Excerpt from Biographical Dictionary of Sociologists


Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville was born in Verneuil-sur-Seine, France. After finishing at the College Royal at age 18, Tocqueville moved to Paris where he studied law. After obtaining his law degree, he was named auditor-magistrate at the court of Versailles. He held various legal posts and was active in French politics, first under the July Monarchy (1830-1848) and then during the Second Republic (1849-1851) which succeeded to the February 1848 Revolution. In 1841 and 1846, he traveled to Algeria; his first travel inspired his Travail sur l'Algérie, in which he criticized the French model of colonization, based on an assimilationist view, melting pot); he preferred the British model of indirect rule, which didn't mix different populations together, but advocated racial segregation between the European colonists and the Arabs. After the fall of the July Monarchy (1830–1848) during the February 1848 Revolution, Tocqueville was elected a member of the Constituent Assembly of 1848, where he integrated the Commission charged with the drafting of the new Constitution of the Second Republic (1848-1851). He quit political life after Louis Napoleon Bonaparte's December 2, 1851 coup and retreated to his castle (château de Tocqueville). There, he began the draft of L'Ancien Régime et la Révolution, publishing the first tome in 1856, and leaving unachieved the second one. Gustave de Beaumont (1802-1865) a prosecutor substitute, and Tocqueville were sent to the United States to compare the democratic system with what was emerging in France. The success of Democracy in America (in two volumes 1835 and 1840) became an early model for the science that would become known as sociology. In both Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution Tocqueville explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on both the individual and the state in western societies. He studied the positive and negative consequences of different forms of democracy on various aspects of social life, from economics and law to religion and art. He argued that a purely democratic system could easily lead to what he called the "tyranny of the majority." He compared France and England and sought to explain why revolution occurred in the former but not the latter. He was named chevalier de la Légion d'honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honor) (1837), and to be elected the next year to the Académie des sciences morales et politiques. He was elected a member of the Académie française in 1841.

Major Literature

Tocqueville, Alexis de. J. P. Mayer, A. P. Kerr (Eds.).The Old Regime and the French Revolution. New York: Vintage and Anchor Books, 1955.
–––. Recollections: French Revolution of 1848. G. Lawrence (Translator). New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1987.
–––. Writings on Empire and Slavery. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.
–––. Democracy in America. New York: Barnes and Noble, Collector's Library; New Ed edition, 2005
–––. Memoir on Pauperism: Does Public Charity Produce an Idle and Dependent Class of Society? New York: Cosimo Classics, 2006.


Although Marx was a philosopher, political economist, and socialist revolutionary, he is credited with being a major contributor to sociological thinking. He is most famous for his analysis of history in terms of class struggles, summed up in the opening line of the introduction to the Communist Manifesto (1848), written with his close friend, Friedrich Engels (see entry): "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." Marx was born in Trier, Rhine province, Prussia [Germany]. Although his family was Jewish, they converted to Christianity so that his father could pursue his career as a lawyer in the face of Prussia's anti-Jewish laws. Marx studied law in Bonn and Berlin, and then wrote a PhD thesis in Philosophy, comparing the views of Democritus and Epicurus. Although he hoped for an academic career on gaining his doctorate in 1841 from the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, (FSU), his views were too radical so he became a journalist. He quickly became involved in political and social issues, and soon found himself considering communist theory. His radical ideas led to successive exiles which forced him to Paris, Brussels, and finally to London in 1849, where he became a British citizen. Marx spent years reading, researching, and writing in the British Museum, supported by Engels. His association with Engels concluded with the three-volume Das Kapital, the last two volumes of which Engels completed from Marx's rough notes and manuscripts. Other works by Marx were not published until the twentieth century. When Marx was buried at Highgate Cemetery in London, only eleven people attended his funeral.

Major Contributions

Although Marx turned away from philosophy in his mid-twenties, towards economics and politics, his later writings have many points of contact with contemporary philosophical debates, especially in the philosophy of history, the social sciences, and in moral and political philosophy. Historical materialism – Marx's theory of history – is centered around the idea that as societies rise, they impede the development of human productive power. Marx sees the historical process as proceeding through a necessary series of modes of production, culminating in communism. His economic analysis of capitalism is based on his version of the labor theory of value, and includes the analysis of capitalist profit as the extraction of surplus value from the exploited proletariat. The analysis of history and economics come together in Marx's prediction of the inevitable breakdown of capitalism for economic reasons, to be replaced by communism.

Major Literature (Modern editions)

Marx, Karl, Friedrich Engels. The German Ideology: Introduction to a Critique of Political Economy. London, England: Lawrence & Wishart Ltd, 1970.
Marx, Karl. Capital: Critique of Political Economy (3 volumes). London, England: Penguin Books Ltd, 1993.
Marx, Karl, Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, Oxford Paperbacks, 1998.
Marx, Karl. Capital: An Abridged Edition. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1999.
–––. Selected Writings. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2004.


