The Social Theory of Du Bois

Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim are widely recognized as the trinity of sociological theory. While these three sociologists were trailblazing social theorists who enhanced the study of human behavior and its relationship to social institutions, other, more contemporary scholars were just as innovative – one of those scholars being W. E. B. Du Bois. W. E. B. Du Bois was a political and literary giant of the 20th century, publishing over twenty books and thousand of essays and articles throughout his life. W. E. B Du Bois is arguably one of the most imaginative, perceptive, and prolific founders of the sociological discipline. In addition to leading the Pan-African movement and being an activist for civil rights for African Americans, Du Bois was a pioneer of urban sociology, an innovator of rural sociology, a leader in criminology, the first American sociologist of religion, and most notably the first great social theorist of race. The work of W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963) has recently become recognized for its significant contributions to sociological theory.
Although Du Bois himself was overwhelmingly concerned with the scientific perspective of “value free” sociological research, later social theorists have found his thoughts on race to offer one of the first instances of the articulation of standpoint theory. This theoretical perspective is anything but value free, because of the self-conscious efforts of the researcher to look at the social world from the vantage point of minority groups. Feminists, multiculturalists, and even postmodernists have come to recognize the importance of the black point of view found in Du Bois’s work.
They have also come to appreciate Du Bois for his focus on local knowledge and practices. W. E. B. Du Bois was an important American thinker. Poet, philosopher, economic historian, sociologist, and social critic, Du Bois’ work resists easy classification. Du Bois is more than a philosopher; he is, for many, a great social leader. His extensive efforts all bend toward a common goal, the equality of colored people. His philosophy is significant today because it addresses what many would argue is the real world problem of white domination.

