What and what are the sociological currents?

Simon Doyle
What and what are the sociological currents?

The streams sociological They are modes of thought that seek to provide answers to the questions that may arise around the organized human being in societies that are governed by socio-political, economic and social conventions, which is the object of study of sociology.

With the birth of sociology as a science in the 19th century, various sociological currents emerged that sought to account for the social facts of the moment: the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, capitalism vs. communism, among other problems.

This constitutes the first stage of the development of sociological currents and its maximum representative is Karl Marx.

This first stage was followed by the second, which was inspired by the studies of the first sociological currents but differed from these by seeking what was the essential element of society. The representative of this stage is Max Weber.

Each of these currents presented a diverse approach to explain changes in society and sought to interpret and analyze the behavior of human beings as a social entity throughout history. Since then, various currents have emerged, with various approaches.

What are the main sociological currents?

The three main sociological currents are historical materialism, comprehensive sociology, and structural-functionalism..

1- Historical materialism

Historical materialism is the basis of Marxism (set of ideologies proposed by Karl Marx). On many occasions, Marxism is mistakenly considered to be simply a stream of economics. However, it is much more than that, it constitutes a political and social current.

Karl Marx

Added to this, Marxism offers a way of understanding the human being and his relationship with the world. It is a model of analysis for the study of society. This conception is called "historical materialism" or materialist interpretation of history..

Before Marx raised the theory of historical materialism, the idealistic interpretation of history prevailed, according to which revolution is not necessary because changes come by themselves.

However, with Marx's studies, idealism is left behind and materialism dominates. In general terms, historical materialism is comparable to Darwin's theory of evolution; that is, the materialist interpretation of history constitutes the law of the evolution of human history.

Materialism proposes that for changes to take place, human beings need to first satisfy their material needs: drink, eat, dress and have a home. Once humans have satisfied these needs, they can develop social, political, economic and cultural relationships..

Likewise, historical materialism indicates that, in order for the elements necessary to satisfy basic needs to be produced, the State must develop the means of production, which are the basis of social life..

So, according to historical materialism, the relationship between the human being, material goods and the means of production is as follows:

Without means of production, there are no material goods; without material goods, there is no satisfaction of needs; without satisfaction of needs, there is no social life.

The evolution in the means of production and the improvement of these is what determines the progress and success of societies.

This evolution is studied by historical materialism. In this sense, the materialist interpretation of history includes the existence of six modes of production, which are presented below.

Primitive community

There are no social classes and ownership of the means of production is collective. For example, the social groups that developed during the Stone Age.


There are two social classes: slaveholders and slaves. Ownership of the means of production is private. For example, the regimes that proliferated in the colonies in America during the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries.

Feudal regime

There are three social classes: the feudal lord, the vassals and the serfs of gleba. Ownership of the means of production is private. For example, the system that developed in America from the 19th century.


It has two social classes: bourgeois and proletariat. Ownership of the means of production is private. For example, most of today's societies follow the capitalist model.


It is a transitional model that aims to lead to communism. Copy the social classes of the model that precedes it.

Ownership of the means of production is private. For example, China, Ecuador, Venezuela and North Korea follow the socialist model.


There are no social classes and ownership of the means of production is collective. According to Marx, this is the ideal production model and is achieved only through the dictatorship of the proletariat.

2- Comprehensive sociology

This current of sociology arises from the works of Max Weber (1864-1920), a German theorist. Weber starts from the work of Marx and the labor movement that he unleashed.

He defended the limitation of capitalism and the modernization of the structures that made up the State but without radical transformations such as those that had occurred in the Russian Revolution, because these led to the dictatorship.

Weber's comprehensive sociology establishes that, when studying society, two elements must be taken into account: valuation and rationalization..

The assessment is the subjective aspect, which allows to determine what will be the subject to study. For its part, rationalization is the objective aspect, which aims to explain the topic that has been selected.

In this sense, comprehensive sociology seeks to understand the meaning of social interactions through objective analysis..

3- Structural-functionalism

Structural-functionalism finds its greatest exponent in Parsons (1902-1979), an American thinker. This current considers that the center of society is action, understanding by action any act performed by the human being consciously or unconsciously.

The actions of human beings are located on four levels: the biological, the psychic, the social and the cultural. The study of social actions (interactions between individuals or groups taking into account a series of cultural norms established and shared by the collective) is the object of the structural-functionalist model.


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