French social theorist, along with Karl Marx and Max Weber (see entries), who is widely regarded as one of the founders of sociology as a discipline, and of the founder of the French School in particular. Born in Épinal, France, from a long line of Jewish scholars, he graduated from the École Normale Supérieure, Paris (1882); taught law and philosophy at a number of state secondary schools (1882-1887). While in Germany (1885-1886) Durkheim was impressed by the pioneering experimental psychology work of Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920), From 1887 to 1902 he taught sociology at the university of Bordeaux and was professor of social philosophy until 1902. He moved to the University of Paris, where he wrote some of his most important works and influenced a generation of scholars.

Major Contributions Durkheim

One of Durkheim’s guiding philosophy was that spiritual progress is enhanced more by effort and sorrow than by pleasure or joy. Durkheim underwent a dramatic change in his religious beliefs and, like many of his day, turned to science and in particular to social science to provide the answers. Durkheim is the pioneer of the structural-functionalism perspective of sociology , which focuses on social systems as a whole, how they operate, how they change, and the social consequences they produce. Atomism is a different perspectives – a social system is no more than a collection of individuals. A third perspective is positivism – society can be changed by observing it, and using the knowledge gained to improve the social condition. For Durkheim, the common values shared by a society – the “collective conscience” – are the cohesive bonds that hold the social order intact. A breakdown of these values, leads to a loss of social stability, or anomie (lawlessness) and to individual feelings of anxiety and dissatisfaction.

Durkheim on suicide

Suicide is an important subject in psychology and sociology. In Durkheim’s systematic study on suicide, published in 1897, he argued that weak social ties resulted in higher rates of suicide. He predicted that Protestants would have higher rates of suicide than Catholics, since Protestantism emphasized personal autonomy and achievement more than did Roman Catholicism. Durkheim's classification of suicide is:

Egoistic suicide
Anomic suicide

Through Durkheim, sociology became an influential discipline in France that broadened and transformed the study of law, economics, linguistics, ethnology, art history, and history.

Major literature

Durkheim, Émile. The Division of Labor in Society. 1893, translated 1933. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc. The Free Press, 1984.
–––. The Rules of Sociological Method. 1895, translated 1938. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc. The Free Press, 1965.
–––. Suicide: A Study in Sociology. 1897.translated 1951. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc. The Free Press, 1966.
–––. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. 1912, translated 1915. Montana; R A Kessinger Publishing Co, 2005.


Addams was born in Cedarville, Illinois, the daughter of a prosperous miller who served for sixteen years as a state senator and fought as an officer in the Civil War. After graduating from Rockford Female Seminary in 1881, Addams started medical studies but ill-health (owing to a congenital spinal defect) forced her to give up. While touring Europe with Ellen Starr (1859-1940) they were inspired by visiting Toynbee Hall, the settlement house in London’s East End (started in 1884 by friends of the social reformer Arnold Toynbee (1852-1883). Toynbee Hall served as a base for Charles James Booth (1840-1916) and his group of researchers working on the Life and Labor of the People in London (1886-193). In 1889 Addams and Starr established Hull House a center of excellence and education to improve conditions in the industrial districts of Chicago. By 1890 Hull House was catering for two thousand people a week, with kindergarten classes, club meetings for older children, and clubs and courses for adults in what became virtually a night school. There was an art gallery, a public kitchen, a coffee house, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, a cooperative boarding club for girls, a book bindery, an art studio, a music school, a drama group, a circulating library, an employment bureau, and a labor museum. Addams led investigations on midwifery, narcotics consumption, milk supplies, and sanitary conditions; she accepted the official post of garbage inspector of the Nineteenth Ward, at an annual salary of a thousand dollars. An ardent feminist, Addams was passionate about women’s suffrage. As a lecturer sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation, she spoke against America's entry into the First World War, was attacked in the press and expelled from the Daughters of the American Revolution. Appointments and Awards: Appointed to Chicago's Board of Education and subsequently made chairman of the School Management Committee (1905); Participated in the founding of the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy (1908); first woman president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections (1909); The first honorary degree ever awarded to a woman by Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (1910); Chair of the Woman's Peace Party (1915); President of the International Congress of Women at The Hague, Netherlands (1915); Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, which was established by The Hague congress (1915); Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo (1931) (although she was too ill to attend) shared the Prize with the American educator Nicholas Murray Butler (1862-1947). Addams was admitted to hospital the day of the Nobel award ceremony in Oslo, and died of cancer.

