills could be remedied through sociological positivism, an epistemologicalapproach outlined in
Though Comte is generally regarded as the "Father of Sociology", the academic subjectwas formally established by another French thinker,Émile Durkheim(1858–1917), whodeveloped positivism in greater detail. Durkheim set up the first European department of sociology at theUniversity of Bordeauxin 1895, publishing his
Durkheim,Karl Marxand Weber are typically cited as the three principal architects of social science. Their thought is central to the modern sociological paradigms of functionalism,conflict theoryandanti-positivismrespectively.Vilfredo Pareto,Alexis de Tocqueville,AdamFerguson,Robert Michels,Werner Sombart,Ferdinand Tönnies,Georg SimmelandKarlMannheimare occasionally included on academic curricula as further founding theorists. Eachkey figure is associated with a particular theoretical perspective and orientation.Marx and Engels associated the emergence of modern society above all with thedevelopment of capitalism; for Durkheim it was connected in particular with industrializationand the new social division of labour which this brought about; for Weber it had to do with theemergence of a distinctive way of thinking, the rational calculation which he associated with theProtestant Ethic (more or less what Marx and Engels speak of in terms of those 'icy waves of egotistical calculation'). Together the works of these great classical sociologists suggest whatGiddens has recently described as 'a multidimensional view of institutions of modernity' andwhich emphasizes not only capitalism and industrialism as key institutions of modernity, but also'surveillance' (meaning 'control of information and social supervision') and 'military power'(control of the means of violence in the context of the industrialization of war).
Positivism and anti-positivism
Themethodologicalapproach toward sociology by early theorists was to treat thediscipline in broadly the same manner asnatural science. An emphasis onempiricismand thescientific methodwas sought to provide a tested foundation for sociological research, and todistinguish sociology from less empirical fields such as philosophy.This perspective, called positivism, is based on the assumption that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge,and that such knowledge can come only from positive affirmation of theories through strictscientific andquantitativemethods.Émile Durkheimwas a major proponent of theoreticallygrounded empirical research, seeking correlations between"social facts"to reveal structurallaws. His position was informed by an interest in applying sociological findings in the pursuit of social reform and the negation of social "anomie". Accounts of Durkheim's positivism may bevulnerable to exaggeration and oversimplification: Comte was the only major sociologicalthinker to postulate that the social realm may be subject to scientific analysis in the same way asnoble science, whereas Durkheim acknowledged in greater detail the fundamentalepistemologicallimitations.Karl MarxReactions against social empiricism began when German philosopher Georg WilhelmFriedrich Hegelvoiced opposition to both empiricism, which he rejected as uncritical, anddeterminism, which he viewed as overly mechanistic.Karl Marx's methodology borrowed fromHegeldialecticismbut also a rejection of positivism in favour of critical analysis, seeking tosupplement the empirical acquisition of "facts" with the elimination of illusions. He maintainedthat appearances need to be critiqued rather than simply documented. Marx rejected Comtean positivism but nonetheless endeavoured to produce a