Science of Society Lost: On the Failure to Establish Sociology in Europe During the “Classical” Period

  • Peter Wagner
Part of the Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook book series (SOSC, volume 15)


Sociologists usually have a clear conception of the history of their discipline. They may disagree on the merits of individual contributions to the development of the subject, but they share the view that there was a first blossoming around the turn of the century, a period which they label the “classical era.” The era is easily demarcated. While there was a wide diffusion of sociological activity, a limited number of towering figures emerged, often named the “founding fathers” of the discipline, whose intellectual lifespans coincided neatly. Emile Durkheim got his first appointment, at the University of Bordeaux, in 1887, Max Weber at the University of Freiburg, in 1895, and Vilfredo Pareto at the University of Lausanne, in 1893. Durkheim died in 1917, Weber in 1920 and Pareto in 1923. By that time, they had all contributed to the construction of the intellectual field for which two of them had appropriated the name “sociology” while the third one, Weber, was more reluctant but increasingly used this label after he had been involved in the founding of the German Society for Sociology in 1909. It should probably be no wonder, therefore, that sociologists look back on this period as constitutive for their field and that even to the analytical view of an historian, the era appears as the one of professionalization of sociology, the setting of standards for sociological work and, consequently, the demarcation of boundaries to other academic fields and to “lay” non-professional activities (Torstendahl 1987).


Political Economy Social Theory Political Legitimacy Founding Father Legal Positivism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Klower Academic Publishers 1990

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  • Peter Wagner

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