Summary of theorists
Karl Marx (1818-1883) was a German theorist whose thoughts have formed the basis for the development of modern communism and socialism as they were based upon a materialistic interpretation of history. He held that individuals are supposed to take pleasure in the fruits of their toil but are hindered from achieving this in a capitalistic economic system, which leads to the oppression of the proletariat (the workers) for the benefit of the bourgeoisie (the wealthy).
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Thus, to prevent this oppression from taking place, he proposed for a proletarian revolution in which the workers attempt to overthrow the wealthy minority to establish reforms for the benefit of their class.
The ideas of Max Weber (1864-1920) led to great advances in the field of sociology, as well. As a classic thinker in the field of social sciences, he viewed sociology in terms of an extensive science of social action. His works mainly discussed the aspects of rationalization and disenchantment that he connected to the development of capitalism and modernity, and the establishment of methodological antipositivism, which portrays sociology as one of the non-empiricists fields of study that must investigate social action in terms of interpretive methods.
Ralf Dahrendorf (1929-2000) was an influential thinker who proposed that neither structural-functionalism nor Marxism alone can give a realistic view of an advanced society. He argued that the former disregards the realities of social conflict while the latter gives a too narrow explanation of class in a historically unspecific context while disregarding consensus and integration in the modern social systems. Thus, he derived some aspects from both theories in developing his theory on class conflict in a post-capitalist society.
Charles Wright Mills (1916-1962), combining the ideas of Karl Marx and Max Weber, developed what he called the classic sociological tradition that associates personal difficulties with public issues and threads life history into the historical structural dynamic by the use of models of society that illuminate large vistas of the social landscape.
Besides explaining the association of the triad of social structure, historical transformation, and life history, he also suggested that sociological imagination leads to a political perspective due to the understanding it gives of the state of humanity. Since he was emphatic in developing real-life applications from his sociology studies, it made him be in a bitter confrontation with some of the sociologists of the time.
Richard L. Zweigenhaft and G. William Domhoff carried out an investigation to establish the relative importance of race and class in America and found out that in as much as the importance of class has increased over the past few years; race is still the dominant factor in the personal and social identity of the African Americans in the U.S.
They based their study on the Better Chance program that was initiated to recruit and empower minority students in their advanced educational pursuits, and they discovered that the students experienced problems in their attempts to cope with the new life in the most exclusive boarding schools in the country. The study by Zweigenhaft and Domhoff revealed that the U.S. is still at a crucial juncture in terms of the relations between the African Americans and the whites. Thus, race still plays a significant role in the American social structure.