Karl Marx was a German philosopher, economist, and sociologist who argued that societies develop through a class struggle between the ruling class who controls the means of production and the working classes. Marxism holds that capitalism facilitates these social relations through exploitation of labor and commodification.
Prominent works: The Communist Manifesto (1848); Capital (1867)
Max Weber (1864-1920)
Weber was a German sociologist and economic and political theorist, who called for an interpretive rather than purely empirical methodology for the study of the social realm and was concerned with reconciling the social theories of rationalization and secularization with the rise of capitalism and modernity.
Prominent works: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905)
David Émile Durkheim (1858-1917)
Durkheim was a French sociologist, psychologist, and philosopher, who alongside Marx and Weber, is credited with the foundation of sociology. Durkheim was a proponent of functionalism, which models society as a system of parts, and his worked focused on social institutions, religion, modernity, and the refinement of methodologies for sociology.
Prominent works: The Division of Labour in Society (1893); Suicide (1897)
Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913)
A Swiss linguist and semiotician, de Saussure is considered one of the founders (with Charles Sanders Pierce) of semiotics/semiology, the study of meaning-making in language.
Prominent works: Course in General Linguistics (1906-1911)
Franz Boas (1858-1942)
American-German anthropologist considered the "Father of American Anthropology," he was an opponent of scientific/biological racism and promoted the ideology of cultural relativism.
Prominent works: Race, Language and Culture (1940); The Mind of Primitive Man (1911-1937)
Claude Levi-Strauss (1908-2009)
A French anthropologist considered by many as the "Father of modern anthropology", Levi-Strauss was a main theorist behind structuralism and the founding of structural anthropology (heavily influenced by the work of Marcel Mauss and Ferdinand de Saussure).
Prominent works: The Savage Mind (1962); The Elementary Structures of Kinship (1949); Structural Anthropology (1958)
Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914)
An American philosopher, sometimes known as the "father of pragmatism", Peirce contributed to the field of semiotics with his classification of types of signs (i.e. icon, index, symbol).
Collected works, including 1955 compilation of manuscripts in Philosophical Writings of Peirce ("Logic as Semiotic: The Theory of Signs")
Michel Foucault (1926-1984)
French philosopher, historian, and social theorist; Most known for his theories of the relationship between power and knowledge, and critical histories of modernity.
Prominent works: Discipline and Punish (1975); History of Modern Sexuality (1976); From Archaeology to Geneology (1969)
Clifford Geertz (1926-2006)
Prominent American anthropologist who championed symbolic anthropology, the study of cultural symbols and how they construct meaning in society. Geertz emphasized the use of “thick description” of human behavior and its contexts in anthropological writing.
Prominent works: The Interpretation of Cultures (1973)
Marcel Mauss (1872-1950)
Mauss was a French sociologist contributing to both sociological and anthropological discourses. He focused on issues of reciprocity and magic.
Prominent work: The Gift (1925)
Margaret Mead (1901-1978)
Mead was an American anthropologist who contributed to discourses on feminism and feminist ideologist both in Papua New Guinea and the West.
Prominent works: Coming of Age in Samoa (1928); Sex and Temperament (1935); Growing up in New Guinea (1930)
Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002)
French sociologist and anthropologist whose work focused on the dynamics of power in society, the embodiment of social dynamics and subjective agents; introduced the influential concepts of cultural, social and symbol capital, the habitus, and symbolic violence
Prominent works: Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (1979); The Logic of Practice (1980)
Mary Douglas (1921-2007)
Douglas was a British anthropologist known for her concepts of ritual purity and pollution, and creating the cultural theory of risk.
Prominent works: Purity and Danger (1966); Natural Symbols (1970); How Institutions Think (1989)
Bruno Latour (1947-)
Latour is a French anthropologist and sociologist of science whose works focused on the study of scientific practice. Latour is one of the developers of the actor-network theory, which proposes that objects and humans are actors in a social network of both material and symbolic relationships.
Prominent works: Laboratory Life (1986); We Have Never Been Modern (1993)