A History of Sociological Analysis

A History of Sociological Analysis

A History of Sociological Analysis

A History of Sociological Analysis

Excerpt

The idea of this book arose mainly from the long-standing interest of both editors in the diverse ways in which sociology has been shaped as an intellectual discipline, but it was inspired more immediately by reflection upon the contribution made to the history of economics by J. A. Schumpeter's History of Economic Analysis. Contemplating the existing histories of sociology, we realized that despite many illuminating studies of particular thinkers or episodes, there was lacking a comprehensive work which would show, with the same wealth of detail as Schumpeter's book, how sociological analysis has developed; how the various theoretical schemes have been elaborated and modified; what relation they bear to each other; how theoretical debates have arisen, been pursued, and eventually been resolved or put aside.

When we came to consider how such a history might be written, it seemed evident that the exceptionally broad scope of sociological analysis—claiming as it does to comprehend social life "as a whole"—and the very great diversity of theoretical orientations, which if anything has increased in recent years, made desirable a collective work in which particular types of theory would be examined in a thorough fashion by scholars having a special interest and competence in each area. But we also thought it essential to complement these studies of what may be called "theoretical schools" with two other major kinds of contributions: one concerned with the various methodological orientations of a very general character which have coexisted throughout the history of our discipline, found expression in diverse theoretical schemes, and given rise on occasion to important methodological debates; the other concerned with a number of broad theoretical issues—the significance of power and stratification, the relation between sociological analysis and practical social life—with which all the major schools of sociological theory have had to grapple. Finally, we considered it useful to include, as a type of case study, an account of some aspects of the history of sociological analysis in the United States, where sociology developed more rapidly and extensively than anywhere else and in consequence has had a major historical influence.

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