To be remembered by history as a "thinker," one must think some fairly formidable thoughts. Marx, Weber, Durkheim, and Foucault, some of sociology's most seminal thinkers, tackled one of the most complicated human problems: what is modern society, and what makes it tick?
In Manifesto of the Communist Party, Marx famously said that "the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles [Marx, Manifesto, 1]." To him, "modern" society was the one that had sprouted from the ruins of feudalism, the "epoch of the bourgeoisie [Marx 1848]." The rise of capitalism after feudalism did nothing to settle class struggle: it merely simplified it into two directly opposing classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
[...] As our society functioned through capitalism, according to Weber, it also functioned through rationalism, the systematic, scientific breaking down of our worldviews and relationships in order to objectively understand them [Hughes, 110]. Both of these forces, to Weber, sucked the pleasure and meaning out of life, turning social beings into machines trapped in the “iron cage” of endless competition [Weber, Asceticism and the Spirit of Capitalism, 181]. In this way, he agreed with Marx that society functions through competition and conflict, where those who hold power in the economic base of society also hold it in the political and legal realm [Weber, Distribution of Power, 926]. [...]
[...] Michel Foucault agreed with these other thinkers that the explosion of capitalism has restructured our society in significant ways. As a postmodernist, Michel Foucault believed that history was not predetermined, making it a point to question assumed universal truths and metanarratives and trying to determine how we got here from where we used to be [Berger, x]. He saw current society as more random than the one that had come before it, one in which people existed without the guidance mechanisms found in traditional or premodern society. [...]
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