ENLIGHTENMENT AND SOCIOLOGY 7
Enlightenmentis an intellectual revolution, which is said to be the mostinfluential in the surfacing of sociology discipline. Scientists,economists, philosophers and other collection of thinkers who came upwith great ideas criticizing the existing approaches on all that wassurviving brought forth the subject of enlightenment (Adorno &Horkheimer, 2007 pp.64). The great thinkers had their focus onempiricism and rationality in which they were advocates of a radicalbreak with the past just like the political revolutionaries. Untilthis instance, their central tendency is to refer to the past fortoday`s solutions basing on ancient religious or philosophicaltranscripts. Adorno and Horkheimer (2007) thought of how everyoneshould look at the world and comprehend it. The great thinkersdemonstrated how the understanding would have made it possible tobuild a better society.
Thenovelty that existed in the 18thand 19thcentury led to the development of sociology. The great thinkers sawthe potential for an entirely new and advanced society, which wouldresult from the use of science, mass organizations, and rationality.Again, they saw the reality and the possibility of poverty anddegradation that was most likely to be brought by these changes.Sociologists dealt with both positive and negative aspects of themodern world, and the entire change enabled people to understand howthese changes came about and how to respond to them.
Thegreat thinkers had their Major themes of enlightenment. Being amassive movement, awareness was defined by several characteristics.First is the reason most great thinkers believed that supernaturalhappenings were just superstitions though most of them were notatheists, their arguments were complex and tricky with most of themfalling between Christianity and scientific rationalism. Second isskepticism it was about institutionalizing the church, religiousdoctrine, the government authority, and the reality of nature. Thirdwas individualism, which meant that man was treated as an individualcreation with liberties granted to him by God and nature. Enlightenment is said to have started in Europe and spread to theUnited States where it attracted several great thinkers like ThomasJefferson and Thomas Pain. Enlightenment later died as Romanticismtook over in the early 19th century
Europein the Dark Ages
Darkages in Europe emerged between the 7th and 8th century after thecollapse of the Roman Empire it was also known as the Traditionalsociety of medieval Europe (Eder & Ritter, 2002 pp. 9). Thisperiod was characterized by the scarce source of information andother written history rendering the historians to a hard time inknowing what was happening in those times. It was referred to as atime of transition between the period of Romans and the high middleages that included the lack of written materials, literature, generaldemographic decline, material cultural achievement and limitedbuilding activity in general (Eder & Ritter, 2002 pp.12).
Duringthis time, many warriors invaded and conquered territories, they werebundled to maintain loyalty and for the land, and they offeredservices to their followers. They were always ready to work on theLord`s estate and they heartily offered their services to themilitary whenever they were summoned. Their original objective was tosatisfy the needs of those who depended on it. On a political view,it was the decentralized system with their Lord enjoying all thepowers given to him in the estates. The Lord, who was the king, alsohad the mandate to address residuary matters. Socially, it wasdivided into estates with each property governed by its set of laws.The conditions were not conducive for trade since there wasinsufficient produce for trade by the beginning of 14th century.
Duringthe middle age, the millennium was marked by a religious, devotional,and unwavering cruelty (Strydom, 2000 pp.22). The church had muchpower over the past thousands of years with a firm foundation in theHoly Roman Empire. Lack of adherence to missions like crusade waspunishable by brutal torture and even death. Science was thought tobe just an appreciation for God and His creation, but anyone whoattempted to explain matters of faith and miracles was subjected toharsh punishments. Enlightenment and scientific revolution broughtsome drastic changes. There were independent thoughts, expansion ofscientific fields were extremely updated and drastically expanded(Strydom, 2000 pp. 23).
Mostof the philosophers say that sociology emerged during the turbulenttimes of social economic and political mayhem in Europe that waspreceded by the period of new discoveries and inventions. During thistime, they say that intellectual ability was redeemed and mythologyway of thinking was transformed into rational thought (Biagioli, 1999pp.67). Scientific achievements were accompanied by the significantrise in trade and business with an incorporation of the moderntechnology.
Greatthinkers indicate that the progress was inevitable at that particulartime. All these transformations led to the rise of new problems thatwere not known initially. This led to social disorder and thus theintellectuals had to think of a way to redeem social order. Duringthis time, the sociology as a discipline emerged since all the otherexisting subjects were not able to deal and analyze the problems thatwere arising. The many changes that occurred during modernity pavedthe way for the initial economic changes as they enlarged their scopeto include the political changes (Kendall, 2012 pp.52). Changesexperienced in the political system were manifested by the death offeudalism and the rise of democracy, fraternity, equality, andabsolute sense of liberty. In addition, the scientific revolution inFrance led to the turmoil that contributed to social disorders.Because of social disorder sociology, which is the study of humansocial life, became the focus.
Thegreat thinkers, including Max Weber, found it difficult to retrieveback to the social order. Instead, they developed new ways ofrectifying social behavior by campaigning for dynamic intellectualadvancement (Weber, 2009 pp.90). The Enlightenment thinkers sought toincorporate reason into empirical research as they tried to look forhighly efficient bodies of knowledge that could make high rationalsense derived from real world observations. They were convinced thatby using research and reason they could comprehend and control theworld thus they viewed the traditional beliefs and institutions asirrational and inhibited human development. They mainly placed theirfaith in the power of individual capacity of reasoning adding toempiricism and reasonable inquiry.
Therewas a sense of conservative Enlightenment that also influences thesocialists. It was characterized by strong sentiments againstmodernization, which led to the great thinkers to put more emphasison the society having its way of existing in contrast toindividualism and Enlightenment (Weber, 2009 pp.72). They were morecautious in approaching the social change as they viewed moderndevelopment like urbanization and industrialization as havingdisorganizing effects.
Inconclusion, Enlightenment and sociological theories plays animportant part not only historically but also as living documents tobe used by modern theorists and for today`s social world. The work ofgreat thinkers continues to influence and inspire modern sociologistin diverse ways as many of them tries to reinterpret the classics andapply them to the contemporary scenes.
Eder,K., & Ritter, M. T. 2002, Thesocial construction of nature: A sociology of ecologicalenlightenment.London, Sage Publications, Inc.
Adorno,T., & Horkheimer, M. 2007, Theculture industry: Enlightenment as mass deception. Stardomand celebrity: A reader, 34.
Strydom,P. 2000, Discourseandknowledge:the making of enlightenment sociology (Vol. 1).Cambridge, Liverpool University Press.
.Biagioli,M. 1999, Thescience studies reader.New York, Psychology Press.
Kendall,D. 2012, Sociologyin our times.New York, Cengage Learning.
Weber,M. 2009, FromMax Weber: essays in sociology.London, Routledge.