A HISTORY OF SOCIOLOGICAL ANALYSIS by Tom & Robert Nisbet--Eds. Bottomore


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Inspired by J. A. Schumpeter's magisterial History of Economic Analysis, the editors set out to produce a similar study of their discipline, and commissioned fourteen essays by leading sociologists and historians of social theory to add to their three contributions. The idea of duplicating Schumpeter's solo performance by a team effort is flawed from the start; whereas the economist's book is a technically sophisticated engagement with his predecessors, a fragmented anthology is bound to be superficial, uneven, and merely introductory, and this one is. Beginning with Enlightenment social philosophy, the essays by Bierstedt, Bock, Nisbet, and Bottomore proceed chronologically through theories of progress, conservatism, and Marxism, reducing complicated issues to paragraphs or less. Neo-conservative Nisbet, for example, claims Hegel for the conservatives, cites some literature to the contrary, reiterates his textually unsupported claim, and moves on. Julien Freund provides a chapter on Max Weber's German milieu, but Durkheim, surprisingly, is the only ""great"" to get a whole chapter (by E. Tiryakian). Lewis Coser's chatty piece on American trends ends with the decline of the Chicago school in. the late Thirties, in accordance with the editors' scheme of treating more recent, developments conceptually. But here, too, the essays on functionalism (W. E. Moore) theories of social action (A. Dawe), exchange theory (H. Bredemeier), interactionism (B. Fisher and A. Strauss), and social stratification (F. Parkin) treat their subjects as chronological shopping-list items. Essays on phenomenology and structuralism (by Kurt Wolff and the editors, respectively) are also in this mald. The two outstanding pieces are by Oxford's Steven Lukes on power and authority, and Cambridge's Anthony Giddens on positivism. Lukes actually deals with a conceptual subject conceptually, classifying various approaches according to a schema of asymmetrical versus collective conceptions, and pinpointing contemporary disputes. Giddens, like Lukes, goes beyond reportage to engage his subject, and besides pro riding an authoritative account of recent debates in the philosophy of science, brings the issues alive by critically confronting them himself. Although they clearly wanted more, the editors have wound up with a very expensive introduction to sociological theory, despite the efforts of Lukes and Giddens.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1978
Publisher: Basic Books