Major Literature

Addams, Jane. Democracy and Social Ethics. New York: Macmillan, 1902, The Echo Library, 2006.
–––. Newer Ideals of Peace. New York: Macmillan, 1907. Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2006.
–––. Twenty Years at Hull House. New York: Macmillan, 1910. Whitefish, Montana: R A Kessinger Publishing Co., 2004
–––. The Second Twenty Years at Hull House, New York: Macmillan, 1930.


Born in Vienna, Austria, the son of secular Jews, he was convicted in 1935 of high treason and given a 10-year sentence in federal prison for writing in the underground newspaper of the Socialist Worker’s Party. When the National Socialists came to power he was released. His family remained in Austria after Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, although his sister was evacuated to Britain. Blau escaped and emigrated to the United States in 1939, where he attended Elmhurst College in Illinois on a refugee scholarship, majoring in sociology. He graduated B A in 1942 – the year his family was killed in Auschwitz. – then spent three years in the U.S. Army, where he served as an interrogation officer in Europe. He gained his PhD from Columbia University, New York in 1952 and was professor at the University of Chicago, Illinois from 1953 to 1970, and was then professor at Columbia, until he retired in 1988, although he carried on teaching until 2001. He was 65th President of the American Sociological Association in 1974. Blau is considered one of the founders of contemporary American sociology and one of the most prominent scholars of his time. Among his many honors he was an honorary professor at the Tianjin Academy of Social Sciences. China.

Major Contributions

Blau’s PhD dissertation was on bureaucracy, which led to his book The Dynamics of Bureaucracy: A Study of Interpersonal Relations in Two Government Agencies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955. For the next 50 years, Blau studied the visible characteristics of society; his theories seek to explain how social phenomena such as upward mobility, occupational opportunity, heterogeneity, and population structures influence human behavior. Another area of his work is Social Exchange Theory. Social Exchange Theory is based on a central premise that the exchange of social and material resources is a fundamental form of human interaction. All relationships have give and take, although the balance of this exchange is not always equal. Social Exchange Theory explains how we feel about a relationship with another person as depending on our perceptions of:

The balance between what we put into the relationship and what we get out of it.
The kind of relationship we deserve.
The chances of having a better relationship with someone else.

Exchange varies from setting to setting, and would be different at work and at home; between siblings and between children and parents.

Major Literature

Blau, Peter M.. Inequality and Heterogeneity. New York: The Free Press, 1978
–––, Otis Dudley Duncan and Andrea Tyree. The American Occupational Structure. New York: The Free Press, 1978.
Blau, Peter M.. Exchange and Power in Social Life. Transaction Publishers, U.S.. 1986.
Blau, Peter M.. Marshall W. Meyer. Bureaucracy in Modern Society. McGraw-Hill Education, 1987
Blau, Peter M,, Joseph E.. Schwartz. Crosscutting Social Circles: Testing a Macrostructural Theory of Intergroup Relations. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1997.


Meyer Robert Schkolnick was the son of Jewish Eastern European immigrant parents, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he gained MA and Ph.D., Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts then joined the faculty and was Professor and chairman of the Department of Sociology, Tulane University, New Orleans (1939-1941). He was at Lecturer at Columbia University, New York: (1941-1946); Professor (1947); Giddings Professor of Sociology (1963); University Professor (1974); Special Service Professor upon his retirement (1979) – a title reserved by the Trustees for emeritus faculty who "render special services to the University." Merton was Adjunct faculty member at Rockefeller University, New York; first Foundation Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, New York and, retired from teaching in 1984. Merton received more than 20 honorary degrees from universities in America and around the world, was awarded the National Medal of Science, the first sociologist so awarded (1994), and in 1990, Columbia University established the Robert K. Merton Professorship in the Social Sciences.

Major Contributions

Merton was Associate Director of Columbia’s Bureau of Applied Social Research (1942-1971), which had opened under the direction of Paul Lazarsfeld (see entry), though the Bureau did not assume that title until 1944. The two men's work was complementary: Lazarsfeld combined quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, along with his logic of concept clarification, and thereby influenced Merton's orientation to historical studies. Merton's gift for theory influenced Lazarsfeld's philosophical grasp of sociology. Their academic collaboration, from 1941 to 1976, strengthened the standards of training for the social sciences. While at the Bureau Merton began using focused interviews with groups to obtain reactions to such things as films and written materials. This technique gave rise to focus groups, which have become critical tools for marketers and politicians. Merton coined terms such as “self-fulfilling prophecy”, “role models,” and “unintended consequences", and he wrote at length on the concept of serendipity. Merton analyzes society with reference to whether cultural and social structures are well or badly integrated. He believes that shared values are central in explaining how societies and institutions work. Merton carried out extensive research into the sociology of science, developing the Merton Thesis explaining some of the causes of the scientific revolution, and the "Mertonian norms" of science. His son, Robert C. Merton, won a Nobel Prize for economics in 1997.

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