Tag Archives: marcel mauss

Foundations of Sociology: Durkheim, Mauss and Weber

Emile Durkheim believed that human society followed laws, just like natural laws of physics or biology that could be discovered by empirical observation and testing, sound familiar. He also believed that society was much more than simply a collection of individuals and to discover the laws and principles by which society operated. He began to question the nature of social cohesion. What was it exactly that held societies together?

Marcel Mauss talked much about the “Gift Exchange.” In a gift there is always “three obligations: giving, receiving, repaying.” If this is not done there is a sense of lost of dignity. Has this ever happened to you? The nature of gifts can be ambiguous and political in all cultures. In simple cultures as Mauss suggests, the gift giving is the thing that keeps theses societies together, and maintains social structures. “What power resides in the object given that caused its recipient to pay it back?”

Max Weber talked much about class, status and party and that all this overlapped each other. He looked at the role of the individual and the relation to others. In addition, he believed people’s positions are based on a number of factors. The class is more of economic terms are how much you can gain from the society. The status is the position and prestige of the lifestyle you have. The party is at what political level you are to gain power. He also thought that there were three types of social structure, “the community, the association, and the society”. Is this still true today? Does our society have social structure? If so what might it be?