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The classical theorists were developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As such, the development of the theories was mainly experienced across Europe by the social philosophers who were trying to understand the changing of the social world. The philosophers were; Marx, Durkheim, Simmel, and Weber. The four theorists were mainly concerned with the arrangement of the social phenomena. The overview of the ideas of each thinker can be seen as a way to make an individual understand the contribution of each theorist to the development of sociology and the formation of the new society. However, in their approaches, the theorist had conflicting ideas that brought out the case of differences of the ideas of each thinker. Similarly, each theorist had one objective in his work, to summarize the idea of modern social reformation. As such, this paper focuses on describing and exploring the similarities and differences that were summarized by the four theorists regarding the modern social development.


First, the four theorists had a different perspective regarding the case modernization. As such, each theorist has a different perspective regarding the definition of the word modernity. In the definition of the term modernity, each theorist described the word according to their personal experience. To begin with, Simmel can be viewed as the first thinker of modernity. In his writing, it is observed that Simmel connected the case of modernity with two key interrelated factors. (Chernilo, 2013) indicates that modernity is described as the growth of the cities and the money available in the economy. In the definition of the concept of modernity, the Simmel states that modernity is entailing the city life and the circulation of the money.

Regarding modernity, Simmel has a differing perspective from any other theorist. For instance, in his description he pointed out that modernization brings various advantages to people, particularly in the current modern society. Additionally, he pointed out that money has the effect on the modern community, and it can cause alienation in the society. Theoretically, the sociologist analyzed modernity as the process as the situation that gives people opportunity to recognize their power. He furthers his description for the term modernity and claimed that money is one the substantial factor to the human life as it gets established through modernity. Lastly, Simmel viewed the concept of modernity in a different way as he indicated that modernity causes a negative effect to people. Andersen, & Kaspersen, (2000) labeled that money is a vital factor in the society separates men from the crucial process of their life.

On the other hand, Durkheim believed or view the situation of the society as more effective with the case of cohesiveness. His studies describe the concept of modernity in a different way. According to Durkheim, modernity is all to do with social solidarity. In this context, the theorist tries to bring the idea of modernity as a functional dependence (Chernilo, 2013). Unlike the case of Simmel, the philosopher feels that in the current society, people depend on each other. Therefore, the modern society is in the state of harmony. Ideally, solidarity or rather differentiation does not bring disorganization in the society, in fact, it create the state of dependency in the community. In a better understanding, Durkheim, theory represents a different perspective regarding the society people are living. As such, the theorists viewed society as a stratified/structured unit and the more the society gets stratified, the greater the level of modernism.

More so, the four theorists continued to have a different perspective regarding the situation of the society in the modern world. Max Weber, as the chief theorist to this subject or topic of modernization, has a different perspective regarding the development of the society. For decades, Weber is being recognized for his work that is related to the society ethics and the capitalism movement. As such, the sociologist argued that ethics and religion are the common factors that shape the human accomplishment in the society. Comparing with the context of Simmel and Durkheim, Weber has different viewpoint regarding the definition of the word modernity. (, 2015) found that modernity is the state of rationality within the society. In the survey, Weber indicated that the level of reasonableness is the circulating theme that symbolizes the human activities in the society. Moreover, the philosopher perspective can be drawn from the case of ethics and spiritual as he indicates that the level of modernity can only be developed vulnerable as a result of the two factor.

Karl Marx is another philosopher who known for his description of the term modernity. According to his philosophy, Marx has a different perspective regarding the society development. In his study, the sociologist related modernity with the issue of production. The philosopher believed that modernization will only occur in the society of capitalism. Different from Simmel, Weber, and Durkheim, the philosopher viewed modernity as commercialization (Craib, 2007). Therefore, the sociologist argued that for capitalism modernity is possible, and capitalism is everything to modernization. By the word capitalism, the theorist was referring to the aspect of drama, literature, religion in the society. With all these aspects, the sociologist stated that everything is a commodity in the society and as a result, each commodity will play a part in shaping the society.

Furthermore, the philosopher continued and described the issues such as religion and rituals as the part of the commodity that enhances the development of the society. As indicate in his findings, the theorist believed that modernity is a commodity, meaning for a modernized society people should buy it, and other should sell it (Alexander, 2008). To a better understanding, the philosopher perspective is a clear indication of the various point that are used by the four theorists to describe the case of modernity. In his standpoint, modernization cost money, or it is seen as a commercial item that can be traded within the society.


First, each thinker has a specific perspective regarding the subject of social. Although, in every thinker’s viewpoint there is some similarity. To start with, each philosopher had similar perspective regarding social as each theorist related the aspect of social with modern society. Modern society is involved with human interaction and as well action in different ways (Andersen, & Kaspersen, 2000). In this case, the theorists write that society is shaped by the specific set of collective society form. The theorists stated that for each action that people take, they derived by a certain goal or rather influenced by other people. Furthermore, Marx, Durkheim, Simmel, and Weber agreed that each social act that and the individual may take has a meaning related to that action. In support of this point, it is clear that each action is usually conditioned by a situation. Therefore, it I clear that each thinker tried to bring the same perspective regarding the sociology development. As such, the approaches by each thinker is used as prove to show that people the same interpretation and attribution regarding the meaning of a situation.

Similarity, the four philosophers, has the same perspective regarding the modernization as they believed that the human society people are living has its own existence. In this context, the four theorists agreed that human beings are living in the world that is characterized by the cases of social change. The four philosophers stated that individualism development is into similarly connected to the social development or rather changes (Chernilo, 2013). More so, the philosophers viewed a direct connection between the modern development and the factors like urbanization, industrialization, among others. In this case, the theorist tried to connect modernity together with the issues of social development.

Also, the theorist has a similar perspective regarding the theories they established, as they agreed that the classical theories are more of academic disciplines. Weber, Marx, Simmel, and Durkheim viewed modernity as the main determinate to the social growth of the people across the world. As such, the philosophers articulated that modernity ensemble the social-cultural beliefs of the people across the globe (Barbalet, 2015). They viewed social-cultural beliefs as the drive to the development of modernity and as the responsible factor to modernization.

In conclusion, therefore, each classic writer had his different viewpoint regarding the context of modernity. However, at some point the four writers agreed to some specific point. Each thinker in his writing is concerned the subject or the matter of sociology as the main factor that drive the development of the current world. As the founding fathers of the concept of sociology, Simmel, Durkheim, Weber, and Marx defined the term modernity in a different way. Although, an overview of each definition presents the issue of diversity, all of the philosophers touched or talked about the creation of modernity. Therefore, one can some up the thought of each philosopher and say that all the classical theorist has played a major role in defining sociology of modernity. The statement can verify with each thinker’s perspective in reflecting the subject.

Over the past decades, the approaches by each philosopher have shaped the modest world and the approaches continuous to be associated with the concept of modernity. Lastly, one can clearly indicate that in the current world modernity is still a going on process. The current sociologist argues that the aspect of modernity which started after the illumination of the sociology theories by the early philosophers has continuously influenced the society in the aspect of the formation of modernity.


Alexander, J. (2008). The antinomies of classical thought, Marx and Durkheim. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Andersen, H. and Kaspersen, L. (2000). Classical and modern social theory. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.

Barbalet, J. (2015). Book review: Weber’s Rationalism and Modern Society: New Translations on Politics, Bureaucracy, and Social Stratification. Journal of Classical Sociology.

Chernilo, D. (2013). The Natural Law Foundations of Modern Social Theory Journal. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Craib, I. (2007). Classical social theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press., (2015). Classical Sociological Theory | Chapter Summary. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Oct. 2015].