European Modernity and the Sociological Imagination



The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as I shall elaborate in this chapter, saw the consolidation of a particular mode of thought that would provide the theoretical basis from which Western civilization viewed its relationships to other societies and peoples. The fundamental characteristics of the emerging theoretical paradigm were twofold: first, the assumption of a ruptural break from the past that made the modern world discontinuous from, and ‘after’, that which had preceded it, and, second, an assumption of the uniqueness of ‘the West’ in its initiation of a distinctive form of society. As Hayden White argues, this way of thinking involved the West’s ‘relationship not only to cultures and civilizations preceding it, but also to those contemporary with it in time and contiguous with it in space’ (1980: 2). This chapter delineates the shifts in social thought that were central to the development of this way of thinking and, in doing so, discusses how these shifts became integral to sociology as a discipline.


Modern Society Commercial Society French Revolution Social Harmony Ancient World 
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© Gurminder K. Bhambra 2007

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