Drawing: "Politics" by Rien Doorn, published with permission
Unter Soziologen / Among Sociologists
Sociology is a discipline that is concerned with understanding the forces shaping society and the ways in which people interact with each other. Wilhelm Dilthey, a sociologist from the 19th century, argued that the need for new theories in sociology comes from the desire to understand the present and how it has been shaped by the past. He also believed that understanding the forces at work in society and the causes of social change was important for the well-being of our civilization, especially in the wake of the French Revolution and the growth of the industrial working class. Sociology emerged at a time when society was undergoing a process of emancipation from the control of the state, and it saw society as a naturally occurring phenomenon rather than one that was ordained by a higher power. This shift in perspective was closely tied to the development of the economic system we now know as capitalism.
In modern liberal democracies, we tend to think of human behavior as being determined by individual traits, abilities, and choices. However, sociologists study the ways in which the events in people's lives are shaped by social, economic, and political processes. We are all part of groups and institutions that exist within a particular time and place, and sociologists use various approaches to study the ways in which these groups and institutions function and interact with one another. This may involve examining the actions and meanings attributed to them by individuals, or studying the systems and structures that shape them and their environment.
Sociology corrects factual misconceptions, reveals hidden social trends, challenges oversimplified explanations, and uncovers the social usefulness of phenomena typically viewed as negative.
This website is devoted to sociology, with a focus on the work of German sociologists. In addition to brief overviews of their work, the applications of this work to today's social problems are discussed.
As a professional in risk and safety management, I will write regularly about the usefulness of sociology for managing risk and safety issues, e.g. by:
- studying social and cultural factors that contribute to risks and accidents, such as communication breakdowns, power imbalances, and drifting to failure because of normalization of deviance in combination with economic pressure and the urge to lessen workload;
- identifying vulnerable target groups, such as due to poverty, discrimination or lack of access to resources;
- studying the impact of training programs on work or assessing the effectiveness of communication strategies to promote safety.
Below you can click on the portraits of German sociologists to read more about them and their work. The first row (the first two people for those of you who use a smartphone to browse this website) shows the sociologists who worked from about 1840 to 1890. The second row (portraits 3 to 6) shows the sociologists who worked from about 1890 to about 1945 (Alfred Weber is the exception, because he worked until he was 87). In the third row (portraits 7 to 10), the most prolific sociologists from the early 1930s to about 1970 (Elias is the exception, as he worked until he was 93). In the fourth row (portraits 11 to 14) are sociologists who worked from the early 1960s to 2000/2010. The last row (portraits 15 to 18) shows currently working sociologists. Other interesting scholars can be found through the menu.
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