Sociology DuBois Essay


W.E.B. Du Bois was a premier American sociologist, whose contributions to social theory strengthen the philosophies of Marx, Weber, and Durkheim. Du Bois studied formally in America and Germany, where Du Bois developed his core philosophies. By interjecting the issue of race into the prevailing sociological discourse, Du Bois showed how to apply concepts like structuralism, functionalism, identity formation, and systems of power to social problems. Concerned particularly with racism, Du Bois showed that racism serves a distinct sociological function and is embedded in social institutions. In particular, racism upholds social structures and institutions that perpetuate hierarchies and power imbalances. Thus, Du Bois revealed the intersections between race and power and encouraged the application of social theory to racial conflicts. Unlike Marx, Weber, or Durkheim, Du Bois grappled with issues related to racial identity formation and especially how to reconcile an American identity with an African one. This is why Du Bois opted for Ghanaian citizenship and spent the last years of his life there. Fundamentally, Du Bois's teachings and writings parallel the claims made by Marx, Weber, and Durkheim regarding the ways individuals behave in social systems, the centrality of power in social institutions, and how social systems as a whole perpetuate themselves, change, or die. Like Marx, Du Bois recognized the capitalism is an innately and inextricably exploitative system. Also like Marx, Du Bois understood that social class...


Power depends on subjugation, which in turn depends on institutions like the legal and political systems. Thus, capitalism is reinforced by the law and upheld by social norms. "Class struggle was the result of class domination; and class domination, wjhich would be seen again and again in the historical archive, meant that the stronger classes used the state to take advantage of the weaker classes," (Appiah, 2014, p. 34). Only a revolutionary transformation can undermine the system of exploitation. Although some of Du Bois's political and social theories derive directly from Marx, Marx did not discuss race. Unlike Marx, Du Bois shows that race can be understood with regards to class conflict. The weaker classes by definition lack access to social, cultural, political, and financial capital. It is impossible to gain access to capital within the self-same system, which is why a revolution in consciousness or a political revolution becomes necessary. Marx urged self-empowerment, as did Du Bois.
Like Weber, Du Bois viewed social reform with an ethical and moral lens, and both theoriests were interested in the social theory of religion too. A society not only can, but should, endeavor to reach ideal states of liberty and equality. The elimination of class conflict is a moral imperative. "It is a battle for humanity and human culture. If in the hey-dey [sic] of the greatest of the world's civilizations, it…

Sources Used in Documents:


Appiah, K.A. (2014). Lines of Descent. Harvard College.

Simon, S.J. (n.d.). Economy and society in Marx, Durkheim, and Weber.

Zuckerman, P. (2004). The Social Theory of W.E.B. Du Bois. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

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