The Sociological Revolution: From the Enlightenment to the Global Age

The Sociological Revolution: From the Enlightenment to the Global Age

The Sociological Revolution: From the Enlightenment to the Global Age

The Sociological Revolution: From the Enlightenment to the Global Age

Synopsis

By controversially turning away from the current debates which surround social theory, this book provides an historical analysis of the profound burden of sociology and its implications today.

Excerpt

I do not anticipate that this study will be misunderstood; rather, I expect it will be understood in different ways. Readers will inevitably assimilate what I have to say through the spectacles of their own values, interests, ideological preferences and other presuppositions and preoccupations, so will find my presentation wanting in this or that respect, depending on the combination of assumptions they bring to bear. They will want me to answer the questions that they are prompted to ask and to include what - according to their scale of values - they regard me as having omitted. I am very conscious that these processes are out of my control. My aim in this preface is therefore to bring out some of the important motifs in this book and to recall some aspects of its genesis, so as to facilitate the understanding of the work as a whole.

This book takes a longer view of the vicissitudes of sociology and its current condition. In Part I, I establish sociology as emerging in the eighteenth century from the same developments of European societies that it was trying to understand and explain. The relatively autonomous sociological point of view derivable from this emergent tradition informs my subsequent argumentation. The pioneers, I argue, tried to accomplish the task of understanding the fate or destiny of society in a manner different from the older philosophies of history, which were absorbed into the emerging discipline of sociology and thereby transformed. As social diagnosis, sociology was thus from its inception ‘evaluative’ and ‘philosophical’, as well as ‘scientific’. Both Marx and Comte, in their very different ways, can be seen with hindsight to have been grappling with these same mighty questions. I suggest that the range of social uniformities and regularities upon which sociology focused was an emergent reality sui generis, first theorized in its economic manifestation by the early political economists. It was this feature of the emerging area of inquiry which also distinguished sociology from psychology and biology as well as from the discipline of history. In short, I establish the autonomy of sociology developmentally and ‘social-ontologically’.

Whilst this book is partly about contemporary sociological theory, in the sense that those developments have prompted my research and reflections, it is not intended to be a systematic introduction to the issues that are current in theory at the present time. There are plenty of other excellent books which provide that service. Many of the prominent current theories and controversies are nevertheless still discussed, but not in the form of an inventory of items, nor in their own terms. Rather, this study places the current sociological debates within a broader perspective deriving from the emergent sociological tradition. This entails coming up behind many of the current debates and going round them.

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