Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Connections: Demography and Sociology in Twentieth Century Canada [1]

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Connections: Demography and Sociology in Twentieth Century Canada [1]

Article excerpt

Abstract: Specific areas are highlighted in which demography can be shown to have benefited the conduct of sociological research, and the sociology departments in Canadian universities housing demography programs and courses from the 1960s. These specific areas include: demography's empirical, statistical and methodological features, its international reach, its interdisciplinary dimension, its planning and policy-making realms, and lastly, the initiatives taken to enhance demography's role as a national discipline in Canada. Despite the effects of the 1990s economic recession and what appeared to be a drop in student interest, it is to be hoped that demography will continue to inform Canada's social sciences in general and sociology in particular as the twenty-first century unfolds.

Resume: Certaines composantes specifiques de la demographie, lorsque mises en evidence, servent a demontrer combien la demographie a ete benefique aux recherches sociologiques et aux departements de sociologie des universites canadiennes qui, depuis les annees soixante, offrent des programmes et des cours en demographie. Ces composantes comprennent: les aspects empiriques, statistiques et methodologiques de la demographie, sa portee intemationale, sa dimension inter-disciplinaire, son influence sur l'elaboration et la mise en oeuvre de politiques et, finalement, les initiatives visant a promouvoir le role de la demographie comme discipline nationate au Canada. -- Malgre les effets de la recession economique des annees quatre-vingt-dix et une diminution apparente d'interet chez les etudiants, il est a souhaiter que la demographie continue d'alimenter les sciences sociales canadiennes en general et la sociologie en particulier au cours du vingt et unieme siecle.

The more remote and recent past. "L'histoire d'une discipline en dit souvent beaucoup plus sur la nature qu'un long discours" (Leridon et Toulemon, 1997, 1).

These days, it is a truism to say that in order to see the future clearly, we must be knowledgeable about the past. [2] But in aiming for clarity about the future, how far back in the past must we go? Demography and its connections with sociology in twentieth century Canada is a subject focussed on the recent past, the proverbial tip of the iceberg. To discern the legacy of the last century's events and patterns, we must reach further back in the past for both fields ... to first origins, to pioneers' earliest investigations and discoveries, to the "predisciplinary" era, and to the corresponding history and evolution of related fields like statistics and political economy, all of which take us back to the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Information from that more remote past tells us that the history of demography in all important respects -- origin, earliest pioneers, data, methods -- is inextricably interwoven with the history of statistics. Long before they were known as such, both demography and statistics existed in fact and evolved in practice, within the context of political arithmetic, which was born in the mid-seventeenth century, about one hundred and seventy-five years before sociology appeared on the scene. [3] Demography is historically "older" than sociology; and the interdependence of demography and statistics from the mid-seventeenth century stands in sharp contrast to demography's much weaker relationship with "sociologie" when the latter first appeared in 1839, as Auguste Comte's "positive" science of society. Comte's dislike and distrust of statistics has been well documented. Despite Quetelet's work in the nineteenth century, and later, that of scholars like Durkheim and Halbwachs, early twentieth-century sociologists did not seem particularly drawn to their population and statistical interests, nor interested in pursuing their approach (Nam, 1982).

By the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, demography had finally expanded beyond its initial, early focus on deaths (mortality), to include the study of births (fertility), population movement (internal and international migration) and vertical or social mobility, and, thanks to Lotka, the analytic relations between the fertility and mortality components and population structure. …

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