Sociological Theory: Present-Day Sociology from the Past

Sociological Theory: Present-Day Sociology from the Past

Sociological Theory: Present-Day Sociology from the Past

Sociological Theory: Present-Day Sociology from the Past

Excerpt

The formative state of sociological theory today allows us a privilege which more mature sciences cannot enjoy. In the absence of a highly developed formal theory, speculation and, indeed, even "arm chair" theorizing may on occasion have the force of study based on the optimum data necessary for generalization. Such speculations and generalizations are not necessarily wrong nor are they necessarily correct. What is important is that occasionally some scholar summarizes his own reflections in what turns out in time to be the most appropriate way. He may, for example, observe only his own children and, because he sees them as they are behaving, he can propose generalizations about the socialization process which require little modification half a century later. Wisdom, as well as science, has played an important part in the unfolding of generalized knowledge about social behavior. Some of the most important ideas of relevance to sociological theory and research today were developed by clear-eyed observers willing to look at the world they could see from their study windows, unhampered by compulsions to elaboration and having sufficient leisure and self-confidence to fondle thoughts into mature ideas.

We may easily overestimate how much of the knowledge we have about social behavior has been discovered within our own generation. A modern textbook may be a marvel of sophistication, but we should never lose sight of the fact that our current work is inevitably an extension of the past. This should not lead to a worship of prior work, but to a recognition of what in the past is suitable for use in the present. In this sense, an examination of contributions of the past which are modern today serves a multiple purpose. It encourages the economy of continuity in the development of the discipline, it requires recognition in small part of our . . .

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