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2. A Selective History of Sociology

Alan Sica

Subject Sociology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444330397.2012.00004.x


The history of sociology can be presented in several ways, each version bearing compelling evidence to support its claimed correctness. Thus, sociology's beginnings, depending on how the word is interpreted, lie with those earliest systematic reflections about social behavior of which we still have record; or it began “officially” on Saturday, April 27, 1839 when Auguste Comte invented the word itself ( Pickering 1993 : 615); or the discipline has not yet properly begun to be a “real” science because it fails to imitate the natural sciences with sufficient precision – each position depending on whom one is reading and what perspective they want to establish as superior. Sociology's past can also be viewed as the creation of a few nineteenth-century geniuses or as the collective achievement of bureaucratized academics in the drab confines of the mid-twentieth century, the world of “organization man” ( Whyte 1956 ). When Harry Elmer Barnes edited An Introduction to the History of Sociology in 1948, he found scholars to fill the thousand pages of that book with chapters on Lewis Henry Morgan, Ludwig Gumplowicz, Wilhelm Wundt, Leopold von Wiese, Franz Oppenheimer, Alfred Weber, Hans Freyer, Gustav Ratzenhofer, Othmar Spann, Ludwig Stein, Jacques Novicow, Maksim Kovalevsky, Alfred Fouillée, Guillaume de Greef, and many others, whom almost no American sociologist today could or would ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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