intellectual forces & the rise of sociological theory-1

Intellectual forces- discussed within the national context (French, German and British, Italian).

  1. The Enlightenment
  2. Conservative reaction to the Enlightenment
  3. Development of French Sociology
  4. Devpt of German Sociology
  5. Origins of British Sociology
  6. The key figure in early Italian Sociology
  7. Turn-of-the-century devpts in European Marxism

THE ENLIGHTENMENT–┬áThe influence on sociological theory- more indirect & negative. The thinkers associated with the Enlightenment were influenced by 2 intellectual currents- 17th century philosophy & science. 17th century philosophy- thinkers like Descartes, Hobbes & Locke. Emphasis on- producing grand, general & very abstract systems of ideas that made rational sense.

Later thinkers (associated with the Enlightenment)- didn’t reject the idea of General idea systems- but made greater efforts to derive their ideas from the real world & test them there. Model for this was science (esp Newtonian physics). At this point, we see the emergence of application of scientific method to social issues.

Overall- the Enlightenment- characterized by the belief that people could comprehend & control the universe by means of reason & empirical research. With an emphasis on reason, the Enlightenment philosophers were inclined to reject beliefs in traditional authority, values & institutions.


Most extreme form of opposition to Enlightenment ideas was French Catholic counterrevolutionary philosophy- as represented by the ideas of Louis de Bonald (1754-1840) and Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821). These men were reacting against not only the Enlightenment but also the French Revolution. De Bonald, for example, was disturbed by the revolutionary changes and yearned for a return to the peace and harmony of the Middle Ages. In this view, God was the source of society; therefore, reason, which was so important to the Enlightenment philosophers, was seen as inferior to traditional religious beliefs. Furthermore, it was believed that because God had created society, people should not tamper with it and should not try to change a holy creation. By extension, de Bonald opposed anything that undermined such traditional institutions as patriarchy, the monogamous family, the monarchy and the Catholic Church.

The conservatives turned away from what they considered to be the “naive” rationalism of the Enlightenment. They not only recognized the irrational aspects of social life but also assigned them positive value. Thus they regarded such phenomena as tradition, imagination, emotionalism, and religion as useful and necessary components of social life. In that they disliked upheaval and sought to retain the existing order, they deplored developments such as the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, which they saw as disruptive forces. The conservatives tended to emphasize social order, an emphasis that became one of the central themes of the work of several sociological theorists.