Pre-Sociological Influences (such as Plato)


Why did Sociology Emerge?

 Read each of the following items.

(Denisoff, Callahan, & Levine 1974:1-7)

Denisoff, R. Serge, Orel Callahan, and Mark H. Levine. 1974. Theories and Paradigms in Contemporary Sociology. Itasca, IL: F. E. Peacock Publichers, Incorporated.


An Introduction to Sociological Theory

"A science which hesitates to forget its founders is lost." Several prominent sociologists have used this quotation from philosopher Alfred North Whitehead to open their discussions of sociological theory. In spite of Whitehead’s admonition, however, it may be useful to look back to the period of genesis of sociology to enable the student to ferret out the basic suppositions which chart the evolution of the field. Because these fundamental assumptions are rarely restated once a science has matured, they tend to be taken for granted. The negative consequences of this practice for theory were forcefully pointed out by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1970).

In discussing the evolution of the physical sciences, mainly physics and chemistry, Kuhn maintains that inquiry commences with random fact gathering in which all materials are treated as equally important and relevant. In the course of this nondirected activity, many conflicting facts and generalized statements surface. As this unstructured idea picking continues, debates, polemics, and arguments take place, in the best New England town-hall or Socratic tradition. With the passage of the time these initial diversities disappear as one of the schools of thought emerges as best able to integrate the vast pool of incoherent information.

The consolidation and integration of ideas create a paradigm, which Kuhn defines as "…law, theory, application, and instrumentation together [which] provide models from which spring particular traditions of scientific research" (1970:10). Paradigms, then, are taken-for-granted ideas and assumptions not debated by members of a scientific discipline. Only in introductory textbooks, if at all, are these ideas restated simply. Acceptance of these foundations prepares the student for membership in the academic and scientific community. Once a paradigm is established, scholars engage in what Kuhn calls "mopping up operations," which involve three paradigmatic aspects: (1) the stress of one group of events and facts over another, (2) the attempt to demonstrate agreement between the paradigm and reality, and (3) the further refinement of the paradigm. Science becomes a puzzle-solving activity in which problems are presented in such a way as to avoid the unexpected novelty. Research can be metaphorically viewed as a jigsaw puzzle: while pieces may be scattered, the existence of the solution is assured. Indeed, as Kuhn notes, "One of the reasons why normal science seems to progress so rapidly is that its practitioners concentrate on problems that only their lack of ingenuity should keep them from solving" (1970:37). To carry the metaphor one step further, it can be argued that putting the puzzle together is the phenomenon to be studied, as defined by the paradigm.

The loss of a piece of puzzle or the inclusion of a foreign element by the manufacturer can create new and unacceptable results. Discovery commences with the awareness of anomaly, which involves recognition that the real world somehow has violated the expected findings dictated by the paradigm. Anomaly generates the period of uncertainty corresponding in part to the preparadigm period in which a handful of informed intellectual speculators debated their particular views of reality. It causes scientists to lose faith with the paradigm and to consider alternatives. Rarely do they immediately renounce the paradigm which led them into the crisis, however; many modifications and searching probes are initiated, all within the framework of the old paradigm. It is during this time that the innovators (or the "wildmen of science") come to the fore, each with his own paradigm containing its own intrinsic assumptions. Again, a new or complementary paradigm will rediefine and create a new systematic world view in keeping with the new paradigm. "When paradigms change, the world itself changes with them. Led by a new paradigm, scientists adapt new instruments and look in new places" (Kuhn, 1970:110). The emergence of a new paradigm hinges on the promise it holds for a science. The new candidate should be able to resolve the anomaly discovered in the old paradigm and must continue a "large part of the concrete problem-solving ability that has accrued to science through its predecessors…" (1970:168). In this manner, most scientific revolutions more closely resemble the palace coups that have plagued Latin America than the storming of the scientific Bastille.

Kuhn’s historical analysis, while directed at the more orderly natural sciences, can also be applied to the humanities and social sciences. His model of scientific development, however, is relevant only to the beginnings of sociology, which has not sufficienly developed to the point where it has a dominant paradigm. Talcott Parsons (1951) attempted to establish one in the early 1960s, but his effort at integrating exisiting knowledge was not acceptable to the profession. Sociologists, therefore, are still in the process of gathering facts at random and developing competing theories of society. Behind these efforts are certain paradigmatic assumptions which color what sociologists do and how they see the world (see Friedrichs, 1970; Lehman and Young, 1972).