So long as racist white privilege exists, and suppresses the dreams and the freedoms of human beings, so long will Du Bois be relevant as a thinker, for he, more than almost any other, employed thought in the service of exposing this privilege, and worked to eliminate it in the service of a greater humanity. Du Bois was a prolific author. His collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk, was a seminal work in African-American literature; and his 1935 magnum opus Black Reconstruction in America challenged the prevailing orthodoxy that blacks were responsible for the failures of the Reconstruction era.
He wrote the first scientific treatise in the field of sociology; and he published three autobiographies, each of which contains insightful essays on sociology, politics and history. In his role as editor of the NAACP’s journal The Crisis, he published many influential pieces. Du Bois believed that capitalism was a primary cause of racism, and he was generally sympathetic to socialist causes throughout his life. He was an ardent peace activist and advocated nuclear disarmament.
The United States’ Civil Rights Act, embodying many of the reforms for which Du Bois had campaigned his entire life, was enacted a year after his death. Early in his career Du Bois claimed that the “race idea” was the central thought of all history and that the primary “problem of the twentieth century was the problem of the colour line. ” Du Bois viewed the goal of African Americans not as one of integration or absorption into white America, but one of advancing “Pan-Negroism. ” Critical of the excessive materialism of white America, Du Bois believed that black culture could temper the self-interested pursuit of profit.
Du Bois called on blacks to organize and unite around their race, and although he was not opposed to segregation per se, he did come to realize that discrimination stifled the development of “separate but equal” facilities and institutions. The concepts of the Veil and double consciousness occupy an important place in Du Bois’s theory on race. Du Bois discusses both in his work The Souls of Black Folk. The Veil is an imaginary barrier that separates whites and blacks. Du Bois hoped his work would allow whites to glimpse behind the Veil, so they could begin to understand the black experience in America.
Perhaps the most fundamental component of the black experience in America was living with what Du Bois called double consciousness. Blacks are simultaneously both inside and outside of the dominant white society and live with a feeling of “twoness. ” By trying to cultivate and preserve a racial identity, blacks come into conflict with trying to fit into white society. According to Du Bois, the tension of being both black and American can manifest itself in pathologies within the black community and discrimination in white America.
Whatever turns out to be the best general account of Du Bois’ philosophy, it seems the significance of his thought only really shows up in the specific details of his works themselves, especially in The Souls of Black Folk. It is here that he first develops his central philosophical concept, the concept of double consciousness, and spells out its full implications. The aim of Souls of Black Folk is to show the spirit of black people in the United States: to show their humanity and the predicament that has confronted their humanity.
Du Bois asserts that “the color line” divides people in the States, causes massive harm to its inhabitants, and ruins its own pretensions to democracy. He shows, in particular, how a veil has come to be put over African-Americans, so that others do not see them as they are; African-Americans are obscured in America; they cannot be seen clearly, but only through the lens of race prejudice. African-Americans feel this alien perception upon them but at the same time feel themselves as themselves, as their own with their own legitimate feelings and traditions. This dual self-perception is known as “double consciousness. Du Bois’ aim in Souls is to explain this concept in more specific detail and to show how it adversely affects African-Americans. In the background of Souls is always also the moral import of its message, to the effect that the insertion of a veil on human beings is wrong and must be condemned on the grounds that it divides what otherwise would be a unique and coherent identity. Souls thus aims to make the reader understand, in effect, that African-Americans have a distinct cultural identity, one that must be acknowledged, respected, and enabled to flourish.
Du Bois’ other major philosophical concept is that of “second sight. ” This is a concept he develops most precisely in Darkwater, a work, as we have seen, in which Du Bois changes his approach and takes up a stauncher stance against white culture. Du Bois holds that due to their double consciousness, African-Americans possess a privileged epistemological perspective. Both inside the white world and outside of it, African-Americans are able to understand the white world, while yet perceiving it from a different perspective, namely that of an outsider as well.
The white person in America, by contrast, contains but a single consciousness and perspective, for he or she is a member of a dominant culture, with its own racial and cultural norms asserted as absolute. The white person looks out from themselves and sees only their own world reflected back upon them—a kind of blindness or singular sight possesses them. Luckily, as Du Bois makes clear, the dual perspective of African-Americans can be used to grasp the essence of whiteness and to expose it, in the multiple senses of the word “expose. That is to say, second sight allows an African-American to bring the white view out into the open, to lay it bare, and to let it wither for the problematic and wrong-headed concept that it is. The destruction of “whiteness” in this way leaves whites open to the experience of African-Americans, as a privileged perspective, and hence it also leaves African-Americans with a breach in the culture through which they could enter with their legitimate, and legitimating, perspectives.
Later in life, Du Bois turned to communism as the means to achieve equality. Du Bois came to believe that the economic condition of Africans and African-Americans was one of the primary modes of their oppression, and that a more equitable distribution of wealth, as advanced by Marx, was the remedy to the situation. ( John J. Macionis: Sociology 14th edition) Du Bois was not simply a follower of Marx, however. He also added keen insights to the communist tradition himself.
One of his contributions is his insistence that communism contains no explicit means of liberating Africans and African-Americans, but that it ought to focus its attentions here and work toward this end. “The darker races,” to use Du Bois’ language, amount to the majority of the world’s proletariat. In Black Folk, Then and Now, Du Bois writes: “the dark workers of Asia, Africa, the islands of the sea, and South and Central America…these are the one who are supporting a superstructure of wealth, luxury, and extravagance. It is the rise of these people that is the rise of the world” (Black Folk,).
A further contribution Du Bois makes is to show how Utopian politics such as communism is possible in the first place. Building on Engle’s claim that freedom lies in the acknowledgment of necessity, as Maynard Solomon argues (Solomon, “Introduction” 258), (because in grasping necessity we accurately perceive what areas of life are open to free action), Du Bois insists on the power of dreams. Admitting our bound nature (bound to our bellies, bound to material conditions), even stressing it, he nonetheless emphasizes our range of powers within these constraints.
Although difficult to characterize in general terms, Du Bois’ philosophy amounts to a programmatic shift away from abstraction and toward engaged, social criticism. In affecting this change in philosophy, especially on behalf of African-Americans and pertaining to the issue of race, Du Bois adds concrete significance and urgent application to American Pragmatism, as Cornel West maintains, a philosophy that is about social criticism, not about grasping absolute timeless truth.
Above all, however, Du Bois’ philosophy is significant today because it addresses what many would argue is the real world problem of white domination. So long as racist white privilege exists, and suppresses the dreams and the freedoms of human beings, so long will Du Bois be relevant as a thinker, for he, more than almost any other, employed thought in the service of exposing this privilege, and worked to eliminate it in the service of a greater humanity.
References:
Du Bois, W. E. B. Black Folk, Then and Now (Millwood, N.Y.: Kraus-Thomson Organization Limited, 1975). Du Bois, W. E. B. Darkwater: Voices From Within the Veil (Mineola, N. Y. Dover Publications, 1999). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._E._B._Du_Bois
http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0072824301/student_view0/chapter10/chapter_summary.html Sociology: 14th edition (John J Macionis; Prentice Hall, 2011)

