Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

The Impact of Social Culture Environment for Modern Science Development: Based on the Understanding of Merton's Dissertation

Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

The Impact of Social Culture Environment for Modern Science Development: Based on the Understanding of Merton's Dissertation

Article excerpt


In the ages of Big Science and under the situation of advocating an innovative society, it's very significant to re-read the Merton's Dissertation named "Science, Technology and Society in the 17th Century England" and explore fascination of thought and modem value in the classics which was recognized as a work of sociology of science. Along the thinking logic of Merton's text, we make the history of reduction and in-depth analysis of the England social culture environment in 17th century from three aspects of politics, economy and culture. And with this a base point, some important influences of Social Culture Environment to the rise and development of Modern Science are fully discussed from three perspectives which are the driving force of modern science, the turn of scientific research fields and its interaction mechanism.

Key words: Social culture environment; Puritan ethics; Transformation of job interest; Merton


Robert King Merton (1910-2003) is a famous American sociologist, the founder of the sociology of science, and structural functionalism school representative (Liu & Liu, 2011, p.267). He always adhered to such idea that an excellent scholar ought to be meticulous with knowledge and hold teaching philosophy in his ceaseless writing life, so he achieved great triumph in sociology of which the most important theoretical contributions were structural functionalism theory, middle theory and thought of Sociology of Science. And he has cultivated a batch of the world recognized leading sociologist during the thirty years of teaching at Columbia University, like J. Coleman, P. Blau, «fe L. Coser. Merton was honored as "the father of Sociology of Science" because of his great influence, then Merton's doctoral thesis "Science, Technology and Society in the 17th Century England" published in Journal Isis for the History of Science (1938) was generally accepted as the foundational work. Deeply influenced by these academic thought and method from sociologist Sorokin, Parsons and Mannheim, as well as guided by the historian of science George, Merton accomplished his paper with a great deal of historical data analysis and quantities methods (quantitative content analysis, collective biography etc.), and thought science as a kind of social system. He explored the mutual restriction and influence of science and politics, economy, military, social and cultural factors, as well as the interdependent relationship with other social system in the British background of seventeenth Century (Merton, 2000, p.5). As a representative of Merton's early thought, his paper was still neither perfect nor mature, but as Cohen said, "the majority of doctoral dissertation valuable things is in between the lines and notes, and STS is no exception." Rereading Merton's doctoral thesis is important to discovery the impact of social and cultural environment to the emergence and development of the modem science, and the implications that contemporary Chinese science should be more emphasis on social cultural environment construction.


Social culture environment refers to the specific cultural atmosphere formed in the human life of the community, and is in contrast to the concept of natural geographical environment including cultural tradition, ethics, values, social ideological trend, etc. Social and cultural environment is the most important factor that affects the people's desire and behavior, so the different countries or nationalities have different custom and style owing to their different culture background. In this sense, social and cultural environment is the historical concept which inherently covers time and space, and its essence lies in analysis to the specific geographical and social culture factor along with the constantly evolution of human civilization. In Merton's context, science is not only considered as a system of knowledge, but also is a kind of idea and the social and cultural system, moreover, Merton inspected the relationship among scientific research system and other social systems were interdependent and interaction. …

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