Modernity and social changes in Europe and emergence of Sociology-UPSC Sociology Notes

Modernity and social changes: Modernization/Modernity refers to rapid social, economic, political, and cultural changes that were taking place in the 18 th century Europe Commercial and Scientific Revolution between the 14 th and 18 th centuries, along with the cultural saw a revival in medicine, art, literature, astronomy, navigation, chemistry, philosophy and so on.

 Ideological modernity – The Enlightenment Period introduced a new way of thinking and looking at reality, like:

  • Faith in human progress
  • Ability of science to offer solutions and improve human conditions
  • Rational thought and empiricism
  • A spirit of questioning
  • 5A belief that nature follows universal laws and can be studied scientifically The ideas from these movements, percolated to the masses to give shape to the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution.

 Political modernity –

 French Revolution brought with it:

Political modernity – French Revolution brought with it:

1. Over throw of  ‘ divinely ordained’ monarchy and the ‘Estate‘system

2. Ideas of liberty, equality, fraternity

3. and universal laws

4. Political instability and reign of terror

Modernity and social changes :

 Economic modernity – Industrial Revolution led to:

  • Rapid urbanization, changes in kinship structures and status of women
  • Mass production, mechanization and world trade
  • Shift from agrarian to industrial economy
  • Change from feudalistic to capitalistic society
  • Emergence of the middle class
  • Poverty, disease and exploitation
  • Religion being displaced by science as the omnipotent force
  • The central concepts of society, namely, religion, community, power, wealth, etc. were all taking on new bearings and new implications. The contrast between present and past seemed stark.
  • In such a backdrop, sociology, with its belief in the power of science, emerged as a discipline which aimed to provide solution to this social crisis.

 The Conservative Reaction to the Enlightenment:

  • The most extreme form of opposition to Enlightenment ideas was French Catholic counter-revolutionary philosophy, as represented by the ideas of Louis de Bonald and Joseph de Maistre.
  • Bonald, for example, was disturbed by the revolutionary changes of French Revolution and yearned for a return to the peace and harmony of the Middle Ages.
  • In this view, God was the source of society; therefore, reason, which was so important to the Enlightenment philosophers, was seen as inferior to traditional religious beliefs.
  • Furthermore, it was believed that because God had created society, people should not tamper with it and should not try to change a holy creation.
  • By extension, Bonald opposed anything that undermined such traditional institutions as patriarchy, the monogamous family, the monarchy, and the Catholic Church.

 Irving Zeitlin – s . He outlined some major propositions that he sees as emerging from this conservative reaction and providing the basis for the development of classical French sociological theory:

  • Whereas Enlightenment thinkers tended to emphasize the individual, the conservative reaction led to an emphasis on society. It was viewed as something more than simply an aggregate of individuals. It was seen as having an existence of its own with its own laws of development.
  • Society was the most important unit of analysis; it produced the individual, primarily through the process of socialization.
  • A society consisted of such component parts as roles, positions, relationships, structures, and institutions. Individuals were seen as doing little more than filling these units within society.
  • The parts of society were seen as interrelated and interdependent. This view led to a conservative political orientation. Because the parts were held to be interrelated, tampering with one part could well lead to the undermining of other parts and, ultimately, of the system as a whole.
  • Small units, such as the family, the neighborhood, and religious and occupational groups, also were seen as essential to individuals and society. They provided the intimate, face-to-face environments that people needed in order to survive in modern societies.
  • There was a tendency to see various modern social changes, such as industrialization, urbanization, and bureaucratization, as having disorganizing effects. These changes were viewed with fear and anxiety, and there was an emphasis on developing ways of dealing with their disruptive effects.
  • The conservatives supported the existence of a hierarchical system in society. It was seen as important to society that there be a differential system of status and reward.
  • While most of these feared changes were leading to a more rational society, the conservative reaction led to an emphasis on the importance of non-rational factors (ritual, ceremony, and worship, for example) in social life.

 The Commercial Revolution:

  • events led to a shift from the largely subsistence and stagnant economy of medieval Europe to a more dynamic and worldwide system.
  • It saw the expansion of trade and commerce with Oriental countries and the Americas, initially by land, and then, by the sea-routes. This transition ended the Italian trade monopoly and with the rise of England, France, Portugal and Spain, commerce expanded into a world enterprise.
  • European markets were flooded with new commodities like spices, textiles, tobacco, Chocolate, ivory and, above all, human slaves from Africa, whose labour further increased availability of raw material and thus increased production.

 The period also saw:

  • Expansion of Banking – Credit facilities were liberalized
  • came to replace gold and silver coins.
  • Growth of companies – companies, – and Chartered
  • companies arose.