Instant Nursing Papers
Hire a Nursing Expert
Pages (550 words)
Approximate price: -

Why Choose Instant Nursing Papers?

Quality Nursing Papers

We assist students in achieving the best top-grade in their nursing papers, and in compliance with the provided instructions. Have your nursing paper written with a certified specialist Ph.D., Bachelor's, and Master's graduates with many years of experience in academic writing.

Experts with Ph.d., MDs and DNP Holders

Our writers have acquired Ph.D., MDs and DNP credentials from world class institutions. Our writers can handle papers from any discipline and can handle over 100+ subjects.

Nursing Papers Cheap

We provide a great deal of student-friendly prices and professionalism with all our nursing essay writing services. Our paper writing services have a user-friendly interface and professional nursing academic assistance. We are committed to assisting all students with their nursing assignments and projects regardless of their academic level.

Fast Paper Delivery

Our writers follow a strict schedule to ensure papers are delivered before the deadline to enable our editors to proofread before the final delivery to our customers. We strictly observe the early delivery of assignments to meet our clients' deadlines.

Plagiarism-free Nursing Papers

Our expert nursing paper writers are dedicated to conducting thorough research and writing papers from scratch to deliver original papers. To avoid paper plagiarism, all orders go through steps of writing, editing, and proofreading.

24Hour Customer Help

Our customer support is available 24/7/365 to help clients and make their paper writing services easy to use. Our experienced support team is available to answer your queries any time, 24 hours a day.

Try it now!

Calculate the price of your order

We'll send you the first draft for approval by at
Total price:
$0.00

How it works?

Follow these simple steps to get your paper done

Place your order

Fill in the order form and provide all details of your assignment.

Proceed with the payment

Choose the payment system that suits you most.

Receive the final file

Once your paper is ready, we will email it to you.

Our Nursing Papers Writing Service

We provide Nursing Assignment Services to Nursing students. Also, we are not limited to providing Nursing assignment help to students only. We also provide assignment help and solutions to community health nursing, Anatomy & Physiology, Microbiology, Biochemistry and Biophysics, and Nutrition & Dietetics.

Essays

Nursing Essays

Sit back, relax while our writers sort you out on your most daunting nursing essay queries on how to write a good nursing essay. We got you if you are looking for the best nursing essay services.

Research

Nursing Projects

It is no doubt that qualifying for a nursing career is difficult and requires a series of tests. Most nursing students must put in a lot of work in their assignments and coursework. Instantnursingpapers.com will help you answer queries such as “who can write my nursing research paper?”.

Disserations

Nursing Dissertation Help

Instantnursingpapers.com will save you the hustle of undergoing pressure or even depression while doing your nursing dissertation paper. Save yourself from all the long sleepless nights and pressure by working with our best nursing dissertation writing professionals.

Coursework

Nursing Coursework Help

If you happen to hop into our site in search of nursing coursework help, look no further. We are the number one solution for the best nursing coursework assignments. Therefore, to complete the best APA nursing coursework, seek help from professional nursing coursework experts at instantnursingpapers.com