Term Paper: Sociology: Philosophy and Practice United

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Sociology: Philosophy and Practice United: The Life, Work, And Writings of Three Great Social Activists

Practice what you preach.' This simple phrase, however cliched, could sum up the life and works of Harriett Martineau, Jane Addams and W.E.B Dubois. All three authors dedicated their life and writings, not simply to improving the philosophy of social involvement in a particular socially disadvantaged community, but to achieving practical social action through their own lives, personal acts of defiance, and public acts of engaged social upheaval.

Harriet Martineau was born at the beginning of the 19th century into a large, upper middle class English family. However, she was quickly orphaned by the death of her father and abandoned by her husband, Unlike most women of her station, Harriet was forced to support herself solely by her own writing early on in her adult life. To earn a living, she wrote essays, novels, biographies, news columns, and some of the first, seminal texts on the subject of sociology. Her sociological significance also has its roots in the fact that, unlike many women of the day, Harriet Martineau was unafraid to travel. She was unafraid to head 'into the field.' Martineau began a two-year study of the United States when she visited the country in 1834. She cataloged this visit, and a later 1838 journey in her works entitled Society in America, Retrospect of Western Travel, and How to Observe Morals and Manners. She stressed the need to objectively compare different ways of life for aspiring sociologists. An observer could not proceed with the assumption of truth and justice lying in one's own culture alone. One had to apprehend the new culture in its on terms and on its own terms. Thus, she is considered the mother of positivist sociology, as crystallized in her monumental work on the Middle East, entitled Eastern Life Past and Present. All her works examined the "correspondence problem between inter-subjectivity, verifiable observable, and unobservable theoretical issues" and provided a positivist solution to examining local cultures and analyzing relations between the genders. (Smith, 2001)

Martineau died in the 1870's, shortly before the birth of Jane Addams, the founder of the settlement movement. Addams is noted for viewing the needs of the poor with an objective sense of compassion and an absence of moral judgment. Thus, her social activism was conduced in the same spirit as Martineau conducted her sociological analysis of American and Middle Eastern societies. Jane Addams was another woman who defied conventional expectation of how a… [END OF PREVIEW]

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