Industrialisation and the Rise of Sociological Positivism
The social thought of Vico, Montesquieu and Ferguson is characterised by a profound belief in humanist values, the application of science to the study of human culture and history and to humanity’s control over the environment. The eighteenth-century Enlightenment had produced what David Hume termed the moral sciences — psychology, political economy and a nascent sociology — all of which argued a common theme, that social development brought with it increasing sociability: industry, knowledge and humanity, Hume wrote in his essay, ‘On Refinement in the Arts’, were linked together by ‘an indissoluble chain’. The emergence of these separate, but related sciences was in part the product of the development of a new reading public which, while remaining relatively insignificant in relation to the widespread illiteracy of the great mass of the population, was nevertheless a real and an important element in the secularisation of culture and the emancipation of the writer from patronage. In Diderot’s novel, Rameau’s Nephew (1779), the first ambition of the artist is stated as securing ‘the means of life without servitude’ an attitude widely shared by contemporary composers, philosophers and economists.
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