The Sociological Study of History: Institutions and Social Development

  • Stephen Mennell


Classical sociology arguably is historical sociology. We may debate the relationship in Western sociology since the Second World War between the empirical-analytical, the hermeneutic and the historical-institutional threads in sociology as a discipline. Yet in the preceding few generations, a concern with the development of human societies — particularly but not exclusively the institutions of ‘industrial’, ‘capitalist’ or ‘Western’ societies, call them what you will — was central to the work of those we recognise as the ‘founding fathers’ of sociology. This is obviously true of the Holy Trinity of the sociologists’ pantheon, even if Durkheim expressed the concern in a slightly different way from Marx and Weber (see Bellah, 1959). It is also true of the dozen or so principal apostles who keep them company in the pantheon — such as Comte, de Tocqueville, Spencer, Toennies and Mannheim. These people framed most of the central problems of the discipline, and framed them originally in an historical or developmental way.


American Sociological Review Sociological Study Protestant Ethic Historical Sociology Critical Sociology 
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Copyright information

© Christopher G. A. Bryant and Henk A. Becker 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Mennell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of ExeterExeterEngland

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