Critical Theory, Ideology and Modern Sociology
Two major themes dominated nineteenth-century sociology and Marxism. Through the critique of positivism the problem of social action and the relation of agency to structure was raised, the degree to which moral and normative elements played a critical role in the social integration of developing capitalist societies. And secondly, with the rapid growth of industrialisation and urbanism, specific cultural issues moved to the forefront of sociological theory. Western Marxism resolved the question of agency by appealing to the power of bourgeois ideology over nascent proletarian revolutionary consciousness. In the aftermath of the First World War, the abortive revolutions in Germany and Hungary and the 1917 Russian Revolution, the question of a consciously guided social transformation structured in ideology became a major issue within Marxism and sociology. The debate between Marxists and sociologists, which had characterised French and German sociology during the period 1890 to 1914, took on new urgency. Weber’s concern with the sociology of culture, his theorisation of autonomous value spheres and eclipse of dominant world views, is echoed in the work of Karl Mannheim (1893–1947) and Max Scheler (1874–1928).
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