 Rise of a New Class – the middle class had become an influential group. It included merchants, bankers, ship-owners and investors. However, their power, at this stage, was mainly economic.

 – the transplanting of European manners and culture in other societies.

 Theory of Mercantilism, which justified preferential trade policies and justified economic exploitation of colonies

 This period saw the strengthening of monarchy and the decline of the Church. Europe charted new areas for economic expansion –

 The Scientific Revolution and the Renaissance Period:

 th to 16 th century. The impact

 of the scientific revolu

 Nature and Society.

  • Social Functions of Sciences – Science does not develop independent of society, rather, it develops in response to human needs e.g. various vaccines were developed out of the necessity to cure diseases. Similarly, new developments in science can change the attitudes and beliefs in other areas as well. New scientific ideas influenced scholars to think about society in new ways.
  • Science in the Medieval Period – The Church was the epicenter of power, authority and learning.
  • beliefs of the Church. Thus, the development of science was restricted mainly to improvements in techniques of production.
  • The Renaissance period – It marked an era of description and criticism in the field of science. A challenge to the old authority, a new revolution.
  • Visual art – Art, literature and science all flourished. A scientific approach to natural phenomenon became prevalent. Paintings of that period explored the smallest details of Nature and the human body.
  •  Medicine – Dissection the human body became acceptable.
  • The fields of anatomy, physiology and pathology benefited greatly.
  • Chemistry – Chemical processes like oxidation, reduction, distillation, amalgamation, etc. were studied.
  •  Navigation and astronomy – Vasco da Gama reached the Indian shores in 1498. Columbus discovered America in 1492. A strong interest in astronomy, important for successful navigation grew.
  •  The Copernican Revolution – Copernicus, with the help of detailed explanations, demonstrated –

 Important Post-Renaissance Developments:

  • Experimental Method in Physics and Mathematics – The work of Galileo, Johannes Kepler and subsequently, Newton revolutionized science.
  • It brought to the forefront the experimental method. Old ideas were challenged and alternatives were suggested.
  • If these alternative ideas could be proved and repeatedly verified and checked out, they were accepted. If not, new solutions were sought.
  • Scientific methods thus came to be regarded as the most accurate, the most objective.

Modernity and social changes :

 Biology and Evolution

 Circulation of blood was discovered by William Harvey.

The human organism came to be viewed in terms of interrelated parts and interconnected systems. Charles Darwin published the Origin of Species in 1859 and put forward the theory of as a natural law. and traced the origins of the human species to some ape-like

 Montesquieu in his book, The Spirit of the Law , held that there should not be concentration of authority, such as executive, legislative, and judicial, at one place. He believed in the theory of the separation of powers and the liberty of the individual.

 Locke advocated that every individual has certain rights, which cannot be taken by any authority.

These rights were

(i) right to live,

(ii) right to property, and

 (iii) the right to personal freedom. He also believed that any ruler who took away these rights from his people should be removed from the seat of power and replaced by another ruler who is able to protect these rights.

  • Voltaire, advocated religious toleration and freedom of speech. He also stood for the rights of individuals, for freedom of speech and expression.
  • Rousseau wrote in his book, The Social Contract , that the people of a country have the right to choose their sovereign. He believed that people can develop their personalities best only under a government which is of their own choice.
  • Also, some of the French who had served in the French army, in the American War of Independence, came back with the ideas of equality of individuals and their right to choose their own government. The French middle class was deeply affected by these ideas of liberty and equality.

Modernity and social changes :

 Industrial Revolution:

  • The Industrial Revolution began around 1760 in England. The growth of trade and commerce brought about an increase in demand for goods which could not be met by the domestic system of production.
  • During 1760-1830, a series of inventions in tools and techniques and organization of production took place and it gave rise to the factory system of production.
  • Thus, a change in economy from feudal to capitalist system of production developed. Subsequently, there emerged a class of capitalists, which controlled the new system of production.
  • Due to this revolution, society moved from the old age of hand-made goods to the new age of machine-made goods. This shift heralded the emergence of Industrial Revolution.
  • Spinning Jenny was invented by James Hargreaves. rame led to the introduction of factory system. Samuel Crompton .
  • As capitalism became more and more complex, the developments of banks, insurance companies, and finance corporations took place. New class of industrial workers, managers, capitalists emerged.
  • The peasants in the new industrial society found themselves with thousands of other people like themselves, winding cotton in a textile mill.
  • Instead of the countryside they found themselves in unhygienic living conditions. With the increase in production, population started increasing. Rise of population led to the increased rate of urbanization.
  • The industrial cities grew rapidly. In the industrial cities, socio-economic disparities were very wide. The factory workers were involved in repetitive and boring work, the result of which they could not enjoy.
  • In Marxist terms the worker became alienated from the product of his / her labour. City life in the industrial society became an altogether different way of life.

