Property and Power in Social Theory: A Study in Intellectual Rivalry

By Dick Pels | Go to book overview

5

SOCIAL SCIENCE AS POWER THEORY

What is really important in sociology is nothing but political science.

Gramsci


THE ELUSIVE OBJECT OF SOCIOLOGY

According to a widely held idol of the tribe, sociology started its career with the discovery of ‘society’ as an entity distinct from and independent of the state (Collins and Makowsky 1972; Goudsblom 1977; Bottomore and Nisbet 1979; Heilbron 1995). Sociology, Aron has argued, marks a moment in human reflection on historical reality ‘when the concept of the social, of society, becomes the centre of interest, replacing the concept of politics or of the régime or of the state’ (1965 I:15). Early sociology, Gouldner agreed, rejected the dominance of society by the state, and more generally, defocalized the importance of politics in order to concentrate upon ‘civil society’ as its principal scientific object (1980:363-4). Most significant in the sociological experience, Elias has written, is the conceptualization of ‘society’ as a self-regulating nexus of events, and as something which was not determined in its course and its functioning by governments (1984:38).

The idea appears to add the virtues of simplicity to those of self-evidence, and offers a classical justification for the existence of sociology as an autonomous intellectual enterprise. It is the existence of this autonomous order of social events intermediary between private individuals and the strictly political sphere which is held to justify the territorial and theoretical claims of sociology vis-à-vis the other human sciences, and especially, to mark a clear boundary with older-style political philosophy. Looking back gratefully to Durkheim, sociologists routinely affirm the presence of something like the social realm (règne social) as a reality sui generis, which has its own structure and regularities and generates its own quasi-natural patterns of development. To an important degree, it is this postulated autonomy of the sociological object which is taken to legitimize the relative autonomy of the sociological project. 1

-126-

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Property and Power in Social Theory: A Study in Intellectual Rivalry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Liberal Dichotomy and Its Dissolution 18
  • 2 - Inside the Diamond 47
  • 3 - Marxism Vs. Anarchism 74
  • 4 - Fascism and the Primacy of the Political 101
  • 5 - Social Science as Power Theory 126
  • 6 - Power, Property, and Managerialism 164
  • 7 - Intellectual Closure and the New Class 192
  • 8 - Towards a Theory of Intellectual Rivalry 225
  • Notes 260
  • Bibliography 287
  • Index 311
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