Origins of Sociology

  • Alan Swingewood


There was no sociology before the advent of the nineteenth century, if by sociology is meant a systematic corpus of knowledge, specific methodology and conceptual framework which clearly differentiate it as a distinctive discipline, with its own object of study, from the related studies of economics, history, philosophy and law. The term sociology was coined by Auguste Comte in the early nineteenth century although the study of society as an historical and empirical object had begun much earlier, especially in eighteenth-century France and Scotland, where a commitment to historical and scientific modes of thought and inquiry shifted the prevailing discourse of political and moral philosophy away from traditional concerns with the universal and the transhistorical to a grasp of the specificity of the social. This is not to suggest that eighteenth-century social theory constituted a sociology, rather it remained a peculiarly invigorating mixture of political philosophy, history, political economy and sociology.


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Copyright information

© Alan Swingewood 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan Swingewood
    • 1
  1. 1.London School of EconomicsUK

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