Origins of Paradigmatic Assumptions of Sociological Theory

The fundamental foundations of sociological theory have been gleaned (as all things seem to be) from the ancient Greeks. The basic notion of natural law is found in Plato’s Republic. There is an order to society—a universalism, urged the Greek philosopher. The essence of this universal, unfortunately, was not totally clear. On the one hand, society was characterized as an organism, an enclosed, total, holistic unit. This was the Platonic "is" of society. The entire state of nature, however, was not yet known. Consequently, man was in a position to use logic—"the act and method of correct thinking"—to posit an "ought" of what society could be (Durant, 1953:47). This inherent contradiction between the Platonic "is" and the "ought" is fundamental to the processes of random fact gathering in Western thought.

Paul Meadows outlines the contradiction between two models of order, naturalistic and conventional:

…the naturalistic mode in which organization is a function of the way things are, and the conventional mode in which organization is a function of pattern-making experience. The first is a "fixed-relations" mode, in which essences and underlying structures are bindingly linked with traits of appearance in an established order. The second is experience-linked; it is a "variable-relations" mode which seeks to find in the probabilities and degrees of dependence, in repetitive sequences and in demonstrable co-variations, dependence organizations of reality (1967:82).

The naturalistic mode stresses the organic symbiotic or ecological relationship of man to society. Society is seen as an organism with physical needs of self-maintenance to be satisfied through the harmonious operations of its parts; these tasks could be accomplished by groups of men organized into classes. Naturalism is the Platonic "is."

Conventionalism, which stresses the process of becoming, is the philosophical "ought." Plato urged that science did exist as "a body of knowable truth which is valid always and absolutely and for every thinking mind" (Taylor, 1960:36). The problem of society was the prevalence of disorder and confusion due to the varying "opinions" advanced, many of which were in conflict. Plato argued in his "theory of ideas," that what must be found are the guiding naturalist concepts of science, which he called ideas. These are reached by the triumphal amelioration of two or more levels of experience, a process he called the dialectic: "the process of analysis followed by one of synthesis." In Book Six of The Republic, Plato defines the development of opposing forces:

And when I speak of the other division of intelligence, you will understand me to speak of that other sort of knowledge which reason herself attains by the power of the dialectic, using hypothesis not as first principles, but only as hypotheses—that is to say as steps and points of departure into a world which is above hypothesis, in order that she may soar beyond them to the first principle of the whole; and clinging to this and then to that which depends on this, by successive steps she descends again without the aid of any sensible object, from ideas, through ideas, and in ideas she ends (1892:772).

Through the use of the dialectic, the worlds of "is" and "ought" become one. The republic then would appear, Plato asserted.

Plato presented man as a living organism with needs for survival. Unlike many species of animal, man joins with other homo sapiens in order to accomplish this task. He develops organizations to facilitate survival which are based upon labor specialization, called the division of labor. In the process of fulfilling these basic requirements of life, patterns of interaction and interrelationships emerge—what Plato called "forms." These patterns, being repetitive, are believed to be knowable, if men use a standardized "correct way of thinking." The type of cognition is called logic.

Logic, for Plato, transcends and goes beyond mere opinion or sensate reaction. It is a neutral or objective tool which facilitates human knowledge. According to the Greeks, logic, as the foundation of science, could lead men to a body of knowable truth which is recurrent and always valid—Plato’s universals, or what contemporary scientists would label "scientific laws" (Brown, 1963). Plato and his contemporaries provided the basic concepts for what were to become the various theoretical schools in sociology.

Basic Paradigmatic Assumptions of Sociological Theory

From the work of Plato six basic assumptions found in sociological theory (see Rose, 1967;Carroll, 1972) can be identified, as shown below:

Basic Paradigmatic Assumptions of Sociology

I. Man is an organism

II. Organisms tend toward survival

III. Man survives in groups.

IV. Man is a social animal.

V. Man lives in an ordered society.

VI. The order of society is knowable

I. Man as an organism is the take-off point for all sociological theory. In order to exist he must fulfill certain basic biological needs: first food and water, then clothing and shelter. A corollary to this statement is that society, like man, is an organism and has similar basic needs. At the individual level, this organic assumption is the pillar upon which the behaviorism of John Watson and B. F. Skinner and much of Freudian theory are based. At the societal level, the organic analogy is central to what is termed structural functionalism, which also incorporates Plato’s concern with social harmony as the most important need for society if it is to survive. 1

II. The important notion of survival is usually captured in the concept of need. Behaviorists, functionalists, social Darwinists, dialectical materialists, and nominalists all begin their discussion of man in society with the admonition: MAN NEEDS TO SURVIVE.

III. The notion of human survival is concerned with the concept of division of labor, which holds that men exist by pooling their particular skills in their combat with nature. Certain essential tasks need to be performed if both man and the system he has created are to maintain themselves. The division of labor is especially prominent in the writings of the early French structuralists, such as Henri de Saint-Simon, Auguste Comte, and Emile Durkheim, as well as such conflict theorists as Karl Marx and Lorenz von Stein. While the division of labor is central to the ideas of the so-called order and conflict theorists (see Horton, reading 3), its workings fall into the rubric of Plato’s "is" and "ought." The French functionalists saw the division of labor as essentially a positive unifying force in society. Writers following the lead of Karl Marx see it as the source of alienation and class struggle. Only when the forces of production or technology create a homogeneous "each according to his needs" economy in which all men can perform the same tasks can struggle be eliminated.

IV. Man as a social animal, as inferred in Plato’s theory of ideas, is another paradigmatic assumption in sociological theory. Man is social by the nature of his association with other men, which is made interactive through the use of commonly understood gestures and language. Since social beings have consciousness, they therefore have culture; Plato called this a "social mind." The nature of this consciousness is a common concern with nearly all sociological theorists. Nominalists are concerned with the rational motives of societal actors. Durkheim addresses the "conscience collective" or the valuative make-up of society. Ferdinand Tonnies is concerned with "the public opinion." The phenomenologists study the importance of the "commonsense world." Conflict theorists deal with various categories of economically linked ideologies and class consciousness. All of these concepts are concerned with consciousness and culture.

V. The notion of order is central to all social sciences; only a repetitive process is knowable. Since total chaos and disorder would render explanation impossible, sociologists assume that some form of order exists (see Max Weber, Talcott Parsons, Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx, and so forth). Most reject the "giant blueprint in the sky"; instead, repetitive actions are seen as the basis of concepts such as social facts, forms, and social action. At the historical, macrosociological level, this order is seen as evolutionary (Bendix and Berger, 1959:92-120). Societies are seen as evolving from the simple to the complex or from the "is" to the "ought" (see Burrow, 1970; Hofstadter, 1955). Definitions of so-called laws of progress are quite different, depending on the stress given a particular perspective by a social theorist (Plamenatz, 1963:409-457; Appelbaum, 1970). Organicists Herbert Spencer, Durkheim, and Comte stress the unilinear historical change. Conflict theorists see dialectical struggle as the natural order of things.2

Durkheim discusses the reorganization of the mechanical into a more complex organic form of social cohesion, and Spencer points to change from the militant to the industrial society. Tonnies considers the leap from the tribal gemeinschaft to the industrial gesellschaft, and Robert Redfield, the movement from folk to urban forms of organization (see Nisbet, 1968). Marx postulates three developmental stages leading toward capitalism.

VI. Sociologists may differ on the way they interpret the first five postulates, but nearly all embrace the canon that social action and society are knowable. The substantive nature of knowability may be hotly debated in the light of existing scientific methodologies; however, the goal of understanding is the nexus of sociology.

Sociology is the study of men in groups which constitute society. It is assumed that this study is possible because human actions are repetitive and purposive, and consequently understandable through the use of "common correct thinking" (Lundberg, 1947). For the Greeks, human action was discoverable through dialogue and their notion of science: mathematics. This belief was embraced by the French some two millennia later, when Saint-Simon called for a science politique, or a science of production. This science would be addressed to the workings of technology, based on concrete, positive facts rather than such metaphysical speculations as counting angels on the heads of pins. Through this knowledge men would be restored to the natural order and be made happy. Comte followed this lead, seeking to apply the laws of logic and science to society. He called the scientific study of relationships "sociology," a study to be based on the following assumptions:

1. All phenomena is subject to invariable natural laws.

2. Sociology will regenerate education or knowledge of social relations.

3. It involves the special study of scientific generalities to aid in the progress of society.

4. It offers the only solid basis for that social reorganization which must replace the critical condition in which most civilized nations exist. [Paraphrased from Comte (Simpson, 1969:50)]

Using science, then, laws of human existence can be found. Comte, Durkheim, Weber, and, later, George Lundberg transformed this paradigmatic assumption into truth statements within sociology.

These six paradigmatic foundations, embedded in social philosophy, took on added meaning with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, which idealized science, technology, and progress. The French Revolution, however, was the event which moved the study of man from the philosophers to the social scientists. As Marx noted, with Frederick Engels (1947:199), "the philosophers have only interpreted the world differently, the point is to change it."

(Turner, Beeghley, & Powers 1998:1-6)

Turner, Jonathan H., Leonard Beeghley, and Charles H. Powers. 1998. The Emergence of Sociology Theory. 4th ed. Cincinnati, OH: Wadsworth Publishing Company.


Why did Sociology Emerge?

Humans have, no doubt, always thought about their lives and the conditions of their existence. Such thoughts are the life-blood of religion, philosophy, ideology, and the many other ways that humans can think about themselves and their world. There is, therefore, nothing new in the basic impulse that eventually led to the emergence of sociology as a discipline concerned with understanding human behavior, interaction, and organization. Sociology is, after all, only the more systematic study of what people do in their daily lives and routines. But sociology did not emerge as an inevitable extension of what people typically do; rather, it arose from the rebirth or Renaissance in Europe after centuries of apparent stagnation and miserly. These "dark ages" were the aftermath of the collapse of the last remnants of the Roman Empire, and they were only dark in retrospective comparison with the perceived accomplishments of the Greeks and Romans. But life was not so stagnant: New inventions and ideas were slowly accumulating, despite the oppressive poverty of the masses, the constant warfare among feudal lords, and the rigid dogma of religion. New systems of commerce were slowly emerging. New forms and experiments in political organization were emerging from the patterns of war and conquest. New religious ideas were subtly working their way around the dogmas of the dominant church. Thus, the great awakening in intellectual thought, art, commerce, politics, and other human pursuits was built on small achievements and advances that were slowly accumulating between the fifth and thirteenth centuries in Europe. Yet, once a critical threshold was reached, human thinking took sudden leaps, recapturing much that had been lost from the Greeks and Romans and, more significantly, re-creating systematic thought about the universe in terms of science.

Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was the first to articulate clearly the new mode of inquiry: Conceptualizations of the nature of the universe should always be viewed with skepticism and tested against observable facts. This sounds like a commonplace idea today, but it was radical in its time. This idea both legitimated and stimulated the great achievements of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in astronomy, culminating in Sir Isaac Newton’s famous law of gravity. Thinking about the universe took on a systematic character, but more than just systematic: Thinking also became abstract, articulating basic and fundamental relationships in highly general terms and, then, seeing if concrete events in the empirical world conformed to these general statements. Such is the essence of science, and it changed the world.

Sociology emerged as a discipline in the early decades of the nineteenth century, but it was not so much a dramatic breakthrough in human reasoning as an extension of what is often termed "The Enlightenment." Perhaps The Enlightenment can be considered an intellectual revolution, because it turned thinking about the human condition toward the view that progress was not only possible, but inevitable.

Sociology and The Enlightenment

In England and Scotland, The Enlightenment was dominated by a group of thinkers who argued for a vision of human beings and society that both reflected and justified the industrial capitalism that first emerged in the British Isles. Scholars such as Adam Smith believed individuals are to be free of external constraint and allowed to compete, thereby creating a better society. In France, The Enlightenment is often termed the Age of Reason, and it was dominated by a group of scholars known as the philosophes. Sociology was born from the intellectual ferment generated by the French phiosophes.

Although The Enlightenment was fueled by the political, social, and economic changes of the eighteenth century, it derived considerable inspiration from the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The scientific revolution reached a symbolic peak, at least in the eye of eighteenth-century thinkers, with Newtonian physics. The post-Newtonian view of science was dramatically different from previous views. The old dualism between reason and the senses had broken down, and for the first time, it could be confidently asserted that the world of reason and the world of phenomena formed a single unity. Through concepts, speculation, and logic, the facts of the empirical world could be understood, and through the accumulation of facts, reason could be disciplined and kept from fanciful flights of speculation.

The world was thus viewed as orderly, and people believed it was possible to understand the world’s complexity through the use of reason and the collection of facts. Newton’s principle of gravity was hailed as the model for this reconciliation between reason and senses. Physics became the vision of how scientific inquiry and theory should be conducted. And the individual and society were increasingly drawn into the orbit of the new view of science. This gradual inclusion of the individual and society into the realm of science represented a break with the past because heretofore these phenomena had been considered the domain of morals, ethics, and religion. Indeed, much of the philosophes’ intellectual effort involved the emancipation of thought about humans from religious speculation, and although the philosophes were far from scientific, they performed the essential function of placing speculation about the human condition in the realm of reason. Indeed, as can be seen in their statements on universal human rights, laws, and the natural order, much of their work consisted of attacks on established authority in both the church and state. From notions of "natural law," it was but a short step to consideration of the laws of human organization. As we will see in the next chapter, many of the less shrill and polemical philosophes—first Charles Montesquieu, the Jacques Turgot and Jean Condorcet—actually made this short step and sought to understand the social order through principles they felt were the equivalent in the social realm of Newton’s law of gravitation.

The philosophes’ view of human beings and society was greatly influenced by the social conditions around them. They were vehemently opposed to the Old Regime in France and highly supportive of the interest of the bourgeoisie in free trade, free commerce, free industry, free labor, and free opinion. The large and literate bourgeoisie formed the reading public that bought the books, papers, and pamphlets of the philosophes. These philosophes’ concern with the "laws of the human condition" was as much, and probably more, influenced by their moral, political, and ideological commitments as by a dispassionate search for scientific laws. Yet it would be a mistake to ignore the extent to which the philosophes raised the possibility of a science of society molded in the image of physics or biology.

The basic thesis of all philosophes, whether Voltaire, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Condorcet, Denis Diderot, or others, was that humans had certain "natural rights," which were violated by institutional arrangements. It would be necessary, therefore, to dismantle the existing order and substitute a new order considered more compatible with the essence and basic needs of humankind. The transformation was to occur through enlightened and progressive legislation; ironically, the philosophes stood in horror as their names and ideas were used to justify the violent Revolution of 1789.

In almost all of the philosophes’ formulations was a vision of human progress. Humanity was seen to be marching in a direction and was considered to be governed by a "law of progress" that was as fundamental as the law of gravitation in the physical world. In particular, those who exerted the most influence on Auguste Comte—Turgot, Condorcet, and Claude-Henri de Saint-Simon—built their intellectual schemes around a law of progress. Thus, the philosophes were, on the one hand, decidedly unscientific in their moral advocacy, but they offered at least the rhetoric of post-Newtonian science in their search for the natural laws of human order and in their formulation of the law of progress. From these somewhat contradictory tendencies sociology emerged in the work of Comte, who sought to reconcile the seeming contradiction between moral advocacy and detached scientific observation.

The more enlightened of the philosophes, men such as Montesquieu, Turgot, and Condorcet, presented the broad contours of this reconciliation to Comte: the laws of human organization, particularly the law of progressive development, can be used as tools to create a better society. With this mixture of concerns—moral action, progress, and scientific laws—the Age of Reason ended and the nineteenth century began. From this intellectual milieu, as it was influenced by social, economic, and political conditions, Comte pulled diverse and often contradictory elements and forged a forceful statement about the nature of a science of society, as we will see in the next two chapters.

Systems of ideas do not suddenly appear, even ones as powerful and influential as those advocating science and its use for human betterment. Important ideas almost always reflect more fundamental changes in the distribution of power and the organization of production. Once created, of course, ideas have the capacity to stimulate new forms of politics and new modes of production, but The Enlightenment was not just an intellectual revolution. Its emergence and persistence was a response to changes in economic and political organization.

The Political Economy of The Enlightenment

During most of the eighteenth century, the last remnants of the old economic order were crumbling under the impact of the commercial and industrial revolutions. Much of the feudal order had been eliminated by the expansion of trade during the seventeenth century. Yet economic activity in the eighteenth century had become greatly restricted by guilds, which controlled labor’s access to skilled occupations, and by chartered corporations, which restrained trade and production.

The eighteenth century saw the growth of free labor and more competitive manufacturing. The cotton industry was the first to break the hold of the guilds and chartered corporations, but with each decade, other industries were subjected to the liberating effects of free labor, free trade, and free production. By the time large-scale industry emerged—first in England, then in France, and later in Germany—the economic reorganization of Europe had been achieved. Large-scale industry and manufacture simply accelerated the transformations in society that had been occurring for decades.

These transformations involved a profound reorganization of society. Labor was liberated from the land; wealth and capital existed independently of the large noble estates; large-scale industry accelerated urbanization of the population; the extension of competitive industry hastened the development of new technologies; increased production encouraged the expansion of markets and world trade for securing raw resources and selling finished goods; religious organizations lost much of their authority because of secular economic activities; family structure was altered as people moved from rural to urban areas; law became as concerned with regularizing the new economic processes as with preserving the privilege of the nobility; and the old political regimes legitimated by "divine right" successively became less tenable.

Thus, the emergence of a capitalist economic system inexorably destroyed the last remnants of the feudal order and the transitional mercantile order of restrictive guilds and chartered corporations. Such economic changes greatly altered the way people lived, created new social classes (such as the bourgeoisie and urban proletariat), and led not only to a revolution of ideas but also to a series of political revolutions. These changes were less traumatic in England than in France, where the full brunt of these economic forces clashed with the Old Regime. This volatile mixture of economic changes, coupled with the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, spawned political and intellectual revolutions. And from these combined revolutions, sociology emerged.

The Revolution of 1789 marked a dramatic transformation in French society. The Revolution and the century of political turmoil that followed provided early French sociologists with their basic intellectual problem: how to use the "laws of social organization" to create a new social order. Yet in many ways, the French Revolution was merely the violent culmination of changes that had been occurring in France and elsewhere in Europe for the entire eighteenth century.

By the time of the French Revolution, the old feudal system was merely a skeleton. Peasants were often landowners, although many engaged in the French equivalent of tenant farming and were subject to excessive taxation. The old landed aristocracy had lost much of its wealth through indolence, incompetence, and unwillingness to pursue lucrative, yet low-status, occupations. Indeed, many of the nobility lived in genteel poverty behind the walls of their disintegrating estates. And as the nobility fell into severe financial hardship, the affluent bourgeoisie were all too willing to purchase the land. Indeed, by 1789 the bourgeoisie had purchased their way into the ranks of the nobility as the financially pressed monarchy sold titles to upwardly mobile families. Thus, by the time of the Revolution, the traditional aristocracy was in a less advantageous position, many downtrodden peasants were landholders, the affluent bourgeoisie were buying their way into the halls of power and prestige, and the monarchy was increasingly dependent on the bourgeoisie for financial support.

The structure of the state best reflects these changes in the old feudal order. By the end of the eighteenth century, the French monarchy and become almost functionless. It had, of course, centralized government through the suppression of old centers of feudal power, but its monarchs were now lazy, indolent, and incompetent. The real power of the monarchy increasingly belonged to the professional administers in the state bureaucracy, most of whom had been recruited from the bourgeoisie. The various magistrates were virtually all recruited from the bourgeoisie, and the independent financers, particularly the Farmers General, had assumed many of the tax-collecting functions of government. In exchange for a fixed sum of money, the monarchy had contracted to the financiers the right to collect taxes, with the result that the financiers collected all that the traffic could bear and, in the process, generated enormous resentment and hostility in the population. With their excessive profits, the financiers became the major bankers of the monarchy; the king, nobility, church, guild master, merchant, and monopolistic corporate manufacturer often went to them for loans.

Thus, when the violent revolution came, it hit a vulnerable political system that had been in decline for most of the eighteenth century. The ease with which the system crumbled highlighted its vulnerability, and the political instability that followed revealed the extent to which the ascendance of the bourgeoisie and large-scale industrialists had been incomplete. In other societies where sociology also emerged, this transition to industrial capitalism and new political forms was less tumultuous. Particularly in England, the political revolution was more evolutionary than revolutionary, creating a sociology distinctly different than that in France.

The Emergence of Sociology

Change forces new ways of thinking to emerge, and so it was with the intellectual currents of The Enlightenment, the transformation of feudalism into capitalism, and the political upheaval that came with the demise of the old feudal order and the rise of the state. New material conditions force both ordinary people in their daily routines and scholars in their more systematic pursuit of understanding to reconceptualize the world. For much of the eighteenth century, scholars had been grappling with changes in the old order, trying to find comfort and promise in what was occurring. By the turn into the nineteenth century, the time was right for a new discipline, sociology. Comte, who proposed this name for the new discipline, actually preferred the title, "social physics" to sociology because it captured the essence of the Age of Science and The Enlightenment. At the time, the term "physics" was not so welded to the current discipline by this name; it denoted an effort to understand the nature of phenomena. Thus, Comte believed that social physics would understand the nature of human social organization through the epistemology of science. This was not a radical idea by the time that Comte presented it, but he was the first to advocate in a forceful way that thinking about the social world could become as scientific as efforts to understand the physical universe.    Dr. Ron's Home Page

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