Handbook of Contemporary Developments in World Sociology

Handbook of Contemporary Developments in World Sociology

Handbook of Contemporary Developments in World Sociology

Handbook of Contemporary Developments in World Sociology

Excerpt

All living forms tend to expand their living space to the limits of their success, displacing less efficient forms. The displacement of less by more intelligent creatures illustrates the principle, and in human affairs, the expansion of new, more efficient conceptual technologies at the expense of less efficient ones again reveals its operation. Success and efficiency, in this context, refer to superior capacity to solve the problems of nature and society.

From this standpoint, it was inevitable that the development of science in the Western world, which joined a program of abstract conceptualization to systematic experimentalism and which proved capable of extending man's mastery of nature into one area after another, should eventually be turned on society. When traditional institutions that opposed such extension were systematically weakened and when, simultaneously, new problems arose that eluded the stereotyped wisdom of the past, the rise of the social sciences occurred. This condition appeared in the nations of Western Europe in recent times.

The rise of the social sciences accompanied the revolutionary reconstruction of the enlightened monarchies of the eighteenth century into the nationstates of the nineteenth century. The social sciences were conceptual orientations and technologies of middle-class strata newly thrust into positions of power by revolution and facing the problem of understanding and consolidating the society that had come into their hands.

Sociology was a discipline responsive to the problems of nation-states. The state is the system of political institutions that exercises a monopoly over the use of power in a given territory. The nation is a peculiar type of community, a system of institutions constituting a more or less complete way of life for a population; the nation is a community of sufficient integrity to possess a state of its own. In the nature of the case, the development of the nation and the state have rarely been completely simultaneous or parallel. However, in the long run, stability has depended on the degree to which they are mutually enhancing. If there was a general task that faced sociology at the time of its origin, it was to carry out the adaptation of the nation to the state. As nation- state formation diffused in areas where the development of the nation outran the formation of a contemporary type of state, this task was reversed.

Sociology as one of the nation-state's distinctive intellectual enterprises has become a worldwide discipline with the diffusion of the nation-state. In the . . .

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