Modernity and social changes : 

Significant Themes of the Industrial Revolution:

  • The condition of labour: A new population earning their livelihood by working in the factories arose. They lived in poverty and squalor and were socially deprived. At the same time, they were indispensable in the new industrial system which made them a powerful social force.
  • Sociologists recognized that the poverty of this class of workers was not natural poverty but social poverty.
  • The transformation of property: The traditional emphasis on land lost its value while money or capital became important. The investment in new industrial system came to be recognized. The feudal landlords became less significant while the new capitalists gained power.
  • The industrial city, i.e. urbanism: Industries grew and along with it grew great cluster of populations, the modern towns and cities. The new cities were known as repositories of misery and inhumanity. In 1810 – 20% people lived in cities, which increased to 80% in 1910 in Britain.
  • Technology and the factory system: The impact of technology and factory system led to largescale migration of people to the cities. Women and children joined the work force in the machine rather than man seemed to dominate work. The relation between the labourers and the products of their labour changed. They worked for their wages. The product was the child of everybody and of the machine in particular. The owner of the factory owned it. Life and work became depersonalized. Marx saw a form of enslavement in the machine and a manifestation of alienation of labour. Social scientists, felt that men and women had grown mechanical in heart, as well as in hand due to the industrial system of production.

 Modernity and social changes : The Intellectual Influences affecting the Emergence of Sociology:

  • Sociology emerged as a response to the forces of change, which took place during 18 th and 19 th centuries in Europe.
  • A scientific approach to the study of society dates back to the tradition of Enlightenment. The 18 th century thinkers consciously applied scientific principles of analysis to the study of human beings and their nature and society.
  • Secondly, they upheld reason as a measure to judge social institutions and their suitability for human nature. Human beings, according to them, are essentially rational and this rationality can lead them to freedom of thought and action.
  • Thirdly, they believed that human beings are capable of attaining perfection. By criticizing and changing social institutions they can create for themselves even greater degrees of freedom, which, in turn would enable them increasingly to actualize the potentially creative powers.
  • Sociological thinkers are concerned with the above three assumptions. Apart from them, some other intellectual influences influenced the emergence of sociology in Europe. These are the precursors of sociology and are reflected the writings of the early sociologists, as per Bottomore.
  • Political philosophy of the likes of Montesquieu, Rousseau

Movements for social and political reform like the French Revolution

 The Philosophy of History:

  • The basic assumption of this philosophy was that society must have progressed through a series of steps from a simple to complex stage.
  • On the philosophical side, it talks about the notions of development and progress. On the scientific side, it has given the concepts of historical periods and social types.
  • The social thinkers who developed the philosophy of history such as Abbe Saint Pierre, and Giambattista Vico, were concerned with the whole of society and not merely the political, or the economic, or the cultural aspects.

 The Biological Theories of Evolution:

  • Sociology moved towards an evolutionary approach, seeking to identify and account for the principal stages in social evolution.
  • It tended to be modeled on biology, as is evident from the conception of society as an organism, and the attempts to formulate general terms of social evolution.
  • Herbert Spencer and Durkheim are good example of this kind of writing.

 Surveys of Social Conditions:

  • The social survey is one of the principal methods of sociological inquiry.
  • It emerged due to two reasons, one was the growing conviction that the methods of the natural sciences should and could be extended to the study of human societies, that human phenomenon could be classified and measured.
  • The other recognition that poverty was not natural but social.
  • The basic assumption, which underlines this method, is that through the knowledge of the social conditions one can arrive at solutions to solve the social problems prevalent in society Sinclair Survey

 Modernity and social changes : Characteristics of Early Sociology:

 Characteristics of Early Sociology:

T.B. Bottomore:

  • Encyclopedic
  • Influence of philosophy of history and biological theories of evolution
  • Conceived to be a positive science
  • Had ideological as well as scientific character
  • Dealt with subjects inspired by conditions of labour, transformation of property, technology
  • and factory, industrial city

Modernity and social changes : Subject matter of Early Sociology:

  • Primary units of social life (social action, social interaction, relations) and Different types of
  • groups (family, class, etc.)
  • Basic social institutions (marriage, economy, polity, etc.)
  • Fundamental social processes (cooperation, conflict, deviance, and change)

For latest Articles [Paper wise GS 1-4] and Solved papers[2010-2020] join us @

For solved

UPSC ESSAYS click here

GS Paper 1 click here

Gs Paper 2 click here

Gs paper 3 click here

GS paper 4 click here

Sociology click here

Entertainment click here

%d bloggers like this: