A Short History of Sociological Thought by Alan Swingewood

By Alan Swingewood

This lucidly written, jargon-free textual content deals an account of the increase of sociological suggestion from its origins within the eighteenth century. starting with the classical sociology of Marx, Durkheim, Weber and Simmel, it is going directly to learn the fashionable paradigms of functionalism, interactionism, structuralism and significant Marxism, and ends through discussing salient modern sociological idea, together with the theories of Foucault, Baudrillard, Giddens, Habermas and others. Systematic and accomplished, it is a textual content that seriously engages with sociological concept all through its improvement, providing scholars a direction via competing traditions and views that brings out the special worth and boundaries of those.

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The Scots rejected both the theory of the 'divine origins' of society and the theory of the great legislator. Theoretical, or 'conjectural history' , as the approach was termed - misleadingly since the intention was a science of history and society, positive not conjectural knowledge and therefore theoretical in the best sense - was superficially similar to Montesquieu's broad comparative perspective. But the Scots were concerned above everything else with the problem ofsocial change and the causes which lead to the transition from one type of society to another.

In a very general sense Saint-Simon can be elaimed as an influence on both nineteenth-century sociology and the development of socialism and Marxism. \Vhat is not in doubt, however, is that Saint-Simon's work represents a theorisation of the emerging separation of state and civil society, the development of a public sphere consisting of economic, political and cultural institutions independent of centralised, bureaucratic administration. More emphatically than Adam Smith, Saint-Simon defined the state administration as parasitic and hostile to the needs of production and the newly emerging social elasses engendered by the process of industrialism.

Vico's 'voluntarism' thus finds an echo in these formulations, but the dualism implied in the concept of an active agent and determining environment was never adequately solved. The important point is the way in which social change was conceived, as a process with both an objective structure especialIy the mode ofproduction - and active subject. Change is dialectical in that it emerges as the largely unintended result of human action. 'Every step and every movement of thc multitude', Ferguson wrote, 'are made with equal blindness to the future; and nations stumble on establishments, which are indeed the result of human action, but not the execution of human design' (Ferguson, 1966, p.

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